Some years ago, when L. was three or four, he was terrified of rain and thunderstorms. The mere sound of the beginnings of rain falling against the windows, or the distant rumbling of thunder, usually kept him awake in a state of fear and worry about what was to come.
"It's just rain," we would tell him, and then make jokes about what the thunder sounded like: a giant up in the sky throwing about furniture, or a piano falling down the stairs, or a whole rock band perched on a cloud and banging away for all they were worth on huge drums and cymbals. I'm not sure any of those funny spins on storms worked for my literal-minded L., but what DID work was our slowly but surely working it into his mind that rainy days and nights were good--cozy and comforting and safe.
"It's great sleeping weather," we'd tell L., and then, during stories, I'd snuggle under his covers with him and we read and talk in the semi-dark (L.'s room is never truly dark--he keeps on too many lights!). If it was rainy and stormy all day long, I'd pull out all the stops and make up for it inside the house, where it counts--baking cookies or muffins, cooking a comfort food dish (which L. usually never ate, but the warm smells added to the general atmosphere and the food sure worked for ME). I think all of this seeped into his psyche, because he's the first one these days to happily declare at bedtime on a rainy night, "It's GREAT sleeping weather," and the thunder only makes him burrow down all the more deeply into his sleeping bag.
With all the tropical storms and hurricanes and stirred-up weather these days, we've been getting lots of rainy weather--rainy and humid and buggy weather, if you can imagine all three of those things combined. The kids and I get home from school and we turn on the lamps in the rooms, and they kick off their wet shoes, and I get busy thinking about what I can make to turn the house into that cozy-smelling, warm and comforting place I remember from my own childhood rainy days. My mom used to make muffins when it rained, and brew a pot of strong tea. Unfortunately, she always insisted on making muffins with dates in them, which, for some reason, I never liked much when I was a child. But I ate them anyway, all brown and crumbly with that chewy surprise of a date in a mouthful here and there. Now I love dates, and when it rains I still crave a moist date muffin and a cup of hot tea.
Yesterday it poured rain all day and we had no dates in the house at all. So I settled for second best--oatmeal, another comfort food--and thought about how great it would be to make oatmeal muffins. I found this recipe and T. and I immediately busied ourselves making them. But, just as I was pouring in the oats, I realized that the recipe called for soaking the oats in buttermilk for ONE HOUR.
"You've got to be kidding me!" I said to T. "We can't wait a whole hour for muffins!"
So I combined the 1 cup oats in a bowl with my substitute of 1 cup vanilla soymilk (we never seem to keep buttermilk stocked in our house) and microwaved it all for about two minutes before I combined the rest of the ingredients. I also added a generous sprinkle of cinnamon, used I Can't Believe It's Not the Real Thing, and left out the currants, which we never just have lying around (does anybody?).
These were the best muffins I have eaten in a long time--the best. I had three in a row and had to stop myself from eating another one. Outside the rain pelted down on the porch, but inside the kitchen was warm and smelled of oatmeal and cinnamon, and L. curled up on the couch and read while T. hummed and twirled and sang:
Do you know the muffin girl?
The muffin girl,
The muffin girl...
(I could blame T. for the messy muffin pan and tell you that she was the one who spooned the batter in. In reality, though, I was in charge of that.)