on being premeditated

I recently ended a month-long fast from social media. I didn’t do any blogging, and facebook-liking, any tweeting, any impulse-buying (OK, I didn’t do any impulse-buying from ads on social media sites, ok?). As a planner, here is what I planned to happen during this break.

Avocado toast, coffee, and devotions: essentially every one of my January mornings. (Not pictured: screaming, naked toddler.)

I was going to be in the Bible and deeply in prayer every day.
I was going to write everyday.

I was going to go to bed early, wake up early, work out regularly, and embrace the full glorious effects of my peak physical health.

I was going to feel God lead my writing and my thinking in ways I never had before. 

I was going to be sick for the first three weeks or so and hate everything — oh wait.

So I didn’t plan for #5, but I did cling desperately to #1 and at least half of #4. I spent the first two and a half weeks of 2017 with a sinus infection that eagerly sucked the life out of me. As soon as that cleared itself (with the help of powerful antibiotics), I got the stomach flu and took several days to stop feeling quesy and tired. I cried out and prayed and asked, “WHY, GOD?! WHY NOW?! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO BE PRODUCTIVE WHEN I CAN BARELY FUNCTION?”
And simply, in God-like fashion, He replied, “it takes little energy to read.”

So I read the Bible. I read news articles in as unbiased a way as I possibly could (away from the comment-happy users of the internet and with a grain of salt for the human writer). I prayed. I looked at my computer, sitting very unused, and tried to get my brain to make think of something interesting I could write down. 

After I while, I complained to my mom about my lack of inspiration. Apparently I had forgotten about God’s command to read, and He felt it necessary to remind me through her words. “Maybe it’s better for you to listen right now,” she said, and of course, she was right.

All of the listening and all of the reading have led me to this place: I cannot give up being premeditated. I crave a plan, a schedule, a list. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But as a person who desires a relationship with God, I need to give up control. I need to give up my plans.

So, going forward, I have a new definition for “premeditated” — to plan ahead and be filled with grace. Grace to accept plans falling apart. Grace to allow myself to write and share thoughts that may be disliked by others; grace to be at peace with that. 

So, as I mentioned in a post yesterday, going forward, here is the new Premeditated Mama plan: Mondays are for “deep thoughts” — be they outright political or hard and uncomfortable, like being a mom in the hard times, living with depression and anxiety, or whatever else God puts on my heart. Thursdays are for “light thoughts” — like how to deal with your constantly naked toddler or your attitude-developing elementary student. The main thing I want to get across is that we are all in this together. My words aren’t law. Yours probably aren’t either. But I want us to make this tiny little corner of the internet a safe space for opinions, for discussions, for community.

So with that, I’m signing off from my last Wednesday post. Thanks for being on this journey with me – and I’ll see you on Monday!

’twas the night before christmas (for a mom)

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, except the mom, duh.
The stockings were ruined by the toddler each day
The tree, once a joy, now complete disarray

Yet despite all the mess, the mom’s heart did grin
(though perhaps that was due to the holiday gin)
“Tomorrow,” she thought, “will be joyful and fun,”
“And then — oh yes, then — Christmas will be all done.”

The children were wrestled like animals to bed
With visions of “PRESENTS!!” in their wild little heads
And the dad and the mom with the presents all done
Had just settled down for some holiday fun

When the door to their room started to shudder
“Noooo,” they both moaned, while a small voice said, “mother?”
Away to the closet mom flew like a flash
And emerged in a robe in a manner quite brash

“Santa won’t come unless you sleep,” mama said
And spent 83 hours putting the child back to bed
When the mom returned, the dad said “perhaps?”
And the mom looked over and sweetly said “not a chance.”

When the morning did come, along with new-fallen snow,
The cold winds outside made the fireplace glow
Children ripped presents, mom and dad shared a kiss
Right then the mom knew this was something she’d miss

So instead of wishing Christmas away
She vowed to keep a little bit in each day
So she sang carols in June and baked cookies in Spring
She wrapped soap and paper and silly old things

She hugged her kids hard, even when they were nuts
And told them how much she loved their guts.
She did all she could to keep Christmas in sight,
And hopes you can too — Merry Christmas, good night.

(And pass the gin.)

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Merry Christmas from Premeditated Mama and family!

christmas time is here

Everyone: “Your kids are at such a great age for Christmas! What a magical year this will be!”

Me: “Haha (gracious smile), oh yes (eye crinkle) – magical.”

I’m here to make Christmas magical and eat tomatoes like apples, and I just ran out of tomatoes.

I love Christmas. I love my kids. But let’s be honest with ourselves: Christmas isn’t always magical.

Yes – of course – the spirit and true meaning of Christmas? Extraordinary. The month of December, with the 25th in particular? Occasionally – simply – extra ordinary. (Get it? Extremely like any other normal day? Have some coffee and come back to this one, it’s clever.)

My children are six and two, and this is the first Christmas that they both kind of understand that Christmas is a big deal. The six year old has memories from Christmases past, and it’s amazing to see him remember traditions and make connections on his own. My two year old is really, really, really two.

This photo has little relevance to the rest of the post, but I feel like Jonah is having a pretty intelligent conversation with that goat, and that makes me smile.

Jonah is your quintessential toddler this year: he loves decorations, he can tell you that baby Jesus was born in a manger, and he looks great in a holiday sweater. He’s also broken a minimum of seven ornaments and tried to make a snowman indoors. Before I had kids, I had this ability to turn off the world on holidays, even if only for a little bit. I could step outside my body and feel peace and warmth while my family and friends spread the love of the season. That’s not to say I have never felt my share of the depression that comes with the season – I could just step away from it momentarily to soak in the magic. No small feat, I understand.

But now? I have so much expectation for Christmas. Even if we aren’t your perfect television family in Christmas pajamas with perfect hair and makeup at 6am (yeah, no), we are together, laughing, embracing. There is no talk of sickness or cleaning or homework or potty training. There is simply goodness. No details. Just good. In real life, Christmas looks more like parents not feeling the coffee work fast enough while kids rip through packages so quickly they barely know what they’re opening. It looks like your toddler taking a self-imposed time out to discretely poop in a corner, inches from the potty seat that now has a permanent and disgusting place in your living room. It’s bag after bag of ripped wrapping paper and ribbons that took hours, if not days, to make your presents look perfect – only to become shreds in seconds. 

I think Christmas is hard because we want so much from it. 

I have a mantra I’m adopting this year, and I’ll be honest with you, it’s tricky. It’s countercultural and hard to live out, but here it is: Christmas is a day.

Yes, Christmas is a season, and the reason for the season is life-changing, life-giving, life-saving. We should not be grateful that Jesus was born to save us all only in December. We should not show our family and friends that we love them or read the second chapter of Luke or spend time making special meals only as the calendar year draws to a close. If we can add a little more Christmas into our every day life, maybe we can remove some pressure from the one day that brings all of our stress to a head. 

If you’re hurting this year? If someone you love can’t be near you? If your toddler is destroying things left and right and then inexplicably screaming at you about the messes he made? Take the pressure off December 25. Christmas is a day. I hope you can find things to bring you joy all day long, but if you can’t, realize December 26 is a day too. It’s a day that can bring you just as much magic and mystery and love – if you let it.

holly jolly silent night

Any red-blooded Christmas fan knows this to be true:

elf

I love Christmas songs more than most songs. I say this collectively, generally, with “Christmas songs” being one big lump of songs I love.

Of course, there are some terrible songs in that lump.

Let’s explore them now.

In no particular order, here they are: the WORST CHRISTMAS SONGS EVER!

(Might this offend you? It’s possible. I love Jesus and I love Christmas and I love you, so let’s embrace our differences and chuckle for a minute, mmk?)

Do You Hear What I Hear?

First of all, this title is too long and it is a question, which makes it hard to say. “What’s your favorite Christmas song?” “Do you hear what I hear?” “Umm… no?” It’s a more personal question than “What Child is This?” another Christmas song with a question-asking title. (Though it should be noted I dig this song, and not only because it was my first opportunity to publicly say “ass” as a child. Yeah, it meant donkey. I was the kind of rebel who only rebelled by smirking slightly when singing the word “ass” in church.)

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” is essentially a game of telephone that starts with the wind (of course) talking to a sheep (with you so far) who passes along that message to an actual human boy (who apparently speaks lamb) who somehow immediately gets an appointment with the King, who broadcasts the news to his people. The wind couldn’t just talk to the King? I mean, the boy got in to see him no problem. Or perhaps the wind could directly tell the news of baby Jesus to the people? Unless the wind can only communicate with sheep. Can all shepherds talk to their sheep as well? If so, I feel like the wind could have just spoken to the boy and left the middle animal out of it. THIS SONG CREATES SO MANY QUESTIONS. Also all of the echos makes it sound like it’s the background music in a weird and spooky cave. No. No.

Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg

If you haven’t heard this song because you don’t obsessively listen to STAR 105.7, I’ll give you a moment to listen to this monstrosity on your own: Same Old Lang Syne.

Are you done? Great. Whether or not you listened to it just now, here’s a sample of the lyrics. This is LITERALLY HOW THIS “CHRISTMAS SONG” OPENS:

Met my old lover in the grocery store / The snow was falling Christmas Eve / I stood behind her in the frozen foods / And I touched her on the sleeve.

THE FIRST STANZA OF THIS CHRISTMAS SONG REFERS TO FROZEN FOODS, THE SADDEST OF ALL FOODS.

The song goes on very much in this manner for about fourteen minutes. Or six. Far too long for a melancholy Christmas song. Here’s your summary: ex lovers meet at a grocery store. They go through the check out stand together. They talk. They laugh. Talking gets awkward so they decide to go for a beer. They have a super depressing conversation about their lives. They part. The snow turns into rain.

??????????

I admit, there’s some hardcore torch song beauty there, but when you sandwich this sappy melodrama in between “HAUL OUT THE HOLLY!” and “ON THE FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME,” this song feels like a stray skittle in a bowl of m&m’s. 0/10 would not recommend.

Santa Baby

Please, I beg of you, don’t sexualize Santa.

The fact that he’s married still somewhat traumatizes me. I prefer to think of him as celibate even in marriage; better yet, I prefer to not think of his personal life at all. He delivers toys and eats cookies. As far as I’m concerned, Mrs. Claus only exists to make sure he takes his heart medication and likely to remind him where he left his boots and Santa hat (of course Santa has a specific place he should put them, but does he ever put them there? NO).

Come and trim my Christmas tree… NO. NO. NO.

(Yes she’s asking for decorations from Tiffany & Co. on her tree. Maybe I’m the only one making up all of the double entendre and it’s really just a simple song about a woman asking for a bunch of high-end presents.)

(…maybe.)

Mary, Did You Know?

I realize I could get a little heat for this one. I know people love it. They LOVE it.

I’m sorry, I… don’t.

This isn’t the Christian equivalent of the big Sixth Sense plot twist. BRUCE WILLIS WAS DEAD THE WHOLE TIME / THE BABY WAS GOD THE WHOLE TIME! No. I mean, if it was a total surprise to Mary, I could see some relevance here.

Mary: Heeeeey Joseph, so I know we haven’t “laid together,” but turns out I am “with child?” Like, that’s so weird, right?

(Thirty-three years and three days later)

Mary and Joseph: SAY WHAAAAAAAAT?!?

OK, so this song doesn’t just refer to Jesus’ death and resurrection. It lists many of his miracles and asks Mary if she knew he’d “give sight to a blind man” and “calm the storm with his hand.” To be fair, she may not have known these specifics. Here’s what she did know: An ANGEL appeared to her to tell her she was pregnant. An angel. Not a Clear Blue digital pregnancy test. An angel. And the angel said that Mary’s baby would be “great” and “called the Son of the Most High,” and that his kingdom would “never end.”

Please note the angel did NOT say “you will straight up birth this child next to a cow.” I mean, if there’s anything that would come as a surprise to Mary, I think it’d be the barn delivery. Mary, did you know… that your water will break… next to sheep and donkeys…

In short, I leave you with this meme:

mary

All right dear readers who didn’t get so offended that they stopped reading halfway through — thanks for sticking it out. I hope whatever music you’re listening to right now brings you nothing but joy. Even if it’s a sappy Christmas soap opera. Or an elongated musical question Luke 1 quite succinctly answers. Or if you (gasp!) aren’t even listening to Christmas music at all. You do you. You’re the best at it.

 

o tannenbaum

My very favorite day, year after year, is the day after Thanksgiving.

I don’t Black Friday shop. I don’t bask in gluttonous turkey day leftovers.

I decorate.

On the day after Thanksgiving, I am up with the sun (or, as is often the case in late November in Michigan, I am up with where the sun would be if it weren’t covered by clouds). With a strength of ten Jennies, I haul up tubs of decorations like a post-spinach Popeye. I do all of this in a holiday sweater and — this year, thanks to my new obsession — holiday-themed Lularoe leggings. THE JOY! We have Christmas music playing, cookies out to decorate and eat, and there are squeals of delight as each decoration is unearthed (those squeals are solely from me).

To bring in some realness, here is what I look like on the day after Thanksgiving:


And here is what the rest of my family looks like on the day after Thanksgiving:


What a bunch.

I generally have enough energy and goodwill to carry these occasional wet blankets, so fun is had by all. All. ALL.

(Me.)

Knowing of my love of decorating, I once had a well meaning friend ask, “what is your Christmas color theme?”

“My Christmas color theme! Yes! That’s of course a thing I have! It’s… :quickly thinking of Christmas colors: green!”

That’s when this friend probably politely nodded and backed away from my obvious Christmas insanity.

The truth is, I bought an end-of-season Christmas tree my senior year of college. It was on super clearance, and after some creative sale-watching and gift card use, I ended up paying exactly one penny for my tree. It was perfect. Easy to assemble, pre-lit (HAHAHAHA AT ONE TIME I CONSIDERED THIS A BONUS), and not containing any actual pine that would make my allergies go crazy. I loved it. I purchased some clearance ornaments that I thought looked “good enough” to help fill it out that first year. By the next Christmas, I was married and teaching elementary music. Elementary kids LOVE gifting music-themed ornaments to music teachers, so I came home with several blown-glass pianos, coppery treble clefs, and eighth-note patterned everything. I added them to our tree, along with the many “Our First Christmas Together” ornaments we had received on wedding gifts. I bought tacky gold tinsel. Boom. Christmas.

The next year, I was still teaching, and received more musical ornaments. This happened for three more years, actually. 

Additionally, when Jason and I would go on vacations, I would buy an ornament to hang on our tree to remember the trip. So each year added new mementos (a lot of Mickey Mouse, to be clear), and over time, the tree was full of special parts of our lives together. 

One year, the pre-lit lights proved disastrous (SEE; NOT A BONUS) and stopped working altogether. I loved my penny tree — it was the perfect size! The perfect shape! I loved that it cost me a penny! And so Jason spent several hours painstakingly removing each individual light. We threw on our own set of lights and the tree lived on.

It’s now the tree that we decorate as a family on the day after Thanksgiving. The ornaments are random, varied, and slightly broken. Some are musical instruments, some have faded National Park logos. Some have handprints from a tiny baby Boone. There’s magic and meaning there.

But, to go back to my “color scheme?” There totally isn’t one. There will be no awards for the beauty of this tree. It’s a mess, especially this year, where many of the ornaments are hung at Jonah-height since he was insistent on helping. 

“I’m pretty sure this is what mom meant by ‘spread out the ornaments a bit.’ Yes.”

But when I look at this tree, I see Jason taking off all those dead lights for me. I see my parents storing it in their basement before I had a home of my own. I see Boone and Jonah falling in love with decorations and making their own to add to the collection.

I used to get this feeling every time I walked past a Christmas Tree in a store window — the feeling that someday I would achieve “pretty Christmas tree” status, with coordinating ribbons and ornaments and lights blinking on some kind of program. But the more I watch this Christmas tree become our own, the less I want to change it.

Christmas is hard for perfectionists. We want everything to look perfect and be perfect, because if not, it’s a failure. 

Look at your tree, and the love you’ve poured into it. Look at your house, even when toys are scattered and the remote has been missing for days. Don’t get caught up in the vision of Christmas or life you have in your head and forget to live the one in front of you. Maybe your tree won’t be on the covers of any magazines. It may not be shared a million times on Pinterest. But, in the words of our dear friend Linus VanPelt from A Charlie Brown Christmas

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”

So maybe you don’t have a color scheme. Or maybe you don’t have that many ornaments. Maybe you don’t have a tree — for Christmas, you don’t need any of it. Just the love. Sending you all I have at the start of this holiday season!

say yes

This post isn’t for me.

It might be for you. I don’t know. You’ll have to decide that for yourself.

In the time I’ve been a mother, I’ve also been: a soccer coach, a cub scout den leader, a choir director, a Sunday School teacher, a blogger, a podcaster, and a classroom volunteer. I’ve been on the receiving end of so many emails asking the question “CAN YOU HELP?!” and, over and over, I’ve said yes. I’ve said yes because no one else has said yes. There have been instances where I tried so hard to not say yes, but after the fourth or fifth cry of “PLEASE! WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH VOLUNTEERS,” I have succumbed. Yes. Yes. Sign me up. Yes. I can help. Yes. Yes. Yes.

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Here I am, your fearless Cub Scout leader who 100% know what she’s doing!

 

I’m tired of saying yes.

This post isn’t for me.

I realize that I am privileged to hold a special position in today’s world: I am a stay-at-home-mom. My time and attention may often be demanded by little people, but they can demand and I can comply while I’m at home in pajamas. It is tiring, sure, but all of life is tiring; this is no exception. I have free time to visit classrooms, plan cub scout meetings, make fun after school snacks, and learn music for childrens church. And, if I’m being honest? I’m tired.

It surprises me little to know this was placed on my heart soon after my simplify post. God knows I’m quick to volunteer, especially if no one else is raising their hand. He also knows that for a few moments after saying “yes,” my head is filled with completely unrealistic expectations regarding how my new undertaking will affect the rest of my life.

OK. Before I get too far into how my own commitments overwhelm, hear this. I love helping. I love being able to help. I love knowing that I am the reason kids get to experience some club or sport or activity. I love going to sleep at the end of a busy day, worn out but satisfied.

But I worry about the example I set.

I worry my kids are seeing me step up because I don’t trust that someone else will.

I worry my kids will have a hard time finding a network of trustworthy non-related adults, since the adult leaders they so often encounter are… mom.

I worry they’ll be bad storytellers because I don’t need to ask many details about their extracurricular activities — I’m always there.

But sometimes? I think I worry that if I don’t volunteer now, I will lose the precious time of my children’s youth. That I will send them off to activities and, before I know it, I’ll send them off to college. Without me.

Ah, but it takes a village, God reminds me, and everyone gets a turn to lead it.

I want my children to meet new people. I want them to learn about the different ways people do things. I want their beliefs challenged so they are forced to ask questions which will shape the foundations of who they are. This can only happen if they see other people.

This can only happen if they see you.

And so. As I said at the beginning — you will have to decide for yourself if you can say yes more often. I know you’re busy. I know you have many things in your planner and on your phone. You can’t say yes to everything. Neither can I, though I want to. So say yes. Bring your voice to the conversation that our children are having. Don’t just do it for your kids — do it for mine. I’ll return the favor.

the gift to be simple

Happy Halloween!

Like many of you, I have stayed awake far too late many nights finding pieces for Halloween costumes, hollowing out pumpkins, “closely examining” (insert shame-face emoji) already collected treats from various trick or treating events, and packed school lunches with jack-o-lantern faces on every possible food item. I’m ready for Halloween.

And I was thrilled to use my *skillfully scooped* pumpkins for carving with Boone and Jonah a few nights ago. I went out and bought a book of jack-0-lantern templates, ranging from “easy” to “hard.” I was going to let the boys choose their patterns and I was going to carve those pumpkins while we all laughed and ate roasted pumpkin seeds and listened to “The Monster Mash” on a loop.

I’m a bit of an idealist.

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We are so ready.

When the much-anticipated pumpkin-carving night arrived, we were starting lateral  than I had anticipated because of a piano lesson. I had picked up pizza on the way home and threw some at Jonah, who was starting to get hangry. Boone was excited to start right in to the cutting, but I was wary of letting him attack a giant squash with a knife. The book of pumpkin patterns looked incredibly daunting (even the “easy” ones), and we were inching ever closer to bedtime (aka MOM’S BREAK). I strongly considered throwing in the ghost-adorned towel.

But instead, the Holy Spirit whispered, as He often does when I attempt to craft with kids, and said “simplify.”

I LOVE plans. I love making plans. I love checking boxes, crossing off to-do lists, and seeing a plan through to completion. I hate changing plans. My plan was to carve intricate pumpkin masterpieces. My plan was also to keep my sanity. These plans were at extreme odds with each other.

So I paused.

Looked at my pizza-covered kids.

Took out (GASP) a black sharpie marker.

Said, “Boone, draw a face on that pumpkin.”

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A perfect likeness.

I saw the glee in his eyes as I handed him the normally-contraband permanent marker and all of my plans and expectations melted away. He drew a scary face while I drew a typical jack-o-lantern. Jonah can only really draw circles, so we decided his pumpkin was a (pretty effective) ghost.

We ate pizza and laughed. Boone carved a pumpkin by himself — with extreme supervision — surprisingly well. We listened to Hamilton (particularly “The Battle of Yorktown,” which is Boone’s favorite). We got to bed on time and I did not find myself carving intricate designs into orange vegetables late into the night.

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Jonah’s (L) and Boone’s (R)
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My pumpkin.

 

We do so much as parents; so much as people. Sometimes it’s good to go the extra mile, but sometimes it’s unnecessary. We need to be open to the whispering of the Spirit, telling us if and when to simplify.

No one’s pumpkin is pinterest-worthy, but they are important snapshots of our Halloween in 2016. The face Boone drew at 6 years old. The face Jonah drew at 2 years old. This is dear to me in a way that a store-bought template could never be. Simplify, mamas. Simplify, dads. You may be surprised at the results.

the birthday boy, part 2

OK. This one took a little while; I apologize. But after a relatively deep birthday boy post, I thought it was only polite to give you something lighter. Birthday recipes!

My Aunt Jan and I share similar philosophies when it comes to birthdays: work around a theme. Boone’s first birthday was train-themed, down to a (terribly) detailed homemade train cake. Two was Cars, three was Toy Story, four was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (even though Boone had not and hasn’t since seen any TMNT; he just thought the turtles “looked cool”), five was Scooby Doo, and six was party. The party was at a bounce house, and we worked loosely off of a “birthday party” theme, with primary colors and funfetti cake mix. It was simple and good.

In his short history of birthdays, Jonah had a whale themed birthday for his first (get it? Jonah and the whale? Hilarious) and, for his second birthday, the theme was Mickey Mouse (though if we are being technical — and I am — my true inspiration was the Storybook Circus section of New Fantasyland in Disney World. It was easier to say “Mickey Mouse”).

No matter what the theme, we have some traditions we simply cannot pass up year after year. They are beloved (by us) and feel like a very special treat, since they only happen a limited number of times throughout the year. I don’t care if you ignore or adopt these recipes — but I hope you have something special for birthdays that make the celebrations feel a little bit like magic. The days can occasionally be hard; the birthdays should be fun.

QUAFFLES!

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A six year old and his Quaffle.

No, I’m not referencing Harry Potter. I see why you would think that. In our world, quaffles can refer to both Quidditch and birthdays. For birthdays, they are funfetti cake-waffles — ca-waffles — quaffles — waffles made out of boxed funfetti cake mix. They are usually topped with ice cream, sprinkles, whipped cream, and/or frosting. They are incredibly sweet and serve no nutritive purpose. But they’re FUN.

I didn’t invent the quaffle (or the spelling, THANKS, JK ROWLING). I had my first bite of quaffle as a college student. I believe the sugary concoction was created on Fat Tuesday; some people binge on paczkis, we binged on waffles made out of cake. When I told my husband about this, he was instantly smitten. Ever since, we’ve celebrated birthdays with quaffles, diabetes be darned. (Moderation. Moderation.)

Recipe:

OK, it’s simple.

1. Buy a box of funfetti cake mix.

2. Prepare funfetti cake mix according to package direction.

3. Pour in preheated waffle maker as you would with waffle batter.

4. Remove when waffle iron dings/changes colors/does whatever your waffle iron does to let you know it’s done.

5. Cover with sugar in various forms!

DUNKAROOS!! …kinda

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Dunkaroos! (Kinda)


As a proud child of the 90s, I have a special place in my heart for Dunkaroos, the cookies-and-frosting-dip snack that made the 90s the innocent, sweet place it was. Somewhere along the line, someone thought “maybe kids shouldn’t have kangaroo-shaped cookies with a frosting dip as a snack” and discontinued the product, breaking the dessert-loving hearts of so many now-millennials. But fear not — there is a way to rebuild! Or recreate, really. We’ve done fake-dunkaroos as a birthday snack for school for the last three years now. They’re easy, fun, and unique. Try them. Embrace your inner wild child and watch an episode of Fuller House while you make them. You’ll be transported to a simpler time.

Recipe:

1. Combine one 8 oz package cream cheese (softened), one small tub whipped cream, and one package dry funfetti cake mix.

2. Serve with animal crackers. (Bonus points if you find kangaroos.)

I like to serve the dip in the tiny plastic condiment containers alongside about half a serving of regularly sized animal crackers. Clear party favor bags are unnecessary, but a nice touch.

However you celebrate birthdays, do something to make them special. Special doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be a grand, show-stopping gesture. It just needs to be something you and your family love.

Happiest of birthdays to you and yours!

the birthday boy, part 1

My baby is six.

Hi there, six year old.

He turned six on October 15, with all of the fanfare and excitement and sugar a six year old can handle. Our house is now overrun with pokemon cards, science experiments, and camping supplies. And the baby I held six years ago… well, he’s observing fly legs under the lens of his new microscope, and outgrowing shoes by the second. He is my first positive preganancy test, my first Mother’s Day, and my first walker, talker, first day of school-er. And now he’s my first big boy. Before I get all dramatic, I realize kids don’t generally stop growing at age 6. He’s got plenty of years to hang around and make his presence very known. But if the first six flew by this quickly, I’m pretty sure I’ll be moving him into a college dorm tomorrow.

Excuse me. I need to go weep.

I’m back.

When Boone, my newly minted six year old, was two and a half, we encountered a busy season in our life. In early May, Jason and I learned we were having another baby. In early June, we learned that baby had no heartbeat. Later in June, we bought a new house and moved. Jason started a new job. We adjusted to a new life. I had another positive pregnancy test. Boone turned three.

Let me pause for a moment and remind you that I love birthdays. I love my birthday. I love my kid’s birthdays. I love working around a theme, buying crazy overpriced decorations, ordering cupcakes (I love cooking, but hi, I’m not a baker), and generally being a fool about the birthday. It’s your special day! It’s your special month if you choose to take the month (I do)! 

Let me pause for another moment and say that from the second I saw that third positive pregnancy test before Boone turned three, I was in a panic. We had lost the child associated with the previous pregnancy very unexpectedly. I was burned. I was cautious. I lived each day in a constant state of worry, wondering if walking up the stairs too quickly would negatively affect my delicate state. 

(BREAK FOR PSA: It won’t. Nothing you can do can cause a miscarriage. Remember this, please. Thanks.)

When I planned for Boone’s third birthday party, though — I forgot those worries. We were doing a Toy Story theme, and if you’ll remember that I LOVE DISNEY, you’ll know this was right up my alley. I bought “toy” props for a photo booth. I made a backdrop of the iconic Toy Story clouds (I cut those clouds by hand). I drafted a menu with cutesy themed names, printed pictures that looked like they came right from the movie, and dressed Boone in a DIY (but impressive, if I say so myself) Woody costume. I was ready to forget about my worries, for just a day, and celebrate the birthday boy.

I logged onto facebook the morning of Boone’s birthday, prepared to post an obligatory “IT’S MY BABY’S BIRTHDAY!!!” status update. What I wasn’t prepared for were the many posts about October 15 being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.

My one day to not worry became consumed by thoughts of loss. I wanted to celebrate my three year old. I wanted to think, for a day, that maybe this pregnancy wouldn’t end badly. I wanted peace. I wanted joy. I felt sucker punched.

For a moment, I felt like unfriending anyone who shared the Pregnancy Loss post. This was MY day! Ok, Boone’s day, but I was the one doing everything! Then I felt like putting up a post of my own, denouncing the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day and letting everyone know that it was BOONE’S BIRTHDAY. MOURN ELSEWHERE.

(Can I point out that I wasn’t exactly in my right mind? And that I didn’t actually do those things? And that now that I think I am in my right mind, I feel bad about having those thoughts?)

I’ll be honest that I did not quickly find the peace I longed for on that first October 15 post-miscarriage. I didn’t want pregnancy loss to have its own day. I wanted everyone to know that it’s just normal and common. I wanted people to know you don’t have to keep your losses quiet until one day (that happened to be my healthy and alive son’s birthday). 

But then I remembered… like we all eventually remember… that we all handle grief in different ways. That some people won’t reach out and share their tragedies until it is socially acceptable. That those who haven’t experienced the loss of a pregnancy or an infant won’t have this issue on their radar until a handful of their facebook friends post a similar picture about being “1 in 4 who will experience pregnancy loss.” 

And I realized that Boone’s special day wasn’t tarnished by the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Boone was my redemption, the light at the end of the tunnel that was the mourning of the miscarriage. I saw similar posts when Boone turned six, but I didn’t feel attacked. I didn’t want to unfriend or lash out. I wanted to be a voice for my own miscarriage and let others be a voice for their own, whenever they were comfortable doing so. 


Mamas — if this is you — if you’ve experienced a loss, talk about it. Do it on your own time. Honor the child you lost by giving that child a legacy. Let your family, your friends, or total strangers on the internet know that your child was wanted, loved, grieved. And for the children you have on earth? Let nothing distract you from the joy that celebrates another year of their life. 

Maybe someday we won’t need a specific day for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness. But until then, I’m ok to share it with my firstborn. 

to the stranger-mom i judged

To the stranger-mom I judged:

Hi. I don’t know you. You don’t know me. But I judged you, hard. I’m sorry. 

We were both in Disney World, aka the happiest place on earth (and believe me, it is). We were both riding the Friendship Cruise from Hollywood Studios to EPCOT (a great way to beat crowds and sneak into the back entrance of EPCOT, right in the middle of the Food and Wine festival. Beside the point, but kudos to our planning.)

I sat on a bench next to my two year old, Jonah, in a stroller. You sat across from me on a bench with your husband and two young children, a girl and a boy. Your husband said “get your a** over here” to your son, and I was shocked. Not long after, you fixed your daughter’s hair and said “do not f*** that up” to your husband, who was starting to tickle her. I was, again, shocked.

Jonah’s the little one. Isn’t he so cute?!

All of a sudden, I knew what kind of mother you were. I knew that you were self-centered and ignorant about parenting. I thought you cared for your kids so little, you didn’t care about verbally abusing them with – gasp! – swear words. I looked at my Jonah, happily sitting in his stroller, watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates on my phone. He was quiet. He would occasionally look up at me and smile. I’m the superior mom here, I thought.

OK, I want you to know this is hard for me to admit. You see, I like to talk a big game about how our parenting choices can differ without being detrimental to our children. But I heard you swearing, and even though your kids seemed entirely unaffected — no gasps or surprised faces at the words in question — I judged you. Hard.

We parted ways after the boat ride. I pushed Jonah around in the stroller while partaking in the Food and Wine Festival in the World Showcase. Eventually, Jonah fell asleep, so I thought “score!” and had my fill of fun foods and wines and people-watching. We went on a few rides after he woke up, and we laughed and bonded and had a grand old time. Then we went to Soarin’ (one of my favorite rides, by the way) to wait for my husband and other son, Boone, to finish riding. Since we’d had a full afternoon and we were currently just sitting and waiting, I pulled out my phone again. Jonah sat, happily entranced by Jake, Mr. Smee, and Captain Hook, and I looked across the area where we were sitting. 

You were there.

We never locked eyes. We didn’t on the boat, either. You may not have recognized me. But I’m a people-watcher, and I generally remember who I judge, so I knew who you were.

I panicked. I thought you’d see me, sitting with my toddler, letting him watch television on my phone again. I wanted to go over and tell you about all of the fun stuff we had done that afternoon. I wanted to say I was proud of my toddler for taking a good nap, and how he had earned that phone time. And also, he was so low on sleep this vacation, this was just the best way to help him wait.  

I thought about taking the phone and running around with him, starting a game of tag. But I was tired, obviously, it was Disney World — Every Person Comes Out Tired. (That’s a bad EPCOT joke, by the way, I like to make jokes when I’m nervous, sorry.)

Also a nervous thing — look at another cute picture of my baby!

So instead I looked at you. I watched you hug your daughter. I watched you stroke her hair. I watched your comfort your son while he whimpered a bit and asked when daddy would get off the ride. I noticed your children’s clean clothes, your daughter’s intricate hairdo (which nobody f***-ed up, thankfully), and the way those kids looked at you. They love you. They’re happy. They’re taken care of.

I’m a jerk.

The only reason I second-guessed Jonah’s vacation screen time and worried you were judging me is because I judged you. I don’t know anything about you. I based my whole opinion of you on two swear words, and really? I don’t have a problem with swear words when I’m not around my kids. You think differently about this and I immediately thought you were wrong and I knew better. I’m not proud of it. 

Because it bears repeating: I thought you were judging me. I only thought that because I was judging you.

So, stranger-mom I judged, I want to thank you. Thank you for pointing out my own inadequacy without saying a word. Thank you for helping me see that different isn’t wrong, and thank you for not rolling your eyes when you saw my kiddo watching Netflix again. I can only hope from here on out, I’ll remember you the next time I’m sure I know everything about a mom.

I hope other moms grant me this grace as well.

All my love and Disney Magic,

Jennie