OK, so that title is mainly melodrama.  If you know me at all, you know that I love to jazz up a story.  Stories are stories and so a little hyperbole goes a long way, to my way of thinking.  Fortunately, the JoyBoy is resoundingly with me on this, so we are the perfect audience for one another's story shenanigans.  Suffice it to say, you've been forewarned.  Take what follows with a grain of salt:

 Today Anabel and I spent the morning at the dentist's for round two of molar removal in preparation for her braces, which are soon to follow.  I'm all for uglification when it comes to beautiful little girls on the very cusp of adolescence.  Plus there's the straight teeth to be taken into account, but really, the uglification is  my main focus just now.  So, we spent our time and another nearly $300 having two molars extracted.  As we made our way up to the dentist's third story office, we went back to back and realized to Anabel's triumphant delight that she's very nearly my height now.  At the ripe old age of 12, I might add.  (As a life-long shorty who actually had relatives in the early days of her development suspect she might be a Little Person, I've always hoped that my children would far exceed me in the height department and so to see it come to pass is quite a thrill for us both.)  So we were ushered right in, which is good, as it minimized the wait-time full of trepidation.  And since we were here just last week doing the very same thing, trepidation there was.  We dropped Oliver off in the Thomas-the-Tank-Engine wait area, where he immediately gaped in wonder at the television on the ceiling.  First off, it was a television.  Second, it was on the ceiling.  For a boy who's only ever seen about 25 library DVD's in all of their scratched glory, he was spellbound.  I knew then that I could focus my primary attentions on the Eldest.  And when one's Youngest is a closet world dictator and/or leader (let's keep our fingers crossed!) named Oliver, that peace of mind really means something. 

Our beloved dentist (He really is beloved.  I didn't know there could be such a thing before we found him.) gave Anabel a disconcerting number of injections in order to numb her impending doom.  From his repeated way of doing so, I had to wonder if maybe she wasn't  requiring a bit more than the average child of that age.  She was finally appropriately insensible to the pain that was soon to be and the dentist used a series of three different tools to wrench those enormous molars out of her jaw.  They really are enormous.  Before Anabel's braces prep, I'd never seen a molar with root intact.  You can hardly believe it.  The roots are larger than the molar itself and that's pretty impressive.  So for all her trouble, she got to take these magnificent  little nuggets along.   If it were me, I'd be proudly displaying them to all  mankind, but Anabel is - and always has been - more discreet and modest than I.  She'll probably show three or four close girlfriends and be done with it.  And now next month - braces.  I'll keep you posted.
 
 
When I was a girl, I remember my Dad asking me why I found it necessary to have a favorite of everything.  I had no answer and my only answer now is to present to you, dear readers (I've always wanted to say that.  I'm a cheesy one.), a brief list of some of my many.  I  make no apologies for their transient nature, as I'm a girl who thrives on change and lots and lots of variety.   In no particular order, and only as fancy strikes, they are:

1.  My favorite white wine:  Santa Rita's Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Chile)
2.  My favorite foods:  scallops and lobster
3.  My (current) favorite perfumes:  Dolce and Gabbana's Light Blue and Betsey Johnson's Betsey
4.  My favorite cleaning products:  regular PineSol and Fantastik Oxypower
5.  My favorite book:  Eugene Peterson's version of the Bible called 'The Message'
6.  My favorite qualities in a friend:  personal wholeness and the assumption that the whole world wishes her well
7.  My (current) favorite art:  Sid Dickens' tiles (I have four)
8.  My favorite hobbies:  reading and running and writing and cooking
9.  My favorite thing to do on a rainy day:  close my curtains, turn on the gas fireplace in my bedroom and read whilst curled up in bed.  Tea also helps.
10.  My favorite toothpaste:  Crest cinnamon
11. My favorite facial Cleanser:  I must confess, from 12 to 37, though I've tried many that are far more erudite, it's Noxema regular.  Nothing beats that smell.
12.  My favorite coffeeshop:  Starbucks (the Americano - with cream - in particular)
13.  My favorite colour:  Contrary to what the blog title might suggest - orange and blue
14.  My favorite number:  Who knows why, but somehow it's always been 17
15.  My favorite jewelry designer:  Jenn Fenton (check out her site at  http://www.jennfenton.com/)
16.  My favorite beverage:  without question, it's dark, dark coffee (usually black, but if I'm feeling fancy, there's a dollop of full-on whipping cream in it)
17.  My favorite person:  his fake name is JoyBoy (he's taken.)
18.  My favorite soap:  Lush products.  My favorites, though, are always discontinued.  I'm a products' kiss of death (it goes without saying that this doesn't apply to jewelry designers or photographers; in these areas, I have exemplary taste!).
19.  My favorite bubble bath:  Ombra (they're the 'smelliest' I've ever encountered)
20.  My favorite photographers:  I actually have two.  They can be found at http://www.footprintsbynatalie.com/ and at http://www.rhondafast.com/

Do you have any passionate favorites to share with me?  Talking favorites is my love language, as my bewildered Dad can still attest.
 
 
We went to the home of some friends last night for dinner and what turned out to be mainly laughing.  It was my job to bring dessert and so I spent quite a large chunk of my afternoon baking Caramilk Brownies.  They're a true fabulosity and I bake them semi-often for special social times.  When I put them into the oven to bake, I promptly forgot that I had done so and left the house for a whirl-wind session of errand running.  At about the hour and a half mark, two fire trucks raced by me in what appeared to be the direction of my home, at which point it dawned on me that my abandoned brownies were probably burning my house down at that very moment.  Suffice it to say, I was feeling a little melodramatic and when I called my husband to check, the only evidence of my imagined disaster were some really hard brownies, substantially darker around the edges than I believe they're supposed to be.  So, in a fit of minor desperation, these magical little beauties emerged into the world.  Let's call them:  The Fire Cookie

Layer:

A white chocolate macadamia nut cookie
A scoop of premium vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
Toasted pecans
A substantial scoop of caramel sauce made from simmering together the following ingredients:
     1/2 cup brown sugar
     1/2 cup white sugar
     1/2 cup whipping cream
     1/2 cup butter 

On the side, I also placed a cinnamon swirl bread twist.  Not bad for a hastily assembled grocery store confection!
 
 
Probably right around now would be a wise time to begin to think about what I'm going to do with my life next year when all of the four kids are in full-time school.  Usually, though, I don't feel like it.  Thinking about it, that is.  I'm smack-dab in the middle of  the best year of my life.  My freedometer is registering a great deal more latitude than I've enjoyed at any other point over the last 13 years and best of all, I still have a little Buddy around with whom to share it.  I've discovered that the alone-time I longed over the years isn't nearly as nice as I'd imagined.  The solitary grocery shopping trips I fantasized about prove to be just a little lonely.  I find it's not the same when someone isn't curving their little body into the nest that they've fashioned out of my discarded parka, asking when we can go to the Cookie Club, 'cause the little birdie is hungry.  When aforementioned Little Buddy is along, my role is clear to both myself and to the world.  I'm a Mama (capital M, if you please).  When he flies off into the World next year, I'll have to work to reinvent myself, which will be odd, to say the least.

I'll have some re-training to do, first off.  I've let my teaching certificate lapse for more than ten years and so that means a couple of university courses for me.  This is the part I look forward to.  I think it'll be fun.  I'll be one of those keener Oldies sitting at the front of the class who drives everyone else crazy with her eager, upthrust hand, excited to interact with the Professor.  I'll  be exempt from all the boy/girl titillation that normally hovers in those classrooms like thick haze.  My 37 years (not to mention the stretch marks) will protect me from it all.  My safe invisibility will allow for me to really delve into the subject matter, which in my case means English Literature in all its glory.  I'm quite excited.

The part that isn't nearly so solidified in my mind is what will happen next.  I suppose that I'll apply to the local school district.  The truth is that I'm not all that willing to apply elsewhere as a commute seems like too much work and inconvenience just now.  I feel the injunction within to make everything jive conveniently with my own children and the consequent pick-up and drop-off times.  The truth of the matter is, I'm a bit Fussy-Pants about the whole thing.   I've been fortunate to not have  to resort to daycare in the last ten or so years, and I'd rather avoid doing so now.  (All of this is not to say, of course, that I don't see and heartily acknowledge the essential role these places play in our society.  So many parents aren't blessed with the choice I have before me.  I see - and am profoundly grateful for - all of this.  The fact that it isn't fair occurs to me daily.  As I type, I hear myself that this reeks powerfully of the anguished cries of lawyers in love.  I know, too, that there are many moms out there who don't view the process of placing your child in care as a "resorting" of any sort.  So good.  We've assuaged the rising ire of the Politically Correct.  For me, though, the choice is clear.  I require that it be I who is the primary caregiver to my four.  Chalk it up to a controlling nature, or really, whatever you like.)  Let's assume the local school district sees its way clear to hiring me, in all my fussiness.  I'll need to start from the ground up, which in this profession means being a Teacher-On-Call all over again.  I'd feel OK with the process but for the fact that to 'magically' transform from the position of TOC to the position of regular classroom teacher requires some dazzling of the Higher-Ups, or at least it did for me the first time around.  The dazzling looked a lot like coaching sports teams (anyone who really knows me recognizes the ridiculousness and  laughability of such an idea), the heading-up of afterschool clubs and the general dedication to kids-not-my-own that requires extra time and emotional energy.  Just the things that I don't have tons of in reserve these days.  So what to do?  I'm not all that sure that I'd  hire me!  If life were only rainbows and roses and I could choose exactly only what strikes my fancy, I'd be a Teacher-On-Call to only a handful of traditional schools where I'd be freed to build relationships with the small, intimate and o-so-whole staffs, resulting, ideally, in many friendly call-backs.  I'd probably not lumber onto that treadmill of "Impressing One's Authority Figures" in order to be hired on permanently somewhere.  My lovely, freeing hours would smoothly coexist as though best friends with the hours of my own children's two schools.  Ahhhhh.  Just think of it.  A permanent TOC to well-behaved and very lovely children under the age of Grade 5, exclusively.   There we have it.  I should step off of my spaceship at some point; the real world beckons.
 
 
The ten-year-old just wants to spread the joy.
 
 
I think that if were to try to isolate one of my very favorite aspects of parenthood, I would choose the way that being the Mother makes it easy for me to find my best Self.  It's easier with someone small and helpless and dependent, to be generous and selfless and kind even when you don't feel all that kind inside yourself.  They look to you with such absolute trust and confidence that the fall down from disappointing them is daunting and seems a much bigger deal than when I'm tired and cranky and a jerk to my husband.  He's a much bigger boy and can more easily categorize my impatience as a blip in the larger context of a happy life together.  The kids, most especially when they're tiny and young and still working toward being able to pronounce their s's properly, believe in me and my maternal infallability so much, that to indulge in sin toward them feels a great deal more serious, somehow.  Sadly, it's by no means true that I succeed in treating them in the way they deserve all of the time, every step of the way.  It's that I do it a great deal more consistently with them than I do with their Daddy or with the rest of the world.  I think of the sweetly naive way Lucy registers shock when I tell her that I don't know the answer to one question or another.  She is dumbfounded and says, "But I thought you knew everything?  Mothers are supposed to know everything" as though I've personally betrayed her.  I think of Oliver, fevered and uncomfortable, looking up at me as though I were the one who hung the moon.  He is confused and more than a bit angry with me when he asks, "Why aren't you making me feel better?"  This is a beautiful burden I shoulder each day.
 
 
We have a sick little man in our ranks of late.  He's pathetically adorable and my heart gives a compassionate lurch when I look at him, puffy-eyed and uncharacteristically quiet.  Now that he's six (and let's be accurate, for the past six months at least), he's identified more and more obviously with his Daddy and others who have the tremendous honor (in his eyes) of being Male.  It's sort of a sad gauntlet to pass through for me, though I know by now that these things ebb and they flow.  He reverts fully back to the world of Mommy-Love whilst ill and to say that on some level, this doesn't please me would be a lie.  He lies slumped across my chest for long, long minutes at  a time as I scratch his back.  Not even once does he complain about my girl-hair. 
 
 
This is, I'm almost certain, the best cake I've ever made.  If you decide to go for it, tell me all about the consequent swooning!


Chocolate Pumpkin Cake
From Country Living Magazine



1 1/2 cup(s) flour
2/3 cup(s) cocoa
2 teaspoon(s) baking powder
1 teaspoon(s) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1/2 cup(s) buttermilk
1 cup(s) canned pumpkin
2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
3/4 cup(s) butter, softened
1 cup(s) dark brown sugar
1 cup(s) granulated sugar
 3 large eggs
1 egg yolk

DIRECTIONS

  1. Line the bottoms of two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper and lightly butter. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Stir the buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla extract together in a small bowl. Beat the butter and sugars together using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and yolk, one at a time. Reduce mixer speed to low and alternately beat in the flour and buttermilk mixtures in thirds.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake until a tester, inserted in the center, comes out clean--about 35 minutes. Cool layers completely before icing.
  4. Step 1: Frost Beat 6 ounces softened cream cheese using a mixer set on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, 2 1/4 teaspoons cocoa, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla and beat on low speed until well combined. In a separate bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups heavy cream with 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar and a scant 1/4 teaspoon orange food coloring on medium-high to soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until well combined. Spread 1 cup frosting between the two layers and use the remaining frosting to ice the top and sides of the cake. Chill 30 minutes and proceed to step 2. Makes 3 cups.
  5. Step 2: Glaze Place 4 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate, 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, and 3 tablespoons corn syrup in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring 1/2 cup heavy cream to a boil, pour it over the chocolate, and let sit for 3 minutes. Gently stir, using a whisk, until smooth. Let sit for 3 to 5 minutes, until the glaze thickens slightly. Pour the glaze onto the center of the frosted cake and smooth out to the edges to allow the glaze to drop over the sides. Makes 1 cup.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (per serving) Calories 610 Total Fat 33g Saturated Fat -- Cholesterol 150mg Sodium 310mg Total Carbohydrate 79g Dietary Fiber 3g Sugars -- Protein 7g Calcium --
 
 
I'm reading Sue Monk Kidd's newest book, "Traveling With Pomegranates," and in doing so, I happened upon this impacting little ditty: 

"Many  years before this, when I first set out to be a writer, I had entertained a dream of writing fiction, then quickly banished it - I thought forever.  In the museum that day, I realized the aspiration had never really left, it had merely gone underground to wait its turn.  The dream had been turning up recently dressed as whimsy, hope, impulse, and silly conceit.  I'd refused to take it seriously.  It felt beyond my power and courage, the sort of thing that made me shrink against my pillow late at night.  As I stood before the Rossetti painting, however, my desire to write fiction crystallized into a pursuit that I saw as authentic, necessary, and even sacred.  I now understood that writing fiction was a seed implanted in my soul, though I would not be ready to grow that seed for a long time." 

Can the readership of 40 say wow (by the way, how on earth did I get a readership of 40?  Who are you mysterious people?)?  I feel simultaneously humbled and empowered when I read this.  I think that perhaps, maybe it's not the most audacious thing in the known world to aspire to be a novelist.  I feel like something big is maybe ruminating in my soul.  I've always felt the gape.  The part of me that didn't feel filled.  And maybe now it's finally dawning on me that my small, inconsequential voice might have something meaningful to say to the  vast world.  The burbling, baby excitement is all I can concentrate on just now.
 
 
You know how Society frowns appropriately upon the controlling those of us who hover over our children a la the helicopter?  Despite the fact that I know all this and in fact, have studied formal, heady things with titles like "Child Psychology," I find myself hovering all the same.  It's not an instinct that I'm proud of, but I harbor it deep inside me nonetheless.  A controller by nature, I find it so difficult to impartially observe the difficulties presented as my Little Ones live out their lives, especially when those difficulties bring grief and sadness in their wake.  My eight-year-old will come home from school, wearing her sweet heart on her sleeve, telling me with great and pitiful enthusiasm about something unkind a friend said to her that day.  I know that with just one swipe of my magic mommy wand, or more succinctly, a quick chat to the like-minded mother of said child (very conveniently, a mature and wonderful friend of mine), I can assuage her growing hurt in one fell swoop.  A sort of magic "tears-be-gone" pill.  But is that what's best and most healthy for her?  Shamefully, I quickly realize that the answer is a resounding no.  At countless junctures in this journey of parenting,  I find myself battling myself inside my own head.  I have to very intentionally counter my own instincts in these matters and it shames me.  I always imagined that I'd be an Empowerer by nature, o-so-effortlessly a strong and beautiful Role-Model.  I imagined that the sometimes irrational tears of my children would evoke in me only a wise and perhaps condescending sort of loving pity, not this internal angst and struggle.  I want to sponge up all their pain and take it in for only me.  I want their childhood days to only ever be sunny.  I don't want the scraped knees and worse yet, the broken arms.  I hate, hate that their feelings sometimes get hurt.  And yet, in that small, deep part of me where wisdom resides, I know that it is precisely these things that will mould them into the beautiful people they're destined to be.