I awoke Mother's Day to a sparkling spring morning, feeling generous and giving just like a good mother should.

I glanced at my snoozing husband and decided to let him sleep in. I was happy to feed the kids breakfast. And when Jeff came down a half hour later, I told him to go ahead with his run.

But my chipper Mother's Day mood began to fade as Jeff's run seemed to be turning into a marathon, an endless exercise during which our three kids started bickering and our 6-year-old started crying that her neck hurt. The hour passed, and her pain persisted. After dosing her with Motrin, I stupidly Googled Lyme Disease, confirming that neck pain and stiffness were a primary symptom. Then Griffin put his head down on the breakfast table, complaining about his allergies.

By the time my husband returned, I was positively bitter. So as he sat munching his cereal and reading the Sunday New York Times, I hastily scribbled a lengthy "honey-do" list: fix the windshield wipers on the minivan, pick up the dog poop in the backyard, oversee the children cleaning their rooms.

In my husband's defense, I had texted him a few days prior explaining that I had bought myself a giant cornstalk tree (for which I was still searching for the appropriate place) and that I didn't want him to spend money on anything more for Mother's Day. I had let him of the hook, and I had thought I was ok with it. Plus, Jane had brought home Friday a picture of her climbing a popsicle-stick ladder toward the moon with the caption, "I love you to the moon and back." It had captured my heart.

But that was two days ago now. There had been nothing more since then. And as Jane continued to moan about her neck pain and Griffin kept moping around me, sniffling and lethargic, I suddenly burst into tears.

"Sometimes mommy just needs a good cry," I told my bewildered kids. Jeff jumped off his stool and into action. He barked at the children to start tidying their rooms and retreated outside with plastic bags and tools.

I resisted an urge to consult Facebook, thinking that others were most likely posting charming Mother's Day portraits of their beaming kids. And as I shed a few more private tears, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I made a dinner reservation at a family-friendly restaurant that also happened to be dangerously close to my favorite clothing store.

My girls trailed me all the way through the shop, whining that I was taking too long, while my husband and son waited outside. And I could see as we trudged to the Marathon Grill that Griffin really wasn't doing well. I had been denying that he was actually sick, but after we were seated, he confirmed the authenticity of his illness by dashing back outside to throw up in a planter to the horror of nearby sidewalk diners. I hastily paid the check, while my husband ran for the car.

As I rubbed Griffin's back, holding a plastic bag open for him, I fought back more tears and tried to reason with myself. This day, after all, encapsulated was what being a mother was all about: putting aside one's own needs to tend to those of others.

Plus, I knew that as disappointing as this holiday had been, it could always have been worse. My kids still needed me. That was a tremendous gift. And one day very soon when they were grown and out of the house, I would grasp for memories of these mangled Mother's Days, trying desperately to hold on.