Sunday, September 30, 2012

Where the Sidewalk Spends

I didn't think it was possible.

On Saturday, I grabbed the boys and participated in a school fundraiser that I loved.  I mean loved-loved.  That's right.  My Grinch-like attitude towards school fundraisers shrank three times smaller this weekend.

The Imadonnari event (street/sidewalk painting and chalking) was held at Jack's school.  I purchased three $10 squares for the boys to decorate while listening to live music and munching on bake sale goodies.  The day offered a fun, party-like atmosphere.  The weather was also spectacular.

Some pics from our afternoon:

In keeping with his "I'm a vampire" reluctance to be photographed, Dan did finally allow me to snap his square ONLY.

Jack, not one to stray from his single-minded obsession with sports, was happy to demonstrate his baseball proficiency without hesitation.

Joey drew a circle and three lines in his square before announcing he was done.  I may have helped him a little bit.  And I may have stolen a bit of chalk from Jack and Dan's supply.

The Chicago Picasso!  We all know how I feel about that one, right?

Anyone lose a jacket?

The Bean! 
I was so happy to be involved in a fundraiser that didn't require hitting up friends and family to buy crap that nobody wants.  Imadonnari I can do.  And also Box Tops. 

Box Tops actually make me giddy.  Next year?  I'm buying an Imadonnari square and drawing tons and tons of Box Tops.  Genius, right? 

Sometimes they sing to me.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Nu Nana

Today is my grandmother's birthday. I would love to share her age, but Nana pointed out in a conversation yesterday that it is poor manners to discuss such things.   

Because my own mother is also called "Nana" by her grandkids, we re-named my Nana "Nu Nana" for use with the great-grandchildren.  She said it's not too often that she gets to be "new."

Nu Nana came to America from Scotland when she was six years old. Her mother had given birth to her at an almost unprecedented 47 years of age (and would sadly pass away a few short months later). Her father, who had fought in the Boer War, died when Nu Nana was only six. She moved to Chicago to live with an older brother, eventually married a Chicago policeman, and raised six children in the southside Chicago community of Beverly. 

As a kid, I thought Nu Nana was fantastically sophisticated. She could answer every single question on Jeopardy without hesitation. She smelled like fancy lotions and fruit.  She completed crossword puzzles at lightening speed while drinking scalding hot tea that I staunchly refused:

I just can't understand how you are my granddaughter, Marianne...our people drink tea!

She always had a book on her nightstand and criticized young American kids for learning Dick & Jane instead of Jane Eyre (which she insists she read when she was only five). 

Nu Nana continues to amaze me with her sharp intelligence and wicked sense of humor.  She is prepared to discuss politics, literature, and world events with anyone who crosses her path.  She maintains a Jacqueline Onassis kind of style and still encourages me to stand up straight every time I see her.  

Thank you for everything, Nu Nana, and here's to a great day! 

And for your birthday next year...

I'm thinking Vegas?      

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Secrets to Healthy Living & Longevity

How does a diet of this:

...make you virtually immortal?

Click here to find out in today's Chicago Parent

It's Like I Don't Even Know Me

My husband's cell phone was so old that when we went into the Sprint store today to figure out why his calls were getting dropped, he was told that Sprint had disbanded all equipment and leases for "antiquated" devices.

My husband's phone was "antiquated."  I just don't understand the short shelf-life of expensive technology.

Anyone want to come over to my house and watch "Top Gun?" On beta?

Since we were already in the store (and had accumulated 5 years worth of free upgrades because we fear technology and abhor change), I somehow walked out with this sexy little number:

I'm miffed at Joe.  He monopolized the salesman's time learning how to load Fantasy Football applications and music on his phone.

Me?  I don't know how to turn the damn thing on.  And because my natural body temperature is that of a frozen tundra-loving caveman, when I press the stupid little buttons (are they even called "buttons?"), nothing registers.

Tell me this gets better.  Or get me some tin cans and string.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Remember this essay that ended with my happiness over the end of Chicago Public School strike?  Remember how I mentioned that the one thing that could kill my mood was an immediate dissemination of the dreaded Innisbrook fundraising packet?  One that looks exactly like this:

The kids returned to school this past Wednesday.  Jack pulled out this packet and was begging to go door-to-door by 3:45 on Wednesday afternoon.  That's right.  The very day they returned from the strike.

I understand why this stuff is important, but I really think CPS needs to gain a better appreciation of timing.

As in, "don't throw gasoline on the already-smoldering and still-recovering CPS mom."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Scenes from a Mommy Meltdown

So you want to know what really went down during last week's Chicago teachers' strike?

Click here for Marianne's descent in madness in today's Chicago Parent.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Scene: 9 pm at a certain boy-infested house on the southside of Chicago.  After a long day of visiting the park, practicing instruments, and attending swim practice, our heroine happily announces bedtime.  Not surprisingly, the troops revolt.

Daniel:  Can we play our DS's in bed?

Marianne: No. Go to sleep.

Jack:  Can I read in bed?

Marianne:  No. 

Joey:  I'm thirsty!!

Marianne:  Too bad.

Daniel:  Can I write in my journal?

Marianne:  You don't own a journal.

Jack:  I feel sick.

Marianne:  Get a bucket.

Joey:  I'm scared of the storm!

Marianne: It's not raining.

Daniel:  I miss Daddy, can we call him at the firehouse?

Marianne: No.

Jack:  Can you read us a bedtime story?

Marianne:  No.

Joey:  Can you lay with me a couple of minutes?

Marianne: No.  And I don't want to hear one more request, not on more thing from any one of you.  IT IS TIME FOR BED.  Mommy gets the last word, got it?  Not another WORD! Not a PEEP! 

So much for that idea:

Final score:  Our heroine: 0  The enemy: 1

Monday, September 17, 2012

Translators Needed

Marianne: (Walking into the house after a weekend away)  So the strike is still on?  No school tomorrow?

Joe:  Yeah.  Apparently, CPS changed the language to the agreed-upon contract without informing the teacher's union.

Marianne:  Crap. 

Daniel: (Astonished)  They CHANGED the language? To like what?  French?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How Mommy Spent the School Strike

I'm hearing the big CPS strike may be over soon.

Do you think the teachers will ask my sons to write about this past week? 

I know the response.

Mommy drank a lot of these:

Original Artwork by Jack

I'm hiding their crayons now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day #3

I had some great blog post ideas I wanted to develop once the kids were back in school.

Yeah.  About that.

So we're on Day #3 of the Chicago Public School Strike.

I've been playing with my Little People some more:

See the red lady with the glasses?  She's the only designated "teacher" in all of vintage Fisher Price land.  I feel so lucky to have her.

Okay.  I'll try for something more substantive once I cave and let the kids play video games for a couple of hours tomorrow.

We did start CCD/REP/Religious Ed or whatever they're calling it nowadays.  My kids may not be learning formal math, but I figure the 10 Commandments have got to count for something. 

Some CPS moms I know are hosting little schools in their houses with actual lesson plans so their kids don't fall behind.  Me?  I spent 6 hours in the park encouraging the children to play with sticks. 

Like I said the other day.  It's been a long summer. 

I'll keep you updated once I have news to report.  Or when I have a nifty new Little People shot to share. 

Whichever comes first.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Not Forgotten

Every year at this time, I carefully avoid the 9/11 coverage. I still cannot bear to watch the documentaries, the interviews, or the historical footage. For me, the shock has never really worn off.   

I wrote an essay last year (re-posted in today's Chicago Parent) that helped me honor just one of the many people I have not forgotten.  For anyone who worked at Aon at the time, "business as usual" was never quite the same.  The company would lose 176 people that morning.

Before that day, I had a tendency to save old voicemails on my work phone until projects were completed.  But with all the post-9/11 chaos, long hours, and revised focus, it was months before I got around to clearing out old messages. That was when I came across voicemails from lost colleagues. They talked excitedly about new initiatives and projects we had been working on together. They said we should talk soon. One message came just 15 hours before the second plane hit.

I could never bring myself to erase those messages. They remained on my voicemail until I left Aon.  I listened to them every so often, trying to make sense of it all.   It reminded me that 9/11 hadn't just been a national tragedy, but it also took the lives of fantastic people with fantastic New York accents.  People who told me I needed to relax and quit being so serious.  People who mocked me and other Chicagoans for only ordering sausage on our pizzas.  People who lived full lives and who had friends and family who loved them very much.     

Last year, I chose to write about one particular individual I knew pretty well. Had it not been for Denise Benedetto, I know for certain my career in corporate America wouldn't have lasted a month.  I was a disaster.  Denise was a mother, a daughter, and the type of person I hope my sons to be one day. She was generous, kind, and ridiculously funny. 

Whenever people suggest that women do not support other women in business, I correct them.  My experience had been so much different.  I had a Denise.  I wish we all had her a bit longer.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chicago Teachers Strike

It's official.  The 3rd largest school district in the country has gone on strike. 

Word came down 10:00 pm Sunday.

I do not understand all the issues or points of contention. 

I do understand that this is going to be one giant cluster-f*k with "temps" overseeing kids with special needs, allergies, and other issues at a host of babysitting facilities around the city.

I want to cry.

But instead, I pour myself a giant glass of red wine and tinker around with my vintage Little People:

Happy place.  I need to go to my happy place.

Have I mentioned what a long summer it's been?

Sign of the Times

All three of my sons have attended the same wonderful preschool.

Each year, the school provides canvas bags to bring notices and artwork back and forth from school.

Why, yes.  I did draw that football.  I am an artistic genius.
As you can tell, there has been some downsizing to the tote expenditure since Jack attended 3 years ago.  All of Joey's school notices are printed on half sheets of paper.  Full sheets simply won't fit. Envelopes aren't used anymore for fear they might over-burden the fragile new bags.

Obviously the economy is suffering.  There have been cuts to education.  For the record, I would have been happy to buy my son a book bag, but the school prefers the ease of these open totes to quickly disseminate information. 

Joey's Ziploc-sized school bag has been lost countless times this year.  It gets mixed in with other small items from our house like paper clips and Dixie Cups.  I've sent Joey to school with Jack's old bag more often than not because I can't find Joey's in time for the bus. 

Because of this, several moms at the school have now taken to calling Joey by his brother's name.  My youngest is having an identity crisis.  He asks me weekly if his name is really "Jack."  He wonders aloud where his "lost Joey" has gone.

I smile, pat him on the had, and call him "Dan."

Yup.  Those therapy bills are going to be huge.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Henry Hill Complex

There is an ongoing joke about "feeling like Henry Hill" in my neighborhood. The reference is to the 1990 movie about mobster-turned-informant Henry Hill who, towards the end of the film, is followed throughout the day by an FBI helicopter.

Don't get me wrong.  I love the police chopper that arrives instantly on the scene whenever there are suspects at large. Armed robberies, assaults, and unruly gangland funerals have required extra attention and diligence on behalf of the Chicago Police Department recently. Each time I spot the helicopter hovering overhead, I take heart in knowing that Beverly has its own guardian angel keeping watch.  Some people have even taken to calling the pilot "Batman."

So as I sat down to catch up on my People Magazines the other night, I wasn't surprised to hear the chopper flying above my house. What did surprise me was when big, bright police search lights were shone directly into my backyard and driveway.

One would have assumed my first thoughts to be:

Oh, crap!  They are looking for a killer in my yard!


Better set the alarm and make sure the doors are locked!

Sadly, no.

Instead, I cursed my husband for not cutting the lawn (severely overgrown) and leaving out a huge open garbage can full of empty beer bottles from our block party a few weeks ago. I really didn't want Batman thinking we were drunken idiots who didn't value good lawn-care.

Anyway, to wrap things up, I guess the Little Caesars Pizza a few blocks away was robbed, but thankfully at least one of the suspects was apprehended.

I just don't understand you felons out there. Little Caesars?? It's one thing to rob my bank, but now you're messing around with my $5 pizza night.

Enough is enough.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Tennis Lesson

My friend thought it would be fun for us to take tennis lessons.

Guess how that went down?

Click here for full story in today's Chicago Parent.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day

With all due deference to those laborers who got kids off the assembly lines and rallied for 8-hour days, my mind somehow drifts elsewhere on Labor Day.

It goes directly to a certain community hospital where I attempted to deliver my first son.  My doctors, despite earlier assurances to not allow me to go past 40 weeks, were big fat liars.  At 41 weeks, they sent me home.  At 41 1/2 weeks, I begged.  At 42 weeks, I marched into the hospital and demanded "OUT.  Get it out.  NOW."

One doctor, annoyed by my interrupting his golf game, yelled at me.  He told me that I was only having an 8 pound baby and that I shouldn't have come in until things were "moving."   I was then injected with horse dosages of pitocin and for the next 48 hours, I was prodded and turned as the baby's heart rate fluctuated wildly.

Daniel was no fool.  As a nearly 11-pound, 24-inch over-cooked toddler, he knew the laws of physics were working against him.  He eyed his only escape route and recognized there was no way.  He dug in and refused to budge.  For 48 hours.  Persistent little cuss.

As I waited through several shifts in nurses and doctors from the practice, Doctor #4 decided maybe we ought to do a c-section.  He was staring at the little paper print-outs of Dan's heart rate and finally appeared mildly interested.

When the anesthesiologist came in, I felt I had an advocate on my side.  He muttered to the nurse, "She's been here HOW LONG and they're just deciding to do a c-section NOW??"

So after 48 hours of labor, drugs, and feeling like the worst mother in the world, they pulled out my Danny who was hungry, cranky, and asking for solid foods.  He had a partially collapsed lung and required antibiotics immediately.

When they weighed him, the doctor offered up only the most passing of conciliatory words.

"Guess we were a bit off with that eight pounds, huh?"


Happy Labor Day!