Crack Muffin.

Our family’s introduction to Crack Muffin came about in a bizarrely serendipitous way.

It all started last summer. We were at our usual grocery store one day, casually shopping for our usual groceries, which did not include any boxed baked goods. As I surveyed the cracker aisle for the cracker option that was on sale that week, a rather desperate looking firefighter in half uniform (not full uniform – he wasn’t wearing the big fireproof jacket or anything – he had on one of those too-tight t-shirts that showed off his firefighting muscles) nearly bumped into me as he frantically scoured the aisle.

“Oh, sorry,” I said to his massive forearms.

“Can you help me? I can’t find them anywhere!”

“Sure! I shop here all the time. What are you looking for?”

“Well, Church of the Highlands did a SERVE day at our precinct and they brought these amazing mini muffins with them. We all LOVED them. We asked where you buy them, and they said that they got them from THIS grocery store. So all the guys sent me to get some. I don’t know the brand name but I’ll recognize them when I see them.”

How hard could this be? And does this firefighter not know that boxed baked goods are disgusting preservative bombs?

But I agreed to help because I’m here to SERVE, much like Church of the Highlands.

(Church of the Highlands is Birmingham’s mega church, and one of the things they’re known for are their SERVE days. They blanket the city with red t-shirts and Facebook statuses while serving the community in an endless variety of ways – including, apparently, crack muffin.)

I looked up and down the cracker aisle with him, but there were no mini muffins. We checked the chip aisle, the baking aisle, the baked goods area – no muffins. We found some Little Debbies on the endcap, but he said that he would have remembered if they had been Little Debbie. But in an act of near-resignation, he said, “But how could Debbie go wrong, amIright? I’ll grab these just in case.”

We parted ways, only to run into him again a couple aisles away, and then again two more aisles away.

He was a desperate man. He NEEDED crack muffin.

I kept looking for random mini muffins on each aisle I traversed, but could not find any.

Until…we were walking between the next-to-last aisle and the absolute last aisle, and there was a table set up with Entemann’s snack products on them.

And there they were – large boxes of Little Bites.

I knew this had to be what he was after, and I also instinctively knew that he had given up his search and was about to leave.

I told the kids, “RUN!!! GOOOOO! Find! That! Fireman!”

They ran across and up the store to find him in the opposite corner, as I suspected – in line to check out. He saw them running and his eyes lit up.

He knew we had found them.

He jumped out of line and followed the children as if they were the Pied Piper of Crack Muffin (which they were.) They led him to the back of the store to the table that housed Little Bites.

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“That’s it!! It’s them!! Oh my gosh we found them!!”

He was practically leaping with joy and promised my kids the best fire station tour of their lives.

He filled those lovely forearms with a sufficient number of boxes to feed a herd of firefighters (almost all the boxes) as the children begged me to let them experience this magic of muffin as well.

I am vehemently opposed to pre-packaged baked goods. I don’t eat Little Debbie or feed her to my children. Powdered mini donuts and Ding Dongs give me the heaves. The amount of preservatives that it takes to make baked goods taste good until the year 2034 seriously skeeves me out. I’m no granola crunchy organic kale eater, but pre-packaged baked goods go past my limits. They’re hanging out in my no-fly zone with Cheese Curls, McDonalds, Waffle House, and Jack’s (with the exception of their iced coffee) – I just don’t believe in them.

But Crack Muffin was buy one get one free. And our firefighter friend was acting like a toddler in an all-you-can-eat candy store. So against my better judgment, I told the kids to pick out two boxes from the vast expanse of nearly (and newly) empty shelving.

And that was the moment that marked the end of their non-addicted lives.

I tried one of these mini muffins and they were surprisingly fresh and soft, as if Entemann’s had magically transported them from their oven to the package right before we opened it. I still couldn’t get over my pre-packaged snobbery to love them, but I didn’t hate.

But the children. The children became immediate junkies, needing Little Bites to survive the morning. And the afternoon. And the night.

At four mini muffins to a pack and five packs to a box, their habit quickly became expensive. They began selling their stuffed animals on the street corner to pay for their next fix. Or at least that’s what I thought about suggesting every time I saw the empty boxes.

As Little Bites became a part of our lives, I was shocked at how many other people already knew about Crack Muffin. As it turns out, many of our friends and their children had been addicts for years and we had no idea.

You just don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors, people.

Even our babysitters knew of Crack Muffin and joined me in my fight against the children overdosing.

 

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The situation became severe, but I couldn’t wean them because I was afraid of their systems going into Crack Muffin Shock. And so we live, trying hard to keep our addictions in check, silently blaming the fireman who introduced us, and the SERVE team who introduced him.

SERVing is awesome, but beware of a person in a red T-Shirt offering you a muffin.

Preparing for That Special Night.

I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day.

I adore my husband, have plenty of romantic feelings toward him, and love to celebrate anything with a date or weekend away whenever we get the chance. But I would prefer to not fight the entire world for a table on those occasions. And Valentine’s just feels so contrived…I don’t want to feel the pressure that I MUST be able to post a picture of my beautiful bouquet on Facebook on the 14th day of February every year or have people message me to inquire worriedly about the state of my marriage.

I’m a rebel. What can I say.

But when we received this in the mail…well…it just changed how I felt about the holiday.

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Such original words – I would absolutely cherish them forever! So well-written and from the heart! And even better that the last letter of my husband’s name couldn’t fit – Christophe sounds like my exotic French husband – or an Ice Peddler from the north mountains who never takes baths and learns about love from trolls.

But they did not fail to sell their unbelievably exquisite jewelry. The ultimate gift. It doesn’t get any better than this, guys. Your wife told you she wanted a weekend away from the kids, or perhaps just a thorough vacuuming out of her car? Nah – she’d rather have The Perfect Sentiment closest to her heart.

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I sure hope Christophe takes the hint.

I wanted to be prepared if he did buy me the perfect gift, so I did some intensive shopping to find him just as special of a gift.

And I did just that.

On Etsy.

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I MEAN. Can you imagine how awesome we would look on our Valentine’s Date, me with my Christophe necklace and him in his $150 gunmetal leggings? Oh. My. Gosh.

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If Birmingham had gossip pages, Christophe and I would most definitely make them.

Not-Crazy-Renee and the Family Pet.

Not-Crazy-Renee is a homeschool Mom like myself. That somehow puts one in a different category of willingness to do bizarre things for educational purposes. Couple that with Not-Crazy-Renee being not-crazy and…well…

So Loulie wanted a pet snake.

Loulie is Not-Crazy-Renee’s oldest child. She and Noah are tight – so much so that they are already planning their marriage, and they both just turned five a few weeks apart.

Noah is not as excited about Loulie’s exotic taste in pets, especially since it would live long enough to potentially carry into their marriage like a slithery piece of unwanted baggage, but Not-Crazy-Renee was all in. I, being one of those rare snake-fascinated individuals, was also fully in support.

For weeks before Loulie’s birthday, Renee was doing research, learning, and logging onto snake forums to educate herself on everything that she needed to know about being a hospitable owner to a pet snake. And there’s way more than you’d think involved – nocturnal hours, proper humidity and temperature gradient so that they can move between warmer and cooler sides as needed, adequate numbers of hides to prevent stress, and much much more. She bought a vivarium (fancy, no?), all the accessories including a unicorn figurine to keep the new snake relationally engaged, and, finally, visited a breeder to procure the snake itself just in time for Loulie’s fifth birthday.

The snake in question is a Butter Ball Python Morph, and Loulie decided to name her Snakey Butters Buttercup – a perfect name to convey the cuddly, adorable aspects of a python.

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Loulie was very opinionated about the diet of Butterball, though – the recommended diet is one live mouse a week – Hopper sized, no Fuzzies or Pinkies. But live mice are so adorable and Loulie just couldn’t stand the thought of her precious snake killing such a beautiful creature. So she requested that they look into the other, less recommended option – frozen mice.

(Because frozen mice are alienesque and ugly, so their dead state did not bother Loulie at all. Renee is now teaching Loulie the concept of valuing all life whether attractive or not.)

Frozen mice are sold in a box on a block, and you kind of just…chisel off a mouse-in-a-baggy once a week. Then you warm that mouse – carefully – and dangle it in a believably-live way in front of a hungry Python.

It might help to also move the mouse along the cage in a realistic fashion as you would do to get a cat to play with a stuffed mouse – reverse-fishing, if you may.

However, the warming of the mouse is the complicated step.

Mickey is supposed to be warmed carefully and slowly, but time does not always allow careful, slow warming, so despite the warnings on the box,

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(Not the “not for human consumption” warning – that “do not microwave” warning,)

You might attempt to microwave the poor creature. Thank God I got the full textual play-by-play. If only everyone were fortunate enough to be friends with Not-Crazy-Renee.

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“It was in a bag!!” may be the phrase that Not-Crazy-Renee screams at me, in the tone of “We were on a break!!”, every time I refuse food from her for the rest of our lives.

And I’m okay with that. Especially after this final fact about micromouse.

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(Later, Not-Crazy-Renee admitted that when Butterick “snapped that thing up” and gave it a little squeeze, the mouse’s stomach completed the process of rupturing.)

So after the unfortunate microwave explosion incident, they decided to use safer, more proven methods of mousecicle warming.

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I began to realize that Not-Crazy-Renee was way more into ButteredRice than Loulie (despite Loulie’s obsession) when every time I texted her after her kid’s bedtime, she was in the middle of some sort of snakey endeavor.

Such as this night,

 

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And this night.

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After a few weeks of disgusting mishaps and frustrating feeding escapades,

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along with a snake exchange from Snakey Butters Buttercup the First to Snakey Butters Buttercup the Second (because SBB Sr. was snapping at the children as if they were naked dead rats and we all know that snakes should never be aggressive like that), Not-Crazy-Renee convinced Loulie that it was time to attempt a live mouse.

But still. She wasn’t sure Loulie could handle the cuteness, so she snuck into the pet store to buy the first victim.

“What are we doing here, Mommy?”

“Oh, I just have to run in and get something.”

The only pet store in town that sells live feeder mice is beyond creepy – it’s like the Uncle Joe’s Tot Locker of pet stores. It was the creepiest shack in Birmingham when I was a kid, and it doesn’t appear to have been cleaned in the 20 years since then. Any mouse would be thrilled to escape the noxious fumes and gummy cages to find comfort in the warmth of a snake’s throat.

Renee walked in, turned the corner, almost walked into a random giant tortoise slowly cruising around the store, and found the feeder mice.

The employee fished her one out and asked, “Would ya like me to stun him for you?”

“Well, I’m not going to be using him until tonight, so no…”

“Okay. Well, the way I stun ‘em is by grabbin’ ‘em by the tail and just whappin’ ‘em against the wall.”

“Um, Thanks…”

Renee stuffed the mouse in her purse like it was some sort of embarrassing personal hygiene item and scurried out, dodging the tortoise once again.

Then took the kids to lunch.

As one does.

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*Yum to Ashley Mac’s, not the mouse.

Renee is a lot like a first-time-Mom with Butternuts, obsessed and anxious and hovering, so she really wanted full control over this first live feeding. She waited until Loulie went to bed, then invited me over to join in her great anticipation of snake consumption.

Snakes are nocturnal and prefer their food at night, so Renee and I sat in her dark basement together, nervously watching her snake under a heat lamp.

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The breeder had recommended that she move ButteredRoll to a different box for feeding to reduce association with home + feeding and therefore also reduce chances of children’s hands getting snapped at when reaching into the vivarium, so she was in Rubbermaid and the mouse was dumped unceremoniously from the light bulb box in which it had been subtly hidden.

As we sat in the dark, Renee waited and hoped that her baby would decide to eat, distracting herself by whispering nervously to me.

“Snakey Butters Buttercup the Second was from a boob egg, which means that one side didn’t calcify entirely and the egg kinda looks like a boob. This makes the snakes smaller and more docile, but I’m wondering if it also makes them a little dense. WHY ISN’T SHE EATING?”

I worked to distract Renee to keep her off the forums while we waited for ButterPecanPancakes to take the plunge and eat that adorable tiny mouse, all while Renee’s husband waited patiently upstairs for Renee to come back so they could watch Making a Murderer.

But first, we needed to make a murderer out of Butterfinger.

She’d tense up, stick her tongue out to smell the fantastic aroma of mouse, then act disinterested.

She literally licked that mouse, and the mouse totally licked her back, but then Buttermilk changed her mind again.

(All while Renee panickingly whispered, “Is that mouse CHEWING ON my snake?!?!”)

This went on for a half an hour, and I began to believe Renee’s observations about the intelligence of a boob egg dweller.

Until quite suddenly, Butterfly uncoiled all the way, arched her head, and took down the mouse in a millisecond.

She wrapped him up, head in her mouth, as the tiny legs repeatedly kicked her in the scales.

So that she could feel the full impact of Mouse Death, I batted Renee’s leg with my fingertips to the syncopation of the mouse’s little claws.

Then when the mouse had been still for a couple of minutes, the swallowing began.

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Considering the relative size of the mouse and snake, it was a shockingly quick process. All I could think about was how choked I would be if I were Butterbeer right then. I MEAN.

It was fascinating to watch her throat muscles and scales move up and down as she worked the mouse from her mouth down her throat, until all that remained was a mouse tail, which very much made her look like she was having an after-meal smoke.

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The moment was touching, that first live mouse meal, and Not-Crazy-Renee and I bonded immensely from having shared it. It was as if we’d truly experienced The Miracle of Life together. Or The Miracle of Death. Whatever.

But it wasn’t just bonding for Renee and I – it was also bonding for Butterbean and Renee. The next night when I texted her, no longer was she preparing dead mice in some gruesome and squishy fashion. No – thanks to that tummy-filling live mouse, Renee and Buttercream were able to spend their one-on-one time much more productively.

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