Monday, April 29, 2013

Death of a Couch (1986-2013)

Fred had a good long run and enjoyed a lifetime of living rooms. He traversed the homes of assorted friends and family before meeting his final resting place on the southside of Chicago.

Sadly, his demise was accelerated by a trio of Walsh boys who viewed him as a magnificent combination of trampoline and coloring book.

Battle scars.

Do NOT leave your wet coats on the couch, you hear me?!   Yeah.  That worked.  

Poor Dead Fred
I thought about prolonging Fred's life for a while.  But when the reupholsterer gave me a quote for $850, I knew it was time to pull the plug. 

Sorry, Fred.  There were braces and Catholic school to pay for next year.

My husband called up Bad Luck Lenny to help maneuver Fred into the alley.  Oddly enough, not one Chicago garbage picker even slowed down to take a second look. 

Poor Fred, I almost felt sorry for him.

That was, until I sat down on Antonio:

"Marianne (and Marianne ONLY), come sit with me and discuss life, love, and musical theatre."
Total clearance price from Darvin Furniture = $399.  Now subtract the $50 gift card (expired) that I received for doing their commercial.  This is the one that all my loyal readers demanded get reinstated in order for poor little Joey to finally get that lamp for his bedroom.

Sorry, Joey.  But did you see what you guys did to my couch?

I also had a $200 gift card leftover from when we bought our TempurPedic bed 3 years ago.

Final cost = $149.

For someone who has never really owned "new" things, I am almost embarrassed by my overwhelming love and desire for Antonio.  Just being in the same room with him makes my heart skip a beat.  I try to remind myself that he is, after all, just a couch.

But that doesn't mean I have to cut off his tags.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Chicago Show For Mothers - May 5th!

In a little over one week, a group of Chicago-area women will be taking the stage to share true tales of motherhood.  I am so honored and excited to be a cast member of the 2013 Listen to Your Mother show on May 5th at the The Athenaeum Theatre (2936 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago) and hope everyone considers going!

As someone who has been known to experience paralyzing stage fright, my plan is to down one hearty shot before going on.  Mum's the word.  I think the producers are already second-guessing my casting and questionable influence on the far-classier members of the troupe.

The voices and backgrounds of the selected artists are as wildly diverse as the topics. I am dying to give you a sneak peek into these fantastic readings, but the producers remain keenly aware of my deficiencies in the area of secret-keeping.  They have also issued a confidentiality agreement and are holding me to that most sacred of promises...   

The pinky-swear.

No matter.  I will take this risk for you, loyal reader, and confirm that the show is an emotional journey spanning tears and laughter, life and loss, and that one little word that looms so large throughout all the days of our lives:


So think about grabbing a mother you know and heading over May 5th!  Tickets can be bought by visiting HERE.

As an aside, I am dedicating my reading to all those who have lost their moms far too soon and who would give anything to "listen to their mother" just one more time.

I hope to see a few friendly faces there!

And please pray that I don't suck. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

There aren't too many things for which I'm willing to wait in line:



A parachute.

And there are even less things that I'd get up at 3 o'clock in the morning to secure.

Find out what had me stretching my parental limits this week in today's Chicago Parent (click HERE).

The only person who arrived before me.

My Park District Peeps

Pretending to be #1


Monday, April 22, 2013

Learning to Live with Green Peppers

My husband, Joe, took me to his favorite little Chicago diner on one of our first dates.  When we sat down at Billy's that night, he could not wait to order the stuffed green pepper soup.  The steaming bowl arrived and my husband proceeded to spend 15 minutes picking out every last pepper. 

I was baffled.

"Why did you order the stuffed green pepper soup if you don't like green peppers?"

"I can't help it," he answered, "I love the rest so much that I just have to have it."

Over the years, Joe finally learned to tolerate the green peppers and stopped picking them all out.  He even discovered a recipe for making his own stuffed green pepper soup courtesy of Norm at the firehouse:

This is Joe's "happy" face.

After 10 years of marriage, I now realize that I am like that soup.  There are plenty of bits and pieces that I'm sure Joe would just love to pull out if given a chance:   

I squeeze the toothpaste from the middle of the tube. 

I forget to pay the cable bill.  

I use all the hot water. 

My "green peppers" take up more than half the pot.  And still.

Joe continues to order the soup.

While I work on taking shorter showers.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Exciting Conclusion

Our trip to Florida was quickly coming to an end when a cold front moved in that brought overcast skies, rain, and three bored children.

And here is where it is very good to hail from the Beverly Neighborhood of Chicago.

Why? Because you simply pick up the phone and call whichever pal is also vacationing in Florida. Because Beverly people are EVERYWHERE.

I used to get freaked out when Joe and I would travel to random and obscure places only to bump into Beverly folks. Joe once shared the story of how his uncle was hiking up Pikes Peak when he suddenly heard:

HEY LARRY!  Dat you? It's me...PATRICK. You know...from the NEIGHBORHOOD! 

It's kinda like being in Goodfellas.

As luck would have it, Miniature Friend and her family were staying in nearby St. Augustine. We agreed to meet up and check out the local Alligator Farm:

Hey, kids! Look here for a picture!  LOOK HERE!  All together!! oh forget it
You know Danny's having fun when he actually smiles for a pic.
Joey and his future prom date (fingers crossed)

I did not like the feeling of only a layer of glass keeping us safe from this man-eater.  I took this pic and  RAN. LIKE. HELL.
I hope you can tell why Miniature Friend is named that.  You can pretty much fit her in your purse.

What do people from the southside of Chicago do best?  They stand around "and bullsh*t" (talk).  FOR HOURS.  Case in point. 
After leaving the Alligator Farm, we headed to a local fish restaurant on the beach and immediately directed the kids to play near the pier so we could...well.... bullshit.  Seriously.  It's an art form around here.  Beers are encouraged.

I'm not quite sure WHO took this picture as I am actually in it.  It may be the only proof that I even exist.

Sadly, our vacation was over and we packed up the minivan the next morning.  That was when things really got interesting.

Our ride home would result in one of the most scarcest of marital admissions known to man:

You were right. 

It came as a result of Joe suggesting we book our hotel in advance for the midway point of our driveI brushed him off: 

We'll just stop when we're tired and stay wherever. 

How was I supposed to know that the perfect storm of the NCAA tournament, a huge cattle show, an international chess tournament, a Harley Davidson convention, and Spring Break would prohibit us from getting a single room anywhere along I-75?

We had to drive straight through. 

At about 4 o'clock in the morning, I noticed my husband was fading.  I valiantly offered to drive, having not taken the steering wheel once during the entire trip.  We switched positions and Joe was snoring away within seconds.  I zapped on the old Cruise Control (it totally helps you save on gas), and I relished my selfless contribution to our family's safety and well-being.

I was practically Joan of Arc.

Until all the warning lights started going on 20 minutes later. 

I nudged Joe in a panic.

"Oh, Marianne..." he mumbled, barely opening one eye, "those are the dashboard lights for the CRUISE CONTROL."

I looked again.

"But why are they orange?"

Joe leaned over to take a better look and immediately started yelling:


Were you guys aware of this whole "coolant" thing?  Apparently minivans, when forced to go straight through the mountains of Tennessee only to continue on for 12 more hours at 80 mph, have a tendency to overheat.


Joe got the car cooled down after saying the F-word about 762 times.  We managed to buy coolant at the next exit and Joe also re-took the wheel.  Although he denies it, I know he believes I broke the car.  You 20 minutes.  Upon our 7 am return to Beverly, we forked over $500 for a new radiator and went to bed.  We then ate Macaroni and Cheese for a week because who knew this vacation was going to cost us another $500?   

I tell myself it is all okay.  Because this kind of material simply does not come cheap.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Where We Run

We are all runners.

But most of us do not run 26 mile marathons.

Or directly into smoke and danger without second thought.

I found out this week exactly what kind of runner I am.

Full story here in Chicago Parent.

Taken at the Chicago Marathon a few years ago while cheering on a friend.
God Bless Boston.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Marianne's How-To Guide for Surviving Disney World

I carefully watched the masses as we boarded the Monorail at Disney World last week. The parents were all full of naive optimism, firmly believing they were about to deliver the Promised Land to their cherished children. This was to be a magical day where nobody cried, peed, or threw up before noon. 

After all, this was the Disney guarantee, no? It was the reason you forked over one-third of your total vacation expenditure for a day at a freakin' theme park. One that involves talking dogs, narcissistic ducks, and the whole "I'm-a-princess-please-save-me" archetype that flies in the face of modern feminism. 

Regardless, most of the kids were giddy, operating under the false assumption that they would personally meet Cinderella and get a grand tour of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse by 10 am.

Then there was me. I knew the truth. The only sign posted above Disney's gates should read:

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Why Dante did not include the Magic Kingdom as one of his circles of hell is beyond me. But it always makes me sad as I watch the meltdowns, tantrums, and disappointed parents grasping at the final straws of "But this was all supposed to be perfect!"

Topping off the cake of misery is the fact that there is NO LIQUOR ANYWHERE. The Magic Kingdom is a dry county. You call that the happiest place in the world?? I call that bullsh*t.

Message to Disney Marketing Execs:  LET MY PEOPLE GO!

My family operates as a pack of like-minded panthers at Disney World. We have done this before. First up? Pay the exorbitant fee for the double rental stroller. If you want to go the distance, the troops must not fade early. Some will try to bring their own strollers, but Disney has graciously positioned train tracks all over the place so that it is nearly impossible to avoid getting stuck in them.The rental strollers allow you to glide effortlessly over the tracks thereby saving time and a host of foul language that will only get you evicted off Disney grounds. 

You may be thinking "My kid is 12, no stroller required!"  I don't care.  Stuff 'em in.  Trust me.

The next mistake newbies make is to try to get on all the marquis rides immediately: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean.  There is nothing worse than waiting in line for three hours only to have a kid announce he has to pee within moments of it finally being your turn.     

It will happen.  Mark. My. Word.

No, no, no, loyal readers.  You don't hit the popular rides early! You pace yourself. You are a panther,sleek and smart.  Let the crowds get worn down from the endless standing and whining. Your 10 am - 4 pm list should include:

The Hall of Presidents
Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor
People Mover
It's a Small World (don't be deceived by the long lines, it moves fast)

Be sure to visit any of the dining areas where you can request free water.  It's critical to keep the troops hydrated as you are getting closer and closer to sweet victory.

During our visit last week, I suddenly looked up at the overcast skies and began to feel tremendous hope and excitement.  A storm was brewing. 

Space Mountain would be ours.

Sure enough, a loud clap of thunder crashed down around us, immediately freaking out the entire "5 & Under" set.  So-long, preschoolers! 

Within a few hours, we were in the middle of a torrential downpour with people forking over $50 per family for a handful of cheap plastic raincoats. 

$10 plastic bags?  We don't need no stinkin' $10 bags!
The Walsh gang strategically positioned itself at the covered shooting gallery where the guns weren't operating properly. Dan, Jack, and Joe got a full two hour's worth of free Wild West play courtesy of the Disney Corporation. Cha-ching! 

When I saw that the storm had finally passed, I peered out. The place was practically empty.

The average voice of reason might say:

Marianne.  It's 9 pm at night.  The kids are tired.  It's damp.  Why don't you think about going home?

But the Walsh family knows better.  The park is open until 1 am.  It was time to give the kids a little candy and coffee for the final stretch.  Because now?  We OWNED the place.

"Wake up, boys, we're there!"
The last four hours saw us dashing around in zero-wait lines hitting The Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, the Race Cars, Peter Pan, and Pirates of the Caribbean.  It was awesome.

At 12:45 am, the boys finally started to fade:

Well, actually it was just Jack.  Danny & Joey had espressos.
At 1:15 am, I jokingly asked my husband if he thought we'd be able to find our minivan: which aisle did we park in again? 

So remember, moms and think things will be like this:

And they're actually more like this:

Danny:  "Why do I have to go all the way through these gaits and chains when NOBODY IS EVEN HERE???  Why, God, whyyyyyy?"

Managing expectations throughout the blogosphere is why I am here.  You can thank me by sending your midnight vacation pictures to  Ones that look sort of like this:

Jack:  "How am I even related to that lady?  I should be in bed."
Joey:  "I want COOKIES."

Up Next:  What happens when the rest of your beach vacation gets rained-out.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Red Faced

With two straight days of traffic and minivan travel behind us, we arrived at our Daytona condo in desperate need of rest and a good night's sleep.  After a few minutes spent unpacking essentials, I crawled into bed.  That was when my husband reminded me that Easter was the next day.

Oh Sweet Jesus NO. 

Thankfully, I had pre-stuffed my vast Easter Egg collection:

I am so on the ball.

The next morning, I put Joe in charge of administering sunblock and we enjoyed some serious beach time:

A few hours later, I realized that my husband is not quite as on the ball as I am.  Please have a look at the end result of some questionable and slightly uneven application of Sunblock 75:

As an aside, within an hour of returning home to Chicago, one of my friends who had naturally spent her weekend in charge of a Melanoma 5K Fundraising Event called and asked if she could collect my kids for baseball and some play-time afterwards.

I eyed the boys' peeling and still-burnt skin.  Meredith was going to kill me. 

I should have just made up an excuse, right?  I knew I was destined for an appalled look and a few brochures on the evils of not protecting children's tender skin.  Why reinforce my well-known status as one of the "bad moms?"

Meh.  I totally needed a nap.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Family Road Trip

First there was the ride:

Note the back-seat air freshener.  Kids stink.
Then we arrived:

I shoulda bought some extra air fresheners.
Finally, I noticed something:

Where I spent most of my vacation.

For Part I of the 2013 Florida Chronicles and full story, visit today's Chicago Parent HERE.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Our Triumphant Return

We arrived back in Chicago at 7 am this morning courtesy of an over-heated minivan, an over-tired Joe, and an overflow of stories that can only be described as:

How does this sh*t keep happening to us?

On the plus side, I've got gads of good material to share shortly. 

After my nap. 

And some extra treatment for PTSD.

Stay tuned.

I call this happy picture "When photos completely belie reality."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The New Joys of Poise

Ever since I started blogging, I have been WAITING for this day to arrive.  The day where I can say a company recognized my complete allegiance, loyalty, and devotion to them and  tapped me to be their national spokeswoman. 

I suppose I am not "technically" a national spokeswoman, but I've decided to run with that exact story for this week (along with my being the secret, long-lost love child of Elvis Presley and Princess Grace). 

When I originally started spotting the little Poise ads appearing on the BlogHer ad rotation (my blog network), I was over the moon with excitement.  After all, I buy Poise and GoodNights--both Kimberly-Clark products--by the barrel.  Whenever I laugh, I pee.  And I also know a thing or two about GoodNights.  When I first started getting my boys to sleep through the night, NOTHING kept sheets quite as dry as GoodNights.  I mean it.  The rest of the products out there s-u-c-k-e-d.   You end up doing gads of laundry every morning and cursing your decision to have children.   GoodNights single-handedly saved my sons from being deposited at an orphanage or neighborhood "safe haven."

Anyway, I know pee and the power of Poise.  I've cracked a hundred jokes about my reliance on them:

I went through THREE Poise Pads because that movie was so funny!

You are hilarious!  I need to go change my Poise pad now.

Oh, STOP.  I just put on a fresh Poise!

Do you guys remember that episode of Friends where Joey accidentally appeared in an STD ad and was mortified?  When I told my husband that I was doing this Poise program, he had the same reaction.  Really?  You want the world to know you've

Hello?  My base is moms.  Most of us pee ourselves when we reach to turn on a lamp.  We've also got a whole assortment of other issues impacting our hormones, freshness, and (shhh) "relations." 

So when the nice people at my favorite factory in the whole world sent me some new goodies to check out, I was all over it:
The goods. 
Now that I am considered to be "approaching menopause" (hang on while I sob into my hoodie for a sec), I have noticed the old hormones are definitely changing things up in ways I never really expected.

I should proceed here with a certain delicacy that usually escapes me.  It's not like I have any pride (have I mentioned I pee myself?).  It's just that I do have a husband who was raised with 5 brothers and who panics whenever I say "period" in public.  My general candor with things is what will probably one day kill him.  Poor guy.  He's such a Puritan.

Anyway, the Poise Personal Lubricant?  It's nice.  And that's all you're going to get from me.  You're welcome, Joe.

The Cooling Towelettes are GENIUS.  Not only do they help you stay clean and fresh, but they also provide a cooling sensation.  This phenomenon could possibly lead to use of that aforementioned lubricant.  NOT THAT I'M IMPLYING THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED. 

Gosh, I could use a cigarette right about now. 

KIDDING, honey.

The Feminine Wash was very light and had a really nice soapy, slightly fruity smell.  I am one of those people who suffers migraines when exposed to over-fragranced products, and I really enjoyed the scent of this product.  No headaches whatsoever. 

The end result of my little experiment with the new Poise Feminine Wellness line was overwhelmingly positive.  I feel super fresh, a bit tingly, and ready to do all kinds of things today (or tonight if you get my gist).

Sorry, Joe.

I tried.

For more information and to sign up for a coupon or sample, visit the Poise Facebook page.

 And now for the sweepstakes!  To enter for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card, answer this question in the comments section below - “How are you approaching life's changes confidently?”

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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. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
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