Muffins on Monday: Blueberry Batch

It’s Monday night and the monsters have gone to bed. It’s been a wonderful day here, although a bit chilly out. Today my kiddos ate the last two chocolate chip pumpkin muffins from the fridge, so unless I want to give them toast tomorrow (which I don’t— the organic bread I buy in lieu of the homemade is $6.50 a loaf. So obviously, it’s rationed.) I had better churn something up. And this afternoon I felt particularly motivated, because we got Sally’s very first report card today! Yea, really! I feel SO OLD! All is well on the grade-level expectations, except… she had 9 tardies in the second quarter. Just the second.

Now, I’m not sure what ramifications there are for a tardy in Kindergarten. Probably nothing, unless they want to make me (or Boo, who is usually the reason we’re late) serve detention. But, yes, it’s true. I think I have to own up to it and start pulling everyone out of bed 30 minutes sooner so that we can make it into the car three minutes earlier. I tracked it once, and it’s true: for every minute I hope to get us into the van sooner in the morning, I have to allow ten off the front end of the day. Everything that can be done the night before, from laying out clothes to packing lunch to finding shoes and placing them front-and-center, must be done. And even then, the amount of time they can loiter in the a.m. is maddening. And you would not believe (except probably you would) the tactics to which we must resort, from pulling off the covers to blasting “Sir Duke” to standing on my head on the end of the bed to get them up. And we’re still seven years shy of a teenager! So I am glad to have these to throw at them—literally—on the way out the door tomorrow.

 

Awesome Blueberry Muffins

Makes about 24. Because why would you want to make 12 muffins if it’s only going to last you two days?

Necessary: two standard muffin tins and something to line or grease them. An oven at 375⁰F.

Handy-Dandy: a kitchen gate to lock your family out when the house starts to smell amazing. Will power to eat just one.

Ingredients

1 cup coconut oil, or half coconut oil and half unsalted butter

1 cup evil, cheap, granulated white sugar

2/3 cup plain yogurt, I use Greek

1/3 cup milk; today I used half & half

1 scant tablespoon vanilla

4 eggs

4 cups white whole wheat flour, OR 1 cup evil all-purpose flour and 3 cups hard (regular) whole wheat flour.*

1 tsp salt

4 tsps baking powder

1 bag frozen blueberries; preferably wild, like my children.

 

*I prefer the white whole wheat flour because it is a softer variety of whole grain flour, but you can mimic the texture with a 3:1 ratio of regular whole wheat and unbleached all-purpose, and since I believe in using up what I already have in the house and I made cake last week, there you go.

 

Method to the Madness

  1. Preheat oven to 375⁰F. Get your muffin tins ready however you like them. I grease mine with a bit of expeller-pressed (nonhydrogenated) shortening. You only have to grease the bottoms as they should pull away from the sides as they bake.
  2. Cream coconut oil and/or butter with sugar, then beat in yogurt, milk, vanilla, and eggs in a big bowl. In the recipe pictured here, I threw in two additional egg whites leftover from birthday cake baking.
  3. Sift together flour(s), salt, and baking powder in a separate bowl.
  4. Gently pour flour over wet ingredients and stir until combined. Don’t overbeat. The batter will be super thick, almost like dough.

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  5. Dump blueberries atop like so. Yay! Does this make anyone else want pie?

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  6. You will really have to work to get those baby blues incorporated; it’s more a folding action than even stirring, since the batter is so thick…

    …like cookie dough.

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  7. Once the batter is a nice purple-y color, spoon it into the muffin tins. You will get 18 to 24 depending on how full you fill those cups.

    Exhibit A

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    Exhibit B. If you have unfilled muffin cups, fill them with water.

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  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until you can press your fingertip on to the top of the muffin gently and it springs back.

    Voila!

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  9. Cool in pans for 2 minutes before moving to a wire rack. Test one. Go on, you know you want to.

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  10. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days or the freezer for…I’m not sure how long. We eat these up in 2 weeks.
  11. IF you have eaten all of your dinner vegetables, you can have a bedtime snack!

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  12. If you have NOT eaten all of your dinner vegetables, you might still try and swipe one from your sister.

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    Enjoy!

Layers of Love

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I’m sure that this is a sexist and outdated statement that isn’t necessarily accurate and offends many people, but I’m also sure that it’s true for my husband and probably my little boy. I asked Dr. Awesome once, back when he was still Mr. Awesome and we were not even engaged to be married, what it was that I did that made him feel most loved. I cozied up to him on my small apartment couch, inherited from my childhood and creaking with every shift in position, waiting to hear about how sweet, how thoughtful, how attentive and interesting a companion I was, in some effuse and elaborately romantic words. I was patient, I was helpful, I was kind, and I was going to hear it in multisyllables. (I have since far moderated my expectations.) He thought for three seconds and said, giving me a squeeze, “You make me biscuits.”

“What?” I sputtered, a little disappointed. But I tried again. “I mean, like, what ways do I make you feel special, like really you, not just anybody? What are the ways that you know I love you?”

And he gave a cozy little sigh and said, with all the love-light in his eyes that those first amazing new-romance months can bring, “You made me short ribs too.”

There you go.

Fast forward seven years, and we approach the Fourth Birthday of the first carbon copy of my man. I have mentioned the countless loaves of bread rendered unfit for other humans’ consumption by my little Boo. Exhibit A, half an hour after I pulled it from the pan:

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He tore it apart and ate it with his bare hands while I had the gall to read a book to his sister on the couch.

In general I think food is an expression of love to Boo. But he’s not alone when birthday time rolls around. I don’t know why, but I think my children judge how much I love them by what kind of birthday cake they receive.

Why is this?

Other people’s kids get so excited for the grocery-store cake. And my Sally is overheard to say, “Their cake is store-bought, but ours tastes way better, doesn’t it, Mommy? I sure don’t want a store bought cake on MY birthday.” Perhaps she has heard me mutter things one too many times.

So, naturally, I have over-extended myself a bit in the past four or five years. Sally’s Baptism was celebrated with a coconut layer cake that was one of my crowning achievements. I actually baked a test cake first. This was brilliant because I got to eat it twice, although in retrospect, overly fussy in that anxious and exhausted new-mother way.

For Sally’s first birthday I baked two kinds of cupcakes. This was back when I thought the celebration of a baby’s First Birthday meant renting a room and covering everything in pink helium balloons. (These days, baby doesn’t get a party.) I served gluten-free carrot cakes and chocolate-chocolate cupcakes that were so amazing I can still taste the fudge when I think of them. I didn’t even let her do more than taste hers because she was my first baby and I was convinced cake would destroy her future ability to eat vegetables. (That was a ridiculous conclusion, because Sally eats almost all her vegetables, and she was my only baby not to throw her first-birthday cake on the floor. Boo refused to let any cake pass his lips. He also refuses to pass most vegetation that direction, too. The vote is split on Bitsy.)

For Sally’s second birthday Boo was only four weeks old, and although I made her a lovely, one-pan chocolate cake covered in seven-minute icing, I also declared a new and perpetual family rule: TWO-YEAR-OLDS DON’T GET PARTIES. At the time I thought I was saving myself some headache and establishing fairness for future progeny. Since then I have been to many parties of two-year-olds where the parents have clearly spent so much money, time, and effort for a toddler who is miserable and wants to hide the whole time. So this rule works really well for me.

When Boo was almost one and Sally was nearly three, I experienced that sense of guilt over things not being fair for subsequent siblings. I didn’t have the money to throw him a party just a month ahead of her third—all the guests would be the same, anyway! Yet I still hadn’t learned the lesson that simplicity is key. So we rented a room and “Sally and Boo’s First and Third Sock-Hop Spectacular” went out on LP-shaped invitations, costumes encouraged.

Oh, the fuss! Oh, the Pinteresting! Dr. Awesome and I dressed as Buddy Holly and a Bobbysockser. I made Sally a poodle skirt in ice blue felt with a picture of Elsa where the poodle should be, and we downloaded a playlist of The Chordettes, the Big Bopper, and Idina Menzel. Boo got a blue tie that said “First Birthday Boy” along with a cardigan sweater which really set him apart as a sweet, bald little Mr. Rogers. The chocolate-chocolate cakes made a comeback, this time sharing the spotlight with cookies-and-cream cupcakes I made by inserting an actual Oreo into the middle of each cup of from-scratch vanilla cake batter—yes, of course I whipped the egg whites separately—and frosted with cream cheese icing into which I had crumbled the rest of those Oreos. The two types of cupcakes were proudly displayed on cake stands I fashioned out of Goodwill LPs hot-glued to pink and blue malt-shop cups. My gosh it was cute. And dessert was to die for. And so very, very unbelievably fussy. But just wait for next year.

The following year Boo was two, and I had a pass thanks to my aforementioned Family Rule which has served me so well. He had no party, but I did knock out a sweet “Curious George” cake which was a single 9-inch round with cupcake ears. The frosting was two dark a chocolate in the end for a true George look, but the banana slices I used for eyes made my “monkey” cake look adorable.

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That year we decided to host Sally’s party at the local nature center where they could provide a Naturalist and a real bunny. I thought a bunny cake would be easy-peasy-lemon-squeasy. But Sally had just one request, so she said. She wanted a cake where the cake is the skirt of a princess dress. The princess, of course, had to be Elsa. Except her best friend had already had such a cake the year before (from Safeway), so this year, Sally asserted, could she have an Elsa and an Anna?

What kind of an overachiever am I?

After the cookies-and-cream cupcakes which had caused me to gain ten pounds in a night, I had vowed henceforth to outsource dessert. But the Elsa cake was $40. I couldn’t afford $80 worth of cake, plus dolls. Fortunately, said best friend had both dolls, and was  past her Frozen phase anyway, so I was able to borrow them. Then I bought that Wilton Princess Cake mold and box of Funfetti mix. Of course I’ll make her both cakes, I reasoned, I’ll save so much money this way and I’ll make it easier on myself by only making one of the cakes from scratch….

I can look back now and say, “Ha. Ha. Ha.”

The Wilton cake mold, in case you are wondering, doesn’t produce a skirt tall enough for an actual doll to stand in, if it cooks the skirt evenly at all. The Funfetti boxed mix, in case you are also wondering, is not sturdy enough to support the weight of a doll with her lower half wrapped in aluminum foil, and is too soft a cake to use in a mold. Rather than wake my daughter up at 9 pm to break this news to her when I realized it, I cracked open my (beloved, coverless 1976 edition of) The Joy of Cooking and said, “Irma, what is a good cake mix to put into a mold?”

And so of course I was up into the wee hours doing the whole damn thing from scratch. Because the mold failed completely and I ended up just carving skirts out of layer upon layer of 8-inch round cakes. Because I am psychotic. I mean, I love my children. I will say that The Night We Frosted Skirts ’til Two I look on as a defining moment in my marriage when I said to myself, In case you haven’t noticed yet, this man is wonderful. And you are nuts.

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I thought the cakes looked OK at best. But the next morning I caught Sally downstairs, kneeling on the floor and staring into the rearranged refrigerator at the two 10-inch doll cakes which now were basically the only things to fit. I will never forget the hush of awe in her little voice when she said, “Oh mommy, they’re so pretty.”

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So naturally that set my lesson learning back a little bit.

But the following year I told myself I would learn my lesson. I produced a beautiful “Trolley” cake for my little Mr. Roger’s fan for his Third Birthday, and casually asked only three little boys to the house. There was barely a decoration beyond that twizzler-and-M&M-covered cake, and it was just fine.

(It was two square cakes cut in half and stacked into a rectangle. In the layers were raspberry jam. No fuss. Just dowels.)

To my princess planning her “Paw Patrol Princess” tea party I firmly said, “No, I cannot make a Lookout Cake like Mr. Porter and the Pups on Paw Patrol. Get over it. Think of something that is round, or square, because that’s what you’re getting.” And yet…

I invited every girl in the preschool class. I decided that rather than spend my $300 renting a space for the party, I would spend that money on housecleaners to deep clean my house and have the party at home. I asked Princess Buttercup from babycostsmoney to play Cinderella and I made her a dress for the role. (She was great. It was awesome. I’m still nuts.) I moved every piece of furniture that wasn’t the couch or the dining table upstairs and out of the way and organized the two-hour party around three “Centers” where the little “princesses” (split among three groups based on the tulle that adorned their princess party hats) could experience party games, tea with Cinderella, and a make-your-own-teacup craft in turns. I did this all because I thought it was what my Princess wanted me to do. And I made her a 5-layer chocolate cake with pink frosting, decorated with M&M flowers, because she had asked for five layers because she was five…but secretly, I think it was because she knew Boo’s trolley cake had four, and she needed to have more than him. And as I carried that towering pink confection into a room full of little girls about to sing “Happy Birthday” and witnessed my little princess have a complete meltdown like a strung-out bride on her wedding day, I finally learned my lesson.

Simplify!

This year, for Boo’s Fourth birthday, he asked me for “a huge tall wedding cake!” He asked several times. I think in his mind he recalled those five pink layers of Sally’s, and like his sister last year, needs to have more cake than the sibling. He needs to have the biggest, best cake I can make. But I put my foot down. (Sort of.) “Think round cake pans.” I said. I showed him some simple cat-in-the-hat cakes online. “No,” he said, “I want a big huge wedding cake!”

So we compromised.

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Because that’s what lasting love is all about.

Cry to Me

As most children of the 80s, I’ve seen the original Dirty Dancing about seventy times seven times. In college I owned it on VHS. (You know, as a curiosity because the rest of my Class of ‘16 have never even seen a VHS…oh wait, I already admitted I was a child of the 80s.) One of my favorite songs from that movie—which I downloaded ILLEGALLY FREE FROM NAPSTER (how old am I now?!)—is “Cry to Me.” It’s so much better as a song than it is in parenthood.

Bitsy cried it out last night. And right now in fact, right through the wall, she is certainly crying to me. A dirty martini would go a long way right now to make one of us feel a whole lot better.

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Not Real Food, just Real Life. Guilty Mommy buys Baby “ice cream.”

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Siblings finish first, then steal her food. The vultures.

I was never really into the sleep-training thing. I tried a few times with my oldest daughter, but she wasn’t so much a cryer as she was a serious, no-holds-barred SCREAMER. Trying to get her to sleep via “extinction” made me want to vomit, and I had the luxury of being home with her, so I could pick my battles. She loved to fall asleep at the breast, but she never transferred to her crib. So I dealt with it. Eventually I read The No-Cry Sleep Solution, and that helped solve many of our problems. But of course her night waking wasn’t much of a problem for me anyway, so I didn’t need it all solved. I honestly don’t remember the rest.

Boo came along when Sally was 23 months old. I like to tell people that she started sleeping through the night the week her brother came home from the hospital. This is actually true. Boo was such an amazingly better sleeper than his sister. Once, around 14 months, he fell asleep in the car on the way to brunch. Dr. Awesome took him out of the car seat and carried him in, and we braced ourselves for grumpy, groggy screaming with our pancakes…but the kid literally slept the entire brunch sprawled out on the diner’s leather booth seat. Oh the good old days!

With Baby Number 3, of course, things are always different. Bitsy came into our bed pretty much right way and she stayed there until recently. Sure, she would go down at bedtime in her crib next to my side of the bed (after insisting on a gentle rocking and a softly uttered Rosary to lull her to sleep) and sleep soundly for a number of hours. But as soon as I entered the room for the night—“Smells like Mom Spirit!” the sleeping Bits would say to herself, and drag her mind from subconscious to full wakefulness in 6 seconds with a “RRAWRRRR! MM-MM-MMM MIH!” which of course in screaming Baby babble means, “milk!”

Many nights Dr. A and I have taken to hiding in the guest room just so we can sleep for a few hours without her between us. But I wanted my room – and dare I admit it, after 15 months? MY SLEEP BACK. Three days ago I put my foot down. Dr. Awesome was heading out of town, and I said, “Oh, Darling, on your way out the door, could you be an absolute angel and move the crib?” Or maybe I said, “Listen, Buster, if you’re sticking me with these monsters for a week you better – ” … but it really doesn’t matter what I said, because he was an absolute angel, and the crib got moved.

Now all three of my darlings are in the same bedroom, just like in Peter Pan! So I know Bitsy knows that Boo and Sally are sleeping in their beds. She can see them. Tonight after I left and the screaming begin, Sally spent fifteen minutes singing lullabies. It was so sweet (even though my Sally is a little tone-deaf) and Bitsy stood still and listened…until she didn’t want to listen any more. We’re 90 minutes in and the Big Two are sleeping like rocks. Bitsy is so tired she keeps dozing off on her feet, gripping the rail of the crib. Then she’ll wake up and scream some more. I am praying for her Guardian Angel to push her over or something, so she can do what she did last night and finally fall fast asleep for six whole hours. And part of me hates to admit that I let her scream yesterday for 90 minutes, until I think her legs gave out and the tiredness overwhelmed her once she sat. But then I realize that last night was the first time in over 10 months that I got a chunk of sleep over 4 hours. It’s a miracle I haven’t jumped off a building yet!

Update: This “Night 2 of Cry it Out” or as I like to call it, “Hell Night” was two nights ago. Bitsy cried off and on for two miserable hours. She fell asleep sitting up with a leg sticking out and her tiny hand gripping the bars like a prisoner in the Bastille. I slipped in and laid her flat to nary a stir or a whimper; she slept for six and a half hours. I know, I read once that they sleep more soundly after horribly traumatic experiences. Something else to feel guilty for. But you know what else is horribly traumatic? Living with my children.

Just kidding.…

Night 3 was rockin’! I rocked her for a song and handed her off to the just-returned Awesome Daddy. She stood up and commenced screaming right away, and Boo then decided he didn’t want to stay in his bed, so Doc had to sit sentry at the foot of Sally’s twin with that silent “Dad Dares You to Move or ELSE” posture…(which he was totally faking. He’s a cupcake. But Boo fell for it.) And after ten minutes, Bitsy stopped crying. She sat down and whimpered for three minutes. Then she laid down like her siblings and sighed, and went to sleep.

Tonight I timed her. Three minutes screaming, none of it standing up. Then she stayed calm, and fell asleep. Inwardly I am cheering. I can’t believe we did it! We won one! Go Team Mom and Dad! This never happens!

I still think I need a martini.

Ordinary Time

We have now returned to Ordinary Time. For those of you unfamiliar with the Catholic Liturgical Calendar, Ordinary Time refers to all that time in which priests root for the Packers. (I mean, wear green and gold.) Actually it means we’re not really doing anything special (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost) or preparing for anything special (Advent) or beating ourselves up for anything special (Lent). Just kidding…

What does Ordinary look like around here? Chaos, generally. Ordinarily my kitchen is a mess and there are toys everywhere. Papers pile on every surface until the glossy junk mail slips slowly to the floor, where it puddles. Eventually I pick the pieces up and toss them into the recycling. The scattered Cheerios are like landmines under the dining room table, but the ones you really don’t want to step on are the crusts of three-day-old bread tossed from the baby’s highchair tray. Nothing stales quite so hard as homemade whole wheat bread. Try that rock solid nugget in the soft part of a bare arch. Ouch. How I wish we had a dog. A little furry Hoover is a blessing underneath the highchair.

Right now I am in the process of attempting to de-clutter. This means I have three or four different donation piles going, including the bag of toys no one plays with that I have to keep hiding while I fill it, because if it’s discovered the kids will whine and cry and there will be a scene something along the lines of

Sally Bear, center stage: “NOOOOOO!! Don’t donate this! We can’t get rid of this! I LOVE this!”

Boo, from offstage, but always agreeing with his sister in arguments against me: “We love that! Can’t donate that!”

Heartless Mother, standing firm: “You never play with it.”

Sally Bear: “But I will play with it. I don’t want you to get rid of it, Nooooo!”

HM, demanding: “Play with it. Let me see you play with it right now.”

Sally: “Well I’m busy right now.”

Boo: “I’m busy right now too.”

Heartless Mother, emotionless: “Put it back in the donation bag, now.”

Ordinary time is a good time to try and get “back to order,” and yes, it usually takes me about all year. Right now I am also attempting to get back to ordinary eating. That is, no refined sugar, no white flour, no juice. I am not as militant I was in our experiment and we have quite a few half-full bottles of spirits lingering in the kitchen since Christmas. (I put “bottle of Scotch” on Dr. Awesome’s Christmas list, and somehow he got three.) Somehow a bottle of wine and a six pack made it into my grocery cart last night. But generally speaking, the first way we cut costs on the grocery bill is to cut out alcohol and we aren’t much for processed foods. So ordinarily I spend alotta time cooking. At the moment I’ve got a loaf of bread to start. If I don’t, we won’t have any bread tomorrow. And apparently no amount of pancakes or corn muffins can amend this failure in the eyes of my son. Just two nights ago I was working late on a post for The Remembered Arts Journal. I didn’t have time or motivation to thaw cod and peel potatoes, so I fed my children the most spectacular spur-of-the-moment almond pancakes with maple syrup for dinner. (How they suffer.) Boo ate three-quarters of his dinner, abandoned his plate, and five minutes later I caught him in the kitchen with the football-sized loaf of whole wheat sourdough literally IN HIS MOUTH. I tried to tell him, “Boo, you cannot live by bread alone.” And he said, quite emphatically, “Yes I do.”

But let me not mislead you. I have caught his sister in a similarly compromising situation in the kitchen many times before. But she is always caught with the butter.

An Aside: The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Pseudonyms

I read a book about boy development once, and I have a boy, and I married a former boy, so naturally I can now consider myself an expert on boys. (Or not.) But actually, one of the things this book (which I do recommend, called, conveniently, It’s a Boy!) taught me about boys in the 3-to-4 age range, is that their very active imaginings lead them to assume, and declare, that they are who or what they want to be. Not, as an adult might expect, “Look, I’m pretending to be a hurricane right now,” but as any of you parents of boys can probably attest, “I’M A STORM! BASH!” while jumping from a bookcase onto your head.

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The Cat in the Carseat Knows a Lot About Comfort. My Sally Bear and Neenikins, 5 years ago.

In a less violent version, my son Boo has decided, for well over a month now, that he is Nick, and his oldest sister is Sally, from their televised diversion du jour, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That. For over a month he has insisted that his name is Nick. When Santa asked for his name, in fact, his answer was “Nick.” We corrected him, and from the raised snowy-white eyebrow I got, I think for a second Santa wondered if “Nick” had been kidnapped. His sister was so frustrated and annoyed with being called Sally all the time that at first she whined and complained constantly. But Persistence is Nick’s middle name. He wore her down. Now he calls her Sally all day long, and she responds to it. Besides the fact that I seriously hope he doesn’t get lost in public somewhere during this imaginative phase, I do find it kind of adorable, and we have actually started referring to them as Sally and Nick around the houseamadoodle. If you can’t beat ‘em…

The Naughty List, and New Year’s Resolutions

In a combination of what was a whirl-wind December and holiday season, begun about half-way through Advent on an evening where I decided that typing was a better use for my hands than wringing the necks of naughty children.

Let’s talk now about something I think most parents don’t want to admit. My children are definitely not on the Nice list this year. Are yours? Are anyone’s?

It feels impossible to live the way I want to live this (or any) December. In my fantasies, there are sweet moments of baking, where nobody fights over the rolling pin or eats all the chocolate chips out of the batter. In my realities, the kitchen is too messy to get to all that baking anyway. And on the rare afternoon that I do, the screaming, fighting, and flour-spilling are almost not worth it.

I love to take my children to the playground on a brisk, sunny winter afternoon. And in my fantasies, they appreciate going, play nicely, and then come when they are called when it’s time to leave. In reality, I find myself at the playground gate holding a shivering Bitsy, whose hands are literally blue, screaming that the baby is freezing and the other two won’t be going to see Santa this weekend if they don’t GET TO THE GATE BY THE COUNT OF THREE…which of course they don’t. And now we aren’t going to see Santa this weekend. Except of course we will, so I will have to make up some other way for them to “work around” this punishment of not getting to go see Santa, which usually involves doing extra chores like carrying laundry to the hamper or picking up somebody else’s toys. Which ultimately undermines my authority because they realize they can be naughty now and still get time off for good behavior, but I don’t really care. I wanna see Santa.

And in my fantasies, my life is absolutely devoid of the annoying lectures I spill forth, almost verbatim from my childhood, about coming when called and considering the freezing baby and when mommy says “now,” now means now, right away, not whenever you get around to it and by the way stop trying to ask me questions because CAN’T YOU SEE I’M ON THE PHONE? and nobody listens to them but me. (Except I’m pretty sure they must be filing them away somewhere, because those lectures are going to come right back spewing out when they have children.)

To be fair, I wanted these children. So I made my own bed, and now I gotta lie in it.

My children are bright and funny, and they have the capacity to be amazingly sweet and thoughtful individuals. And this actually happens about 12% of the time. Apparently it happens more like 65% of the time that they are in the care of other people. Great.

And there you have the sum of everything I had time to write in December. Feels a little unfinished—kind of like my month, my holiday, and my credit card bill. But now greeting cards have all been sent, (except I didn’t send any) the Christmas rush is through (except it’s still up all over our house even though we’re three days into Ordinary Time) and I still have one wish to make (and not just for a Carpenters Greatest Hits CD)…

I do wish, in this New Year, that I can appreciate my children more for the kids they are, and not the kids I want them to be. That’s the whole goal and focus of parenting, isn’t it? Because these little people, naughty though they can be, are really just kids. And they will not be who or what I expect them to be, but God expects me to love them anyway. And I do. I just know that my whole life will be a lot easier twenty years from now if I can hone that habit today of relinquishing (not my hopes, but) my ever-present expectations. Because they really are such wonderful children.

Day 10. This. Sucks.

(Still haven’t gotten to Halloween yet. Where am I in real life? Busy.)

It feels to us now like we’re going through withdrawal.

Now, I don’t know if we were sugar addicts, or if we are just cranky people whose occasional sugar habit was masking this fact with spurts of joy. For at the moment, a cupcake sure seems to me like a spurt of joy.

Dr. A and I were snarling back and forth to each other this bright Saturday morning, that yes, I have a headache too, and yes, I also feel like crap, thank-you-very-much. No hangover to blame, I might add. But it passed. Somewhere around the third shot of espresso, and the fourth (which we fought over; I ended up making another pot) we began to feel more ourselves. Of course, the snarling could have to do with Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo coming in to our room at ten to sunrise on a weekend morning, but that’s not unusual. And, as usual, I said a prayer for the eternal repose of the saint among men who invented Saturday morning cartoons. I liked them as a kid, I LOVE them as an adult.

Anyway. You know, this blog is not supposed to be focused solely on the quest to live a life without sugar. That’s just an excuse to get writing. And week one, it felt great. It felt easy. Week two has begun. And the sucrose has started to hit the fan.

This. SUCKS.

Day 10 we had a party to attend. After the cartoons were turned off and the espressi were polished off and the adults were acting like grown-ups again, we picked up our little pumpkins and three actual pumpkins, and toddled next door to a pumpkin carving party. (I wanted a classic Jack O’Lantern, Bear wanted a bat, Boo wanted a B, and Bitsy wanted to eat dirt. Dr. A just wanted a beer, apparently.)

The hosts of this fun little get-together also happened to be at the pool last weekend, when Dr. A and Bear were at a birthday party and he revealed to all my sadistic mission to avoid sweeteners. I had forgotten this, and I was standing with resolve over the second incarnation of my Jack O’Lantern cheeseball (you make what works, I tell you) eyeing some gigantic and delicious-looking sugar cookies, adorably pumpkin-shaped and frosted in orange and green, thinking to myself, “What if I just have one? Really? Is it going to kill me?” when the host offered me a drink by saying, “I don’t know if you’re drinking, but wine is over there.”

My immediate response was, “Well I’m not pregnant, but I’m not drinking.” And off flew my teensy little desire to cheat. It’s amazing what social pressure will do.

The party was fun. It always is. I carved a pumpkin for Boo and for our fam and Dr. A carved a bat for Bear and we had great conversation with the neighbors. And I did enjoy my cheeseball and red pepper strips, and some homemade chili too, but it became harder and harder to keep my resolve around those sweets. I told the big kids they could each have a cookie and a cupcake. Then Bear skirted the rules by asking if she could use candy corn as a cookie topper. I admire her hutzpah. (We frequently call her The Negotiator.) And she was rewarded with permission to take one candy corn for each year of her age: 5.

Why did I consent to obviously unnecessary junk for her? Because I knew she would sneak an untold number if I did not give her an allowed limit. And she indeed stuck to her 5. Also it maintains the illusion of power that Dr. Awesome and I have in our household. Your kids only have to think you’re in charge.

Boo, of course, is three and a half, and there is only so long he can listen to mommy and daddy in the presence of so many cupcakes. And he did try very hard for the majority of the party. I really don’t blame him; after three hours, I was ready to crack. Then somebody brought out a late fruit tray, Thank GOD! and I went to town on the pineapple. Until then I really thought my succumbing to the sweets was inevitable. Shortly thereafter we caught our son licking sprinkles off a table like a starving puppy. And he did try to abscond with a cupcake multiple times after the high from his allowed treats was gone. Daddy Awesome caught him, (second) cupcake in hand. Boo protested and I said, to soothe him, “Let’s put it in the freezer for another day!” Dr. A, holding the cupcake, agreed and ran next door to our house. Now what I really meant by that was “Go home and throw that cupcake out because I doubt he will remember it,” but my husband is just a man, and like many men he mistakenly thinks that what I say is what I mean. So he went home and put it in the freezer, where it remained…for 48 hours. But that is another story. Back to Day 10, which is by now, winding down.

After we got home and got the monsters to bed, we sat on the couch and commiserated. The party had been fun, but not having sugar or drinking had been really, really hard. Unexpectedly so. Everywhere you go online (it seems to me) people who have given up sugar swear something like, “The first three days are the worst! After that it’s a breeze!”

I think the same people probably say that same lie about parenting.