Friday, March 30, 2012

Half a Billionaire?

My husband has assured me that we will most definitely be the lucky recipients of the big Mega Millions $540 million jackpot today.  Joe's plans for any big lottery win have always been the same.  He wants a cottage in Michigan and a couple of jet skis.  He wants to retire from working 7 days a week and go golfing.  He also has his eye on Nicole Kidman.

In addition, Joe also wants to pay off the mortgages of all his friends and family.  Considering his extensive network of "people," that gesture alone would pretty much deplete the entire half billion.  The guy knows everyone.

My plans are a bit different.  I would like to start shopping the Eddie Bauer in-season stuff instead of the clearance rack.  I would also alter my plans for a discounted third-world tummy tuck and opt to have the surgery right here in the good old US of A.  I've also got my eye on Orlando Bloom.

I like planning for our big win.  It's fun to fantasize about a life of complete ease and luxury.  Instead of saving for reasonable state schools, I would start researching the Ivy League.  I'd add cello lessons.  There would be an in-house cook who could make healthy meals my children would actually eat.

But never fear, loyal reader.  After tonight's win, I will have a host of new topics about which to blog.  Celebrity run-ins.  My hunky new pool boy.  The new Apple Computer.

This is going to be fun. 

Yet somehow, I can't shake the feeling that I am still going to be responsible for all the laundry.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Being a fairly consistent procrastinator, I have put off far too many things over the last month.  Even though I'd like to blame my extensive volunteer schedule and regular acts-of-kindness, the truth lies elsewhere:
  • Blogging
  • Facebooking
  • Online sandal shopping
After an extra-tall cup of coffee and 6 am hustle to get everyone up and out the door, I felt the rare stirrings to actually attack my to-do list.  It started with an oil change.  $32.  With a coupon.  When did Jiffy Lube start charging like my Honda dealership? 

I call bullsh*t.

Irate, I then ran to Costco for my Fiber One bars and Diet Red Bull.  Proper nutrition is very important for a mom on the go.

After a visit to the music store to get Joey's updated piano primers and a trip to the dry cleaners for our Easter clothes, I began my after-school pick-ups.  That was when the clock really started ticking.  We had exactly one hour to buy baseball cleats before the inaugural first practice of the season.  Target didn't have the right sizes.  The next store didn't even carry baseball goods.  We desperately hurried into the Sports Authority where I frantically raced around the store trying to find a shoe that would fit Daniel. 

After 10 minutes, it finally dawned on me that maybe my 7 year old needed a men's shoe.  We found a size 7 and it fit like a glove.   In the meantime, diligent little Jack had also found a box with his appointed size, but I did not bother reviewing his selection until after we left the store.  That was when things got a little too Land of Oz:




My husband is appalled.  He thinks I'm trying to Dorothy-ify Jack with ruby red baseball cleats.  I think I'm just looking for a place where troubles (and the consequences of procrastination) melt like lemon drops.

If the shoe fits....

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Joey

My Joey spends most of his life within 3 inches of me.  This would really not be that big of a deal if Joey was a quiet kid.  Instead, Joey is a talker.  Whatever pops into his head is instantly repeated aloud.  He is extremely affectionate and adoring of his mother, but the non-stop prattle has gotten on my last nerve. 


Joey as Steve Jobs this past Halloween
 
Imagine if you will, this diatribe while you are trying to pay bills:

Mommy.  I like Miss Bea.  But Miss Bea is at another school now.  I still have Miss Rose and Miss Cape (Miss Kate), but I don't have Miss Bea anymore.  Miss Bea was beautiful.  You're adorable, mommy.  You are my best friend.  I love Mickey Mouse.  Mickey Mouse is my best friend too, Mommy.  Are we going for a bike ride today?  I like my bike from Uncle John.  It's Joey's bike.  It's not Danny or Jack's bike.  I'm going to keep it forever.  I am 4 now.  I will turn 5 and have a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese.  After that, I am not growing up any more.  I don't want to be a daddy.  Can I have some juice, Mommy?  Why don't I never get candy?  I like candy.  I can open the little pieces, but I can't open the big pieces.  The Easter Bunny is going to  bring us candy, right Mommy?  Will you help me open my Easter Bunny candy?  How many more days until Easter?  Is it tomorrow, Mommy?  I don't have school for a long time because Miss Cape (Kate) said we are on vacation.  I like vacation.  Do you like vacation, Mommy?

If you got through until the end, perhaps you noted that Joey is on Spring Break.  For two weeks.  My four-year-old chatterbox is going to be talking to me constantly for 14 straight days.  I've tried to explain that God only gives us a million words each to speak in a lifetime, and that he might want to start conserving his utterances.  Joey's response was to whisper.  Loudly.  He figures God won't deduct whispering from his total.

If my blog turns into a random stream of consciousness over the next couple of weeks, I trust you will understand.  It's all Joey.

He is available for playdates so long as the inviting mom has a strong tolerance for babbling.  Anyone?  Anyone??

Yeah, that's what I thought.  And that's probably the only deafening silence I will be experiencing for 14 long days.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Smell of Defeat

After moving on from a strong regional victory in chess last week, the K-2 kids from Dan's school moved on to the city championship yesterday.   

It wasn't pretty.

I never knew there were so many awesome chess players in the city of Chicago. While Dan's team came in a commendable 5th place, it was a far cry from their sweeping victories only the weekend before.

But if you remember, I love opportunities for my kids to experience disappointment and heartache. It's good for them. Builds character. Teaches them to work harder and try again.  It's all the cliches put together that I love which help prepare children for a tough world ahead. 

You do know that I'd send them to military school if my husband would let me, right?

Regardless, I got this great shot of two of our little Bobby Fischers before the wave of disappointment hit and the fellas were still willing to crack a smile:

Daniel and Blake

So great job, my favorite future band campers, and better luck next year!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Marriage Has Feelings, Too

The Chicago Sun-times had an article yesterday about the falling rates of marriage for women in our country (apparently 40% of women choose not to marry). 

Commenters speculated on the reasons for this dip. Some pointed to higher-achieving women. Others blamed high fructose corn syrup.

It got me thinking about whether I would have been as happy at this point in my life had I not married. I feel strongly that I would not be for reasons that span upbringing, religion, and a desire to walk through this life with one true partner.    

Neither my husband nor I wear our wedding rings. Joe's hands are susceptible to injury at both jobs (he had a chunk of finger sewn back on after lopping it off at the firehouse a few years ago). Yet Joe looks married. Ring or no ring. Perhaps it is just his slow gait of defeat.

For me, I don't like the feel of rings. It reminds me of an itchy tag on the back of a shirt. Yet despite our lack of outward appearance regarding our union, we still feel very much married. Would it be the same without a certificate? Would our bond be as complete?

I jokingly tell my husband that he is legally mandated to put up with me. Yet in all actuality, he could walk out whenever he wanted. I know this, but I don't fear it.

Maybe my confidence comes from age. We weren't exactly spring chickens when we wed. I was 30 and he was 32. I knew he had a grumpy side, and he knew I was prone to flying off the handle on occasion (especially when the guy pays full price for laundry detergent).   

Still, we both experienced a host of relationships throughout our 20s which taught us that this stuff is really hard. There is a lot of compromise and listening required. We've learned to wait out the bad spells and enjoy the good days. To get up in front of God and all of creation and make the promise to stick it out no matter what....well, there's something to that. It meant something to me.

I could never support a woman staying in a "bad" marriage (one that involves abuse or cheating), but I could support a woman staying in a "boring" one. That's what they don't tell you in the manual. It all gets pretty repetitive after a while.

Fortunately, I am half Rain Man.  I like consistency. I like ritual and routine. 

I like marriage. 

I don't know if that makes me old-fashioned, naive, or anti-feminist. But getting married is the best thing I have ever done. I just wish it didn't always get such a bum rap. I sometimes feel marriage is being bullied. It is not considered cool or trendy. It gets mocked quite often (see: Kim Kardashian). It is the geeky kid in the front of the class who gets beat up at recess. Words like "antiquated" and "obsolete" are used in describing marriage and its values.

So I am here today to tell the world to stop picking on my pal.  It is fine if you don't want to hang around marriage.  I get that not everybody likes my friend.  I understand that maybe marriage has made some mistakes over the years.  Alienated some people even.  But the marriage I know has never been anything but respectful and loving.

Perhaps it's time we can cut it just a little bit of slack, eh?

Friday, March 23, 2012

In the Beginning, God Wore a Hockey Mask

Jack got a lovely lesson at CCD Religious Ed this week about how St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the holy trinity.

Somehow, I am pretty sure Jack came up with the hockey masks on his own during this class assignment:




Of course I blame Jack's father for instilling this single-minded hockey obsession. Sports and religion are pretty interchangeable around here.

Ask a Cubs' fan about faith.   He'll tell you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Simple Things

I bought something last week that has brought me so much joy and pleasure, I can't even begin to tell you.  Every time I open my pantry door and see it, I can't help but smile.  Have a look:


It was $10 at Home Depot and while the instructions say it is only supposed to hold 30 plastic grocery bags, I currently have about 100 stuffed in that sucker.

Everything has its place, and I will no longer suffer the indignity of a disheveled lot of bags littering my life. 

They have been vanquished.  To a little stainless steel box.

I kind of feel like a Ghostbuster.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

WSJ Photographer Pays a Visit

The response from yesterday's Wall Street Journal article has been hilarious!  Thank you to everyone who had a read.  And for the record, everything we told the reporter was pretty much revealed in a good-natured way where we're both pretty aware (and somewhat amused) by how competitive we can still be sometimes. 

Because so many teachers, coaches, and acquaintances compared us throughout childhood, Megan and I fell into the habit of comparing ourselves against each other.   It's probably not a healthy practice,  but it did result in a feature in The Wall Street Journal, so well worth it.

Anyway, be sure to hop over to Chicago Parent for my essay on all this as well as the photographer who hung with the family on Sunday. 

Thanks, all!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

As Seen in The Wall Street Journal & Oprah

Have I ever mentioned how Joe and I participated in a Darvin Furniture commercial?  We got a $50 gift card (now expired) for discussing how much we loved Darvin.  I was about 5 months postpartum and looked like Mrs. Claus.

That commercial first aired during Oprah.  It also continues to play at the furniture store on a perpetual loop near check-out.  We occasionally get phone messages from friends buying furniture:

"Hey, guys!  We just saw you at Darvin!  You two could not be bigger dorks!  LOSERS!"

Yeah, I pretty much assumed my 15 minutes of fame started and ended with that commercial.

That was until today.  My sister and I are in The Wall Street Journal. 

Because when the epicenter of world finance seeks a unique story, it naturally comes to the author of this blog for inspiration. 

I am practically a water nymph.

So please have a read.  Leave a nice comment.  Tell your friends. 

My 15 minutes have officially been expanded to 27 minutes.  I am still shooting for a full half hour before I die.

Also, be sure to "like" the wonderful reporter who didn't seem the slightest bit annoyed as she conducted our interview during school pick-ups.  While I yelled at my kids and battled poor cell phone reception, she still was able to put together a concise story of sibling rivalry (see my take on the interview here). 

Her name is Elizabeth Bernstein and she is an extremely talented and patient writer. 

In the meantime, I will begin work on an entry about hanging out with a Wall Street Journal photographer while my family noshed on corned beef and cabbage. Maybe a week-long series would be better? 

Thank goodness for the good friends and readers who can remind me about all this excitement when I'm in the home, drinking geriatric Mike's Hard Lemonades and wondering why I never lost the baby weight. 

I blame the Girl Scout Cookies.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Lapse in Moral Character

Remember all my bravado about what a character-builder it was for Jack to be riding around town in a used girls' bike.  (see post)

Yeah. 

That didn't go so well when his father heard that a bunch of boys at the park had made fun of Jack and his purple pedals.  No amount of spray painting could disguise the fact that Jack's ride was originally designed for the softer sex.

In a moment of weakness (and courtesy of a going-out-of-business sale at a nearby Kmart), my husband talked me into this:



I am not proud that I have given into a bunch of schoolyard bullies who should be taught that picking on people is wrong.  Yet perhaps on rare occasion, I should try to accept the normal social conventions of the times.

But don't think for a second that I'll be giving up my laminating addiction.  Or the Little People.  Or playing Broadway musicals in the minivan for a bunch of 5-8 year old boys. 

That stuff is gold.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Buried Dreams

Chess Update: Per yesterday's post about Chicago's regional chess tournament, Dan's school placed first and will be moving on!  Woo-hoo!!  More to come later....

-------------------------------

I don't care if it's global warming or just a fluke seasonal anomaly, but I'm loving life.  It was almost 90 degrees here yesterday.  In Chicago.  In the winter. 

My husband filled the kids' bikes with air and off we went for a family ride.

Of course as Joey trailed behind on training wheels and with extra traffic in the area due to St. Patrick's Day, I started stressing (remember this post that people are still wishing I hadn't written?).  I suggested to Joe that we head for the cemetery (a popular bike destination for urban riders with children).

As we pedaled around the beautiful old paths, I noticed a headstone under a tree with an accompanying marble bench.  I really liked it and told my husband:

"Now wouldn't that be nice for the boys when we die?  We'll order a cute little bench and they can visit us with a cooler and some beers.  The boys will reminisce about how we used to ride our bikes in this cemetery and how their mother ruined their lives."

Joe shook his head. 

"Nah, my parents are buried over at Holy Sepulchre.  I'd like to be planted there."

I was silent for a few minutes, annoyed that he wouldn't consider another cemetery.  Joe finally noticed my sulking and asked:

"Honey, you know how an Irishman proposes to his wife, right?"

"Uh....the usual way?  Will you marry me?"

"No.  He will turn to his intended bride and ask, 'So how about it, luv?  Would you like to be buried next to my people?'"

Fine, I told him.  But I still wanted my bench.  And I'm kind of hoping they make little marble coolers to go next to the grave.  

How fun would that be?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Play-Offs

I am so excited.

It's better than the Super Bowl, the World Series, and the NCAA Tournament combined.

I've been looking forward to this for weeks.

I can barely stand it.

It's got me pumped.

It is none other than the regional city play offs.  For chess.

I won't lie.  This ain't no Cinderella story from my perspective. Daniel's school is last year's city-wide champs.  The pressure is on.  They are the favorites.

But there's still worry.  Dr. Korenman, Russian chess master extraordinaire (read about him in this blog), is the coach for the primary competition.  He has worked with many of the students from Dan's school, but another team owns him. 

We may be in trouble, folks.

Joe, as usual, is rolling his eyes and asking why I don't get this excited about the kids' sporting events.

And I offer my usual response:

Have you met me?

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Wall Street Journal Called. Really.

I was going to keep this rather hush-hush, but my sister spilled the beans on Facebook yesterday, so I figure I'd let you guys in.

A reporter from the Wall Street Journal online site contacted me this week.

"Shut the f*ck up," you say?

Yup.  The Wall Street Flippin' Journal.  You read it here first (unless you read my sister's Facebook, then second).

This reporter (whose name I will reveal in due time in case I imagined this whole thing or my meds are off) is writing an online story about sibling rivalry.  She must have come across my blog with the infamous beehive picture:


I agreed to a phone interview during the exact time I was picking the boys up from school.  I sent them to the playground while the interview took place.  Here's a brief recap:

Savvy Reporter:  So tell me about growing up.

Me (as Joey tells me he has to pee): Growing up? What Joey?  Yes my sister would borrow and ruin ALL my clothes.  She even broke my Holly Hobbie Oven.  NOT NOW, Joey.

Savvy Reporter:  Pardon me?

Me:  Oh, not you.  I'm yelling at my son.

Savvy Reporter:  Okay...now did you and your sister ever compete in any areas?

Me:  NO!  PUT THAT DOWN!

Savvy Reporter:  Sorry?

Me:  Not you.  Compete?  Oh my God, my sister has boobs to die for...wait...can I say boobs?  Is that not suitable for the Wall Street Journal?  STOP IT.

Savvy Reporter:  Stop what?

Me:  Sorry, I was yelling at Dan.  What were we talking about?  Oh, right.  My sister has a great rack.  I totally got robbed in that department. 

Savvy Reporter:  Hang on, let me finish writing this down.

Me:  Writing what down?

Savvy Reporter:  About your sister's....er.....

Me:  Boobs.  Right.  Want me to tell you how she used to fill my hairspray bottles with water?  STOP FIGHTING!

Oh my God.  Megan is so going to kill me.  And my brand of  crazy is going NATIONAL!

To be continued.....

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Candy Wrapper

True story.

I handed Joey a bowl of plain M&M's after lunch yesterday and went upstairs to put away some laundry. I came down 20 minutes later and found the bowl still filled and Joey fidgeting with a single, half-melted M&M.

"What are you doing?" I asked as I had never seen a child take longer then 30 seconds to devour M&Ms.

"I can't get the wrapper off," Joey responded calmly, still picking at smeared chocolate.

"Joey, the M&M's aren't individually wrapped. You can just eat them."

"No, mommy. Look! (holding up a fresh one for emphasis). There are words on it (or in this case, just the letter "M"). It's got a wrapper."

Oh Lordy.  I had some 'splainin' to do.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I No Longer Need Smelling Salts

I could have totally been a nurse.

Fine.  Maybe not a nurse.

But I have definitely come a long way in not passing out every time I see blood.

Read my full story here in Chicago Parent.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How Six Minutes of "Rescue Me" Changed Me. Forever.

I receive a lot of school notices from the Chicago Public Schools.  In the last week alone, I have received notices on:
  • A reported case of conjunctivitis (pink eye) in the classroom
  • A reported case of lice (bugs) in the classroom
  • Fundraisers #36-42 coming soon!  Get those checkbooks ready!

I fear I suffer from notice fatigue.  When other moms look at me at the bus stop and ask incredulously, "Didn't you get the NOTICE???," I usually feign ignorance and blame it on the teacher.  Poor teachers.  I blame a lot of things on them.  I figure they're used to it. 

Yet one recent field trip notice grabbed my attention.  Have a read:


The part that really caught my eye:  

I consent to my child participating in scheduled activities which include crossing a street and an alley or driveway within 1-2 blocks of the school, with adult supervision.  I understand that there may be a risk of my child sustaining injury.

If I understand the directive here, it is: Your kid may not listen to us, run out into the street, and get hit by a truck. Please don't sue us. Sign here now.

I chuckled as I scribbled my name on the dotted line with a fair measure of confidence.  I have been working on street safety since my kids were 3 years old and riding tricycles.  For as long as I can remember, my cry of "Stop at the alleys and look before you go!" has left my gaggle of little boys thoroughly embarrassed and looking forward to moving out of the house as soon as they can. 

There was a scene in the T.V. series Rescue Me that I think really inspired me to become the Dictator of Street Safety around here.  It was when Denis Leary's character was out watching his son ride his bike on the street.  After witnessing that finale, I was a mess.  I woke up Dan and Jack and told them they would never ever be allowed to ride a bike for as long as I lived.

I have since broken that vow (my husband suggested I was being a tad unreasonable), but the horror of that scene remains.  It was actually a defining moment of my early motherhood.  It might be silly that a fictional television show impacted me for years and altered my parenting style, but it is most certainly the case.  If you view the clip in its entirety, perhaps you might understand.  The street in the scene looks very similar to my own block - cars parked on both sides, regular traffic, etc. 

At Sunday's parade, I witnessed a child dart right out from between two parked cars to cross Maplewood.  Before anyone could react, a minivan came towards him and slammed on the brakes, missing the kid's head by about 6 inches.  The mom driving looked like she was going to drop dead of a heart attack.  The kid kept running. 

Had it not been for that moment, I might have been a little agitated by the whole taking "real" classroom time and devoting it to a skill that I believe parents are ultimately responsible for teaching.  Yet I don't ever want to be that mom in the minivan, or the mom on Rescue Me

They make me fun of me sometimes around here with the helmet thing.  Yet this scene is always there.  It is always with me.   

It haunts me.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Sights & Sounds of the South Side Parade

As hoped for in yesterday's post, the return of the St. Patrick's Day South Side Parade coincided nicely with a return to civility and the original spirit of the event.  Nobody peed, had sex, or vomited on anybody's Little Tykes house.  It was a resounding success and great day for all.

With unseasonably warm weather, a ridiculously sunny day, and a parade dedicated to Cpl. Conner Lowry, it sometimes felt as though God Himself was smiling upon Chicago.  I have never seen so many families in attendance.  In all my 20 years of attending the parade, there has never, ever been such a short line to use the Port-a-Potty.  And the Port-a-Potties  were immaculate (that is, as immaculate Port-a-Potties can be).

For those who did not attend, please enjoy a brief snapshot of the day! 

Joey

Friends

The Parade

Irish Dancers

Jack & Dan
Dan:  "Is that the Pope?"  Me (unsure): "I don't believe so.  Ask Daddy."

A Friendly Crowd

SOME VIDEO

video

video

video


 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Return of the Prodigal Parade

Today represents the culmination of a 2 year battle to bring back the famed St. Patrick's Day Parade to the southside of Chicago.  Kegs have been ordered.  Soda bread is warming. Irish sweaters are laid out for all red-headed children named Colin or Killian or Brigid.  Bag pipers and firemen from all around the country are descending on the area now to rejoice in the wonderful history of Irish culture.

My awesome crocheted leprechaun hats purchased though this lady were picked up yesterday.
Still, tensions remain very high.

While many neighbors are ready to slaughter the fatted calf (and turn it into some tasty corned beef) to mark the return of the Prodigal Parade, others are not so happy.  They too are preparing for this day.  They have charged their cameras and cell phones.  They have staked out the perimeter.  They lay in wait to record all over-served bladders who think dropping trou in a local backyard or alley is a good idea.  The authorities will be notified.  Instant justice will be doled out.  You-Tube humiliation awaits anyone who embarrasses the spirit of the parade.

I completely appreciate both sides of the issue.  I love the parade.  I love the backyard parties of friends who welcome anyone who has ever worn a public servant's uniform.  I love the gazillions of little freckled-faced children who arrive in wagons and strollers.  I love the fact that this year will be dedicated to Cpl. Conner Lowry, and Conner's own mother will be cutting the ribbon just a day after her son's funeral.  Tradition means a lot around here.   

I dislike the sloppy displays of drunkenness which often border on dangerous.  Chartered buses arrive by the dozens to drop off parade revelers.  Thankfully, the vast majority are very respectful of the neighborhood and its people.   

Yet it only takes a few bad apples to ruin it for everyone.  In 2009 (the last year of the parade), 54 people were arrested and the number of violent attacks on police officers was unacceptable.

After a two-year hiatus, the parade is back.  Private security firms have been hired.  A zero-tolerance policy regarding open alcohol and violence is being employed.  For handy reference, here is my guide in case anyone is confused about proper parade etiquette:
  • Do not pee on someone's Little Tykes playhouse
  • Do not do naughty things with members of the opposite sex (or same sex for that matter) inside someone's Little Tykes playhouse
  • Do not wander drunkenly into the backyard of anyone with a Little Tykes playhouse
  • If you see a Little Tykes playhouse, assume the owner is a policeman with a gun, a video camera, and handcuffs
At the end of the day, neighbors love a good party as much as anyone.  They just want their kids to have a good time and not witness the brawls, vomiting, sex, and pee that unfortunately have come to define the parade for some.

So here's to a great day and return to civility. 

Erin go Bragh!


My Little People vision of the parade.  They are anatomically unable to pee.  Perfect.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Hero Comes Home

The Beverly community did what it does best yesterday.

And somehow, I hope we all did Cpl. Conner Lowry proud. 

Truly moving pictures of yesterday's procession are available on the Brother Rice Facebook site. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Longest Year

I love my youngest son very much.  Yet throughout his entire first year of life, I had to fight the urge to leave him under one of these signs:

So tempting.

When a mother hasn't slept in 10 weeks and her baby does nothing but scream, her judgement becomes somewhat impaired.  Every time I spotted one of these safe havens,  my husband would just shake his head and mutter, "don't even think about it."

I read in the paper last year that a number of mothers had taken to dropping their sassy teenagers off at these designated child abandonment locations.

Noting my devious smile as I read the article, Joe asked that I please stop reading the paper for child rearing ideas.

Of course, there's always the internet.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Megan and the Beehive

Family legend has it that on the day of my sister's preschool graduation, my mother spent hours prepping my sister and I for the big event. Rollers, hair products, and a professional-grade hair dryer were brought in to alter our stick-straight locks. My aunt and grandmother were also there to provide an assist.  While my sister seemed to enjoy the whole process of beautification, I grew impatient and asked repeatedly if I could go play outside.

When it came time for the big reveal, my sister's hair looked exactly the same as it always did.  I, on the other hand, got a delightful beehive:


My sister is quick to cite this event as the start of our sibling rivalry. After all, I wanted the blue dress (it was frilly), and she wanted the glamorous up-do. She denies it now ("you looked like a Golden Girl!"), but I remember the look of disappointment in her eyes when she saw herself in the mirror and found no exciting transformation or change.

Megan and I could not be more different.  I was always the rule-follower who stayed home Saturday nights to do homework. Megan spent her Saturdays joyriding in downtown Chicago on a learner's permit. 

My house is always full of clutter and stuff, while Megan's house resembles a model home. When I went looking for a spoon in one of her kitchen drawers recently, I found 3 EMPTY drawers. Who has empty kitchen drawers? Her closets all contain wood hangers with items perfectly placed exactly an inch apart to avoid wrinkling.

I sometimes wonder if she's a robot.

Still, we do share a ridiculous love of all things vintage Fisher Price. Call it nostalgia. Call it an attempt to re-live our youths. Call it an obsession. But when Megan lost her husband late last year, I dug around to find the only thing I could think of that might get her to smile: the new Fisher Price clock ornament I had purchased with my 30% off coupon at Kohls.

That was November. I try to call my sister more than I do, but I know I get distracted with the kids and all their issues. This past week has been a little more stressful than usual. My 7 year old and I have been going the rounds on "attitude." Joey refused to sit down with me to learn his Dick & Jane books. Two of the kids are on antibiotics with bronchial infections and I spent the other night at the Emergency Room until 2:30 am convinced that Jack was having an attack of appendicitis. Joe has not been home much because of his crazy work schedule. So I get stressed, eat Girl Scout Cookies, and toss and turn all night. 

Then out of nowhere, as if by magic, a package from my sister arrived in my mailbox:



I was so excited that I couldn't wait 9 months to display this new sparkly ornament that filled my soul with so much joy. So, I improvised:

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It was just the thing to remind me that all my stress right now is pretty stupid, and I really need to lighten up. 

I'm even considering rockin' the beehive again next week. Hopefully, my mom and 91 year old Nana are available for a repeat.

Let me know if you want to come over for another go-around, Meg.  And thank you!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

If I Disappear....

I'm not feeling well.  I'm tired.  Cranky.  And I've been leaving comments all over BlogHer (my blogging network) telling everyone to get bent and stop being so judgmental all the time.

As you might have guessed, I'm in a mood.

And as my husband will testify, the best way to lift me out of this kind of mood is to make me laugh.

Unfortunately, Joe is off dousing fires and such, so I turned to the one blogger who consistently makes me laugh out loud.  I am proud to be one of Gweenbrick's first 30-some followers (he's got like a million now), and I read again my all-time favorite post:

The One About Insulation

If you're looking for a quick pick-me-up, this one ought to do the trick.

In the meantime, please keep me from commenting anymore on BlogHer.  They are a powerful network of women.  They could end me. 

And you'd never find the body.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I'm Thinking Rehab

I tried talking my sister-in-law into booking our joint 40th birthdays next year at Promises in Malibu.  She seemed a little taken aback.

"You do know that Promises isn't a spa, right?  It's a drug treatment center."

Of course I knew that.  But Lindsay Lohan goes there!  They cater to celebrities!  There would probably be a goodie basket placed in our room upon check-in.

And most importantly, I was sort of hoping my insurance would cover it.  That was when my sister-in-law pointed out that I'm not really addicted to anything.

If she were to come over and check out the dozen or so empty boxes of Girl Scout cookies in my trash, I think she'd beg to differ.

I've always had these fantasies about sitting down with a therapist and divulging my deepest, darkest secrets.

My real therapist would be hot.  More Colin Firth, less Bob Newhart.
I would tell him about my overwhelming desire to be short.  I'd share my Catholic guilt over the time I tried to sneak my childhood dog some Eucharist to ensure her eternal salvation (my plans were thwarted by my big brother who told me I was going to hell).  I would talk incessantly about myself without interruption, judgement, or someone asking me to wipe their tush.
   
But my sister-in-law says we can't go to Promises or any place that requires medical forms or certifications. 

That'll teach me to invite her anywhere fun.  She can be such a kill-joy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Whistle While You Work

Joe's overnight bag was carefully placed by the front door the other day. My husband does this so he won't forget it when he leaves for 24 hours shifts at the firehouse. One would literally need to step over the bag to get out. I thought his placement was rather ingenious.

But guess what Joe forgot?


Being the dutiful wife that I am, I loaded Joey into the minivan and headed east. I couldn't allow my poor husband to go 24 hours without his toothbrush and deodorant, right? Plus, little Joey is always thrilled to visit the big shiny red trucks:


Just as we were leaving the station, our heroes got an emergency call. Watching the guys hustle and ride off on blaring giant engines was very exciting.  Even more exciting was knowing that I now had unfettered access to their upstairs quarters. It was time to finally see how grown men lived when left to their own devices. Let's just say I was glad I brought my camera:


 




In reviewing the names of all of Joe's firehouse brethren, I calculated that they had more men than dwarfs.  I was right.  Apparently, the guys moved on to other Disney characters for inspiration:





These guys see some crazy sh*t every time they're on shift.  Gross stuff.  Sad stuff.  Dangerous stuff. Even Joe's uniform returns smelling of things I can't quite identify or would even want to identify. 

Yet, off they go.  They don't complain.  Instead, they make Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs beds.

And they whistle while they work.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mothers Who Bowl

When my friend suggested Sunday morning bowling with no kids and just the moms, I thought it was a great idea.

But then I remembered that the bowling alley doesn't serve liquor first thing in the morning.

Meh.  It made for a good photo op on what mothers do to break up Sunday morning monotony.  It was so much better than laundry.


There were several other mom-friends, but these ones were handy when I pulled out the camera. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Neighborhood Mourns Marine

When I saw the tiny American flags lined up for blocks as I drove down Maplewood last night, I thought perhaps my little Chicago neighborhood would be honoring the safe return of a local military hero.  When I spotted the yellow ribbons a few blocks further and even more flags, I started to worry. 

By the time I walked in my front door, there were several messages about the tragic loss of one of Beverly's own. Marine Lance Cpl. Conner Lowry was killed March 1st while serving in Afghanistan. He was a St. John Fisher and Brother Rice graduate who loved sports and all things Irish. His dream was to return home and become a Chicago firefighter.

For full story, including a video recollection of his sister, visit the story at Chicago Tribune

Please keep Conner's family in your thoughts and prayers.



Friday, March 2, 2012

Final Guest Blogger - Donna from My Garden Blue

Last, but not least, please welcome Donna from over at My Garden Blue. This has been so much fun....I wish we could do Leap Blog Day every year! Hmmmm....

Weep Day

When I was in kindergarten my teacher would have a birthday party on the 15th of the month for every child who had a birthday that month. I don’t remember much about kindergarten but I remember when the teacher asked one little girl what day her birthday was that February. This little girl started to cry these huge crocodile tears and said she didn’t get a birthday this year.

The rest of us listened in horror as she tried to explain that she was born on a day that disappears, so she only gets a birthday every 4 years. Apparently her parents only had a birthday party on her actual birthdays and she’d only had 1. I’m sure they did something the other years but I just thought her parents were monsters at the time.

I felt so bad I gave her my pudding from lunch. It was chocolate too.

I think about that every leap year. Wouldn’t it be a pain to be born on February 29th? Most computer systems don’t even recognize that as a valid date. You wouldn’t be able to sign up for a Facebook account unless you lied about your birthday like every other snot-nosed kid on the internet. You would also have to listen to every clever bouncer who thinks he’s the only one to say you’re not old enough to drink yet. Of course, it might be fun to say you were 12 and a half instead of 50 just to watch people try to figure it out.

Some people count leap day as an extra day and volunteer their time or do something completely fun or off the wall like jump out of a perfectly good airplane. How about you? Do you have any crazy leap day traditions? I usually just paint my nails green in anticipation of Saint Patty’s Day. This year I think I’ll put a “Do not disturb” sign on my bedroom door and see if that works.

(If you are interested in reading more by Donna leap on over to her blog at My Garden Blue).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Redhead Blogger

I am so excited to introduce my next guest blogger Jennifer from Redheads Plus One.  Jennifer is super-crafty, which is what inspired my guest post over on her blog involving my gross incompetence with art supplies.  Please have a read and feel free to pop on by her blog to say hello sometime!


So, a few months ago I was invited (and by invited, I mean a friend from school posted an all-call on Facebook) to join a cooking club that would start in January.  The catch was that everyone would have to blog about their adventures.  I had neither the cookbook (The Pioneer Woman Cooks) nor a blog, so naturally, I signed right up.


Somewhere along the way, I clicked on a link that followed a link that led to another link, and I ended up on the Leap Blog Day page and Marianne’s We Band of Mothers.  I read, I contemplated, I thought, “I am out of my bleeping* mind if I even contemplate this,” and I left.      
*I didn’t say bleeping.

And then a few days later, I went back and signed up.

I blame the wine.

Not too much later, I asked Marianne to do a guest post for me – thinking that she would, of course, be swamped since she is this big Chicago blogger who gets officially published and all, and fully expecting that she would politely tell me, “oh, sorry, I am at my limit.”  And I could tell myself, “well, at least I tried,” and not sweat it too much.

Nope.

So now there I was, committed to trading guest posts for each others’ blogs, and I’d been blogging all of three weeks.

I don’t like to swear in my blog (I figure I do it enough in real life that no one needs an official record of it – I don’t need to provide my own evidence against myself!), but you probably heard a big OH SHIT somewhere and thought, “hmm, what was that?”  That was me.  I didn’t mean for it to echo.

When I got Marianne’s kind email telling me, yes, she’d blog for me, and asking if I would be so kind as to return the favor, well, I did what any rational mom/new blogger would do.  I immediately stalked her blog for every past post I could read while I was supposed to be cooking dinner and/or tutoring.  (Yes, I occasionally steal a little computer time when I tutor – I tutor high school math and sometimes a kid just needs to work a problem for a minute or two.  I use that time to stalk research.)

And of course, time being limited since I was actually being paid to teach math and all, I didn’t get very far.  Then, last week I came down with whatever nasty cold’s been going around, and suddenly Marianne’s guest post was in my in-box and all I’d done was a few minutes of blog stalking.  And she’s clearly BEEN to my blog enough to times to comment on a few posts, and she wrote the nicest, coolest stuff about me, and I had … well, a whole lot of lame-o “her life is better than mine for all of the following reasons” spiraling in my head.  I don’t like to panic, but there’s nothing like a firm deadline and a little bit of shame to get a girl motivated.  (It helped immensely that all month, I thought February 29 was tomorrow. Just sayin’.)

So today, after threatening firmly telling my husband that I needed a little computer time, I finally sat down to write this.  First step was to get right back on that horse and blog stalk a little more. I clicked on the first post that jumped out at me.  (How could it not, with a title like “Get Thee to a Kohl’s-ery,” since I am known to rock a pretty amazing coupon/coupon/discount at Kohl’s.  Top Secret:  if you DON’T sign up for their credit cards, they will harass you endlessly with $10 off $10 coupons.  Oh, the burden!  The angst! The FREE GODIVA CHOCOLATE BARS these coupons have caused me! Anyway, I routinely leave Kohl’s with a bag of loot for which I have paid as close to $0 as possible, so the post title intrigued me big-time.)

And that’s when I saw it, and knew – just knew – that if I were anywhere closer than my present 50,000-ish miles away from Chicago, Marianne and I would definitely share a beer or twelve every now and then.

Because this was her score:



And this little gem is sitting in my garage right now.



Oh yes. 

We have matching get-the-schmegma-out-of-the-car-crevices vacuums. 

I’m pretty sure this is some cosmic something-or-other.  Either way, it’s pretty cool, and reminded me that even if her life is infinitely cooler than mine, we’re both still pretty grounded people with crumbs in our cars.  So, thanks, Marianne, for letting me blog here today.

And thanks to everyone else for reading along!
--Jen

Jen is the mom of a two-year-old boy and four-year-old girl.  She’s from the Northeast but lives in the South, she’s a former high school math teacher, and she is way overeducated for “just staying at home”-- or so she’s been told so many times that it’s starting to get really, really annoying.    To keep up with some law school friends who actually use their degrees started a cooking club, she now blogs at RedheadsPlusOne.blogspot.com.