Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Some of my dearest and most highly respected friends are teachers at our local elementary school. These people are unsung heroes, not only for teaching our children, but for all the acts of kindness they bestow upon the community. Visit Hemenway Makes It Happen and read all about the goodness radiating from our little neck of the world.

Felted Bag

This is before felting. The pattern and most of the yarn came from my sister-in-law. I had been eying her handmade bag for years.

Then I felted the bag:

The I-cords are in process. They will be felted in the sink, not the washing machine. Already I have another bag in mind. Felting is fun.

Monday, March 29, 2010


It is rainy, cold and damp. I have a thousand things I should be doing and all I want to do is eat hot soup, wrapped in a blanket. Oh well, it will warm up eventually.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

No Sap...

not unexpected, but sad anyway. For I had hoped that last night's below freezing temperatures would reacquaint the trees with the flow. Time to move on to warmer activities and leave the sugaring season behind. It is such a precious time. Crisp days. Bright sun. Maple steam. How lucky are we to know them.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Foiled Again

I can't remember when I wasn't working on this window, and now -- in a few weeks (hopefully) this project will be done. Foiling the pieces is fun, relaxing. I take a few out of the frame at a time, foiled them, and then squeeze them back into place. A piece here, a piece there and I'll have it all done in no time.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

One more run?

I noticed in the forecast that tonight the temperatures are going to drop into the 20s. And Friday will be in the 40s. I wonder if the sap will run... Wouldn't that be a kicker.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


My banjo teacher is trying to teach me how to play in the background. First point: Play quietly. Every time I read that, I laugh. Is he trying to tell me something?

At stained glass yesterday I cut the last piece for my many months long project and started wrapping the pieces in foil. I told my fellow class members, who were all a bit wild yesterday, that as a person with a scientific background, I had learned to celebrate even the smallest of accomplishments. Conducting experiments can be brutal on one's psyche. Never pass over the chance to smile.

I picked up another project yesterday... Is there a space time project continuum? Where if one project nears completion another must be started? Truly, I don't have to be busy all the time.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

If it's morning, I must have a headache.

Sigh! Lately, as my eyes open the pain registers. Sigh! My next thought, the question: What the &*#$ is wrong with my sleeping position that I wake up with this seering pain? I shift. I try to relax. To send the pain away. My savior: Excedrin for Migraines. Two feet on the ground I shuffle off to the medicine cabinet to take two with any liquid easily accessible. Water. Day old coffee. Anything that will transport the thought saving capsules south.

Yesterday I had a silent migraine. Ever hear of them? Ever experience one? For me, my vision gets distorted, and it takes a second or two longer for me to process what I am trying to see. Not good when you are driving. I have been getting these for years. I can remember running in grad school and having to stop because my vision was blurred. The doctors at the medical center said it was nothing, well not nothing, but nothing to worry about. So for now over 20 years they come and go. Usually only a couple of times a year, but this past week I have experienced two of them. Maybe it is mental pause. I am of the age.

Excedrin for Migraines works like a charm. Already the pain is subsiding. What is it, the asprin, the caffeine? The whatever the big guns painkiller is? Still, it should not be part of my morning ritual.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Did I not write today?

I think my do nothing day became a do nothing two day stint. Today, in preparing for the Brownies to come over to make pancakes and granola with our maple syrup, I basically set up the kitchen for an efficient attack. I had all the ingredients and kitchen implements laid out. I tried to pick up the house a bit. The call of the crossword puzzle from Sundays paper was strong. I resisted for a while, then gave in. Thinking those Brownies wouldn't notice the winter boots are still out.

They didn't.

When it is cold and raw, like today, I just want to stay in bed surrounded by my knitting, my banjo, and a stack of good books. Forget event planning, laundry and phone calls to return. How very selfish of me... And -- I thought I had written a blurb of wisdom here -- but obviously I hadn't. What pearl could I deliver for today: When you practice the banjo life slows down and sometimes, just sometimes, the music being played becomes recognizable.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

When nothing is something

After getting home from the breakfast I had the idea to rake, but instead I decided to do nothing today. I had made a quiche yesterday so there was that and some leftover vegetable soup in the refrigerator. No one would starve while I was doing my nothing.

First, I crawled up on my bed and watched Star Trek Next Generation with my hubby and knitted on my felted bag project. While watching I balled up to hanks of yarn and started the new striping section on my bag. After an episode or two, (These shows were truly written for me, I get so caught up in them.) I decided to work on the religious ed quilt. The project was so so close to completion.

So I dragged out the ironing board, iron, sewing machine, and the quilt pieces to see just how far I could get doing nothing. I washed the squares, laid them out to dry by ironing. Recreated the pattern we had sort of discussed in class, then started to sew the squares into strips and then the strips into a quilt top. Doing nothing I got most of the top put together (I am missing one little girl's square.) cut out the batting and the back. Then seeing that the whole house is full of my mess, I put the quilt project away along with all of its associated equipment. One less pile of debris from Mommy.

My oldest when asking me to rub her headache away, asked me what I had been doing all day. My answer, "Nothing."

So here I am at this computer typing in the granola recipe for the GS Brownie troop that is coming over tomorrow to learn about maple sugarmaking. They will have a tour and then make some pancakes and granola. And afterwards, I think I will resume doing nothing.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

If you are in the neighborhood

Parish Breakfast tomorrow at St. George Parish on School St. Serving bacon, sausage, french toast, pancakes, eggs, hash browns, fruit, coffee cake, and beverages from 8 to 10 in the morning. Cost is $4 per person, and seconds are on us.

Come on down, the price is right!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Saving the best for last.

Yesterday's warm temperatures squeezed out enough sap for what I believe will be the last boil of the season. For as the day progressed the sap flow wasn't even enough to satisfy the ants that gathered to drink the sweet water.

The pan was fired up around 9:30 with the idea I would add all the sap I had, all at once, never mind keeping the level low to maximize the surface to volume ratio. Still with having to filter the sap prior to its addition, this first step took over an hour. In the end I figured the boil consumed 12 gallons of sap; maybe a gallon or two more.

By noon the pan level had dropped to where it could easily burn so the contents were filtered and brought inside for finishing on the stove. Two hours later, the 2 gallons reduced to a healthy quart at the proper density, the syrup was done.

It is walnut dark, (on the right in the image below) and the girls tell me it is the best they have ever tasted. A gift. However long this year's meager stash lasts, this will be the last jar we open.

The Colors of Spring

Thursday, March 18, 2010


A day that should be rooted in normality. Of course, normality is really a chemical term for the amount of ions that are present in a salt solution, and nothing to do with this house -- unless you make a solution from the layer of "salts" that currently encrust on our kitchen floor.

Today I am looking forward to washing that floor, and then walking across it in my barefeet. I am looking forward to folding all the clean laundry that has been building up on the couch, and checking the sap buckets -- in hopes that yesterday's run produced more than the three gallons I collected at noon. I am looking forward to rinsing out the hundreds of Capri Sun bags that my littlest one had collected. Her school gets 2 cents a pouch. I am looking forward to being home for the greater part of the day and not driving all over the earth for this appointment and then that. Seriously I was considering listing my car as my home address.

Today, after the flute lesson, I have one meeting in the evening. Actually there were two, but I can only be at one place at any one time. It's that time space continuum thing...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

bailing, bailing

With all this rain, I heard on the radio, that if you don't have a flooded basement, you know someone who does. Check, it's my folks.

Water started pouring in 10 PM two nights ago. They tried in vain to get the situation under control. Then they called my brother around 11. The three of them were up all night, vacuuming and bailing as the water level continued to rise.

Yesterday AM I did the usual daughterly check in call, only to hear my mother cry, "The basement is flooded. Your father has been up all night."

"I'll be over." Which was not as instantaneous as it seems. We don't live in neighboring towns, never mind, neighboring developments. I got the girls off to school, and took off with two sap buckets. Figuring I could only carry 4 gallons of sap at a time -- two buckets was all I would need.

My brother, who had gone home to get dry clothes, stopped on his way back at Lowes. Where he picked up 3 sump pumps: two submersible models and one floor model. I type this to show which of us is a more high tech thinker... Of course the buckets did come in handy -- but we would have been rowing around in boats if the water level was left to buckets and bailing.

The water level dropped, but did not go away. The basement was still leaking. One breach resembled stream cutting out from under a stair. Another, in another part of the basement was bubbling up from a crack in the floor and another was behind some shelving. If we didn't keep after it, the water would soon be as high or higher than it was. The bailing and vacuuming would not end until the water table dropped.

We worked until I had to get back for the end of school, and to rescue the pot roast that had been left in the oven at 210 all day long. It was delicious. Did the usual Monday afternoon run around, ate dinner, and made the call to see if they needed me back. After all I couldn't imagine them partying on without me.

The ride back was crazy. The rain had turned to ice. I was one of the last cars to traverse Route 9 before they closed it due to flooding. I kept wondering if this was the right thing to do. Would I be able to get back home for the morning school thing? The radio kept reporting that the rain would be stopping. I had my hopes pinned on their being right.

We partied on for another 3 hours. Feeding the sump pump, mopping up and vacuuming the water as it bubbled up through the floor. A dry floor just outside our grasp -- I had to leave my brother and father again. "I'll call tomorrow."

And as I drove away -- the rain had indeed stopped, I wondered if they would venture anywhere near a pillow. And if they did, how high would the water be when they awoke.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Check, Check, 1, 2, 3

I walked the bucket line today. One bucket down and muddy. I found a new hook and rehung it. The rest with their lids wind blown off to one side, half full of what? Rain? Sap? A lot of rain mixed with a little sap? No sap... who knows. Regardless I dumped the contents onto the ground. In the best of times it takes close to 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. I really don't need rain water -- and we have had plenty of rain. Four days worth.

Three words

Tired. Rain. (no) Sap.

Okay four words -- but three real biggies and a wee one suggesting the sugaring season is over.

Tired, because my back has been killing me. Just a little pain, but stretched over days makes me very tired. I even handed off the homework war to my husband. "I can't handle this now." was my declaration of surrender. Uttered as I crawled upstairs and went to bed yesterday afternoon. I'll lay down for an hour was my thought. Two hours later, my daughter was waking me up to see if we were going to religious ed. We were.

Rain -- okay where is the ark? On the bright side -- at least, this morning, it is warm out. Cold and rainy is terrible. Cold and rainy gets between your vertebra and makes your back hurt... Hmmm... I sense a circular discussion going on here. Strange thing is, the only thing that helps the back pain is ice. Go figure.

(no) Sap -- Sadness...

Friday, March 12, 2010

I Like My Hair Today

I try not to post more than once a day. It takes the pressure off for being witty and overly social and it alleviates any ideas of diarrhea of the mouth (or fingers, since this is typing). But this thought did cross my mind and since I am wired to be critical of my looks, mannerisms, life, accomplishments, children, housecleaning and lack thereof, I thought I should make this post exception.

I like my hair today. Alas.

I used to keep my hair cut very short. Creating a line item in the budget of $20 every 6 or so weeks. I know that isn't much but -- for hair. That requires cutting yet again in another six weeks. It's on the same par of housecleaning -- where I clean today and there will be the same mess tomorrow. So I clean clean and clean and truly never get ahead. Come on over and look. Same mess different day, but I digress.

I haven't had a hair cut in untold months. I can't remember when truly -- and at that cut I said to my friend, the hairstylist, "I want a longer look. So cut it so it can grow out and not make me crazy." She did.

Oh I have had a multitude of bad hair days this winter. Some hat induced, some brought on by the hair and its total lack of styling cooperation. But today -- from the moment I comb it post shower to now, I just thought I would take a more positive spin to this day and mention, "My hair looks nice."

If you are a person, like me, who is resolutely dissatisfied with yourself for some underlying reason or set of reasons, can you find something to compliment today?

It's Friday

No sap yesterday. Well none to speak of -- so it remained in the buckets. I truly dislike cold, raw and damp weather. I get chilled to the bone and stay that way until I go to bed at night.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The sap did indeed run yesterday. We collected over 16 gallons and ended up 42 ounces of syrup. Christa at the Lazy Toad Farm commented that their buckets are being frequented by moths. Our's are too... and other guests, who come to drink the sweet waters. Truly I can't blame them.

I started our pan late yesterday afternoon, again this is quite a departure from our six year norm, of rising at 4, and boiling until right before dinner. This year, the pan has been usually lit mid afternoon, with the finishing and canning taking place around midnight. Either way, I love being out under the stars when even our busy street is quiet. Orion was my companion last night.

There was a hum of excitement layered under yesterday's session. On the hour, but without observing my watch, I walked the bucket line, collecting even the smallest amount and adding it to the pan. This jaunt took place right up until I filtered and finished. Why? I didn't want to have on hand 2 or 3 or 5 gallons of sap -- not enough to boil, but more than I like to waste.

The weather looks to be warm again... maybe this was our last hooray this short but sweet year. Only time and the trees will tell.

BTW: Those wires that are so pervasive in children's toys make excellent bucket hangers. I have a stash from birthdays and Christmas. And I would wager that I'm more excited to see the wires than the children are at receiving the toys.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One Cold Night

All this blogging about maple sugarmaking. You would think it was my livelihood. That we actually made money, instead of spending it. It's a hobby. It is an adventure. It's a gift.

Yesterday at the school pick up I was thinking about how I would tell the kindergarten teachers that there isn't enough syrup for the classroom visits with waffles, when a mom I know came up to me and asked, "I hear you make maple syrup?"

I didn't have the heart to dump onto her my weather woes so I smiled and nodded.

Well her son, who had tasted some of our syrup years ago, had some other syrup this weekend and reported, "This is as good as Mrs. H's." His mom had no idea we were sugarmakers. So in passing, as we both headed off after our children she offered to buy some of our stash.

There is no stash. Not yet at least. All those wonderful people, family and friends, who have been virtually lined up at our door, awaiting their long standing annual free bottle of syrup -- I don't think it is going to happen.

But we will see... The overnight temperatures dropped into the low 20s. The trees haven't leafed out yet.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

It's Raining. It's Pouring.

That means the outside night time temperature is warmer than 32 and for maple sugarmaking it needs to be in the twenties at night.

Is the season over? Did it ever truly begin? We had one fantastic sap run. Where the buckets were all brimming. Yesterday I boiled 10 gallons in the morning, and by the afternoon the combined total from all 13 buckets was less than 2. What to do with 2 gallons? With the daytime temperatures blooming out at close to 60, the sap will spoil long before I have enough for a real boil.

It's another wait and see experience. The longterm forecast does show a night time cooling trend to the low 30s -- still not 20s; but maybe with radiational cooling the temp might drop below freezing.

Yield to date: Two gallons if I sort of squint to the side.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

We Interupt this Boil...

... for Soup Night.

Last evening was our parish Lenten soup night. So the pan was lit early, furiously stoked (LP?) for a few hours. Extinguished for the supper set up. Relit for 5 hours of constant feeding towards finishing, then extinguished again until after our church gathering.

At the end of soup night, the clean up done, someone commented I should go home and put my feet up. I smiled and said, "We're maple sugarmakers. Today's batch is still in the pan and there is another batch in the bins for tomorrow." So. upon arriving home I headed to the shack first and then into the house.

It was a quiet finish -- resulting in what I call a heathy half gallon.

Soup Night was okay. We had almost 80 people sign up for the FREE event but at a maximum 40 attended. And it was great, with great people cooking, baking, serving, setting up, cleaning up and those in attendance engaged and delighted. But that one question plagues me: For on a whole, a group of individuals (our parish has 1400 families) that complain that there is nothing for them to do at our parish, why don't they attend these events we host for them to come together as one community?

Don't tell me you're busy. It's sugaring season...

I'm heading out to the shack. Maybe my answer is out there.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

New Season

I don't pretend or think that I know it all about maple sugarmaking. Seven years does not make an expert. What I have learned is that, like children, each season, is different. Like a first born, our first season was anticipated and loved -- but also overwhelming accented with periods of sleeplessness. I had my husband pull the taps when there was over 60 gallons of sap stockpiled in the garage and our set up could only process 13 gallons during an 18 hour day.

The next two years, better prepared and knowing what we were doing, ha ha ha, we made it full season. But we were still outside, and subjected to the elements, so it was cold and very slow going. Somedays, when that wind blew, that pan just couldn't hold a rolling boil. Then we built the sugarshack. Protected from the wind, snow and rain, having limited but effective lighting, the next three seasons lulled us into a state of complacency. Resembling identical triplets, they had their subtle differences, but being all good, came and went with record yields and over the top enjoyment.

Now we have what I am calling the problem child. Through no fault of our own, it is uncooperative and moving to its own drummer. Same shack, same beloved pan, same burner, same trees -- but not the same weather. For three days there has been no sap. The daytime temperature barely kissed 40 while the night time refuses to drop below freezing.

I had hopes for a run next week. The weather channel showed warming to 50 and below freezing nights up until two days ago. Now, the days are still slated to be warm but the nights are coming in above freezing. Stubborn child. Still I am hopeful for another huge run. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow the buckets will brim over once again. Bringing a smile to this maple sugarmakers face.

So time and patience will tell. We will continue to check the taps (bone dry this morning) and squeeze in the boils into the family schedule. Today's event might be the last of the season... Still maybe sugarmaking, like parenting, pays off in the end, sometimes.

Friday, March 05, 2010


What do friends do?

Friends bring over knitting and turn Sears house arrest into a party.
Friends arrive with ingredients in hand to cook Red Lentil soup for lunch.
Friends share their Lemon Squares and Biscotti bounty.
Friends teach other friends how to spin wool, and then leave the wheel so you can practice.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Sears House Arrest

The treadmill part is here, now all we need is the repair person to install it. Eight to five; Sears' window of opportunity. I'm home. It's actually refreshing, as I have been going like crazy since my feet hit the ground Monday morning. Lessons, drs. appts., church meetings, sugaring at night...

Sometimes it's good to be forced to slow down. Even the sap buckets are dry.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Boil 1 meet boil 2. Boil 2 meet boil 1. The word boil has such a negative connotation. But in this case, it is not an oozing pustular. It's sugaring. Still on the darker side for this early in the season, but we won't truly know their make up until after the sand settles and we check them out over pancakes.

There is fantastic science is sugaring. I was explaining to one of our lovely local kindergarten teachers about how a liquid can "hold" more molecules in a dissolved state at a high temperature. However, upon cooling the excess salts fall out of solution. Alas that is what is happening on my kitchen counter; science. When we first started sugaring (This is our 7th season.... young still by most standards even outside the State of Vermont.) I wished for an old stove sized lab centrifuge. I hear they are the up and coming kitchen appliance.

As a scientist, it is amazing the amount and type of equipment one has on hand, and that one takes for granted -- until it's gone, or not available. In my other life time I must have used a centrifuge everyday, all day, all the time. And now, I use patience as my number tool for separation.

For a mother, patience is number one in her arsenal.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Boiling Again

With the craziness of the house we are squeezing in boils when we can. Tonight I have a meeting at 7, but between now and then the pan is lit. And afterwards it will be me and my banjo long into the night. I'm looking forward to it

Light to Moderate best describes today's flow. We took in about 9 gallons from the 13 taps this morning. There is about three quarters of a gallon in each bucket this evening. Slow and steady is fine with me.

We use LP to fire the pan. For seven years I have loved it, but not this year. I wish we used wood. Wood would allow me to place the fire under the pan. Our set up gives me two circles for boiling. I'm thinking about getting a different burner. Wood is pretty much out of the question. It would involve a chimney of sorts and draw more attention to our city set up. Maybe a propane burner with jets running along the entire bottom of the pan.

The birth

Each year, it is the same feelings that never grow old.

That first boil, the sap added to the pan, the anticipation grows. What kind of syrup will result? Will it be champagne light or dark and robust? More sap is added and we watch for color development. Drawing in the sweet maple steam and know, that for that moment, this is heaven.

Boiling early morning or late night the shack is quiet. The backyard is still. Who knew quiet exists in a city wanna be town; with its big city problems and marathon pace. The glow of the shack stretches out the door but not far. The yard is dark and still. Just about making out the sentinels with their buckets I silently promised I'd visit them today. To check their yields and to be thankful. Every year, every boil, it is the same.

Every boil is a birth. For every boil results in a slightly different batch of syrup. Expecting the usual first champagne syrup, we were surprised when a darkness, normally reserved for later in the season, filled our pan. Was it the warmer temperatures? Who knows?

Our yield was almost 3 quarts; a solid first boil.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Late Night Boil

I'm usually not up for boiling sap at night. The usual routine is to wake up around 4, start the boil. Add sap until around noon, then finish the syrup by 2, for when the children come home. That is the usual.

Today I got caught with my bins full. Running around this morning, herding the cats for school, I gave the buckets a parting thought and decided I should check them. All where brim full. Their contents filed out storage bins. No time to boil, I left for a day long meeting. And it's not that I thought about the boil all day long, but it did cross my mind during breaks and lunch.

Home, I started the pan going around 5:30 PM. Knowing tomorrow is another busy day full of tutoring, class, doctor's appointments and meetings. So the plan to add sap until 10 and then finish was constructed. In the five hours over 24 gallons of sap were boiled. Right now I am waiting for the pan level to drop to a half inch. At that level I will filter the contents into my mega Le Cruest and finish the syrup in the house.

I checked one bucket tonight. Not much yield today, but that is good. As the next "day" I can boil is Thursday. Thursday I am under Sears house arrest from 8 to 5; the perfect time for boiling sap.

We are BOILING!!!!

March 1 marks the first boil of the season. Be still my little maple sugarmakers heart.

On teaching middle schoolers religious ed

Up until this year, when asked to teach anyone above the age of 8 years old anything, my stock answer was always, without thought or breath, no. Period. Even when I had one of those children of my own, "Find someone else... not me... never..." And even for those 8 and under, I spent my time in the CCD week in, week out, teaching trench five years ago, and never again. Come February, I was worse than the kids for counting, "How many weeks are left?" Since then I've substituted for this younger set. Get them in, talk, color, play games for one hour and leave. Done. No real planning.

This year, something shifted. When the Director of Religious Ed and Youth Ministry was in full stride recruiting for teachers beg-a-thon mode I said, "I'll teach sixth grade one 6 week session." It was on the Eucharist. I can talk for six weeks on what is a weekly reflection and ritual in this house. No worries.

Still -- I'll never forget that first class. I walked in with a six week plan. An hour and a half later I walked out like a deer in the headlights. The Director saw me. I saw guilt on her face when she asked, "Are you okay?" All I could think, all I could formulate was one question that had no answer, "What have I done?"

Later that week I ran into an old time religion teacher, retired and still sane. She gave me this advice, "Keep their hands busy." She taught her class to crochet, I would get my students sewing. And if you read a previous entry, this was the birth of the Quilting Project.

All is good. "My" children are wonderful. We have our quilt, but we also have a tuna can drive, and a flip top drive as well. And a Shack where we go to post our questions to God. I stayed on for the whole year. We, as a group, want to be together through Confirmation. We will see.

Then I get the email, "Could I sub for 8th graders?" My reply, "Without saying yes, what subject?" The answer comes back they are doing Communication like the sixth grade. I had my plans for my next sixth grade class. We are going to focus on Active Listening. But how do you tell a sophisticated group of worldly eighth graders, "Yeah this is my next sixth grade lesson. No worries, I'll ramp it up for you." Right.

It was an hour and a half. Most parents don't allow their eighth graders to take guns, alcohol or drugs to church. I should survive. And I thought that too, until the first then the second and the third students arrived. They walked in with their walls of silence erected.

I tried the usual new teacher banter. Asked the usual questions, "What's your name? Where do you go to school?" Answers: Jane, Cameron. Maggie, Walsh. Andrew, Walsh. More walked in. More gave the two word answer -- name and school. Beads of sweat; what have I done?

I had the term Active Listening written on the board. I asked, "What is active listening?" No answer. Not listening. I point to the person closest to me and ask again. No answer. I sit down so I am eye level with the class and list off eye contact, nodding, engaging responses on topic with minimal I statements. Then I pair them up with the instruction to try it. They do. I ask, "How do you feel when your friend is an active listener?" A sheepish good comes out of the ether.

The point across, I bring it back to church and ask, "What is prayer?" The answer, "Talking with God," alights from the right side of the room. My response, a question, "How do you know God listens? Or is He just hearing? " After a pregnant pause and blank faces all around the left side of the room comes up with, "Listening, because when He listens, I feel good."

Of course, I shot back. "It's all well and good that you think God is listening to you, but do you listen to God." With that we head off to Mass.

When class resumes, we review for late comers. Actually the class did most of the talking. All up to speed, I took them to Our Shack. My 6th graders place where we post our own questions to God. Armed with pencils and paper they had a few minutes to ask God that one question or two that was plaguing them. Yes, our Shack is based upon the book by Wm. Paul Young. But our building is just a paper structure erected on the classroom wall. At first it was an empty shell. Now it is fortified with paper strips. All holdings embossed with important questions. I noted when these students were adding their strips of paper that they would read the others hung before them. Interesting.

Chris Padgett's music video I'm In Love was next on the agenda. The premise was, listening is done with more than just our ears. I could tell the class was still hesitant-- still not knowing what to make of this teacher who thinks Papa is real. For the music video we first watched the images with no words. Then we listened to the music -- without the images. And finally together. After each step, we discussed what we saw and what we heard. I told them, "You are Detectives. There are no wrong answers. Tell me why you think Mr. Padgett has put these images with these words. What is his point?" Towards the discussion I wrote key words or phrases on the board, real, love, peace, hope, prostitute, homeless, drugs, church, cross, mother with child, blankets, rain, your. Who is your?

At first the class thought the images made no sense. And the lyrics had them believing the song was about a girl being in love. But as a class, we teased apart the meanings and the word Eucharist was written on the board. Amazing.

Well, despite not having time to ask the question, "Can we learn about God from listening to others who happen to be on a different spiritual path?" Answering will involve listening to Guruamayi Chidvilasananda's CD on Won't You Make God Your Friend, I think we all survived.