Monday, December 17, 2012

Pumpkin Blondies

Our greatest parenting challenge as of late has been choosing the most effective way to discipline our son. Matthew is an excellent kid about 80% of the time. He is very well behaved, loves to help out, listens well, and is an extremely good sport about running multiple errands with his crazy Mama.  However, the other 20% of the time, he can be extremely stubborn, obstinate, and surly.  When in one of his foul moods, if asked to do something he is not completely inclined towards at the moment (such as "eating lunch" or "playing with his toys"), he will immediately allow his legs to buckle beneath him and collapse into a pile of limbs on the kitchen floor. And the kid is heavy...a little too heavy for me to be dragging around at the moment. I usually just go into another room and allow him to lay there until he gets up. Sometimes this takes up to 30 minutes.

Whenever I try to correct him in public, the flailing of limbs combined with some form of screaming normally ensues and I become suddenly aware of the glares from passing strangers as they "tsk tsk" at my complete lack of control over my child.  A quick pat on the bottom normally reduces my previously angry child to a puddle of pathetic tears, making me look like a cold, heartless person as I ignore his Oscar-worthy performance and continue to retreat as quickly as possible back to the safety of our car.  During these moments, I feel embarrassed, humiliated, and as if I am doing a terrible job as a parent.

Infrequent though these moments are, Matthew definitely knows when to pick the worst possible times to be disobedient and defiant...

Once a month, I am in charge of washing the linens for our Parish.  When I go collect the linens at the beginning of the week, I have to rinse each and every one individually in a special sink in the sacristy of our church.  I usually try to pick up the linens during the noon Mass so as to guarantee that the sacristy will be empty and Matthew and I can move in and out as quickly as possible.  This gives us a small window of 25 minutes to get everything cleaned, packaged up, and loaded into the car.  Matthew is normally extremely helpful, standing on a chair next to the sink and putting the soaked linens in my laundry bag after I have finished rinsing.  This past week, however, he did not want to help.  I had brought in a book for him to read and he was calmly paging through it behind me as I worked.  Suddenly and without warning, I began to hear the sound of our Pastor's voice filling the room via a speaker.  I turned around and saw that Matthew was playing with the controls to the sound system.  The controls are situated in a protective box that is normally locked.  However, today someone had left the key in the lock.  Matthew had always curiously eyed that box and had quietly managed to turn the key, open the box, and start pressing buttons...evidently turning on the speakers in the sacristy and allowing the sounds of the ongoing Mass to pour in.

"Matthew!  Get away from there!  SIT DOWN AND READ YOUR BOOK!" I hissed at him, my hands still dripping with soapy water.

Matthew sulkily went back to his chair, glaring at me as he stuck out his pouty lips and picked up his book.  He angrily began turning pages, not looking at them, but continuing to glare at me.

I ignored his hostile stares and turned back to continue rinsing, only working at a much faster pace this time.  A couple minutes later, the bells of the Church began to chime the familiar notes to the song "God Bless America."  I thought that was a bit strange.  Our pastor, whose homily I was still able to hear in the sacristy, paused and said: "That's funny. The bells seem to have a mind of their own today!"

Suddenly, I realized what had happened.  Whirling around, I saw that Matthew was back at the controls (which apparently also control the bell tower).  He was the culprit who had set off the bells (although I am not surprised by his song choice...the kid is a great patriot!)  Mortified, I tore him away from the box, forced his coat on, shoved the remaining linens in my bag, and ran out of the Church as fast as we could, the sounds of "God Bless America" still resounding spiritedly from the bell tower.  Matthew kicked and screamed the whole way to the car.  I have no idea how I managed to carry him and the laundry bag without littering the sidewalk with wet towels along the way.

I was so angry and embarrassed by this whole situation. Angry at my son for not listening and obeying me as he usually does so well at home, angry at myself for not locking the box the first time he touched it, and completely frazzled by the fact that I had no idea how to punish Matthew for the incident.  By the time we came home, Matthew had said "Sorry Mommy!" about 15 times, although each one was said with a giggle and not in a truly morose manner.  Oh well...I bought it.  We shared a peanut butter sandwich and then I put him down for a nap.  And he was an absolute angel the rest of the day.

Later that afternoon, I called my Mom and told her about what happened.  She found the whole scenario absolutely hilarious and said: "Well of course he touched it! The temptation was too great! He's just a little boy!"  And she's absolutely right.  But how do I punish him for not obeying while simultaneously preserving his curious nature?  I want him to be inquisitive, strong-willed, and bold but only if he channels this in a positive direction.  Plus, the fact that he laughs when we try to put him in time out tells me that he's really not really getting the point.

When the difficulties of parenting are flushed out so plainly, it is really lovely to have some therapeutic baking to do.  One of the sweets on my Christmas baking list this year were these pumpkin blondies. I love everything and anything pumpkin, but due to some bouts with nausea during the Fall, I really did not bake very many pumpkin related items.  I decided to make up for this by baking these babies for Christmas.  I have had this recipe bookmarked for a very long time and they were so worth the wait!  Slightly gooey, pumpkin-kissed, blondies studded with white chocolate and butterscotch.  This has been Matthew's favorite Christmas cookie so far.  He likes to call them "the pumpkin ones!"  If you are not a fan of white chocolate chips, use all butterscotch chips.  Make sure not to over-bake them or else they will turn out a bit more cakey (still tasty, but not really what we're shooting for here!).

Pumpkin Blondies
adapted from Martha Stewart

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 heaping cup white chocolate chips
1 heaping cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pie spice, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree (mixture may appear curdled). Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the white chocolate and butterscotch chips.

Spread batter evenly in prepared pan (you might have to use your fingers). Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 35-40 minutes. Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares

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