Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Martelle Christian Church Pumpkin Bars

My mom grew up going to a little church in eastern Iowa. It was the kind that had a pot luck after church once a month, a Ladies' Aid society and that would send care packages to it's member's grandchildren when they went to college. Every so many years, this church also put out a cook book chalk full of delicious recipes. Nearly all of my favorite baking recipes comes from one of these books.

Our favorite is the the "pink cookbook" from 1995. It's called that because, well, it's pink. When Matt & I were married in 2006, I received my own copy of the "pink cookbook". The pages that contain my favorite recipes are stained with spilled ingredients, which I think only makes it that much better.

Most every fall, at some point, I get the need to make pumpkin bars. Last year, I was pregnant with Silas and it hit in July. I took my last bite of dinner and suddenly needed pumpkin bars. Like, now. I called my grandma to get the recipe and she asked if I'd tried the "pink cookbook". Duh. I, of course, found the recipe in said book & ran to the store to get the ingredients, hours later, I finally fulfilled my craving. Matt thought I'd completely lost it.

This year, not pregnant, not as compulsive, I was able to actually wait until the fall and work the ingredients into a grocery list. So, this morning, while Silas and the baby I babysit were napping, I gathered (most of) my ingredients and my awesome helper and whipped up a batch of some of the best pumpkin bars ever. Fortunately for you, I'm going to share the recipe with you. Your taste buds will thank you for making it.

Step 1
Find yourself an adorable helper. Preferably still pajama-clad.

Step 2
Gather your ingredients
(This picture is missing baking powder & my can of "frosting"**. I didn't realize we were out of baking powder & made a mayday call to my sister-in-law who was amazing & brought me baking powder AND M&M's within minutes of my texting her. Thanks, Sarah!)

Step 3
Share some Oreo's & milk with your adorable helper while you wait for the baking powder
(this step is optional)

 Step 4
Stir together dry ingredients in large mixing bowl.

Step 5
Add pumpkin, oil and eggs. Mix until smooth.

Step 6
Spread batter evenly in greased 10x15 inch jelly roll pan.

Step 7
Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Step 8
When COOL (the italics are for me. I can never wait for it to cool!), spread with cream cheese frosting & devour enjoy!

Martelle Christian Church Pumpkin Bars
2 C flour
2 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 T pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp cinnamon
1 (16 oz) can pumpkin (Libby's is the best)
3/4 C oil
4 eggs

Stir together dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Add pumpkin, oil and eggs. Mix until smooth. Spread batter evenly in greased 10x15 inch jelly roll pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. When cool, spread with cream cheese frosting.

**I used canned "cream cheese" frosting. I say "cream cheese" because the canned version, apparently, does not actually contain cream cheese...or dairy of any kind. Silas has a milk allergy, so in order for him to be able to enjoy these bars in all their glory, I went with the fake stuff. If you'd like to make some real frosting, here's a bonus recipe.**

Cream Cheese Frosting
3 oz cream cheese, softened
6 T softened margarine
1 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2- 2 C sifted powdered sugar

Beat together cream cheese, margarine, milk and vanilla. Blend in powdered sugar. Beat until smooth and fluffy.

Friday, November 8, 2013

On becoming the kind of mother I never knew I always wanted to be...

***Disclaimer: This is not at all my view on what a universal perfect mother would look like. This is just what I thought a "perfect" mother would look like for me. I promise, I have no judgement for women who choose to do the opposite of what I described as a perfect mother!***

Years ago, before my spunky Bennett made his entrance to this world, I had an idea of what I would look like as a mother. You know, the kind who didn't allow her child to watch television before the age of two and strictly monitored screen time after that. The kind who's kid would eat whatever I placed on his plate because I had carefully molded his taste buds to like healthy foods at an early age and besides that, I wouldn't give him another option. The kind who's child would never throw a tantrum in public and would straighten up with just the right look from me. My perfect future children would breastfeed without issue, but also take a bottle of pumped milk when I needed them to. They would be easy to wean and we would for sure be done breastfeeding by their first birthday. They would love to snuggle for a few minutes before bed and then oh-so-easily sing themselves to sleep by themselves in their crib. Perfect child would be potty trained early, preferably by his 2nd birthday, but definitely by 2.5. Definitely. So idyllic, right?

Once my strong-willed first son was born, my flawed view on motherhood was shattered. If there's one thing that I've learned in my short 3.5 years of motherhood, it's that who I am as a mother has to change to my kids' needs. Ideal or not.

The first time that Bennett saw the movie "Cars", I knew that he would be watching it over & over. Probably daily. Admittedly, sometimes multiple times a day. He is fairly adventurous when it comes to eating...when he feels like it. We've definitely gone through phases where he lives on pb&j's. I realized that there are a lot of things that I don't like to eat, so why would I insist that he always eats what he doesn't like? Now, we do ask that he tries everything on his plate every time it's offered. I know that tastes change over time, but life is too short to spend hours in a battle of wills with a child who, lets face probably a bit too much like his mother sometimes.

Bennett is potty trained. Finally. It only took 4 or 5 attempts. Each try ended when both of us were an emotional wreck and there were little to no happy parts of our day because of the debacle that was the training attempt. Our last try started this last June, 3 months after Bennett's 3rd birthday. The boy was not ready when my "perfect child" was supposed to be ready. I attempted to impose my standards on him and it nearly ruined our relationship. I wish I was being dramatic. It was the hardest part of parenting, by far.

I'd like to say that after Bennett, I threw out my ideas of perfect motherhood. You'd think I would have learned, but no. I still held on to the ideals that had worked with Bennett. Parenting is a perfect equation, you know. If you put in the same effort, you'll get the same result every time. HA!

Enter Silas. Oh, sweet Silas. When he was 7 months old, I gave Silas a "baby yogurt". Low sugar, high fat perfection. The package said for children over 6 months of age and I'd even waited an extra month before giving him this dairy product. Nothing could go wrong with that, right? Wrong. Silas's skin became bright red everywhere the yogurt had touched. Someone suggested that it could have been from the cultures in the yogurt and not to worry too much about it. I tried lasagna with the same result. After several other foods gave him the same reaction, we scheduled an appointment with an allergist and discovered that he does, in fact, have a cow's milk allergy. Luckily, it's not severe, but bad enough that he can't have dairy. Because of this and the timing of our appointments, I wasn't able to even think of weaning Silas from breastfeeding until a while after his first birthday. He is almost 13 months old and (shield your eyes, Shannon from 4 years ago   6 months ago) still breastfeeding. We are working on weaning and I have set a date for myself of when I'd like to be done, but if we miss that self-imposed deadline, we miss it.

A few years ago a friend asked if I'd ever considered cloth diapering. I think I probably internally scoffed as I politely said, "That's not for us.". And with Bennett, I was right. It wasn't for us. It would not have worked. At all. However, over the last few months, I started considering it with Silas. Without much detail, Silas's dirty diapers are different than Bennett's and I just felt like it might be right. Also, see 3 paragraphs above. I have no interest in repeating Bennett's potty training experience with Silas. So, about a month ago, we started using cloth diapers for Silas & we are loving it. Well, Silas and I are. Matt might be a little more reluctant, but is still a willing participant. I'm really hoping that this will make potty training a bit easier and it has already helped Silas with some issues I thought might discourage him from potty training earlier than his brother.

Moral of the story? Motherhood is not a plan you can make years in advance, or days in advance some weeks. My new goal of "perfection" is this:  I will be a mother who is kind to my children.  I will teach them about One who loves them more than I ever could and do my best to point them to Christ at every opportunity. I will teach them to love others more than themselves. I will teach them how to enjoy life and stay true to who they are and what they believe. I will love their father fiercely and give them the security of a loving home. I will choose their needs over my superficial desires and teach them to serve others by my example. I will love them deeply and give them my whole self.

What a journey life is. I'm so thankful that we do not always have to be who we once were. I'm so glad that my children are forcing me to be the kind of mother I never knew I always wanted to be.

& Just because they're stinking cute (if I do say so myself), here's a couple of recent pictures.