Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Spy Amongst Us

Since I started blogging, friends and family have taken to "anonymously" dropping off items related to my posts.  When I blogged about my Christmas decoration obsession, my sister-in-law Missy delivered this gem (don't deny it, Missy, I know it was you...I ran the plates):

When I wrote about how Jack demanded that I remove all the peanuts from his Taffy Apples, my future brother-in-law, John, hung some nut-free ones in a plastic bag on my front doorknob (I found the receipt in the bag with his Frequent Buyer card name listed): 

Occasionally, I get a BlogHer-sponsored product mailed to me for review.  Sometimes a pair of theatre tickets appears for a local production.

Blogging definitely has its perks.  Yet for the life of me, I can't figure this one out:

The return address was from a company that manufactures saws and construction products.  The bear itself is from the 1990s and was sold at Target.  He is obviously a fire-bear.  When I called the manufacturing company, they were unable to trace this back to a sender.

Being the daughter of 007 and naturally suspicious, my immediate thought process flowed like such:
  • Was there a Nanny-Camera in there?
  • Was this a gift for Jack whose birthday is coming up?
  • Was I about to be hacked up into a million little pieces courtesy of that saw company?

So I'm stumped.  Someone needs to step forward because now I'm wary of allowing the poor creature out of the box in case the camera is switched to "on."

The world does not need to watch me on YouTube eating Nutella. Right out of the jar. While wearing my old maternity shorts. 

Any tips should be sent to

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Bag Lady

Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.

-Horace Mann  

I used to shop at Food 4 Less.  The biggest draw was cheaper baby formula.  The biggest pain in the neck was trying to bag my own stuff with two toddlers and an infant.  After a couple of years, I was done.  The bags were ridiculously flimsy.  Even when I double-bagged, items would fall right through.  It got to the point where I would only put a single box of cereal or container of sour cream in each double-bag.  Frustrated, I took my business to Dominick's.

Dominick's was more expensive, but I discovered that if I only shopped the sales, I was spending about the same as I was at Food 4 Less.  Dominick's offered warm lighting, organized & spacious aisles, and most important of all: baggers.  I felt like a queen.  The stress of trying to keep my kids in check, locate my coupons and credit card, and bag my own groceries all at the same time was gone.

Life couldn't be any better.

Yet during my last 15 visits, I noticed the store was dramatically decreasing baggers. Sometimes there were two. More often, there was just one. And then last week, there was not a single bagger to be found. In what felt like a sneaky and gradual lowering of expectations, people had just gotten accustomed to bagging their own stuff.

I was guilty of this, too. But then I decided to take a stand. After all, this wasn't Food 4 Less! There was an unspoken contract between Dominick's and me. It involved paying a bit more for milk while the store re-loaded my 15 boxes of Caprisun into the cart.

There was only one bagger working the day I staged my demonstration. Each of the check-out lanes was at least 3 people deep. The cashier seemed perplexed as my scanned groceries piled up. I did nothing to prepare them for their journey home in my minivan. I fought the overwhelming urge to handle it myself, but I stood there, waiting.

"I'd like a bagger," I told her.

The cashier smiled. Behind me, the long line of moms rolled its eyes, sighed dramatically, and switched lanes.

I waited an awkward 5 minutes while the cashier paged a bagger. We made small talk about the White Sox and Fig Newtons. Finally, the store manager came over and bagged my stuff.

The cashier smiled again, far more broadly this time. Then she winked at me.

I do not know if my little one-mom protest had anything to do with it, but the next time I went to the store, the bagger was already there as I approached the check-out. I looked around and noticed there were several more baggers than usual.

Sure it wasn't Tiananmen Square, but for a big sissy like me, it was as close to being a rebel as I have ever come.

Unless of course you consider my staunch refusal to buy over-priced wrapping paper during CPS' big fundraising blitz. But the price of that stuff?  It's criminal.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Mom By Any Other Name

On Day One of mothering, while still in the hospital, I decided what I wanted to be called.

Yet would my kids cooperate?

Click here for my latest in Chicago Parent:

Daniel: Aged 26 hours.

Monday, July 23, 2012

And You Are NOT the Father!

I waited to tell you guys about this.

Please do not tell my co-author, MOV, what I did.  She will kill me.

So you know how my sister and I appeared in The Wall Street Journal, right?  It was a piece about sibling rivalry.  Megan and I good-naturedly discussed some of the stupid and petty stuff we had carried through into adulthood.  Nothing terribly scandalous.

Then we were almost booked on CNN with Anderson "I Have No Pores" Cooper!  Of course we were ultimately bumped for whatever "real" stories they had that week like the economy and political unrest.  Whatever.  I will not forget, Anderson.  I shall never forget.

But finally came the creme de la creme, yours truly scored a write-up in The Beverly Review.   

This was all good material in trying to create some buzz and name-recognition for our forthcoming book. There really was no such thing as "bad publicity," right?

But then my sister got this note:


My name is Conan Ryan, I work for Venertainment Inc. Casting.

In doing some research for an upcoming documentary, I came across your recent article in the Wall Street Journal written by Elizabeth Bernstein. I was very intrigued by some of the stories you shared about the ongoing rivalry between you and your sister. We would very much like to discuss the possibility of including you and your sister on the show. Please contact me directly at either if you would like more details.

Megan suggested we could serve as the "normal" sisters for the documentary.  How we would pull that off was beyond me.

The full blurb for their casting call:


Are you and your sibling still fighting like you’re teenagers?

Are you completely functional and buttoned up when it comes to your life and job, but totally lose it when it comes to your sibling?

Now casting nationwide for siblings who are 18 and over for a new documentary. If you and your sibling are still at each other’s throats and unable to get along whether you’ve moved away from home or still live together, then we want to hear from you!


We want to give siblings the chance to tell the story of their relationship, and the hurdles their rivalry has forced them to deal with. We will have a licensed therapist on site to facilitate the entire process, with hopes of resolving the conflict and transforming the relationship. If this describes your relationship with your sibling or a set of siblings you know, please email a photo and a brief description of your family’s situation to:

Be sure to include your name, contact information, the city you live in, photo of both siblings, and a family photo.

Was this for Springer?  Maury?

And why did they want pictures?  Did they want pretty people?  Ugly people?

And the fact that there would be "licensed therapists" on hand pretty much convinced me that I didn't need the humiliation of sobbing into a camera:

My sister always had all this long, beautiful hair, but my mom always cut mine short!  I looked like a little boy!  WHAAAAAA.  Why, God, WHY????

Nope.  We passed.

And when MOV finds out that I could have brought a whole new level of recognition and notoriety to our book, I'm dead.

But I've got pride.  And even if I don't,  I know for a fact that the bus stop ladies would NEVER let me live this down.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Do You Think My Sponsors Have a Sense of Humor?

I am totally heading off the beaten path today for my latest product review (I gotta pay for those cello lessons somehow).  Hopefully those guys over at Dove will understand that they're not exactly dealing with one of those classy bloggers who takes this kind of responsibility all serious-like and sh*t.  I mean, if I can't have fun being the blogosphere's Bill Mays, than what is the point, really?

So I get this bottle of VisibleCare Softening Creme Body Wash in the mail.  I open the box.  Sure I'm a little disappointed as I was hoping for that elusive "Will Blog for Tummy Tuck" opportunity.

After pulling out this monster-sized bottle of the latest Dove product, I perk up.  Yay!  I really do use Dove soap, so naturally my interest is piqued.  And I do use body wash on a regular basis to remove the smell of sweaty kid, dried milk and spilled coffee from my person.  Plus, after reading the bottle, I was amped to find I would be "more beautiful" in only one short week.  Like Angelina Jolie beautiful?  I could hardly wait.  Of course when I took another read, I did gather that this stuff would only make my skin more beautiful.  No matter.  I could definitely use some more beauty.

The timing was perfect.  After our Vegas getaway a few weeks ago that had us walking about 30 miles back and forth on The Strip in flip-flops, my feet looked nasty.  Dry and cracked heels were doing little to make my size 11 clod hoppers seem more appealing.  Plus, my face was looking a little damaged as well.  Could this surprise miracle bottle of youthful goodness really be my ticket to a refreshed Marianne?  An Angelina-like Marianne? 

After a couple of showers where I smathered the body wash heavily around my feet and face, I noticed that things were definitely improving.  And I liked the smell.  It was a unique combination of magnolia and pink jasmine.  I was practically a hula girl.  It really rounded off my carefully-crafted, pina colada-drinking new summer persona.

The wash is also supposed to promote skin's elasticity and strength.  I'm not sure how much elasticity the bottom of one's feet requires, but boy could I use some more strength in the general footage area.  My poor dogs have been barking.  Getting me all around the entire southside of Chicago isn't a job for the weak of heart.  Or foot.

All in all, I am very pleased with the product.  Dove's stuff is always good, so it's not exactly front page news to report on another fine skincare item from them.  Yet for the summer, I will be happy to have smoother feet, a tighter face, and the smell of Hawaii in my life.

In order to thank you all for bearing with my little detour into Paid Sponsorship, please feel free to read below for your chance to win a $500 spa gift card in the new the Dove Sweepstakes!
Visit Dove® VisibleCare® to get a coupon for $1 off!

Enter to win one of two $500 Spafinder gift certificates!
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
a) Follow this link, and provide your email address and your response to the Promotion prompt
b) Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: "#SweepstakesEntry"; and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that Tweet.
c) Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that post.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age

18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. Winners will have 72 hours to claim the prize, or an alternative winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 7/18/2012 - 8/22/2012
Be sure to visit the Dove® VisibleCare™ Crème Body Wash brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Scars We Hide

When I was about five years old, I snuck downstairs in the middle of the night to watch television.  This was 1978.  Back then, networks used to go off the air in the middle of the night.  I was only able to find one channel still broadcasting.  It was a movie.  I figured what the hell, I'm up.  Let's give her a go.

More than three decades later, I can still recall vividly the absolute terror I felt watching that movie about some crazy scientist who turns people into snakes.  I couldn't move from the couch, too terrified to even sneak back upstairs to my bed.  I had nightmares for years.

Looking back, I wasn't even sure if there was such a movie.  Perhaps the whole thing had been a bad dream?  I mean, who would have actually put out a movie about people turning into snakes?

The 1970s drug culture would be the obvious answer. Yet thanks in large part to the plethera of channels that now broadcast 24-7, I actually spotted the object of my childhood trauma some time ago. As I sat through the movie, I couldn't help but laugh at the special effects and note: "Hey!  It's 'Face' from the A-Team!"  (Dirk Benedict).  Who knew?

The name of the movie is SSSSSS.  Really.  That's what they came up with.

Like I said. The 1970s drug culture.  Thanks for the memories, fellas.  And don't even get me started on the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I had to leave the room screaming when Violet turned into a blueberry and nearly exploded.

Why the hell wasn't I watching Sesame Street?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Red Wine & Red Pens

As you may know, I am in the process of putting together a fantabulous book of essays with my BFF of the blogosphere: MOV over at Mothers of Brothers Blog.  So here's the problem:  we're working on editing stuff now.  Editing.  That's where we're supposed to slowly read our draft and find errors, flow issues, and consistency irregularities.  These are all endeavors that require patience, a careful eye, and a very very slow pace.

If you've ever met me, you would understand my dilemma.  I walk incredibly fast.  So much in fact, that my husband is usually a block or two behind me when we head to dinner downtown.  I eat fast.  While my husband is still applying condiments to his entree, I'm already looking at the dessert menu.  Even my speech is a rapid-fire barrage of words and thoughts that leave most people just smiling and nodding without the slightest clue of what I've just said.

And when I read?  I'm on fire.  Being an overachieving Mega-Nerd back in my college years, I would typically take 6-7 English classes a semester  That amounted to having to read the equivalent of a full-length novel each day.  I learned to read very quickly, glossing over filler words and focusing more on the big picture stuff.  My eye for detail is non-existent. 

This also explains why I'm always falling in potholes.

But I'm trying.  I bought the appropriate supplies:     

I also drank some red wine to help slow me down.  I'm embracing deep, yoga-like breaths to help relax and center me.

I think my efforts are paying off.   I fell sound asleep with our manuscript stuck to my sweaty forehead yesterday.

Slowing things down is awesome.  I feel so well-rested. 

Now where did I put those pens again?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tragically Bad Kiddie Lit

Click here to read about my favorite questionable children's books.  For some reason, I like it when truly inappropriate tales slip through the cracks.

Mostly because I'm sick.

Monday, July 9, 2012

JC Penney Forgot to Call Me

I suppose it is only natural that as I grow older, there are fewer things that really impress me.   Heading into my forties, I can list my major obsessions on one hand:  Donny Osmond.  A good Broadway musical. Nutella. 

Yet no matter how jaded or weary I become, the thrill I get from bargain shopping remains.  The art of the deal is why I get out of bed in the morning.   It is my own Olympic sport requiring skill, practice, and a shrewd awareness of pricing history and market conditions.  There are magical buzzwords that leave me breathless with delight and anticipation:

Half-Off Coupons.
Free Shipping. 
The Clearance Rack. 

One of my all-time favorite stores is JC Penney.  My reasons are many.  As a super-tall woman, I love the fact that I can buy tall sweaters and shirts.  Not too many places bother selling tall tops, and this problem has often left me feeling like The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.  JC Penney also offers ULTRA tall jeans and pants which allow me to wear boots and heels with pants – a luxury I was forced to go without for the first 28 years of life.
And up until recently, JC Penney used to have the best coupons.  Several times a year, I would receive my $10 off anything $10 or more.  I would march into the store and get the boys some underwear.  Free underwear.  Four times a year.  It felt delicious.  Because nobody likes spending money on underwear.

So when a new JC Penney marketing guru put together a much-hyped and somewhat confusing new pricing plan which essentially ended coupons and sales events, I was shocked.  I mean, did the store have the slightest awareness of its base?  We were the coupon brigade!  We were the bargain shoppers of the world!  We were the ones who kept coming back because you gave us free underwear!

Once again, nobody asked a mom.  I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: always ask a mom.  Heck, ask me.  I’ll tell you.  You just don’t take away a mom’s coupons.  You don’t take away the free underwear.  You don’t take away the one thrill we have in between doing laundry and driving the kids to practice.  YOU. DON'T. DO. THAT.  

So when the new marketing guru “left to pursue other endeavors” after a short eight months, moms were able to read between the lines.   Stocks had plummeted and our carpool heroes were left pouting, refusing to set foot in a store that didn’t take their feelings into consideration.  

But I still have hope.  JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson has announced that he will be helming the vacated marketing role.  Johnson is a former Target executive and also a Steve Jobs’ protégé.  Target is my happy place.  Steve Jobs is a hero.  I can’t help but think Mr. Johnson will get it. 

And if he doesn’t, I’ll be using my Kohls’ coupons to secure free underwear for the boys. 

Because at the end of the day, nobody should ever have to pay for underwear.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why I Haven't Been Blogging

This should be pretty self-explanatory:

Now combine several pina coladas with a trip to the beach, Lego-Land, a Sox game, and our awesome family visiting from Texas, and I knew you'd understand, loyal reader.

But never fear.  Those tasty coconut concoctions have provided a wealth of literary inspiration that will be appearing shortly. 

And when I say "literary inspiration," I mean stuff that I think is really funny after several super-sized pina coladas.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why I'm Not an iMom

Seriously.  I can barely plug in the toaster without starting an electrical fire.

Click here for my story in today's Chicago Parent on why my parenting remains decidedly low-tech.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Recall, Schmecall

Forget my earlier blog about that Excedrin Migraine recall and the plight to cure my recurring migraines. 

After all, who needs corporate intervention when my dad has been hoarding the stuff only to deliver some this weekend in his own unique way and packaging style:

I like how he included a pill count and self-portrait.  I also like how he used a baby food jar.  Why a 70-some year old is in possession of a baby food jar is beyond me.

But far be it from me to look a gifthorse in the mouth.  Or the head.