Mama’s day 2020

Is this good, mom?”

Maria knelt on the soft dirt and pushed the mulch between the irises. She was trying to use the fresh mulch sparingly so as to not waste it. She is her mother’s daughter when it comes to trying to save money. On the other side of the driveway, Mario poured out bags of mulch and left it 2 inches high to spare himself having to kneel down and spread it. He is his father’s son when it comes to penny pinching.

The neighbor’s yard displays beds of bright red tulips and manicured bushes sitting in pristine mulched beds. Maria and I have been lamenting about our yard’s aesthetic value for days, which continues to decrease each time our neighbors are out working in their yard. So, when Jon agreed to run to the store and buy mulch, I thought I should take advantage of the kids’ agreement to do whatever I wanted them to do on Mother’s Day. They had already been forced to take a 2 mile walk on the bike trail with me so they were undoubtedly hoping that their deeds were done. Ha, never.

Maria was the first one to come out and help. This is the typical case in situations where I need assistance. Maria is always the first one out to help unload the groceries. Mario takes his time so that all of the trips have been taken before he has to carry just one last bag inside.

Maria hopped in the back of the pick-up and heaved bags of mulch my way. She was hysterical to watch as she attempted to lift the bags with every ounce of muscle in her body. We dragged two bags over to our ivy-soaked oak tree and dumped the black mulch onto the ground. We worked together on opposite sides of the tree evenly spreading the mulch.  Neighbors passed by and commented about how good the mulch looked. Mario finally came out; Jon directed him to work on the patch of sticks and dirt by the driveway. Jon nudged me a few minutes later and told me to look over at him. He had his camo bucket hat on his head and was pulling weeds from the dirt. Ri was busy leaning over the stone wall to smooth a clump of mulch.

Peace. Appreciation. Love.

I could have been struck dead at that moment and left this earth in a good place. The sensation starts in my chest. It’s a lightness, as if all the blood has been drained and my chest is floating up in the air like a balloon. My mind ceases producing all of the bullshit chatter it is used to spitting out, and absorbs the delicacy of the moment. My babies working next to me, accumulating dirt stains on their forearms and shins.

Prior to mulching, they begrudgingly took a few walks with me throughout the day. One of the walks took us to our old stomping grounds along the river. We walked past the rocky bank where I used to pull the double stroller over, and carefully lead the kids down the jagged rocks to the river. They took joy in throwing stones as far as they could hurl them into the water. Mario would call out “watch mom” incessantly as he threw a bigger rock into the river to try to make an even greater splash. He is still that little boy calling out my name today as he picks up random rocks and hurls them into the calm river. Maria was never as interested in hurling the rocks; she would throw a few in camaraderie with her little brother but then she would choose to take off her shoes and socks and dip her feet in the water. She liked to feel the sensation of the water on her feet and fingertips. Mario wanted nothing to do with feeling water on him – he would freak out every time Maria splashed him. He just wanted to hurl rocks and jump from boulder to boulder. 

These babes have spent their lifetime with me. How weird is that? They have never known of life without me. They have come to understand this world, in part based on what I have taught them or how they have seen me engage with the people and things. Shit.

That is concerning.

The times I have not been working I have spent with them.  I did not go out for drinks on Friday nights with girlfriends because I wanted to spend the time with the kids. I did not attend work events because I would rather be at my kids’ soccer game or recital. I put myself in ridiculous looking swimsuits and hit the pool to dive off the boards with the kids because they loved to watch how scared I would be going off the high dive. 

I gave them and continue to give them all of the love that I could possibly muster. It is easy to do, after all, because they are my babies. It comes naturally. I can’t imagine not loving them with every ounce of my being.

However, I often still find myself wondering what more I can be doing in this life – helping out at the local shelter, participating in a food drive, teaching homeless kids…. I beat myself up about not doing more…I should take the kids to the shelter more often, I should start a non-profit, I should register for the latest 5k to stop Alzheimer’s…

Then I read this from Glennon Doyle:

“Were you afraid that you’d been so busy loving your people that you forgot to do something important?

Because what I’ve learned from you is that there isn’t a damn thing more important than loving your people.

Do you wish you’d written a book? A book? Mama, your love has written the entire world of our family into existence. The characters in your story are bold and brave because your love made them that way. Our plot line is love and courage and hope and steadfastness. Our family is a beautiful story, Mama—and the hero of our story is you. You are the hero. You are the one. You created this family and you watch over it and tend to it and delight in it and you are the closest I’ve ever come to seeing God, Mama.

And here is the moral of your story: You taught us that what matters is love, and that love is relentlessly showing up for your people.

Because of you, we will always remember that the most world-changing work we can do is this: We can live in a way so that our children will be able to say, Not one moment of my life did I wonder if I was adored. Never, ever did I feel alone. And they will pass it on.

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How beautiful is that? What a wonderful way to think about all the energy we put into our children and the lack of energy we often have to put into other areas. We are raising humans who will be able to love other humans, who will feel comfortable in their skin, who will know how awesome it is to be loved and adored. I will have succeeded if Ri and Mario grow up and think “not one moment of my life did I wonder if I was adored. Never, ever did I feel alone.”

Mama’s day quiet

I vacillate between saying Mother’s Day is a Hallmark holiday and ridiculous, and feeling like I should be treated like a queen. This is the first year that I did not have my mom or stepmom or mother-in-law over for the day or have the kids hanging with me all day Long. I felt guilty. A bit sad. Glad to have time to take a walk. Lost. This motherhood thing can be an emotional roller coaster.

Really, I should be happy with how the day ended up. I got alone time with Maria. She took a two-mile walk with me and Rocco. Not only that – she actually conversed with me along the way. I thought on numerous occasions during our stroll about how happy I was in the moment – being with her and listening to her words. We didn’t get into any deep conversation about the meaning of life – we talked mostly about the puppies she was going to visit later in the day and about a book we had contemplated months ago about Rocco. I have got to get off my romantic notion that she and I will spend long afternoons talking about the state of this world or friendships or dreams for the future. Right now, I need to be satisfied with puppy talk. The most important thing is that we are together and talking. Later on in the day, we played cards and ate salsa and chips. She also biked to the library with me before seeing the puppies. This was more activity with her than I have had in months. Grateful.

Mario and Jon returned at 7 pm from hunting and fishing – just in time for Jon and I’s kickball game. Mario walked in the door and headed straight towards me for a giant embrace. “Happy Mom’s Day, mom” he said as he held me tight. Grateful. He also scribbled a quick poem to me after overhearing me tell Jon that I was a bit bummed to not get any cards from the kids. This was the first year I didn’t get a fabulous drawing or poem. As we were about to head out for our game, he stopped to tell me about a Langston Hughes poem that he wanted to print off for me. He thought I’d love it. He knows his mama’s taste.

And what about my duties as a daughter? Once kids turn 18, do you know longer have an obligation to give a poem? I talked with my mom, my stepmom, and my mother-in-law throughout the day to wish them a wonderful day. It seems we were all pretty good with time alone; in fact, that may be the best gift we could give each other.

Mama’s Day


I got treated to a five-star meal on Mother’s Day; the menu is above. The blueberry roasted tumble was to die for – a combo of pancake mix, corn flakes and blueberries. Seriously, it would rival Bob Evans any day. Mario made the smoothies and made sure he stood over Jon and I as we took the first sip to see how we liked them. Everything was quite good, as always. These babes have been making us breakfast in bed for some time now and they’ve become experts. 

After we ate our meal, the kids showered me with cards, which is exactly what I asked for on Mother’s Day. First, Maria’s:

She pasted a box of Nerds and a queen playing card on paper and wrote “you are not a nerd, your a queen.” Precious. And she drew one of my favorite animals – an elephant. And then Mario:


I gushed over his birthday card to Maria which said “every boy wants to be your brother” and got a similar quote that “every boy wants to be your son.” And a pig – my most favorite animal. My MOM poem got juice spilled on it but all my teacher relatives will love that Mario thinks teachers are the smartest people out there. 

Maria had her last soccer game at 11 am. We came home and I got to garden and get a massage (thank you Jon!). Then, the kids blind-folded me and took me to my most favorite restaurant: Perkins! Jon had informed me of the surprise but the kids didn’t know that and they were so excited to tear off the blind-fold when we got outside the front door of Perkins. 


How blessed I am to have these two pumpkin seeds as my kiddos. I hit the mama jackpot, for sure. They are a perfect combo of hilarity and intelligence and wit and compassion and loyalty. I know they have my back wherever we go. And they agreed that Perkins’ pancakes are the best around – a sure-fire way to win my heart. 

Mother’s Day Sheet Cake

Maria knows her mother very, very well. She knows her mom does not want jewelry for Mother’s Day. Or flowers. Or heaven forbid, dinner at a fancy restaurant. No, she knows her mom salivates and gets giddy over sheet cake, especially sheet cake from Giant Eagle. So, she asked Jon to take her on Friday night, before he left for England, to Giant Eagle so she could order a cake for her sweet-toothed mama.
She took two pictures – one of her as a baby and one of Mario. She asked that they print them on the cake. When they asked the size, she said “the biggest one.” So Jon agreed to a half sheet cake that serves 35-40 people. Yeah, that’s what I need. Ri made up some excuse about why we needed to pick up the cake on Saturday (for her school function) so I wouldn’t know it was for me.
Saturday rolled around and for some crazy reason I thought having my niece and nephew over as well as two neighbor boys would be a good idea (I always have these bright ideas when Jon is away). I worked in the yard while the kids played and all was good. But 5:00 pm rolled around and Ri came screaming “we have to get the cake I ordered mom!” So we piled in all 6 kids (thank god Jon left his truck) and took off for Giant Eagle. They were screaming at people out the window and singing songs and having a whooping good time up to Giant Eagle. When we got out of the truck, I put on my stern face and told them they had “to act right” in the store (I also bribed them with a donut if they were good). We hit the card section first to find mother’s day cards. The girls picked out sentimental ones dripping with love and flowers. The boys picked up a birthday card that contained boobs jiggling back and forth when you opened it. Lovely.
I quickly moved them over to the bakery and got the cake. Then we walked over to the park. There were puddles galore due to the rain all morning. I should have seen trouble coming. Gio soaked himself and kicked water on Mario. You know how Mario gets when he gets wet outside of his control. Pissed. He splashed back and it was war. But it turned into a hysterical war with the boys laughing and playing and squeezing mud in their palms. The small delights of being a kid. Not caring about getting muddy and dirty and soaked. But after a while, I started to fret that my lax parenting style may not be the same as my brother-in-law’s or my neighbor’s so I rounded up the crew and we headed back to the car. They hooted and howled and I tried to stay calm but the nerves were frazzling a bit after I took them to Walgreens to pick up pictures. Why do I try to run 5 errands with six kids?! We made it to the truck without me hitting or screaming at anyone – in fact, they had me in stitches with the shirts Ri and Alana created.


We gathered everyone in the car, buckled up, and headed to Wendy’s for kids’ meals. On the way, some guy pulled out in front of me and I braked hard. I heard a loud scream in the back. And then a wailing. Ri’s hand slammed on the cake box and caused her baby head to split in half. She was hysterical. I pulled into Wendy’s and took a look. Yep, her body was split in two. I tried to joke about it but she was devastated. “This was supposed to be a perfect cake for you, mom!” So, we got Wendy’s and headed back to Giant Eagle to beg for a re-do. I reached in to get the cake and written all over the box was “I’m sorry I ruined your cake Mom.” This was your surprise and I wanted to see you smile.” Frown faces decorated the box everywhere. Well, after tracking down the manager, Giant Eagle could do nothing else but make another cake after reading Ri’s words to me. I went back to the truck and let Ri know a new one would be made for pick-up on Sunday and she clapped in delight. By the time we got home it was close to 8 pm. We ate, took baths and showers, played, and took Gio and Alana home at 9:45. Of course, we had to play with their new hamsters for a while so we arrived back home at 10:30 pm. Ri was fast asleep but Mario was wide awake. He finally crashed at 11 along side me at 11:01.
Ri woke at 6:50 am on Sunday and begged Mario to go downstairs with her to make me breakfast. I begged her to sleep a bit longer but she was way too excited about making me breakfast. So, alas, there they were downstairs at 7 am making eggs and toast and sending Rocco upstairs to wish me a good morning by jumping right on my stomach and sitting on my neck. Happy Mom’s Day!
Ri cooked my eggs over medium – yes, she fried them on the stove without me knowing – and microwaved bread since she couldn’t work the toaster. She confirmed she let Mario no where near the stove. The eggs were perfectly fried like the cooks used to make at Perkins. We played Scavenger Hunt after breakfast (their favorite board game) and then I convinced them to walk to Stauf’s for coffee and bagels. We took the Flintstone game cards and I whooped on them the first game.

Grandma Ionno met us at Stauf’s. She brought her French vanilla hot tea bag with her so she was a cheap date just asking for hot water. She loves that tea! Her Mother’s Day gift to me was lottery cards (my addiction) and to take the kids a few hours so I could get a massage. The best gift someone could give me after my weekend. I went to Yi’s Relaxation Station and got pounded on for 45 minutes. Heaven. I came home to find Grandma and the kids standing next to a pile of junk on the sidewalk. Mario was asking to bring home a chair and Ri wanted a lamp. Grandview had its annual city-wide garage sale on Saturday and everyone puts out their junk out on Sunday. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure and boy if Mario doesn’t live that saying to the fullest. He can’t resist anything he sees. He found a green vase at one house and questioned “why would anyone give this away? I could get $20 for it! They must be rich. Can I take it home and try to sell it?” Pathetic, that kid is ridiculous about money.
Patty left around 4 pm and the kids and I went to Giant Eagle to get my cake. It was the most beautiful creation ever!

Ri was so excited to get it for me. She is like me with how she really thinks through gifts for people. She knows how I love my sheet cake and my kiddos.

We brought it home and cut the first of many pieces. We decided to wait to cut through any bodies or heads until later. I wanted to cherish the pictures as long as I could. After cake, I read them a book and rubbed their backs and told them that I couldn’t ask for more awesome kids. Then I snuck downstairs and ate one more piece of heaven…with ice cream.

Poetry and earrings

Last night, Ri brought me home a present tied up in a pink paper box and a purple strung. I opened it and saw a beautiful pair of homemade earrings. They were made of a pearl stone and a glass leaf. Ri’s Kids Club teacher brought in the beads and earring stems for the kids to make mom’s day presents. So sweet.

When I saw them, I hugged Ri and told her they were absolutely beautiful. I told her I loved them so much. She told me how she made them and hugged me hard. Mario sat on the other side of the table watching us. He didn’t say a word. Other times in the past, when Ri has made me something and he hasn’t, he gets upset. He runs away and complains that he’s a “horrible son” or he says that I don’t love him as much as Ri. But he had no such reaction last night. After Ri and I hugged, I asked them both what we should have for dinner and the night proceeded regularly.

Fast forward to lunch at Mario’s school today. The school hosted lunch with mom to celebrate Mother’s Day. I arrived at 11:45 and Mario and I played with the geese outside for a bit. Then as if someone had just shot him with a thought bubble, he grabbed my hand and whisked me into his classroom.

“Close your eyes mom. Close your eyes!”

I closed them.

“Ok, open!”

I looked down at his extended little hand. There laid two tiny purple twisted pipe cleaners. I didn’t know exactly what to think so I smiled and said “Wow!” Luckily he immediately chimed in and exclaimed “they are earrings I made for you, mom! Do you like them?!”

How could I not love them? But how concerned should I be that my son made these for me in order to directly compete with his sister and one-up her?!

He also made me a picture of a rainbow with my name and his on it. Perfect for my office wall. And he answered a few questions posed by his teacher about his mama. He’s so right about my favorite food….




Prior to Mario’s lunch, I got treated to muffins at Ri’s school as well as a poetry fest. Ri and each of her classmates wrote poems for their moms but only Ri and a few other of her girlfriends wrote ones directly about their moms. Ri’s poem was the sweetest, most darling poem ever written to me.




She had several other moms tearing up, thank goodness, because that was the only condition in which I was permitted to cry – if other moms did – so she wouldn’t be embarrassed having the only mom who cried. Afterwards, she gave me huge hug and sat on my lap.

I have branded this day in my mind so I can resurrect it ten years from now when both kids are running off with friends on Mother’s Day and not even dreaming of making their mom jewelry.

Spending Mom’s day with the kids

Mother’s Day begins two hours from now.  Jon asked me what I wanted to do on my special day.  In the initial moment, I thought “all I want is a day to myself.” Just head north to your mom’s house or east to your cousin’s house and let me have the day to do whatever I want whenver I want. 

But after a few seconds of mulling the question over, I realized what would happen if they did leave.  I would love the first couple of hours by myself and then I would be up at Stauf’s and see a couple with their baby and think of my pumpkins.  I would miss them and Jon and wish they were home with me even if it would require me to listen to them beg for me to play with them or read them a book or take them to the library.  Surely there would be moments during the day when I would second guess my decision and want my solitude but they would be outweighed by the joy in being with my family.  After all, could I laugh as hard as I do when Maria performs her “Oh, I know you didn’t” routine?  Or when Mario dances to a rap song?  Could I appreciate the richness of the soil without digging into it with Mario?  Could I enjoy watching a monarch butterfly fluttering around the flowers without listening to Maria talk about its delicate wings?  

No, these little pumpkins are such a big part of my world now and being without them on Mom’s Day just feels wrong.  After all, the reason I am celebrating this day is because of these two munch-balls. So, as the clock inches towards midnight, I think about our day tomorrow – play fish, throw the tennis ball, take a bike ride and get a ton of kisses and hugs from those sweet babes of mine all day long….

Shout out to Moms

M&M hanging with their mama

Mother’s Day is this weekend.  I hope for a few hours to veg alone either at Stauf’s or on a massage table or on a run along the river.  I hope for nothing more than a couple of home-made pictures from M&M telling me that I am the bomb and that I am super cool. 

I remember reading Anne Lamott’s piece on Mother’s Day (Why I hate Mother\’s Day) a year or so ago.  My girlfriend at the time was contemplating whether to have a child – she is a professional with a good job, husband, house, dogs and she is heavily involved in the community. 

In thinking about her dilemma, I thought about what M&M have brought to my life.  Can I imagine life without them now?  No way.  Could I have imagined life without kids before I had them.  Probably.  It would have allowed me to get more involved in the community, go to events I wanted to attend whenever I wanted to do so, get up in the morning and go for a long run, have more freedom to do just what I desired.  Now I have to adjust my schedule for the kids and give up on events and gatherings that I would otherwise be inclined to attend because I want to be with M&M (and when I don’t to be with them particularly, I feel obliged to be!).  I would never regret the decision to have my munchballs – they fill me with joy and amazement and good times – but I do believe that a person can decide to forego the baby route and still lead a fulfilling, complete life as Anne Lamott argues in her piece.  My girlfriend ended up going the baby route and she has her ups and downs and her frustrations like all of us moms do.  And I know that she does not regret her decision but I am sure there are those days that we all have where we daydream about all we were able to do in this world “pre-baby.”

Me and my girls with sweet baby Grace

I don’t mind the idea of a Mother’s Day celebration or any “Hallmark” celebration for that matter.  We lead such hectic lives that if it takes a special day to make us slow down to recognize the people who mean the most to us, why not?  Earlier today, I watched the newscasters on NBC became emotional when looking back at their moms’ presence in their lives.  As much as I wanted to roll my eyes at this manufactured sentimentality, I found myself thinking about the women in my life and feeling appreciation and gratitude for their presence in my life.  In the end, it is those moments we have throughout our days that keep us plugging along the bumpy road that life can bring us. 

I hope that my mom realizes how much I love her in spite of our battles throughout high school and college.  I now look back at those spats and my anger and frustration and don’t see the woman I saw through my 17 year-old eyes; rather, I see a woman who was full of passion and wonder and yearning to try to find herself and the life that she wanted to live –

My mom and Ri

very similar to the struggle I face in juggling motherhood, my job, being a wife and a member of my community.  Now she has stepped into the grandma role helping me raise M&M and giving me a sounding board whenever I struggle with work issues or anxiety about whether I am damaging my children.  She has reinforced in me that I am a strong, intelligent woman, and she has always supported me.   

Meg and Ri


I hope that my stepmom realizes how much I love her for sticking with our crazy clan during the roughest of times (me as a teenager and Sarah as a toddler – god help her).  Meg-pie walks to her own tune refusing to conform to any norm.  She exudes confidence and strength and has always provided support and comfort to me in the worst of times (between breaking up with my high school boyfriend to managing a rogue boss).  She has taught me to always question and to always wonder – as hard and taxing as it may be at times – it’s the only way to grow. 

Patty with M&M

I hope that Patty realizes how much I love her for being a warm, dynamic mom to Jon and providing him with the skills and compassion to be such a loving father to M&M.  Patty exudes energy and has a zest for life that challenges my energy (and we’re thirty years apart!).  She has gone to the limits for M&M taking them for days at a time and playing with them for hours on end.  She gives her whole self to her family, and never declines a chance to spend time with us.  Her spirit is infectious. 

Great Grandma!

I hope that my Grandma Menkedick realizes how much I love her because she is an amazing, incredible, persevering woman who has made a mark on me that serves me well every day of my life (my late Grandma Heile also serves the same role for me).  G-ma teaches me to be humble and gracious and to stand up for myself.  She is the first one to tell me that I need to tell my boss that I won’t work late hours; tell M&M that bedtime is at 9 pm and there will be no getting out of bed; and make my body take some rest time.  She keeps me in line and she reminds me of the power of living in the moment and appreciating the small things be it vegetables ripe from the field or watching late-night tv on the couch with a glass of coke and Pringles.

I have been lucky to have so many strong, energetic, passionate players in my life, many of them women. As Anne Lamott states:

“The main thing that ever helped mothers was other people mothering them; a chain of mothering that keeps the whole shebang afloat. I am the woman I grew to be partly in spite of my mother, and partly because of the extraordinary love of her best friends, and my own best friends’ mothers, and from surrogates, many of whom were not women at all but gay men. I have loved them my entire life, even after their passing.”

So on this Mother’s Day, I give a shout out to all of those women and the many others who have marked my life – thanks for bringing me the experiences that have led me to who I am today.  I love you all.