’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.)

dsc_0260
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!

the end and the beginning

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Luke 2:11

This is the final week in my Advent series. The rest can be found here: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4.

chrirstmas jams
Merry Christmas (Pajamas)!

Well friends, we made it. Christmas has been accomplished. The LORD has come! I can only hope you’re basking in the love and joy and peace and hope of the season. I am pleased to report that after an atypical Christmas season (Ev got sick AGAIN, and happily shared his germs with me), my heart is full and my eyes are watery (in a good way, not a sickness way, but I can see where you’d get confused).

I love getting our tree down immediately, but it’s still up. There are still presents to put away. Our recycling container is completely full and can take no more until garbage pickup comes in two days.

And do you know what?

I’m okay with it. All of it.

I have spent so much of my life ready, waiting for the next thing. Preparing and planning and forgetting to savor the moment. The Christmas decorations are down before the egg nog is finished. The new toys are safely tucked into new storage containers and feel old and part of the scenery before they are played with once. All the stress of Christmas has barely dissolved before the stress of January arrives, with new year expectations and responsibility and, if you live in Michigan or a similar climate, snow.

I am not suggesting you stop all of your plans and preparations. If I were, this whole blog would be a huge waste. I’m learning that being premeditated means allowing for balance — times of heavy scheduling and times of rest. Rest doesn’t feel deserved without work before it, and work without rest leads to breakdowns (plural).

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. Welcome, 2016, and all you’ll bring with you — but I don’t get into you with any concrete expectations beyond love, peace, joy, hope, and Christ — the pillars of Advent, to carry me through the year.

Wishing you all blessings and balance now and as the new year begins.

 

love and wet burritos

It’s almost Christmas time, boys and girls. The last week of Advent is actually on Christmas Day, but my last post of this series will be the Wednesday after Christmas. Extending the season, and whatnot.

So today brings us to the fourth week of Advent, or love. What better way to celebrate love than a meet cute?

(Note: a “meet cute” usually refers to a fictional couple in a movie or television show who meets in an interesting, sometimes hilarious way, and defies odds to become a classic romantic pair.)

Jay and I had our meet cute nearly seventeen years ago. We’re currently both 31, so over half our lives ago. Half. Our. Lives. I was a frizzy-haired, awkward high school freshman, as was he (with less frizz). We first got to know each other during our high school’s production of Alice in Wonderland. He was on the crew, and I was playing the Duchess — a character who doesn’t see a lot of play in the Disney film, and in the book she is described as hideously ugly. Fantastic.

Anyway, we made her a gypsy, and to complete the look, I dyed my staticky blonde hair jet black (a look that magnificently highlighted my extremely pale skin). Each performance, we coated my already dyed hair with black hair spray to really make sure that color came through. And to top it all off, I had the worst case of laryngitis I’ve ever had in my entire life. Quite a picture, no?

Every night, when I wasn’t onstage, I drank a horrible concoction of herbs and, if my theatre teacher was to be believed, spit from various animals. And every night, Jay stood behind me and rubbed my shoulders, and while he did so, the black hair spray would flake off and stain his hands.

I tell you, I was spoken for ever since.

That’s not to say we’ve been cloud-walking and untouchable since that moment. We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs. Our colleges were a thousand miles apart. He would sometimes keep his emotions buried far too deeply inside. I would sometimes let my emotions rule my every word and action. We have come a long way through the years.

A word to everyone who is married, or in love, or looking for love — find your person, and remember why they’re yours. Our love today isn’t always Jay risking black-stained hands to give me a back rub, or me walking around with stars in my eyes, overwhelmed by sweet feelings. Sometimes our love is Jay telling me to take a nap or me telling him I’m going to take the boys out for a couple hours so he can have the house to himself. I am absolutely certain that nothing will come between us, because neither of us wants anything to.

It’s cliche, but, married people? Remember why you fell in love with your person. Remember it when he or she isn’t acting that way you’d like them to. Remember it when the craziness of the Christmas season comes to a head, and you could really use someone to lean on instead of fight with.

And maybe when the craziness dies down, make their favorite dinner?

Here’s Jay’s:

WET BURRITOS

finished burrito
I forgot to take an “after” picture when the cheese was melty and delicious because… reasons. (WE INHALED THEM.)

(Note: “wet” burritos are apparently kind of a West Michigan thing — read: not incredibly authentic. But Jay loves sauce, and this recipe delivers.)

Ingredients

Sauce:

1 can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 can refried beans
Salt and pepper

Burritos:

1 pkg burrito-sized tortillas
1 lb ground beef
2 tbs 100 Days of Real Food taco seasoning (or package of store-bought taco seasoning)
1/2 can refried beans
Shredded lettuce*
Diced tomatoes*
Plenty of shredded cheese

(*Despite my best efforts, Jay is not a veggie-burrito lover. You will not find these ingredients on his burrito. You will find them on mine!)

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Start the ground beef on a skillet on the stove. Meanwhile, add the tomato paste and water to a saucepan over medium heat. Add spices (change, omit, or add as you see fit, but don’t omit the cinnamon without trying it at least once), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add salt and pepper to taste.

When the ground beef is cooked, drain the grease and add in the taco seasoning and 1/4 cup water. Open the can of refried beans, and add half of the can to your sauce and half to the ground beef. Stir. Spoon some of the beef mixture into the middle of a tortilla,

meat in burrito
Meat mixture right in the middle — top with veggies if you choose!
folding a burrito
How to fold a burrito in four easy steps — 1. top left, 2. top right, 3. bottom left, 4. bottom right.

top with lettuce and tomatoes if desired. Fold up the sides of the tortilla so the meat and toppings stay inside, and place it seam-side down on a steak plate or baking sheet. (We prefer steak plates because everyone gets their own sauce contained on their plate. If you don’t have steak plates, this may be slightly messier; you’ll be fine.) Cover the burrito with the sauce and top with plenty of shredded cheese. Put it in the oven until the cheese melts. Dig in!