Um, I started this post on Mother’s Day. I really did. We’ve had a ton of house showings, and when I’m not teaching lessons, shuffling kids/dog out of the house for a showing, or cleaning, I’m trying to sleep. Yikes. Sorry. I realized three days after the fact that we sent my mom an early birthday card but no mother’s day card (yet). Sorry Mom. Happy Mother’s Day anyway.
We’ve joked since before we had kids that I have high expectation for Mother’s Day, even from the dogs. Back then, I demanded a skit with memorized lines, a chorus, and a kick line, but I never got it. In all seriousness, though, Mother’s Day is a mixed bag for a lot of women. They’re longing to be a mom, or they’re longing for a child that didn’t survive, or whose relationship with them didn’t survive. They may have complicated emotions about their own mom, or they might miss a mother who was gone a long time ago. I’m just a little bit familiar with those feelings of love and loss. Our first Sunday at St. Stephen’s was on Mother’s Day seven years ago. We were so happy to be in Minnesota, and so excited about Neil’s new ministry at St. Stephen’s. I went to all four services in high heels, which I don’t think has happened since then. On our way to Minnesota from Virginia, I suffered the second of two miscarriages. It was a complicated time. I wanted to be a mom so badly, and I mourned for the babies that might have been.
I didn’t know at the time that our little Rowan would make his presence known a few weeks later, when, even before the home pregnancy tests showed a positive result, my dog nose went into high gear. I smelled everything from a few drips of beer in a can under my seat at a performance of A Prairie Home Companion (our first taste of that Minnesota experience, and the first time that Neil knew for sure that I was pregnant), to the Malt-O-Meal factory in Northfield, Minnesota on a visit there with my best friend, to visit her alma mater, St. Olaf College (the first time that she knew I was pregnant).
But before those first telltale signs of impending motherhood, I was lonely, and sad, and desperate for motherhood.
My own mom is familiar with those pangs from another angle. Her mom died when she was 12 years old, and her dad died a year later. She never had those moments of, “Oh, I’m turning into my mother!” because she never knew her mother as an adult. My sister had the full onslaught of motherhood pressed upon her with amazing (and energy-filled) twin daughters. Motherhood can be a complicated subject, and Mother’s Day can be hard.
My dear, dear friend Julia traveled a long path to motherhood. She spoke last week at our last Sunday at St. Stephen’s, and we held each other with tears streaming down our cheeks, as she spoke to the whole congregation about how we shared the journey together. Julia and her husband Mark adopted their amazing daughter Anna right after our Ben was born. We have shared a lot together over the past seven years, and we knew that we were kindred souls from the moment that we met at a crowded party. Julia lost her own mother this past year, and so we put our heads together about a way that we could celebrate motherhood that wouldn’t create more stress for either one of us. Brunch at a pricey restaurant was out – two preschoolers and a kindergartner eliminated that option in a heartbeat, and crowded brunchy places are not the place to have a real conversation. Because this was our family’s first Sunday “off” between parish duties, I invited their family to spend the afternoon with us, and I was so pleased when they said yes. Our dear friend Clark joined us as well – he’s a musician, a gentle soul, and has been like a mother to our kids in various ways over the years. He was also adopted as a baby, and so he and Anna have that in common, and it’s great to see how family connections become so meaningful in a beautiful soul like Clark’s.
All of that is to say that we needed some good food, some froufrou cocktails, and some comfortable chairs. Rowan took charge of Anna, and led her all around the house and entertained her while we sat and talked. Ben gave me a wonderful Mother’s Day gift by taking a 3.5 hour nap.
I made Ina’s sour cream coffee cake and apple turnovers, along with a fruit salad, green salad, and a brunch strata that I kind of invented (recipe below). It’s a tribute to one of my favorite things that my mother-in-law cooks, which is a sausage egg casserole. I switched out a few ingredients for something new, and we were pleased with the results. One of my favorite things about it is that it has to be assembled the night before you make it, so you have virtually no work to put it together in the morning. I made banana muffins that took a page from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen, inspired by her plum and poppy seed muffins. They didn’t look like much, but the combination of browned butter, brown sugar, and sour cream made them little nuggets of awesomeness. And of course, I baked some thick-cut bacon in the oven, in case there wasn’t enough meat. I love Julia because she’ll eat meat with me.
Neil and Julia shared some mimosas, but then we also tried a citrus-y drink from Back to Basics, which is called the Juice of a Few Flowers. I had skipped over it dozens of times because I assumed from its name that it was, well, flowery. Nope – all citrus and vodka goodness, which is just what Julia and Neil love to sip. We used Absolut Mandarin (because we’re trying to clean up the liquor cabinet), and it got rave reviews.
However you spent your Mother’s Day this year, I hope it was filled with friends, laughter, and good food. Ours certainly was!
Here’s the strata recipe:
1/2 loaf challah or other egg bread
5-6 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
6 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 cups milk (I really could have increased this to three cups)
5-6 oz. gruyere, shredded
fresh chives or parsley
Slice the bread about 1/2 inch thick, and slice just enough to cover the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Spray the pan with nonstick spray, and then place the bread evenly around the bottom of the pan. Top with a thin layer of prosciutto. Beat the eggs, milk, and mustard together, and pour the egg mixture on top of the bread and prosciutto. Cover with the shredded cheese, and refrigerate overnight. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F, and while the oven is warming, bring the strata to room temperature. Bake for about one hour, and then sprinkle with fresh herbs. Allow to sit at room temperature for about 5-10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm. Serves 8-10.