Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Noise of Motherhood


As a newly minted, two-time national gold award winner for column, humor, I really feel someone needs to start coming over and doing my laundry. Bueller?

Anyway, here is my latest in Chicago Parent magazine. I am rather fond of the topic.


“My mom likes things quiet and clean,” my son Joey once announced to a good friend of mine.

“True, but how do YOU like things?” questioned a clearly amused Shannon.

“I like things LOUD AND MESSY.”

Seasoned moms advise that when a house suddenly falls quiet, it is time to worry. The kids are likely planning a coup or plotting some nefarious deed. Based on this hypothesis, I will never experience a moment’s angst with my youngest son.

He never shuts up. And my house is never, ever quiet.

Recently, Joey stood in front of a Cheesie’s food truck, debating his selections. An extremely patient employee encouraged him to take his time. Joey hemmed and hawed before revealing:

“I hate cheese.”

Undeterred, the young man attempted to steer his young patron towards several non-cheese options. Joey continued to waffle. Finally, the employee took a fresh approach and asked him what he loved most in the world. Without missing a beat, Joey replied:

“TALKING.”

During a hockey game for his brother, Joey abandoned his usual post as the leader of the younger siblings to corner one of the quiet dads. For nearly an hour, I nervously watched out of the corner of my eye. I waited for the man to either signal for help or simply walk away. He never did. I later discovered that Joey had bombarded the poor guy with random thoughts on life and its most pressing questions, including:

“Do you think it would be better to play dead when a bear attacks you, or do you think it would be safer to run away?”

I learned from the man’s wife that he had enjoyed his time with Joey, despite a lapse in grizzly bear knowledge.

Joey is not the kid you want next to you while playing hide-'n'-seek or robbing a bank. He works valiantly to keep it together during school, often writing himself reminders to stay quiet. Yet as the proud recipient of Mount St. Joey after seven hours of holding it all in, I find the explosive verbal barrage overwhelming:

“You know how cousin Gracie got a confirmation name? I want mine to be BOB. Have you seen my red sweater from kindergarten? I was keeping that for memories.”

“Remember, mom, how I threw up in school and on my book and on Mrs. Stankus’ shoes and down the hallway and she called it the ‘Oregon Trail’? It was SPECTACULAR. I wonder who cleaned my math book. Did you ever return that shirt they gave me, mom? Can I have some cake?”

“When you die, mommy, can you visit me? But don’t be a scary ghost or anything like that. Now that I think about it, you don’t really have to visit me. You can just stay in my heart. I miss Sue.”

For someone like me who prefers things “quiet and clean,” Joey has tested the very limits of my patience.

The kid also makes me laugh every day.

There will eventually come a time when Joey is not with me. He will grow up, move out, and hopefully share his enthusiasm and love of everything with the world.

Those moms who once told me to worry only when things were silent were wrong. My house will eventually fall quiet, and the unique and precious gift of Joey will be made all the more obvious.

Being his mom, to use his favorite word, has been truly spectacular.

Now who’s got cake?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Participation Award

The following appears in the April edition of Chicago Parent.

For many years, I have been philosophically opposed to “participation” prizes. It felt like a disservice to have kids believing that mediocrity was cause for celebration. I beamed with pride the first time my oldest son deposited his “everybody wins” ribbon directly into the trash. While I certainly wanted the boys to enjoy learning games and sports, I felt they should also understand that not everyone can be a standout.

Not everyone wins.

It is why I never threw a game of Candy Land in my life.

Things got tricky when my youngest son turned three. There was nothing Joey coveted more than his older brothers’ trophies. He would line them up in ascending height order, rearrange them by color, and then sub-categorize them by sport. Joey polished them. He talked to them. He made them his friends. It was only a matter of time before Joey began his relentless siege to secure his own. Every morning, the first words out of his mouth were:

“When will I get my trophy, mommy?”

Perhaps if Joey had been my first child, I would have engaged in intellectual conversation about winning and losing. About hard work. About striving to be the best.

Instead?

I drove to Goodwill, plunked down $1.99 and bought my kid a random pillar of victory* to get him off my case. Despite this obvious lapse in judgement, I still hated meaningless trophies.

Last month, my older two boys asked to participate in a local chess tournament.I hesitated when Joey insisted he should play, too.

Joey has attention issues. The diagnosed kind. During coach-pitch baseball (where every player has the ball thrown to him until he or she hits it), Joey saw a LOT of pitches. I’m talking 58 strikes here. Butterflies distracted him. He felt the urge to wave to everyone walking through the park. When he got bored, he would plunk down, hum a tune from “Frozen” and draw smiley faces with his finger across the dusty first base.

With this in mind, I reluctantly registered all three boys for the tournament, cringing at the improbability of Joey being able to sit through 4-5 rounds of chess.

Despite these fears, I dropped the kids off with my usual directive:

Do your best.

I may have prayed, too.

Three hours later, I returned and the boys rushed over to fill me in on their evening. Danny complained about having to play eighth graders. Jack was pleased with his 2.5 points. And Joey?

The boy I didn’t consider capable of sitting through a single game lost twice and scored two draws. He played four games. TWO DRAWS. It was so much more than I ever thought possible.

Despite not landing a trophy or winning a single game, Joey received a participation medal.

The next day, he proudly packed his prize in his backpack to show his teacher. He wore it around his neck for a week. He hung it on his wall like he had seen his brothers do – a sole entry in a vast sea of emptiness.

He then asked if he could play in another tournament soon.

I once thought participation medals meant nothing.

 I could not have been more wrong.

 *If Jeni Thompson, the 1999 YMCA Sharks’ Rookie of the Year, is out there and still wants here trophy back, feel free to contact Chicago Parent.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Big Save


The following appears in the March edition of Chicago Parent magazine.

When I registered my oldest son for “instructional basketball,” I had no idea it would be a watershed moment. I envisioned youngsters learning the game from devoted volunteers sworn to uphold the tenets of equal playing time and encouragement for all.

Poor, naïve mom.

Up until that year, athletics weren’t even on Danny’s radar. Despite a newfound eagerness to play, Danny spent more time on the bench than the water boy. It was a sad reiteration of his initial fear that he just wasn’t any good at sports.

Frustrated and angry, I took my grievances to the coach. His response? “Well, has Danny even PLAYED basketball before?”

The message was undeniable. Danny had no business playing this sport. The window of opportunity had closed. If he wasn’t good by now, GO AWAY.

Danny was nine years old.

In an era saddled with ridiculous pressure to master a single sport by second grade, I have often stood in open revolt. I have been mocked for suggesting that winning is meaningless if only two kids can handle the ball by season’s end.

Yet when my middle son expressed a desire to play ice hockey, I succumbed to peer pressure. I signed up for extra camps and coaches. I upgraded the $19 stick. I downloaded YouTube videos on wrist shots.

I became part of the problem. And when a newbie goalie named Jake was assigned to the team, I was irked. Barely out of learn-to-skate, Jake had never before played travel hockey. He was tentative on the ice. I scrutinized his cherubic face and detected not a hint of killer instinct.

I wrote him off.

I became the very type of sports parent I hate. I forgot how quickly kids progress when they are allowed to play. I was only thinking of wins and not of the life lessons youth sports are meant to impart.

Game after game, Jake got better. He began stepping out of the net. He made remarkable saves. His skating improved tenfold.

Then came the all-important tournament weekend. The team fought its way to a championship game only to tie in regulation. There was an overtime. Nobody scored.

 SHOOTOUT.

Poor Jake felt the weight of the team’s expectations and was terrified to disappoint. For a moment, I thought he was going to bolt for the nearest exit. Then I saw a coach whispering in his ear.

He told him he could do this.

Chin up, Jake skated to his spot in front of a net that must have felt enormous.

The kid delivered, blocking shots, and winning not only the game but also MVP for the entire weekend. I cried. I realized it would not have mattered if Jake had given up every goal, I would have been just as happy. By going out there, he had already won. I felt privileged to have witnessed it.

In the end, Jake made the big save not just for his team. He saved me from thinking there is a window or specific criteria for being extraordinary. He saved his mother from having a heart attack right there in the stands. And he saved us all from forgetting that these sports are about believing in the infinite potential of a child.

It is why I think every kid should play sports.

As an aside, my Danny continues to dabble in basketball and always cheers loudest for the newbie.

He understands that someone should.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

John Scott, The Chicago Wolves, and All-Stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a sponsored post. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. I still only recommend products or services I use and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


The indisputable hockey story of the week has been John Scott. The 6'8" enforcer of the NHL went from being bullied and shamed by an NHL representative (who wanted him to bow out of the All-Star game) to scoring two goals and being named  MVP. He was applauded, celebrated, and carried around the ice by teammates who perhaps forgot he weighs nearly 300 pounds.

The lesson to my kids?

Always play with heart. Play hard even when nobody is watching. Even if everyone on the ice is faster, more agile, or more talented. Even if you think the whole world is against you.

Play with heart and good things happen.

While not everyone may have been watching, good things happened Monday for a couple of Chicago Wolves' elder statesmen. AHL All-Stars and Wolves players Pat Cannone and Andre Benoit brought home sweet victory for the Central Division in a 4-0 rout with Cannone securing MVP honors.

Let the word go forth:

Chicago ice hockey is on fire.


They played hard and got to go to a Wolves game.
The Chicago Wolves understand the growing interest in hockey in Chicago and are strong supporters of youth development. Last year, when my son Jack was new to the sport, he was pretty much a one-trick pony.  He would bank the puck against the boards and rely on speed to get up the ice.  Jack had no stick handling abilities whatsoever. Yet the Chicago Wolves believe in just these kinds of kids and their potential to improve.  They regularly offer up the big stage for young teams to play during intermission. It is just another reason to head to a game:




With hockey becoming the "it" sport in Chicago, The Chicago Wolves Fan 4 Pack, presented by Orville Redenbacher's, is a great way to bring the whole family out for live action without having to mortgage the farm.  Starting at only $89, packs include:

Four (4) tickets
Four (4) hot dogs
Four (4) medium sodas
An order of popcorn!
Awesome hockey where attendees can obtain autographs from players after every game
Tickets available HERE

When it comes down to it, it is always more fun to cheer on the underdogs. The workers. Those who strive to be better and with enough heart, will get there.

Cheering on The Chicago Wolves, beyond just the spectacle and excitement, is part of that.

If you don't want the bundle. I've also got you covered for $5 off individual ticket purchases. Simply use the coupon code WALSH in the promo code box when ordering through Ticketmaster and get $5 off on each ticket. 

Check out a game and let me know what you think!



Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a sponsored post. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. I still only recommend products or services I use and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, January 29, 2016

More Cowbell

The following appears in the February edition of Chicago Parent, copies are almost completely gone at my local hockey rink, so be sure to find one today!

Despite being forbidden by my husband (and several school by-laws) from toting a cowbell to our
sons’ assorted competitive events, I definitely have a little bit of Christopher Walken lurking just beneath the surface.

 “I got a fever, and the only prescription is cowbell.”

In the ultra-competitive world of youth sports, the use of cowbell remains controversial. I understand that sounding off after a fifth unanswered goal may be overkill, but the urge to rattle that thin sheet of metal is strong, like the Force. Why even have a cowbell if you can’t ring it? Yoda would totally have my back.

Joe believes that unless you are a dairy farmer, no sane person should be issued a cowbell. The Force is not as strong within that one.

A local father I know was escorted out of a tiny gym after his treasured cowbell irked the wrong referee. Sure, he might have been a little trigger-happy (double dribble call against the other team = COWBELL!), but the lifetime ban from attending Catholic League Basketball still seems a bit excessive.

I begged Joe to let me bring a cowbell to a chess tournament once. I thought it would be super funny – a first time for everything! He said he would turn me into the National Chess Federation himself.

Suffering from cowbell-envy, I have instead taken to yelling the words:

COWBELL COWBELL COWBELL!

After that, you can usually hear me screaming:

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?

or

AGAIN!

or

YOU’RE KILLING ME, SMALLS!

Joe stopped sitting next to me in the bleachers years ago. He also says I watch too many movies.

I see a certain symbolism in the cowbell that I think others miss. Originally intended as a way to locate lost cows, sport spectators never waffle on whose parent brought the cowbell. Come game day, kids are often nervous and anxious. They worry they might let their team down. They think their parents will be disappointed in them. Cowbell is a strong statement of support from a parent who will never waver in their devotion. The message is clear:

Home is nearby. And it loves you.

There aren’t many people willing to sacrifice their carefully crafted image and personal poise for another. Cowbell bearers face open disdain, mocking, and ostracization. I personally have never done the wave at a professional sporting event. I won’t paint my face for the Chicago Bears. I do have standards.

But for 6th grade basketball?

Dude. I’m making signs and crafting Danny-specific chants.

Cowbell is unconditional love. It is proud, undeniable, and obnoxious. Most importantly, it is felt deeply and without question, even when the object of that love pretends he has no idea who you are as he sprints to the locker room.

Still, I believe the world needs more cowbell.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Chicago Wolves Fan 4 Pack Presented by Orville Redenbacher

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a sponsored post. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. I still only recommend products or services I use and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


I am a full-fledged hockey mom. It took me years to figure out the blue line and what constitutes "off-sides," but I am there.

And I am totally broke. Because ice hockey is freaking expensive.

But now I live with all these damn hockey fans who won't stop clamoring for live hockey. What do they want from me next...blood?

Which brings me to The Chicago Wolves. In the past, I have been honored to participate in a focus group for the Wolves where I beat the drum of "Yeah, the tickets are affordable, but dude...a hot dog and a coke is going to run you another $100."

And those nice Chicago Wolves people listened. Mostly because I'm loud.

The Chicago Wolves Fan 4 Pack, presented by Orville Redenbacher's is a great way to bring the whole family out for live hockey without having to sell your body to science. Starting at only $89, packs include:

Four (4) tickets
Four (4) hot dogs
Four (4) medium sodas
An order of popcorn!
Awesome hockey where attendees can obtain autographs from players after every game
Tickets available HERE

Having been to several games, the spectacle and excitement of live hockey is like nothing you've ever seen. With 21 seasons without a losing record, the Wolves are also a proud sponsor of youth hockey:

Check out the nifty patch - I was about to use duck tape until one of the mom's suggested an iron. In the past, Jack's team wasn't exactly known for their tournament victories, but under this year's Wolves' sponsorship? Totally won the Irish South Bend Cup! 

Best yet?

If you don't want the bundle. I've also got you covered for $5 off individual ticket purchases. Simply use the coupon code WALSH in the promo code box when ordering through Ticketmaster and get $5 off on each ticket.


For all my local Chicago hockey-obsessed friends, my family and I have always had an amazing time at the games. Enjoy and let me know what you think!




Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a sponsored post. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. I still only recommend products or services I use and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”