The Mother’s Day Playbook

Dos and Don’ts for the Goddess in your family.

The second Sunday in May is fast approaching, and you’re ill-prepared and confused, like a giant baboon wondering the aisles of Bed Bath & Beyond.

The Goddess in your life deserves better. After 10 years of trial and error, here are the do’s & don’ts to help you glide it down gently.

In the don’t category, for Ashley’s first Mother’s Day, I gave her a picture of me (not her) holding our brand-new baby, Mia. Oops! Don’t do that.

One year I planned to take the family to Austin’s best brunch spot, and failed to foresee the need for a reservation. The line stretched around the block.

Red-faced and dumbfounded, I soon had us pushing a cart solemnly around the grocery store. “English muffins, those sound good, right honey?”

Stuck cooking for everyone without planning or prep-work, Ashley was surprisingly cool about the total fail on my part.

She was less cool the year “the kids and I” (unbeknownst to them) gave her fake artisan flowers in a painted pottery vase in a color scheme she hated. The bouncy little salesgirl loved the arrangement, and put it together carefully while I checked scores and wandered the store with my eyes.

‘She’s a female, and so is my wife’, I thought. What could go wrong…

The trouble? It’s not really the thought that counts, if it’s not well thought out. Whatever you do, it must show a little effort, insight, and advanced planning.

You still have time, so skip the desperate, last-minute trip to Pottery Barn and follow me down the yellow-brick-road of simple pleasures, served up right.

Start her day with the perfect Bloody Mary

Stick to what you know, my baboon colleagues. Good ol’ booze.

Brunch is always a good idea, so check the cocktail menus and make reservations now, or skip the crowd and plan the perfect Bloody Mary-

Mixer

Store-bought mixers are getting better, but she’s the mother of your children, so start from scratch for God’s sake, you ungrateful bastards.

Combine two or more ingredients, and it’s “homemade”. She deserves that. Try 2/3 Clamato, 1/3 fresh squeezed lime juice, and add Tabasco to taste.

This light, fresh mixture is fun, thin and more drinkable than the tomato paste served up at the local watering hole.

You know how you feel after a cup of that red sludge, like you ate a thick-crust DiGiorno and chased it down from a warm plastic bottle of Popov?

That just doesn’t apply. These are as refreshing as stepping out into a summer rain after a morning workout and biting into a crisp apple.

Vodka

This requires some lead time, but is proof-positive you did the prep work.

Take your favorite brand (try Austin’s own Tito’s) and infuse it with garlic cloves, carrots, celery, and sweet peppers.

Just chop those suckers up with your Ginsu, stuff them in a jar full of vodka, and let it sit in the fridge for a week, or at least 48 hours.

Delivery

Presentation is everything, so use the right glass.

To paint a picture of simple pleasures (like the joys of motherhood on a Sunday morning), you can’t lose with the Mason Jar. Rim the glass with a 50/50 mix of the Salt-Lick’s Garlic Dry Rub and McCormick’s celery salt.

Fun, peppery, and downright delicious, it’s somehow both totally unique and perfectly fitting. I often wonder how the Bloody Mary ever did without it.

Garnish

Have some fun with it, and this is where you can stick her breakfast.

At a minimum, use a celery stalk, but don’t be afraid to make a buttered and grilled cheese sandwich with bacon, and cut it into fours. Stick a corner on the end of a skewer topped with green olives and drop that sucker right in.

There is no limit to what a man in love will put on the Bloody Mary of the mother of his children. Bacon-wrapped water chestnuts are can’t-miss.

Serve over ice, and start with a heartfelt toast, for all she means to you and the children. None of it means anything without her warm smile, and you can’t imagine a day not waking up next to her. (Don’t tell her that if she gets into a car wreck, she better have the kids with her, even if you once thought it…)

If you can find time for a “siesta”, these truly tantalizing Bloody Mary’s combined with your toast will have you both a little star-struck and frisky.

Gifts

First and foremost, make sure the kids have a plan, preferably crafts or cards they spent some time on, age appropriate, and from the heart.

For ages 2-4, they can wrap a (new) wooden salad spoon in yarn and put their name on it with a short message, or draw an elaborate picture.

For ages 5-10, buy some raw wooden frames for them to decorate, and have each pick their favorite photo with mom for you to print and put in the frame.

It should be clear that you discussed these projects with them. The key is the advanced planning, which will be more than evident.

If you take care of these details and make a general fuss, you may not need a gift from you, but only you (or she) can answer that for you.

For a good laugh, try the Mother-of-Dragons T-shirt. If you need more firepower, jewelry is a failsafe if (and this is critical) you know what she likes.

Don’t be afraid to ask for some hints: “What do you think of this, honey?”

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I know, won’t that give away the surprise?!?

Sort of, but she has no trouble being coy, and will play along, which is really all you need. Seeking guidance on this is the sign of a thoughtful, experienced husband. (It’s not like asking the gas station attendant for directions to Costco).

You can always fall back on a bouquet of flowers, but these get more mileage with delivery to an office rather than home. Use a local florist, not 1-800-Flowers or the grocery store. Size (and quality) matters, and they don’t have it.

Activities

Set aside time just for eating, drinking, and celebrating – “festivities” we call it – be that over brunch, lunch, or cocktail hour and dinner.

Skip your projects in the garage and the NBA playoffs with your buddies (if her mother comes over, you can catch the late game alone while they chat).

Ask her in advance if there is anything special she’d like to do, a picnic, hike, or two hours alone to check out Anthro.

Dinner is in your hands, so clear your ideas in advance. Take everyone to her favorite restaurant, or cook something you’re good at, like burgers on the grill, patted with fresh garlic and Worcestershire, served with sliced purple onion, tomatoes, and a side of corn-on-the-cob with Hatch pepper seasoning.

Put out fresh veggies and dip while you pat burgers, and mix up a martini or pour some chilled Chardonnay. It’s just not a party without cocktails and dip.

If she’s got a sweet tooth, top it off with a rich dessert from the local bakery.

And don’t forget to do the clean-up. She’ll try to lend-a-hand, but stop her, thank her, and tell her how much you appreciate everything she does.

If she likes the movies, suggest seeing Tully together after the kids go down, or just cuddle up on the couch for one of her old favorites, like Mystic Pizza, the Notebook or Fried Green Tomatoes (just grin and bear it, it’s one night).

Endnote

Like anything, getting Mother’s Day right comes down to preparation, and managing the details.

It’s easy to assume this doesn’t matter anymore. You’ve been together forever, and your relationship doesn’t need the window dressing, right?

Maybe, but as a giant baboon, you never really know what’s going on in that beautiful mind. And doesn’t she deserve one special day that she doesn’t have to coordinate herself? A little show of gratitude goes a long way, especially with the right combination of specialty cocktails, prep-work, and flattery.

So, take some time carefully planned to slow down, acknowledge, appreciate, and cherish the Goddess in your family, in all her warmth, life, love, and light.

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Then try the Top 10 Ways to Manage Your Wife’s Emotions.

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