Wednesday, November 22, 2006

We plow the fields and scatter

Preparing for a holiday, of course, means work. There is still the ordinary work of life to do, so that makes for double work. There is the ordinary work that would have been done on the holiday to do, so that makes triple work. With small children on hand, however, the work starts muliplying geometrically or even exponentially, while available resources do not multiply at all.

A mother with much work to do, you see, is a distracted mother. Small children have three ways in which they can respond to a distracted mother. They can use the opportunity to go engage in various forbidden activities while her back is turned (such as the incident with the water bottle, the stacking cups, and the master bed). They can cling to her skirts and describe the years of psychiatric care it will require for them to recover from her emotional neglect. Or they can be bribed into happily playing and working alongside her.

The only trouble is, option three is the messiest and most distracting of them all. Under these circumstances, only the most chaotic of activities will hold their attention for even a moment. So, while I was trying to do my week's baking, D1 was busy helping me by pouring flour all over the cupboards and D2 was kept happy only by a pan of soapy water, of which I'm pretty sure he drank a fair portion, but dish soap is non-toxic, right?

As I let the mixer finish kneading the bread, started mixing muffins while preventing D1 from scooping all the dry ingredients straight into the cups, answered the phone and tried to minimize D2's soap ingestion, it seemed to me that there was something not quite right about the bread. Bread is as much of an art as a science, and it seemed like this bread didn't have quite the right feel to it. Not soft and spongy enough. It stretched and smoothed as it kneaded, but there just wasn't that springiness one would expect.

I had switched to a new bag of wheat, so I double-checked: yes, it was the right wheat for bread. Perhaps I'd simply added too much flour; I added a little water. Still something seemed wrong. Finally I gave up and set it to rise while I finished the muffins, made gingerbread, and started cleaning up, a clean-up which now involved a large pool of mixed water and flour on the floor and a two year old who mistakenly thought that now would be a good time to plead emotional distress and leave without cleaning up.

They are, after all, both tired from colds, though for some reason they haven't thought that sleeping in would help. It's the first thing that would occur to me. Anyway, in an attempt to lighten the mood, I proposed a brief trip outside and even turned the oven off and let the gingerbread cook as best it could. Going outside posed a new challenge, as D2 now believes that since he can walk unassisted, all points of the compass should be open to him.

Finally we came back in for lunch. I went to check the bread. It hadn't risen at all. I felt it again. I was suspicious. I smelled it. I was sure. I had left out the yeast.

We really need bread. (We try not to buy bread because DOB is allergic to soy, and the only bread without soy is that peasant bread that only nobles of richer kingdoms than ours can afford. The modern American diet has avenged Marie Antoinette.) I considered the possibility of declaring this week's festivities the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I did not consider throwing it out and starting over. Finally I did my usual half-baked Scheme for Remedying Matters and dumped the dry yeast in and kneaded it a little more. In retrospect, it probably would have been a better idea to dissolve the yeast first. Anyway, all the right stuff is there, so perhaps if it sits there long enough it will work.

I haven't even started on my Thanksgiving Dinner contribution yet. I think I'll put it in the crockpot overnight and hope for the best. This afternoon, we're going to the park.

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