Mother’s Day

I realized something yesterday.

Mother’s Day is a day, like any other day, for “only” moms. It was a nice enough day, in so far as it was like the Sunday before and probably the Sunday to follow.

As an only parent, there’s no sleeping in on Mother’s Day. My kids get up between 5:30 and 6:15 They each threw homemade Mother’s Day gifts at me before I was even out of bed. (Lauren made a card, and Ethan made a sun catcher and a Mom poem.)

Then they demanded breakfast right away. And conveniently forgot to take the dog out or get his food. So the dog jumped around under my feet as I screamed for someone to take care of him, at the same time that the kids screamed for berries. No, toast. No, cereal. No, eggs. OK, how about a little of everything?

And after they decided NOT to eat anything, it was up to me to clean up the mess. Then off to the shower, which should’ve been good for 10 minutes of peace and quiet, but instead became a parade of kids tattle-tailing on each other. Forget drying my hair or putting on makeup, I was lucky just to get dressed before I referred a wrestling match in my bedroom.

When I finally wrangled the kids into the car to go get flowers to plant (my Mother’s Day gift to myself AND “from” the kids since I let them pick out the flowers), it was complete chaos at the nursery. Apparently, everyone shopped for flowers. I lifted Lauren in the cart, to her dismay, because I just couldn’t chase both of them AND find flowers AND keep my sanity. Lauren continued to complain about being in the cart, and Ethan continued to aggravate her as I check out. They both argued with each other as I put them in the car and cranked the music to try to ignore the “he poked me” and “she’s looking at me” coming from the backseat.

I realized that was now lunchtime. (Where did the day go?) And I asked the kids what they want for lunch. They both shouted out fast food places (different ones, naturally) and suddenly burger and fries didn’t seem too bad. Quick drive thru order/pick up and casually tossed of the kids’ meal toys into the backseat and then the drive home.

The dog was barking from the backyard, where we left him basking in the sun. Flowers were taken out of the car to be planted later. And we sat down to lunch. The kid meal toys were apparently too much fun to get anyone to eat their food. And when they did finish, Ethan was still hungry so he asked Lauren for a few of her chicken nuggets (which we knew she won’t eat). She protested, he yelled, I picked up the nuggets from her plate and tossed them to Ethan across the table. Everyone was quiet for a few minutes before it was Lauren’s nap time.

Nap time is always a protest, but I convinced her to have some “quiet time” before we planted flowers. “No quiet time, no helping me plant,” I told her. She cooperated.

Ethan went outside to play. I sat on the couch to fold laundry. My eyes got heavy and I apparently fell asleep, only to wake up to Ethan watching a stupid movie. When did he come in the house?

Lauren started singing, “Is it time for me to go downstairs? I really want to go downstairs!” It’s her post-nap anthem.

She came downstairs and apparently changed into another outfit, but I didn’t even want to argue (or know) about what was wrong with what she was wearing when she went upstairs. We walked to the front door to go plant flowers, just as a huge crack of thunder exploded and the sky opened up.

Planting will have to wait. “Why?” Lauren asked.

I let the kids share iPad time as I folded laundry and picked up rogue Legos. I asked Ethan if he finished his homework. “Oh yeah,” he said. “I forgot.” And he scrambled to finish Spanish, math, and reading.

Then it was dinner time, and I decided to just take out leftovers from the week. I needed refrigerator room anyway, and the leftover Chinese, fettuccine alfredo, and steak and chicken fajitas should satisfy everyone. Of course, each kiddo wanted something different, but that’s okay. I just wanted the leftovers gone. Ethan said, “Maybe if we had a dad, he’d take you out to dinner for Mother’s Day.”

We polished off everything except the cashew chicken and some rice. Then I cleaned up the mess, started the dishwasher, and sat down for a few minutes before bathtime and storytime and bedtime.

It wasn’t a bad day, just a normal one. For me, apparently everyday is Mother’s Day.

(I should mention that B got me a Mother’s Day gift, a monthly subscription to BirchBox. I’ve looked into subscribing several times, but just never did. He NAILED his gift to me – I LOVE girly product samples! Now I feel pressured to find the perfect Father’s Day gift for him…)

In-law mail

Since moving to Wisconsin, I’ve maintained two addresses – our home address as well as a postal box. I’ve been transitioning my personal mail to the house address, but I keep the box open for things relating to Mike’s death – creditor letters, estate requests, correspondence from his parents.

I checked the box just before Christmas. Nothing from his family. Not surprised. We hadn’t heard anything from them since the weirdo birthday cards for the kids and the message that she left months ago. (Nope, never called her back. Figured if it was important, she would call again or just send the info in the mail.)

We don’t go to the box often. There’s really not much coming there anymore. But Ethan and I were out running around last weekend, and I popped in to get the mail.

Tons of catalogues. Creditor letter for Mike. Random crap for my mom. I almost missed the two envelopes. I started to open the one addressed to the kids, but stopped. I decided to let Ethan open it.

I handed him the envelope and mustered up my cheery voice, “Oh look, Eth! I think this might be a card for you and Lauren!”

He reached for it and tore it open. He read it aloud. I asked to see it.

The cover of the card read: To my granddaughter and my “grandson.”

“What the hell is wrong with these idiots?” I thought. This isn’t a card for kids. It’s a card that a grandparent would send to her GROWN granddaughter and her granddaughter’s HUSBAND – hence, the quotation marks around “grandson.” (I hate grammatical and punctuation stupidity, so this offense was particularly…offensive.)

There was some mushy bullshit preprinted in the inside of the card, along with a brief handwritten note: “Ethan and Lauren, the best part of this time of year is thinking about both of you. Love, Grandpa and Grandma (LAST NAME).”

So, they only think about their ONLY grandkids around the holidays? Nothing about “hope you had a good Christmas” or “would love to hear about school” or “maybe we can come see you sometime.” Nothing about “we still have your dad’s Christmas presents from LAST YEAR that we want to give you.” Nothing about “we’ll be sending all your dad’s stuff that your mom requested at the funeral because it’s stuff she wanted to give TO YOU BOTH !”  Absolutely nothing else in the card – no gift cards, not a check or a savings bond. Nothing.

My kids don’t need anything. I’m providing for them just fine. But a stranger (to them) sent holiday gift cards, and their grandparents sent… only a crappy-ass card?

I set the card aside and picked up the second envelope from them. This one was addressed to me. “Maybe they’re sending the kids’ gifts to me?” I thought, knowing that wouldn’t be the case. “Maybe this is an apology letter,” I thought, knowing I was wrong.

Nope. Envelope number two contained no handwritten note or even a “hope you’re all okay” note. It was just a statement from the storage company that the rate on Mike’s unit was increasing as of January 1.

And so, as I approach the one year anniversary of Mike’s death, he’s still gone and the in-laws are still assholes.

Thursday Tidbits: Generosity, Crushing, Reflection, Reconnecting

A few completely unrelated, totally random thoughts:

  • Yesterday’s mail included an envelope addressed to Ethan and Lauren. Inside was a ridiculously nice gesture from a college friend (he also practiced the same kind of law that Mike did so they saw each other often “on the circuit”). He sent a beautiful note to the kids about starting the holiday season early with the enclosed gift cards to Toys R Us. Ethan went bonkers – he even graciously offered to “help” Lauren spend her gift card. It was a tremendously nice and completely unexpected surprise. And it should be noted, that this friend is also one-half of the college friends who sent me flowers for Mother’s Day earlier this year. Heart melting.
  • I have a tiny crush on Ethan’s TKD instructor. Not an actionable crush (1. He’s Ethan’s instructor = deal breaker, 2. He’s 10 years younger than I am = WTF am I thinking?), but it definitely makes it more fun to sit through an hour of watching E during practice! In related news, Ethan successfully tested for his yellow belt. He was incredibly nervous and I thought he was going to cry a few times, but he hung in there and nailed it!
  • I’ve been reflecting on my professional life quite a bit since the semester is winding down. I really feel like making this career change was the RIGHT thing to do. The last 15 weeks have been amazing – tough sometimes, challenging sometimes, and often harder than I thought. But I really feel good. – and I think I’m pretty good at it. It also helps that the fall 2013 schedule has been drafted and I’M ON IT (meaning my contract will most likely be renewed)!
  • I reached out to a FB friend who called out my former sister-in-law in a FB post. My SIL is not on FB anymore, has gotten remarried (and changed her name), and left her former job (and the only email address I had for her). I recognized her maiden name in our mutual friend’s post. When SIL divorced Mike’s brother, things got (understandably) weird. But I think about her often and I really miss her. I’ve asked our mutual friend to share my email address with SIL. I hope to connect with her again.

Baseball cap

As I was digging through a box of Christmas decorations, I found it. It kind of blended in at first. The red hat against the red Rubbermaid box, next to the red garland and red and white stripped dish.

But it was too faded to be a decoration.

I pushed some stuff out of the way. As soon as my fingers touched it, I knew.

Mike’s “Nebraska Rifle” hat.

He bought that hat while visiting a friend from law school in the Cornhusker State. He wore the hell out of that hat, and 10 years later, it was faded and discolored and O-L-D looking. There was the stain on the back of the hat – from something getting spilled on it when it was left on the kitchen counter one time. There was a small tear on one side – from pulling it free from a barbed wire fence. The front of the hat showed signs of dried sweat – from wearing the hat to mow the yard. It’s a pretty nasty hat.

I sat in the basement, next to the Christmas box, holding the hat. He wore that hat a lot. All the time. He loved baseball caps, but this one… this one was one of his favorites. There were a lot of good times in this hat. Good times from way back.

I put the hat in the box and carried it upstairs.

“Ethan, guess what I found?” I called. “It’s one of Daddy’s favorite hats.”

“Can I have it?” he asked.


Ethan wore the hat around for a while over Thanksgiving break. (He looked so adorable in it!). He has slept with the hat every night since I found it. Every night he cuddles with the old stinky baseball hat and an old shirt – a few of the only things I have of Mike’s.

I’m not sure how it ended up in the Christmas stuff. Maybe the movers found it in the basement of the old house and just stuck it in a box. Maybe Mike stuck it in there for who-knows-what-reason.

But it’s home now. Home with Ethan.


I’m really looking forward to the holidays this year.

I feel like that’s weird and that many widows dread the holidays, especially the first – I’ve seen it on an online forum for widows that I regularly visit, I’ve read it on other widows’ blogs, the peer grief group handed out a 12 page document on dealing with the holidays.

But I can’t wait.

Last year, the kids, my mom, the dog and I were in a tiny corporate-housing apartment. We had Thanksgiving dinner at Cracker Barrel. We didn’t have any of our baking stuff, so there were no homemade holiday cookies or breads. Our Christmas decorations were in storage so we had a cheap fake tree with cheap, meaningless ball ornaments.

It wasn’t the same. It didn’t feel like the holidays.

The year before, Mike was in bad shape. He didn’t have Thanksgiving dinner with us, and he and I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day fighting. He didn’t even help bring the kids’ presents down and put them under the tree. The tension was incredible and it wasn’t fun for anyone. THAT was a sucky holiday season.

Thinking back even further, and knowing that Mike’s alcoholism started LONG before I knew about it, most of our holidays as a family were not good. Not the way I wanted them to be. Not the memories I want for my kids.

I have AMAZING memories of holidays with my parents. The holidays were my favorite time of the year. Both my parents had rough childhoods, and they made sure that the holiday season was over-the-top for us. Feeling the love of family. Creating incredible memories. Telling stories of holidays past. And, of course, the presents – every one picked with love and care, specially selected for the recipient. There’s only one word for the seasons’ memories that I have: love.

I always wanted to instill these kind of happy memories in my kids, but Mike and his family never did much for the holidays. There were no stockings. No big dinners (unless you count the men-eat-first-thing). No stories about each and every ornament on the tree. Presents weren’t meaningful or personal. I know Mike liked the ideas of my family’s traditions, but he just didn’t GET them, didn’t understand how to LIVE them.

This is going to be different. I’m writing the story now. I get to dictate the memories my kids will have.

My mom has already taken over the dining room and kitchen for holiday baking. She’s planning dozens and dozens of cookie trays for family, friends and neighbors. She’s made a dozen kinds of sweet breads. The kids helped her decorate sugar cookies and press cookies over the weekend. Tiny pies and cookie bars have been made and frozen already. And peanut butter balls and more cookies are on the agenda for this week. It smells like the holidays everyday when I come home. It’s lovely.

We’ve planned the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner menus. Thanksgiving will be small, just us. And since I don’t eat turkey, we’re not having a “traditional” menu, but it will be grand and festive nevertheless. And we’re inviting my mom’s dad to stay with us for Christmas, which will be nice.

My Christmas shopping is nearly finished. My mom and I are avid Black Friday shoppers, and we couldn’t go together last year. (My previous job was heavily focused on retail, and I had to work. I still hit the stores before going into the office at 5 a.m., but it wasn’t the same going alone, without my mom.) Lauren is going to “baby school” (daycare), and Ethan will be at the tae kwon do studio all day. I’m very excited about spending some one-on-one time with my mom – and finishing my shopping.

I’m planning on decorating over the Thanksgiving break. It’s a week earlier than I normally do, but I just can’t wait. I want my tree, my ornaments, the needlework canvases my grandma made – I want it to look like Christmas exploded in the house.

(SIDENOTE: I knew as soon as I saw my current house that it is the perfect holiday home. The HUGE windows, the two-story entryway. Before I even made an offer, I knew where I’d put the Christmas tree and I pictured evergreen garland on the upstairs railings. I.Can’t.Wait!)

Ethan has already commented that it will be the first holiday without his dad (which technically isn’t true since Mike was living with his parents last holiday, and he kept canceling plans to see the kids). So there will be some tough times, I’m sure.

But it’s time to start creating memories for these kiddos. Something good. Something positive. Something happy. Something they can take forward to their kids and their grandkids.

It’s time to celebrate.