Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Kids, Soda Bread, Gray Skies

Unless otherwise noted, all materials on this blog are (c) 2009 by Madeleine Vedel

There are days which begin with a bit more difficulty than others. We know them well. I'm recovering at the moment from my morning -- curled up in bed with Filou by my side and my writing before me.

As one of my charges needed to get to the train station at 8:15, we were all somewhat vertical by 7:10 this morning. Yes, this is not a brutal hour of the day. But, the house rhythm tends to be me up at 7:15, breakfast on the table, hot water for my tea, time to put Filou out, etc., Then, at 7:30 I climb through the house piping up "c'est sept heures et demie, l'heure de se lever" with an occasional musical rendition of "it's morning, it's moooorning" from Singing in the the Rain. Then into Leo's room to physically remove his quilt and roust him. I pick out Jonas's clothes, and bring them to him, either in his bed, or mine. Some mornings he copes by himself. Some days he's particularly groggy and I dress him (being the last, there is just a wee bit of babying going on, of which I am fully aware).

Then back downstairs to dress myself as they emerge. Hot chocolate on the table (yes, when possible with the fresh raw milk from the nearly organic farm in Tarascon run by the happily young family -- I say this as being young, and selling milk being their main source of income, it looks like I can count on them for a good many years to come), my bread, jams, honey from my beekeeper.

But this morning, pretty much out of my bread, I quickly made some soda bread to nourish the hungry hordes (well, five kids), and supply snack options for school. I'm out of my 9 grain flour, as well as whole wheat. Nothing but white in the cupboard. I'll be picking up my bulk organic order this afternoon, a group effort with three other single moms from school (three cheers for the single mom's club).

Amidst the general grogginess of the crew, Leo and Jonas started doing their thing. What is more unpleasant than bickering, fighting, and swatting children at the breakfast table? I separated them and chose the tactic of: Leo, you are older. You should be the wiser. The stronger you are, the more you will be able to ignore your little brother's provocations, and resist reacting. Yes, I wanted to teach him the art of saving face Asian style. He who reacts first loses. Beating up your brother, reacting at every little insult (be it vulgar or simply annoying) is not a sign of strength. It reveals how weak you are in that you are not in control of yourself and your reactions. Hmmm, could this be a rather strong message to grasp for an eleven year old? Leo is a very intense child, and I tend to use pretty heavy-handed methods to teach him. No doubt I talk way too much, belaboring the point excessively. I used other examples of children who are teased, and yes, it is painful, and the teaser is at fault, but, you can be the winner in the situation if you simply don't react. The teaser will eventually stop as it is absolutely no fun to provoke someone who won't let you get their goat.

Something to work on. And yes, I gave Jonas (seven) a talking to as well. To the point of, just stop provoking your brother please? It really ruins the moment, and is simply not necessary. But, I also know, a youngest craves to exist; and that existence is defined by attention from the eldest. To obtain this then, provoking and taunting are legitimate tools (no matter the beating that will follow). And so he does.

I remember welcoming being tickled, or the being used as a practice object for my brother's wrestling holds. All so that he would play with me and pay attention to me. The things we small ones will do...

Leo's second issue was a lost pen at school. A special fountain pen, that we'd recently purchased from the teacher. He is convinced a classmate stole it. However, I suggested, that the better route to recovering this pen would be to use a bit of political tact. Rather than accuse someone of stealing, he might ask the teacher if he could talk to the class as a whole, and say something to the effect of, "I lost my pen the other day. It fell on the floor. It is possible that one of you mistakenly picked it up and put it with your affairs. Would you be so kind as to take a look in your bags please? and if you've a second pen, please return it to me?" And, then, to not pounce on the person who (hopefully) returns his pen, but to say thank you graciously.

Who knows if this second message has gotten through. Leo is a child who "réagit sur le vif." He is quick to react, quick to judge. I do hope I can teach him tact and reason. They don't come naturally to him. His nature is honest, open, generous, but often suspicious of others. Betray him once, and you will forever be banished from his circle of friends. He admires gentleness, honesty, integrity (and exacts these of me as well!).

At least he integrated the first lesson pretty quickly. Still in a bad mood, he was rather obnoxious in the car on the way to school. I reacted in kind, snapping at him. And he said to me, "Mom, you should be ignoring me and not let me get to you."


a quick and easy breakfast:

Yet another version of soda bread. -- though with very relaxed proportions.

I will do my best to give correct proportions, but I must admit that I simply pulled out a bowl, the ingredients and started pouring and sprinkling them in, all judged by eye and experience.

Preheat the oven to 385F or 200C

3 cups all purpose white flour (or play around with flours of your choice, you can also add oat flakes)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup butter in small pieces
1 cup sour milk (or butter milk - or 1/2 cup of yogurt)
1 egg (optional)
1/2 cup water (enough to moisten)
cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on top

With my hands, (but a pastry cutter or a Cuisinart would be fine too), cut the butter into the dry ingredients till it is pea sized. Add the sour milk, the egg, and mix together. Add just enough cool water to moisten everything thoroughly, but leaving it still in a nice sticky mass.

Turn out onto a baking tray -- I line mine with parchment paper, but you could also use a silpat, or grease a cookie sheet. Pat into a large circle. Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon. Place in the oven.

It took nearly a half hour this morning to bake, so I began it at 6:45, to be sure it was ready for the hordes as they emerged. It is ready when the top is nicely brown and crunchy, and warm sweet aromas fill your kitchen. Not too sweet, it is great with jam, honey or butter, or even lemon curd.

No comments: