Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sweat Shops & Slurpees

My goal this summer was to not be an enabler.

7-Eleven began its stranglehold on my purse years ago. With gaggles of boys showing up to entice my kids into a seedy life of endless Slurpees and Moon Pies, the daily clamoring for a dollar was relentless. After desperately digging around in my purse for a quarter one afternoon only to come up empty, I knew things needed to change.

If the kids wanted to subsist on flavored ice, then they would have to pay for it themselves. Ironically enough, all three of my boys are currently between the ages of 7 and 11. Jesus was secretly whispering to me to get these people jobs. Who was I to disagree?

After carefully reviewing existing child labor laws, I was bummed to discover sweat shops are apparently frowned upon nowadays. So much for my ideas of little hands scrubbing toilets and crafting ammunition. Damn child advocates totally ruin everything.

Danny suggested forming a lawn care business, citing his impeccable service of our own yard. Glancing despondently out the window towards the unevenly cut grass and countless dandelions, I opted to redirect his efforts. I suggested tutoring chess.

Within moments of posting his services on a local mom’s page, my mailbox was inundated with folks wanting to get on Danny’s schedule. His first gig was a pair of young twins. Twenty minutes before Danny’s first day of work, he made a huge spectacle of departing. Noting his disheveled hair, wrinkled shirt, and peculiar goop stuck to his cheek, I stopped my firstborn in his tracks.

“You are NOT walking out the door like that,” I scolded.


“You look like you just rolled out of bed.”

“I DID just roll out of bed.”

“You are not professional at all,” I chided while spitting on a towel to wipe the crud from his face. Danny groaned as I ordered him back upstairs to change.

“I cannot believe I have to endure all this just for a stinkin’ Slurpee!”

Despite an impressive performance of righteous indignation, the crisp ten-dollar bill and smile that arrived home an hour late belied his complaints. When the doorbell rang and the Slurpee crew appeared to collect their reliable mate, the outcome was unusual. This time, Danny turned them down flat and tucked his ten bucks into his short pockets.

I had actually won one. A critical life lesson about hard work and the value of a dollar was secured. Seldom had I known such sweet victory.

So to celebrate? I went out and bought myself a Slurpee.

Extra large.

I’d earned it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ladies Night Out & White Sox Baseball

The White Sox are totally hooking me up with some awesome tickets in exchange for this post about this Saturday's Ladies Night.  But seriously, I would have written it for free.  Just don't tell them that.  GO SOX!

My husband once thought it would be fun to take his full-term pregnant wife to a White Sox baseball game.  It was 90 degrees outside.  The game went into extra innings.  Worried White Sox staffers checked on me repeatedly, convinced I was about to deliver right there on the upper deck.

I had a ball.

Subsequent to that day, Joe and I began shuttling our kids to White Sox baseball while still in their newborn carriers.  We were those parents you see mixing formula bottles and changing diapers between innings.  Indoctrination, we knew, needed to start young.  While writing this, my son Jack just ran in to tell me the first two Sox batters got triples and the third batter got a double, Sox up 2.

I'd say mission accomplished.

Some of my favorite days have been spent at The Cell with my boys.

I think my husband was burping Joey here which is why they aren't in the picture.

Some of my other favorite days have been spent at The Cell without my boys.

One visit involved my sister and a mutual friend.  A few innings (and beers) into the game, you would have found three harried housewives frantically waving around their homemade sign:


Totally made it on the scoreboard.

While the White Sox aren't having the most stellar of seasons, going to a game is an event.  There are always extra perks and add-ons that maximize the fun.  This Saturday?

Ladies Night.

With super-cheap tickets available, you will feel like you have won the Grand Prize Game. Bonuses include:

  • The first 500 buyers will receive a complimentary White Sox wine glass tumbler
Perfect for Mommy Juice

  • Pregame entertainment at Gate 4 from The Hot Sauce Committee, a 90’s boy band cover band

  • The first 20,000 fans to enter the ballpark receive a Scott Podsednik World Series Moment bobblehead, presented by Wintrust Financial
My boys are addicted to bobbleheads.  Think: FREE CHRISTMAS GIFT

Parking lots open at 3:10 p.m., and gates open at 4:10 p.m.

The White Sox organization has never let my family or my friends down in providing a great time, great food, and great fun.

They are also the only baseball team in Chicago who has won a World Series in the last 100 years.

Sorry.  Couldn't help it.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Naked Ambition

The following appears in the June edition of Chicago Parent.

There have been countless times where I wished I had not grown up in the 1970s and 1980s. My biggest complaint? I never won anything. There were no trophies for 8th place. I did not get ribbons for participation. While my older brother’s award shelf was crowded with basketball and track trophies, mine was a lonely little island holding a medal from the 5th grade Bible Bowl and a “Perfect Attendance” certificate printed on Ditto paper.

If I was not such a competitive person, this would have been a non-issue. Yet I craved victory so much that I once ditched my volleyball-deficient best friend in gym class to play for a team with a better shot at Junior High PE supremacy.

Recently, a miracle happened. I actually won something. The Parenting Media Association bestowed a national Gold Award on this column (see write-up in Beverly Review HERE). Fancy PhDs and college professors christened me awesome. I patiently awaited the inevitable glory and paparazzi this would most certainly bring.

Sure enough, the phone rang. It was someone representing Steve Harvey. I was stoked. My kids and I love Family Feud. The producers were probably casting nationally recognized columnists for an upcoming taping.

The conversation went along the lines of:

Producer: So we’re doing lingerie make-overs for moms and we think you’d be great!

Me: You want me to wear a thong on The Feud?

Producer: No, this isn’t for The Feud. This is for the Steve Harvey Show. And everything will be extremely tasteful!

Me: So tasteful garter belts? Got it. Are you aware I’ve had three c-sections and gallbladder surgery? I possess the muscle tone of a sloth.

Producer: NOT A PROBLEM. We will make you look stunning!

My mind whirled. Was this the normal progression to international acclaim and fortune? Perhaps donning some rhinestone slippers and a sheer teddy was the backdoor entrance into a three-book publishing deal with Simon & Schuster? The Steve Harvey guy did say they wanted moms to feel beautiful. I was a mom and I definitely wanted to feel beautiful! It all made sense.

Right as I was about to agree to the show, I remembered a few key points:

  • I have pretty much slept in my husband’s boxers and a tank top for 12 years. Lingerie itches.
  • My kids go to Catholic school. I would never be able to look Sister Jean in the eye again.
  • My husband works in a Chicago firehouse. This sort of thing would get mileage for YEARS.
  • Two words: SCREEN SHOT. Me in a bustier would live forever. They would probably show it at my 50th wedding anniversary.
For once, I completely set aside ambition and the desire to win by any means necessary. After turning down the opportunity, the producer was very gracious and understanding. I mumbled something about saving face with the PTA crowd.

I am not positive as to when exactly it happened, but I have definitely lost my old bravado and willingness to try anything. Missing out on this experience did not feel as much like a loss as I dreaded it would. I guess in many ways, I have already won everything important.

It took 41 years, but my trophy shelf is full.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Sleepover

The following appears in the May edition of Chicago Parent.

Over the years, I have reluctantly allowed my kids to attend overnight parties with friends. While safety issues are handled after careful screening for appropriate firearm lock-up, working smoke alarms, and the absence of transient relatives, there are still concerns.

Namely, I know my children will be returned with zero sleep after a steady overnight diet of Sugar Smacks and Skittles. The next day, kids are prone to meltdowns and a prodigious channeling of Regan from The Exorcist.

One can hardly blame the poor host parents. Their sunken eyes and dropped shoulders during pick-ups reflect a valiant attempt at crowd control and order. Sadly, defeat is inevitable. Hell hath no fury like ten-year-old boys amped up on junk food and Xbox.

Some of my favorite memories from childhood were born during such sleepovers. Those evenings were spent contacting dead celebrities with our Ouija boards and making friendship pins. There was endless talk about boys we liked and teachers we didn’t. Mandatory viewings of Grease occurred with sacred understanding that the movie reflected EXACTLY what high school was going to be like. It was under this nostalgic influence that I finally agreed to host my very first sleepover.

I quickly realized that boys are a tad different from girls in the overnight arena. My charges were not interested in crafting potholders. They did not talk about girls. The one movie they all begged to watch (the hockey film Miracle) captured their attention for exactly seven minutes.

Operating in a household without a finished basement or gaming system, the guys seemed confused. How would they expend their limitless energy for the all-nighter they had thoroughly planned? More importantly, how would they keep edgy Mrs. Walsh from losing her precarious mind?

They opted for shinny hockey.

Which they then played for five straight hours.

With knees red from rug burn, egos hurt from losses, and heads matted down from excessive sweat, I directed my mini-Patrick Kanes to where they would be sleeping. Having been assured by every overnight parent out there that not a single kid would drop off before 2 am, I hunkered down for a long night. Ten minutes later, one boy decided to move over to the guest bedroom, citing his need for some serious rest.

Fifteen minutes later, all six boys were OUT. It was 11:30 pm.

Based on the warnings I received, I had consumed enough caffeine to hold vigil until dawn. But now? I was wide awake in a house full of sleeping lads. I tossed and turned for hours, trying to make sense of what exactly went wrong.

At 7 am, that smart little guy who claimed the guest room poked and prodded his buddies until they were all awake and armed with shinny hockey sticks. It was time for the “Gold Medal Round.”

Expecting the unexpected has been a central theme of motherhood. I assume things will always go wrong and nothing will ever go as predicted. As one little boy leapt out of my minivan during drop-offs, he stopped abruptly to declare:

“This was the best day of my ENTIRE life, Mrs. Walsh!”

Just like that, my sleepover phobia ended and I promised the kid to do it all again soon.

And by “soon,” I mean sometime before college. I still am only human.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mother's Day Reflection

Somehow, I wound up nothing like my mom.

She tells me that is okay.

Full story in today's Chicago Parent, click HERE.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Top 10 Life Lessons of Chess

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

I spend inordinate amounts of time trying to convince my kids to embrace traits that are completely foreign to me. Patience would top that list. I cannot tell you how often I have yelled in a public place: “CALM DOWN AND STOP ACTING LIKE LUNATICS THIS INSTANT!” For effect, I might then throw something to the ground. One time, it was my phone - which promptly shattered into a million pieces.

The irony is not lost on me.

When I first taught my sons to play the game of chess, there were ulterior motives. Outwardly, I shared extensive data regarding chess and child brain development with anyone who asked. Yet inwardly, I knew the truth. I was relying on a board game to impart critical life lessons. My children have been students of chess most of their lives and are fair players. As their first teacher, I worked hard to instruct them on the basics, but then quickly turned them over to more experienced players and tutors. If the kids ever knew my deep, dark secret, they would be shocked.


I suck at it. Without the patience, strategic mind, and attention span needed to win, I become distracted with my own maneuvers and fail to notice my opponents’ tactics. With my boys, there was a strong desire to impart a level of discipline I always lacked. Chess was the answer.

Some lessons of the game are obvious. Many are subtle and nuanced. There are a thousand hidden lectures on morality, temptation, and even mercy within the board’s rank and file. Preaching to kids the keys to being a good person is an exercise in futility, but having them experience it through a game can plant lifelong seeds.

For purposes of this column, I have narrowed down just a few of the pearls of wisdom gleaned from this storied game of kings:
The  Top Ten Lessons of Chess

1. The world is comprised of people who move in all different directions. Pay attention.

2. Sometimes, there is no going back no matter how badly you want to.

3. Protect those who may appear slow and vulnerable. There are kings amongst us.

4. A strong woman can go wherever the hell she wishes.

5. The most remarkable transformations are not instantaneous, but instead occur over long intervals, one square at a time.

6. Stay out of dark corners. Bad things can happen.

7. A knight in shining armor, by nature, will skip right over you.

8. Religion can be slanted.

9. During your final endgame, those most easily taken for granted often become the only ones who stand with you.

10. One bad move does not a person make. How you recover from your missteps is your lasting legacy.

There you have it. Everything you need to know about life right there on a checkered board. With minds young and pliable, I feel strongly all kids could benefit. Sadly for me, it is far too late. I pretty much tapped out at Candy Land, becoming frustrated over never landing the shortcut at Gum Drop Mountain.

Like I said. Zero patience.