Now What Do I Say?

My childhood memories of Easter revolve around frilly new dresses, church and big dinners with family. I tried for years to duplicate those memories for my children, but when you don’t live near family and don’t consistently go to church,  it’s hard to do. A few times we’ve communed with friends or occasionally family has come up to visit. But the last few years  have consisted more of our normal Sunday routines: sleeping in and making a big breakfast with the added fun of hiding plastic eggs throughout the house. Once we even had Easter dinner at P.F. Chang’s.

Easter morning

I would have to say  this Easter has been one of my favorites. We invited two other families over. It was a perfect union since both of these families consisted of two girls about the same age as our two girls. One family we go to school with and both families we participate in gymnastics together. We hosted a big Mexican lunch, complete with Margaritas and Coronas. The kids searched for chocolate filled plastic eggs while the adults played card games. It was relaxed and comfortable. We talked about kids and family. I even told them about my Easter Bunny debacle the night before. By the end of the evening, we had already made plans for next year.

I was cleaning up dishes when my phone made a soft ding. A text message  arrived.

Well, we didn’t even make it to the highway and one of the girls said, “The Hare’s mom told her that her mom is the Easter Bunny and Santa.” I was so not ready for that conversation driving down the road. Other than that, we had a great time today.

My heart dropped. I really thought we had prepped both The Tortoise and The Hare on how to handle these conversations. Of course I immediately questioned The Tortoise about not being discreet while talking with her classmate.

“I swear, Mom. I didn’t say anything. But I think The Hare was totally spilling the beans”

“What?! Then why didn’t you stop her?”

“You always tell me I shouldn’t parent her so much and just be her sister.”


I very calmly sat down with The Hare and asked her about the text I received.

“It wasn’t me.”

“But your sister says it wasn’t her either, so then who was it?”

“I don’t know.”

(I’m so sick of I Don’t Know living here and can’t wait for the day they finally move out.)

I continued to question her and finally she cracked.

“OK! Alright already! IT WAS ME!” she started to cry.

“Sweetie, why did you tell them? I thought you understood that this was something we shouldn’t talk about with your friends.”

She wiped her tears and stuck out her lip.

“I just couldn’t take it anymore. They kept asking me questions about what the Easter Bunny brought and they wouldn’t drop it.”

The Hare's Centerpiece

“I’m confused,” I said sorting through thoughts of solid chocolate bunnies sitting on our counter for each of the girls, the basket of plastic eggs loaded with more candy and even the gifts of Nook money. There were plenty of things she could have said, “Then what did you say?”

“I just said, ‘I’m not allowed to talk about it’ and when they wouldn’t drop it I finally just told them the truth.”

“WHAT?” I blurted out, “Why would you say that? You should have told them the Easter Bunny brought you candy and a new book download or something.”

“But he didn’t, you did.”

“Well, you could have pretended it was from the Easter Bunny.”

The Hare’s brows crossed. Confusion clouded her face.

“So now I’m allowed to lie?”

When the Truth Didn’t Hurt

This post comes from a weekly memoir writing prompt provided by The Red Dress Club. This week’s RemembeRED prompt was to write about a time something seemingly terrible happened,but looking back, it brought something wonderful.

“Come over,” she said in response to my sobbing.

Sniffle, snort, snort.

“Really, you think I’m going to make a fun addition to your New Year’s Eve party?”

“Maybe not, but I can’t stand thinking about you all alone over there.”

I was 27, divorced and a single mom of an almost three-year-old.

In a New York airport, my parents and brothers were preparing to bunker down for the night until the snow subsided enough to allow flights to leave. My paternal grandfather died unexpectedly after Christmas. Money for an airline ticket was nonexistent, coupled with the fact that I didn’t have reliable child care or time-off from my hourly job. I really felt like I had let my Dad down. His heart was broken over the loss of his father, a man I admired and loved too and yet I couldn’t go with them to say my goodbyes. I couldn’t kiss my Baba in her grief, comforting some of my own.

My body felt small and disjointed, like I was Alice sipping from the bottle marked, “Drink Me”, watching walls and doors tower above me. Life outside was suddenly becoming out of reach and very much alone.

“Just come, okay?” she insisted.

Hours later I found myself clad in jeans and a t-shirt, staring blankly at couples I didn’t know, trying to absorb the celebrations. Unresolved tears still burned behind my eyes, thinking not only about the funeral I had missed, but the haunting grief of my own failures.

“Hi,” said a deep voice, “My name is DW. How are you?”

I stared blankly, wondering how in the world I was going to answer this. He didn’t know who I was, but my friend had already pointed him out as her single brother-in-law visiting from Michigan. He was leaving Texas the next day to drive miles and miles away.

“Nice to meet you DW, I’m Emily,” I replied, swallowing my pride. “I guess the polite thing to say would be I’m Fine because it would take more than a couple bottles of wine to tell you how I really am.”

Here was his chance to run in the other direction.

“Well, I don’t have any wine but maybe this beer will do.”

Like a paper cup that has held water for too long, my story began to seep out, draining emotions, fears and aspirations. DW listened to every word. It was dawn before our conversation ended and surely a relief to him that I had to go home finally. Maybe it was because I knew our paths would probably never cross again that I revealed so many truths. For the first time in years, someone had really listened without condemnation or pity. In fact, DW had pointed out all of my strengths and successes. He saw beauty in my pain.

48 hours later the phone rang and I said, “Hello?”

6 months later I said, “I do.”

On June 9th, we will celebrate our ten-year anniversary.

Just as handsome today as when we met

Just Because We Can, Should We?

I read an article yesterday in the May issue of the Ladies Home Journal about the plight of the families living in Appalachia. It is a devastating picture of an America that I have never known and hopefully neither will my children, at least not from personal experience. I was shocked to read about a rural area of Kentucky that has more than three times the national poverty rate and that in most areas of Appalachia more than 70% of school aged children qualify for free lunches. And this isn’t a recent statistic. The article Children of the Mountains Struggle to Survive from ABC’s 20/20 2009 archives shows the same statistics and then some. And according to the Appalachian Poverty Project there are parts of Appalachia where less than 62% of adults have high school diplomas and less than 10% have college degrees.

There was a family highlighted in this article. The mom and dad are concerned how they are going to get their next meal, can’t afford health care and have no idea how they are going to pay for college for multiple children. I have to admit, I was angry at first. My heart has ached for a third child but between my tendency to go into pre-term labor and a desire to provide a financially secure future for the two children I do have, we have chosen to take precautions to not procreate. A conscious, responsible choice. And yet, this family, like so many others in poverty-stricken areas, made a very different choice. Their state of poverty did not materialize due to some unforeseen crisis, but was present from their own childhood. Neither parent has an education beyond high school and will never make more than minimum wage. So although I understand the first child was not planned, how do you explain the second and even third?

I spewed chunks of frustration at DW last night.

“Why in the world would a parent choose to bring a child into such a dire situation?”

“Do people really think that having more children can somehow positively impact the future when there is no hope for providing much of a future? ”

He was silent, letting me vent, turning over each phrase of condemnation that I spat. And then he spoke.

“It matters not how or why people end up in such terrible conditions. What matters is how we respond to their need and help change those conditions to break the cycle. We as a society should take more responsibility for the communities that we are a part of, especially if we are in a position to help more than others.”

I suppose he is right. Most people have families out of a desire to pass on their ancestry and to create an environment of unconditional love. We have families for companionship and a sense of purpose. I know that I had children because I wanted to love something outside of myself and of course there is part of all of us that has a strong desire to be loved back. Even in the darkest hour, there is no other feeling than the soft touch of a child’s kiss on your cheek or any greater joy than hearing the words, “I love you, Mommy”.

So what is the answer? I don’t know, but it is obvious that poverty begets poverty and there is no way out of it without the support and help of outside influences. This region of America goes beyond even the poverty that families here in the Detroit area experience. The families of Appalachia are living in Third World conditions. In some of the most tragic areas there are no roads, sewer systems or schools. And in some cases, this level of poverty is greater than three generations deep.

These children need health care, an education and safe living conditions. These parents need vocational training and parenting classes. These families need more than just a carrot dangling in front of their faces, more than the dream of better futures, they need a plan that includes a call to action beyond what they can do for themselves. They need grace and compassion.

They need help.

The Easter Bunny called. Santa is dead.

I have worn many hats this week. Today was gardener, party planner, referee and nagging mom. Somewhere I misplaced my bunny ears.

We trickled in around 9pm after spending the evening out as a family enjoying dinner and a movie. On the way home I was struck with the realization that I had never put Easter baskets together. No clingy plastic grass. No cross-eyed chocolate bunnies. No stickers, games or spring colored socks. I thought about going out again, but I remembered that earlier in the day The Tortoise had asked if the Easter Bunny could just leave her some money for iTunes this year. That plan seemed much easier.

“Hare, ” I said absently picking up dirty socks and mis-matched pajamas. “Instead of an Easter basket this year, The Tortoise and I thought maybe you would just like some iTunes or Nook money.”

There was silence. Then a sniffle. I looked up and saw The Hare’s broken face, her cheeks turning red. “But doesn’t the Easter Bunny decide what I’m getting?”

We stood staring at each other for a minute. I had no idea what to say.

“There’s no Easter Bunny, is there?” she started to cry.

“Really? You thought…”

“Then what else have you been lying about? SANTA?”

Now I started crying.


I walked across the room, tossing clothes left and right, enveloped her in my arms. We both sunk to the floor weeping.

“Oh honey, ” I whispered, “I am so very sorry.”

“All this time I thought I was a good little girl because I was on the Nice List and now…well, this is just too much to handle, ” she continued to sob.

We managed to finish getting ready for bed and then crawled under the covers together. Tears were shed until we had to flip the pillow over looking for a dry spot. I wrapped her in my arms, kissing her wet cheeks, reminding her how it was a wonderful way to show love to each other without taking all the credit. We talked about our favorite Easter baskets and most surprising Santa gifts. I assured her that she didn’t need an imaginary list to know she was good. The Hare wept because she said the holidays will never be the same. I wept because I had broken her heart.

She just wasn’t ready to grow up yet, and I guess neither was I. This felt as empty as the first time she didn’t want to nurse or when she gave up her pacifier. I had lost another piece of my baby, watched her age right before my eyes, witnessed innocence being broken down by reality.

The Hare was quiet for a few minutes, her breathing more slow and steady. I thought maybe she had fallen asleep.

1 of 2 Fairy doors we have mounted in our house. The Fairies leave messages and little treats.

“Mom, ” she whispered, “I’m just so glad that fairies are real. I don’t think I could have handled another disappointment.”

I gave her a big squeeze and shut my eyes.

“Me too, sweetie. Me too.”

Savory Saturdays: Overnight Baked French Toast

My writing has been sporadic again, and not because I have writer’s block or burnout. Last week my in-laws were in town for a visit. I don’t know what it is about having company that makes me feel like I have to cook more elaborate meals than usual. Although I do try to keep them pretty healthy, sometimes you just get a craving for something decadent. So when the baker asked me, “Are you interested in day old French Bread for 1/2 off?” I just had to say yes.

I must confess that the recipe I used was not my favorite, but I couldn’t find the one I wanted until after we were done. (It was buried in my recipe box) Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious, but I just prefer the flavor of the nutmeg and orange juice in the second recipe. The second recipe came from a mom I met through MOPS and was scribbled down on a 3×5 card, so I apologize if it isn’t as easy to follow. It came from her memory versus a cookbook.

One of the most important things to remember about both of these dishes is to make sure the bread is fully drenched in the liquid, otherwise it tends to get too dry when baking. Also, I always use the whole loaf of bread, (most loaves are 2 lbs) resulting in the need for two 9 x 13 pans.

Recipe 1 for Overnight Baked French Toast
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes

5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup half-and-half cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 (1 pound) loaf French bread, cut diagonally in 1 inch slices
1/2 cup better, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup chopped pecans


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream and vanilla. Dip bread slices into egg mixture and place in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking pan. (Pour any extra liquid over the bread) Refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next morning: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  3. In a small bowl, combine butter, sugar, maple syrup and pecans. Spoon mixture over bread.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until golden, about 40 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe 2 for Overnight Baked French Toast
*This is my favorite recipe out of the two but I do almost have to double it to serve our family plus company. I also add a cup of chopped pecans.

8 slices French Bread
4 eggs
1 cup half-and-half cream
2 Tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, sliced
1/4 cup Brown Sugar


  1. Place bread in a single layer in a 9×13 inch dish. Whisk together eggs, cream, sugar, juice, vanilla, nutmeg and salt. Pour over bread, turning once to coat. Refrigerate overnight.
  2. In the morning, bake at 400 degrees F for 25 minutes. Pull out and sprinkle with brown sugar and butter. (You can add the pecans too)
  3. Broil until the butter is melted.

*This recipe has been added to a recipe link-up at Sweet as Sugar Cookies blog