February 16, 2017

Five Ways to Rescue a Rotten Morning


The other day, while I was looking for a baby picture of my older daughter to submit for her senior class slide show (sob), I came across this classic morning moment from my girls' younger years. 
Frankly, this is still how my girls feel about mornings.

As a mom, I consider one of my most crucial roles to be that of morning cheerleader: I truly want to get every member of my little family out of the house in as good a mood as possible. 

Now, before you roll your eyes and move onto to some other post that doesn't inspire the gag reflex, please read this disclaimer: my success rate at this lofty goal is about ten percent. My own mood in the morning is, well...a subject for another post. But when I am successful at sending my husband and daughters out and off feeling loved and cheerful(ish) and optimistic(ish), it's usually because I've put one of these tactics into action.

1. Embrace your power. Here's the deal, and I get that it can feel like a raw one: if you are a mom, you have some power to make or break a morning. I know perfectly well I can determine how the day starts in my house by my mood, my attitude, my words, the tone of my voice, and how much sighing I do. This kind of power can either look like a huge opportunity or an oppressive burden, but as the heart of your home, mama, it's yours whether you want it or not. Of course, you can be cheerful and optimistic and singing rather than sighing, and your people might still moan and groan, but if you choose to harness your power for good (and by "you," I'm mostly talking to "me," you understand), your rotten-day ratio will probably take a hit. Love does a lot more than love is, and sometimes what love does is channel its inner Mary Poppins, plaster on a smile, and say "good morning." 

2. Look forward. I know tomorrow is promised to no one. I know "the past is history, the future is a mystery, and present is a gift...that's why it's called the 'present.'" But in our family, we believe that looking forward to something--with the full understanding that there are no guarantees it will actually happen--is at least half the pleasure of it. 

At this very moment, my girls have countdowns on their phones for: 1)spring break; 2)dance recital; 3)Outcry (a Christian worship event I fully expect to charge up their spiritual batteries for at least six months); and 4)our mother/daughters/grandparents summer trip to Cape Cod. But at 6 a.m. on a school morning, it also helps to look forward to nearer pleasures: sleeping in on Saturday; our annual family "no go, no snow" winter retreat weekend; a new outfit (when you have teenage daughters, there is a lot to be said for the fashion/feelings connection). 

Years ago, I even "titled" every week day to help us get through: we have Make-It Through Monday, Totally Tuesday (because, God be praised, at least it's totally NOT Monday), Woo-Hoo Wednesday (yay, we've made it that far), Thank-Goodness-It's-Thursday (there's something victorious about making it to Thursday), and Finally Friday. Whatever it takes, people...whatever it takes. 

3. Crank up the volume. No, not on whining and complaining. I'm talking about harnessing the mood-improving power of music. (For scientific proof on this phenomenon, check out this post my music-loving friend, new mom, and fellow worship team leader Sammie shared with our group recently.)

My current go-to favorite is this one from TobyMac...the name alone should tell you why I keep it on deck at all times.

4. Sweeten the deal. Our family's fondness for food is no secret around here: we like to eat, and the transforming power of a good meal or a warm batch of chocolate-chip cookies is something I rely on. I know the experts (read: people who are not living in my house on the average Monday morning) say you're not supposed to use food to deal with feelings. But as I have done before on this blog, I'm claiming the truth of the Almighty here...if it was good enough for the biblical Hannah, it's good enough for me.
"Then she ate something, and her face was no longer downcast." 
(1 Samuel 1:18)
When I know ahead of time that a particular morning is going to be less than stellar, I sometimes haul out the big guns of mood management: these Double Chocolate Crunch Muffins. Most of the prep work can be done the night before, so if I drag myself out of bed the minute the alarm goes off, I can have these out of the oven by the time my girls stagger to the breakfast table. 



Double Chocolate Crunch Muffins {print recipe}

Crunch topping:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (regular, Dutch-processed, or a blend)
1/2 cup brown sugar (pack it tightly into the cup to measure)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Muffins:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour (white whole-wheat, regular whole-wheat, or whole-wheat pastry flour)

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (regular, Dutch-processed, or a blend)
1/2 cup brown sugar (pack it tightly into the cup to measure)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream (NOT fat free...NEVER fat-free)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (I know, this seems like a weird ingredient, but it has incredible tenderizing powers, and I 100% promise your breakfast will NOT taste like cleaning solution)

Additional ingredients:
1/4-1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate morsels
nonstick cooking spray


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-spot muffin tin with cupcake liners and spray each lightly with nonstick cooking spray. (Yes, you need to do both these things.) 

For the Crunch Topping, stir the cocoa powder into the vegetable oil with a fork. Dump in the brown sugar and flour and blend with a fork just until crumbly. It should look like chocolate gravel. You can do this ahead of time; just make sure it's stored airtight.

For the muffins, blend the flours, brown sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl with a fork or whisk. (Do this the night before if you're trying to get a jump-start on these.) In a separate, medium-sized bowl, mix the remaining muffin ingredients (water through vinegar) with a fork or whisk. Dump the "wet" ingredients on top of the dry and mix together with a rubber spatula just until incorporated. Where muffins are concerned, lumps are good. Leave 'em in. Divide the muffin batter equally among your prepared cups (I use a spring-action ice cream scoop for this). Divide your prepared Crunch Topping equally among your muffins, pressing down slightly to ensure all your lovely chocolate gravel ends up baking into its muffin bases. Sprinkle each muffin with a few (or more) mini chocolate chips. 

Bake at 400° for 12-18 minutes or JUST until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with a few moist crumbs (not wet batter) clinging to it. Cool in the muffin tin on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before gently removing from the tin for consumption or to cool completely on the rack. Store airtight at room temperature for a day or two, or freeze for a month-ish.

5. Add in some "want to." Your morning routine might be like ours: scheduled down to the second. About 25 things need to have happened around here by 7:03 a.m., or we've got trouble. If the morning is looking ripe to be rotten, though, it might help to make a little time for some happiness-inducing activity. For my girls, that will always be dance. Anytime my daughters have a couple extra minutes on a given morning, they'll pull up a song on YouTube and work on a recital routine. Not only does this help them learn the thing, it also improves the day from the get-go. 

For your kids, the fun factor might come in the form of reading a book for pleasure or playing a few minutes of a game or starting some creative project they can finish later (sorry for the mess, mom). Even a brief stint at a want-to activity versus a have-to one can help hit the reset button on a day that's headed south.
Notice the laundry basket in the background?
Clearly, this is NOT a stock photo.

How do you make over a moody morning? (Apart, of course, from that old "go back to bed and pull the covers over your head" standby?) Share it in a comment or over on FacebookI'll be here, trying to summon up some recessive cheerleader gene and waiting for your wisdom.


Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
This post may have been shared at some of these cybe soirees.

22 comments:

  1. Oh the joys of teenagers and school mornings. We always had a routine and things ran fairly smoothly. Never having the TV on in the mornings certainly helped. It was also great to see another mum who believes that anticipation is a big part of any event!

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    1. You know it, Leanne! Good point about the TV...I'm glad ours is a long ways from the kitchen and bathroom where all our morning "stuff" happens. And cheers for anticipation...it's one reason I'm not a huge fan of spontaneity (along with the fact that I'm terrible at it). ;) Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  2. Oh, Elizabeth, these are right on target!!! Makes me wonder if you've been peeking in on our mornings around here!!

    I KNOW the power of music - in fact, that's one reason I wanted an Alexa for Christmas. I thought, "How much easier can it be - just tell her to play music, and we're set in the mornings?!" BUT I keep forgetting! I'm committing now to put some kind of reminder in place so that I can make music in the morning a habit.

    Looking forward is a huge one for us, too. As in, my girls are out of school on Monday for Presidents' Day, which was a huge help for getting me out of bed this morning!! ;) And I'm pretty good about "sweetening the deal" if I want our daughters to leave the house with a more positive attitude.

    One thing I do on moody mornings is try to respect silence in those before-school hours. I've found that that is not the time for me to be asking about homework or chatting about what's ahead in their school day. At least for my girls, they often need some literal quiet time to start their day...

    Thanks for a great post today!!

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    1. Aw, thank you, Tracey. I always feel that if something rings true for you, I've somehow gotten it right. :) I LOVE your trip about respecting silence before school. That is SO smart. I love that you know what your girls need and give it to them. I will try to remember this when my girls are sitting at the breakfast table, not saying anything. I always want to jump in with "what's wrong," but I'll try to remember your wisdom and refrain. Have a wonderful looong weekend. We don't get one here, but we ARE greatly anticipating our annual family at-home winter retreat next weekend. Our motto is: "if anyone comes to the door, everyone hide in the closet." ;)

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  3. just printed - do I HAVE to use whole wheat (whoops, that was whiny...perhaps you heard it)??? Coffee here next WEd at 10 with 10 moms - come on over. Bring these, with or w/o whole wheat...(:

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    1. Heehee...NO, Sue, you most certainly do NOT have to use whole wheat! I am not that kind of blogger, sweetie. ;) In fact, I love you even more for asking! I myself use WHITE whole wheat (and, you see, not too much of it), which is softer and smoother and milder in taste and texture than the grainy stuff. We are equal-opportunity bakers here at Guilty Chocoholic Mama. Thank you for the coffee invite...I'd love to come! See you then! xoxo

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  4. Can't wait to try these muffins, Elizabeth. Extra bonus points to you for baking them in the morning ... I will praise you and not feel the need to follow your example. :-) Also, way to apply the Bible to every day life ... I've been practicing your "Hannah Principle" with my older girl for years and years and didn't even know it was biblical. I always love to see your posts pop into my inbox!

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    1. Hi, Lois...it's always a joy to see your name pop up in my inbox, too! The "Hannah Principle"--I love that! What a good mom you are to have been following it all these years...works, doesn't it? ;) My favorite part of that story, though, is that when poor Hannah is crying her eyes out in grief from years and years of not having a child, her husband has to ask her, "What's wrong?" I know there's more to the story, but I do find it to be a little bit of biblical humor and some ancient proof that an "EQ" (or lack thereof) has always been a thing! Bless you today, sweet lady!

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    2. Haha... some men take a little longer to catch on than others, huh? So I started gathering stuff together to make these muffins of yours tonight and I discovered there are no cupcake liners in my kitchen. I guess there's no need to replenish now that elementary school parties are a thing of the past. Thank goodness. (Did I just say that out loud?) Anyway, I know you said liners and spray are both required, but is that a "don't come crying to me when you end up with a big sticky mess" rule or would a whole lot of spray work just as well? Hugs, friend!

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    3. Oh, Lois, absolutely a good dose of spray will be fine! ;) That's actually what I've started doing b/c I don't like losing half my muffin to the liners! Hope this reply gets to you in time! :) Hugs (and chocolate) back!

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  5. So many things I could comment on (have I told you lately that you are a genius, my friend?), but I'll just say that if it weren't for motivation from TobyMac, pretty much NOTHING would get done around here!

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    1. Aw...you are too kind! But you know I'm just trying to keep pace with your brilliance, my wise and witty friend! And HOW FUN: another thing we have in common! Move, keep walkin'... :)

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    2. ...and I completely forgot to say that of course I demonstrated NO WILLPOWER once again and chose you for my #FridayFrivolity feature! ;)

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    3. Aw!!!! Thank you, sweet friend. Your lack of willpower has made my day. Which was, in fact, off to a rather rough start. Bless you!!!!

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  6. Since we home school, if we have late nights or long weekends, sometimes they get a "sleep in" day. You would think this would promise great moods in the mornings. Not necessarily. And they're boys, not girls, but the moods are still there. I love #1 because I know that my mood and my reaction to their mood can make or break the day. I fail miserably, but if I've spent time with Jesus first thing, it helps. And bacon. Bacon always sets a better tone.

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    1. Bacon + Jesus. Brilliant, Julie. You need to write another guest post for me. Did you see that your first one is back up to the #1 spot here on my little slice of the blog pie? Woo hoo, you! :)

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  7. Thanks for including the option to print the recipe! This one looks like a winner!

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    1. You're welcome, Michele...it's the least I can do to spread the chocolate-muffin love! :) Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. I think that the key is to learn to police your thoughts. So often we get into a mood and just allow our thoughts to feed the negativity. if we can choose to recognize those patterns and choose to change what we are dwelling on, it can rescue a bad day nicely!

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    1. Absolutely, Karen..."preparing our minds for action," so to speak. There's a reason the mind is sometimes referred to as a battlefield...and the morning battle is usually won or lost there! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your thoughtful words!

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  9. These all sound like great motivational tips - and the muffins look scrumptious! Definitely a good way to turn around a less-than-stellar morning. If I'm having a bad morning, I usually just go in for a few minutes of puppy snuggles...except more often than not, that just makes me want to stay home all day with my dog!

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    1. That's a great addition to the list! As for the muffins, well, cake pants would be a great thing to put on before eating these! ;) Thanks so much for stopping by!

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!