Sunday, April 26, 2015

Penance, with Rice Pudding




Our son, Charlie, is 5 years old. He loves playing with Lego, running, climbing, digging in the dirt, watching cartoons, fixing stuff with his Dad, eating ice cream and dancing with his Mom in the kitchen. He says 'please' and 'thank you' and almost never wipes his hands on his pants. He looks gorgeous with a chocolate moustache and his little hands are always warm. He has lovely and cute friends, and they play like there's no tomorrow. I try to show him the world, to teach him everything I can. But I think that sometimes, he's the one teaching me. 

I recently had a week from Hell. Something about me finishing up at the place I'm currently at, and looking for a new job, thinking I got a position that then turned out to be a dud, and me going into a drama-queen-existential-tantrum, thinking the world would never come back together again. (Okay, I was post two nightshift and only had three hours of sleep. Reason has tight accomodations under those circumstances.) I had a couple of hand-wringing days where I felt like crap - and that just rubs off on the young'un. When I don't feel good, I can be sure that C mirrors it. Or perhaps he doesn't, it's just that I get ticked off more easily, and I choose my battles very uncarefully. Actually, I don't think I even choose - I just crash into them, without even thinking.

It can be all sorts of stuff. 'No, we can't go to the café AGAIN today'. 'Charlie, for the 100TH TIME! PUT ON YOUR CLOTHES so we can get out the door!!'. 'The CD's don't belong on the floor, do they?' 'No. More. iPad. I'm serious.' 'Eat your vegetables.' 'No, we're not reading the third chapter of the book that you did not even WANT to read.' 'Go to sleep!' 'I'm not just going to come because you yell for me to come - you come here!' 

I'm sure these are by no means extraordinary utterances in households with 5-year olds. Even as I read them, I'm thinking: is it that bad?

It isn't. But some days - those were I'm more drained of energy, or tired, and can't even begin to think what we should eat for dinner, let alone put together a sentence where I'm full of understanding and embracing of all of his feelings - even the smallest of questions or request will be met with a: No. Because I said so. 

Go ahead and call the social services.

Most of the time, I think I'm a pretty okay mother. No really, I do. But there are definitely days where I wish I could be a little more fun, a little more 'whatever'. More playful and understanding, more compelling and assertive. More sure that what I am doing is right, and good, and will turn him into that lovely and wonderful young man I want him to be. 

But that week wasn't one of the weeks I was an okay mother. I knew it, I felt it deep in me. So when it finally ended, I knew I had to make amends. I took him for a walk, wanting to hold that little warm hand and hear his little voice chatting. He wanted to ride his bike. I said yes, with a lump in my throat, because damn it. He's so big now it's no longer important to hold you Mom's hand? Not even when she needs it?

I didn't tell him I needed it. He's five. I'm not sure you're supposed to put that kind of responsibility on a child. But the next day, I took him to the toy store, and bought him Lego, however politically incorrect it is to try and buy the love of your child. I needed to just sit next to him and listen to his words and see his hands at play and ruffle his hair and hear him laugh. And I cooked him rice pudding for dinner, because some days, I don't care. I just need to make it all better again. 

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Rice Pudding - or Risengrød, as we call it here
- from Frøken Jensens Kogebog
1½ l. milk (I prefer full-fat)
200 ml. pudding rice (grødris in Denmark - I know some people use risotto rice, when grødris aren't available)
1 teaspoon salt
Sugar & cinnamon (mixed) and salted butter for serving

Put the milk to the boil, being careful that it doesn't burn.Add the rice, stirring carefully, and bring back to the boil. Put on the lowest setting, and let it simmer until all of the milk has been absorbed into the rice - around one hour. Take off the heat, stir in the salt, and serve with a generpous sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar and dollops of butter.

PS: Charlie is having a friend over as I write. He just yelled down the stairs: 'Mom, come up here!!' I replied: 'Charlie, you really need to stop just yelling: get up here! What do you need me for??' 'We just wanted you to come up here and sit and chat with us.' Boo-yah. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Because, Life.


My Dad used to boil me eggs. Back when I was little, and I was with him on the weekends, we'd usually have soft boiled eggs in the morning. Two per person. I'd rush to eat my first one before him, so that I could turn it upside down and pretend to serve him his first egg. He'd play along and give it a proper bash to peel it, and lo and behold, the empty shell would fall in on itself. Ah, the silly little joys!

I remember how hard it was to peel that egg. It was too hot, and my little fingers got burned, and the shells cut like little sharp blades. I'm not entirely sure, but I actually think my Dad always peeled them, until that whole ritual stopped - not consciously, but because, life. I became a teenager and got a boyfriend. My Dad married my Bonus-Mom and little brothers and sisters entered our lives and had to have their eggs peeled. For a lot of years, I didn't eat many soft boiled eggs. M doesn't like them and if he was having scrambled eggs, it felt weird boiling my eggs instead.

But then, life, again. I grew up, I studied, I became a doctor. I work my share of night shifts. Sometimes, I get to sleep for a few hours, sometimes none. Regardless, once it's over, I come home, usually around 9 or 10 in the morning, all alone, in the apartment abandoned by the rest of the family just a few hours earlier. I boil water in the kettle, enough for a big cup of milky tea and for the pot that I will boil my two eggs in.

The night shifts are at times exhausting - not just because the patients are (often) more sick than the ones we meet during the day (otherwise they'd be in their own beds, I'm sure) and therefore more complicated, from a medical view - also because the stories during the night always seem a little sadder, the destinies a little more tough. I've always loved working evening and nights, I always will. I like the wee hours. But there is also no doubt that they do take a little more toll on me than dayshifts. Even if only because of the lack of sleep.

So when I get home, I'm usually a little rough around the edges. I peel of my clothes and put on a big sweater and soft pants, ruffle up the duvets and pillows. Cut two slices of rye bread, put butter - always butter, except if it's smashed avocado, like above - and cheese, perhaps a little 'spegepølse' on the plate. If I slept during the shift, I eat in the kitchen, but most mornings, I bring the tea, the eggs, the bread with me into bed (shhh, don't tell M!) and I eat it there. My eyelids are heavy, the bed is warm from the guys that left it not long ago, and the eggs provide a strange comfort, almost as much as that of the heavy duvet. My belly full, I fall asleep. And when I wake up, the world is well again.

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In my opinion, there is an art to the soft boiled egg. It really needs to be cooked proper - not too little, and not too much. If the whites are runny (ick!) or the yolk too hard, it's just not right, and it will never hit the comfort spot. What works for me, is 5 minutes and 30 seconds of proper boiling - yes, I bought a timer that works in seconds. I put the eggs in once the water boils, get the water back to a boil, then time it. The second the timer beeps, I run cold water over the eggs and that's it. It's not groundbreaking culinary new-comings, but it doesn't always have to be.