Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Searching for Bobby Fischer's Shoes

Last Friday night was the end of my hosting duties for chess. Taught by Dr. Mikhail Korenman from Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia, the group is made up mostly of 5-7 year-old boys with a couple of girls.  One adorable little blond girl giggles sweetly as she annihilates Jack at chess each week.  I told him to get used to being crushed by cute blonds and to aim for the brunettes later in life.  He looked at me funny.  I get that a lot from the boys.  And pretty much anyone who meets me.

Dr. Korenman had once ruled these chess lessons with a Soviet-styled iron fist - demanding complete attention and respect.  His imposing brow and exotic speech kept the kids in line.  Yet lately, the mob has been staging a populist uprising via couch-jumping and bishop-throwing.

I of course am not pleased.  I had thought of Dr. Korenman as a kindred spirit in discipline and structure.  Instead, he apparently has a soft spot for these little hellions.  He enjoys the children and explains to me in his thick, Russian accent that they are just little kids and patience is required.  He seems to get a kick out of their spunk and dimpled angelic faces that mask their desire to turn my house into The Jump Zone

So at the end of each lesson, I am left yelling at my little Bobby Fischers to gather up their shoes.  These shoes chronically span the distance of my entire downstairs and show up in every possible corner of my house.  One week, I spent 15 minutes looking for a boy's shoes only to discover them in the bathroom sink.  The bathroom sink?  Children have put on mismatched shoes in lieu of finding their actual shoes and walked out of my house.  I'm usually too tired to stop them.

I thought I had maximum dosage of chess until Dr. Korenman's daughter arrived last week to fill in for her father.  She cunningly worked her way into the hearts of each child, discussing their favorite subjects at school and their favorite songs.  Danny, of course, responded, "Rent."

Then she came at them with the hard sell for Chess Camp, describing how the happiest moments of childhood itself were the hours she spent learning chess on beautiful summer days.

Not surprisingly, when the moms came to pick up the children, they were all pleading to get registered for Chess Camp that moment.  The checkbooks got whipped out and Miss Chess Master knew she had worked her pawns right into checkmate.

So Chess Camp it is.  If anyone is interested, you can email Dr. Korenman at intecsus@yahoo.com or call him at 630.789.2951. 

Verbal okay from the moms was obtained to put these pictures in blog. For the two lawyer-dads out there, please don't sue me. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mrs. Robinson Buys a Computer

This post is brought to you courtesy of my father's 10-year old computer that he has manged to not kill yet.  Show-off.

Also, happy Memorial Day to everyone commemorating those who died in battle for our country and God bless all those I know who have family serving overseas!   

Flying in the face of all those good-hearted people out there trying to steer me in the direction of an Apple, I admit it now:  I failed you.  When I went to Best Buy yesterday, I had every intention of getting an Apple.  Yet Nick with the baby blue eyes and perfect smile steered me towards a sale-priced HP.  I outlined my basic computer needs (video camera DVD burning, email, blogging, internet research) and he convinced me that the HP would be a good fit.  He could have sold me 10 flat screens while he was at it, but Nick was a salesman with virtue.  And did I mention his sparkly blue eyes?

I went to Best Buy with my dad who had come over armed with a stack of Consumer Reports and sale papers.  Unfortunately, the only words that went through my mind once we walked in the store and saw Nick went along the lines of God bless you please, Mrs. Robinson...heaven holds a place for those you pray...hey hey hey....

So I ordered the computer which is now getting configured by the Geek Squad.  I'm fairly certain I probably could have configured it all by myself and saved $100, but I am suffering from computer rehab burnout.  Keeping Little Dell on life support for the last couple of years has been emotionally draining.  I didn't want to start out my new relationship with Mr. HP on a sour note.  Computer karma is very important to me.  Plus, I have to be sure to thank Nick for all his help yesterday.  I haven't already written about his see-into-your-very-soul eyes yet, have I?  I asked Nick if it was okay to put him on my blog and he agreed if everything was "positive."  I believe I've upheld my side of the bargain.

Once we pick up Mr. HP, it's off to Gaelic Park's Irish Fest for the day.  Raising a plastic cup of red wine in honor of our dearly departed Little Dell is only fitting.  And to keep everyone in a happy mood, how about one more arbitrary shot of Nick? 
I'm pretty sure I'm around the same age as his mother.  Geezus.  I'm going to hell.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dropping Trou

Computer update...Little Dell is still not allowing me to retrieve pictures from my camera and going to the blue screen after being on for 15 minutes, so I'm typing this fast and hoping to get to Best Buy today.

I have always loved the expression "dropping trou."  The impulsive nature of wearing your pants around your ankles while you take an emergency pee....how college-like and fun is that?

Not so much anymore.  Joey has taken to "dropping trou" everywhere.  Without warning.  Like at the mall.  Last week, I herded my brood from JC Penney (I wish they carried their ultra-talls in-store) to The Children's Place (just realized Daniel was never EVER a size 6 and Jack has no shorts that will stay up on him).  As I was yelling at Daniel to slow down and Jack to hurry up, I noticed Joey had dropped his pants and was holding his pee-pee like a firehose.  My apologizes to the whole "call-body-parts-by-their-biological-names" crowd.  Can't do it.  Raised by a nurse and still can't do it.  I just like the sound of pee-pee better.

I quickly pulled Joey's pants up and whispered to him to not "get naked" when there are people around.  But this was not the first time.  Most parks by us do not have bathrooms.  So when you've got a newly-potty-trained boy (and let's be honest, boy moms, even not-so-newly-trained boys), you take advantage of the ability of boys to pee behind trees.  I know it's gross.  I know it's inappropriate.  I should walk them the several blocks home and risk "accidents."  It's just that by the time you get everyone safely across 2 Chicago streets on a 2-wheeler, a tricycle, and a scooter, the last thing you want to do is turn the snail parade around.  So we pee on trees.

Yet unlike the older boys who go find distant shrubs and faraway oaks to do their business, Joey will merrily ride down a slide, whip out his device, and run towards me with a big smile screaming:

"I need to water de FLOWERS, Mommy.  My pee is READY!"

As though he'd been marinating it.

"Shhhhh.  Joey.  SHUSH."

"Should I pee on de dandelions, Mommy, or dem purple flowers?"

I received several angry looks mostly from moms with only girls.  I'm not sure if it comes from a place of true disgust, or rather from jealously that I have children biologically programmed to save me a trip home.  I'm sure if I had all girls, I'd probably feel a little bit of both.

Instead, I will continue to work on implementing some proper decorum to the time-honored tradition of dropping trou.  When Joey's defense attorney calls me in 30 years wondering where he developed a lifelong pattern of indecent exposure, I will be forced to fess up.  Good thing we have this blog to hang me on.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dude - My Dell Just Died!

Breaking news from the blog front.  My computer is acting erratically and I'm hearing some death rattles.  I was trying to get Little Dell an extra few months of life after seeing the dreaded blue screen some time ago (did a re-load, broke the CD thingie, and lost all my free Microsoft programs courtesy of last employer. Free Open Office programs just aren't the same), but I can no longer delay the inevitable.  She's a goner.

I'm hoping to find a good deal this weekend - so fingers crossed because the Chess Club just left and I've got great photos of both our Russian chess master as well as the future band campers of America.  There was this one time, at band camp....

RIP Dell Inspiron 2600

Redefining Happiness - A Top 10 List (more or less)

Thank you my wonderful band of loyal followers for helping me get above 2,000 hits in my first two months of blogging!  It was a high point this week.  I'd like to take a moment to celebrate the people and events that have redefined what makes a good day in the life of this mom.

10.  My mom.  She came over in the middle of a tornado watch to do my closets.  The official cold-to-warm weather transfer of seasonal clothes to new drawers is a task most moms dread.  Naturally, I bring in reinforcements.  My mom is a master organizer and clothes-folder.  I wish I would have taken a "before" shot of the boys' closets.  Balled-up sweaters and t-shirts jammed between widowed socks were the norm.  I now have beautifully organized closets and perfectly folded garments to start each morning on a high.  I could almost go without coffee.  Almost.

9.  Bridesmaids movie and dinner with the girls.  I know I already posted about this, but having friends in life who seem to like me even though I'm often unlikable is a blessing.  I had to throw in the "blessing" part because you know that Atheist-Friend is reading this.  I also think she's getting a little annoyed that her moniker is "Atheist-Friend."  She can't understand how her godlessness is just hilarious to me.  I could call her tall, skinny, works-out-way-too-much friend, but what's funnier than an Atheist?  Anyone?  Bueller?   

8. Dexter. I'm in love with this serial killer. Dry, funny, and murderous. Season 2 was enjoyed after an emergency run to Baskin-Robbins courtesy of my husband who was trying to get me to forget his unwillingness to take pictures for my playground blog. Best line of Season 2? Said internally by Dexter as he watches his sister drink from the orange juice container and leave his place in shambles: "I will not kill my sister, I will not kill my sister....."

7.  The end of the boys' ice hockey (for now anyway).  After a long grueling season of packing up endless equipment and uncooperative boys, ice hockey is finally over until the fall.  My husband keeps trying to convince me that I secretly enjoy ice hockey.  I secretly squeeze the toothpaste from right in the middle of the tube every time he says that.  I would like to thank Mr. L for single-handedly preventing my nervous breakdown by lacing up Danny & Jack for most of the season.  His wife Mrs. L. is also my hero for keeping Joey from escaping to the parking lot every week while I bought a glass of wine to calm my nerves.  Because I secretly love ice hockey.

6.  Joey Mcintrye  Because every tired mom in need of a tummy tuck after 3 c-sections deserves a little fantasy now and then. 

5.  My blog readers.  There have been a few times where I think I'm fooling myself trying to maintain a blog for a year.  Yet right when the white Rocky boxing towel is about to be thrown, someone posts a comment or emails me some encouragement.  While Atheist-Friend has her yoga and swim classes to help provide an escape for an often thankless job, I have this.  And you guys.  Thank you!!

1.  Mrs. S.  For those of you doing the math, I'm getting very tired and I don't think I can get all the way through 4, 3, 2, and 1.  Plus, I really should have made my mom like number 2 or 3 because I really hate doing that clothes stuff.  But it's getting late and I wanted to be sure to mention my son's kindergarten teacher, Mrs. S.  Jack has been talking to Mrs. S all season about his last day of hockey.  On the last day, all the players get to have a game on "the big ice" (largest rink).  Lo and behold, Mrs. S. arrives tonight at Southwest Ice Arena to bear witness to this momentous day in a five-year-old's life.  Mrs. S. works full-time and has her own children, yet she took time out of her crazy busy life to make a memorable day even more special for Jack.  I can't think of any better person to be teaching my son about life, learning, and how we should walk this earth.  

As a side note, the liquor booth at ice hockey was closed tonight and I fear the wonderful lady who hands me a glass of red and a giant cookie to keep Joey occupied might be ill.  Here's hoping that wherever she is tonight, she knows that if I was alert enough, I'd put her pretty high on my list as well.

Have a great weekend everyone - let's be careful out there.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Kids on the Block Last Night! No, Really.

When my sister-in-law jokingly sent me a text asking if I wanted to go to the New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) concert last night in Rosemont, I knew the answer she was expecting.  I have made fun of her for years over her love and devotion to Marky Mark or whoever the hell is in that band.  Yet when I looked around at my alternatives for a Wednesday night (laundry, dishes, homework), I instantly agreed.

I've got a very good friend in Milwaukee who taught me an important lesson long ago.  She said, "It doesn't matter so much whether something is good or bad, but rather if there's a great story you can tell later."  That philosophy is how we wound up spending hours at a house of ill repute in Greece several years ago with our friend Tom.  We couldn't figure out why there were only women at the "bar" and why they only seemed interested in talking to our male companion.  This same philosophy also brought my friend and me face-to-face with a crack house in Arizona with some adult movie distributors.  I believe the original game plan for the evening was dinner and a movie, and in very Lucy and Ethel fashion, we hid in the corner at Drug Den Central and talked with a bunch of skateboarding 12-year olds.

So when Mary invited me to the NKOTB - Back Street Boys (NKOTBSB)  concert, I figured I was destined to get some great stories.  Soccer moms throwing their bras onstage...'80's hairdos in full display...the possibilities were limitless.  I would walk in feeling slightly superior knowing that I was never silly enough to follow these manufactured boy bands.   I have grown-up taste in music.  Neil Diamond counts, right?

Much to my surprise, instead of a notebook full of snarky observations, I wound up having a GREAT time.  First, I was impressed that when we arrived, we didn't have to go up the stairs.  When I am charge of tickets, stairs are always involved.  But when Mary buys NKOTB tickets, only floor seats within spitting distance of Joey McIntyre will do.  Second, the crowd was hilarious.  I saw a cute little twenty-some girl with her boyfriend and assumed this was a new relationship, and the guy was trying to make the new girl happy.  Turns out, the guy was a huge Backstreet Boys fan.  Who knew?  Shout-out to Ben & Kara!

It was pure, unadulterated  joy coupled with big giant $15 Mango daiquiris.  The bands danced, sang, and charmed their way into my hardened heart.  It was the kind of fun you don't even expect to have once you're a card-carrying adult.

Thank you again, Mary, for reminding me that I need to keep my mind open to trying new things and not discount other people's passions.  I'm 100% in for the July concert at the United Center!  I'm also 100% in for adding Joey McIntrye to "my list."  You know. The  list.  If my husband gets to put Nicole Kidman on his list, then I get Boston Joe out of NKOTB.  Yummy. 

Hi, this next song is for Marianne, my dream girl from Chicago. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

There's Something About My Driveway

Remember that scene in Superman I when Lex Luthor manufactures a giant earthquake along the San Andres' Fault to increase the value of his real estate?  Poor Lois Lane races along in her 1970's gas guzzler trying to outrun the giant dirty crack that ends up swallowing her whole.  Well, the producers could have used my driveway to create that scene.

I hate my driveway.  The only person who hates my driveway more than me is my husband.  He goes to battle with it every winter when he shovels mountains of snow and is completely unable to finish a single smooth shoveling motion.  The shovel and blower always get stuck in the cracks.

Now that the snow has melted and the kids are anxious to play outside, these massive cracks have become serious impediments to a smooth ride down the driveway on bikes and scooters.  My little wheel-bound boys hit these cracks and have a Superman flight moment all of their own.

My next door neighbors decided to rub the proverbial salt in the wound by installing a beautiful brand-new concrete driveway this week.  It is absolutely breathtaking.  My kids have been watching with devoted fascination wondering if and when our driveway will know such love.

While we have been saving for this purchase, I am suddenly finding it hard to pull the trigger on the expenditure.  Thousands of dollars on a driveway.  A driveway.  It's not like a vacation or a new car.  People spit on driveways.  Oil leaks on driveways.  I let the kids write with chalk all over the driveway.  Which led me to a brilliant new fundraising scheme to pay for the driveway:

If anyone is interested, please feel free to contact me at mom@webandofmothers.com.  Monthly rates are available. No rain guarantees.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bridesmaids Movie Review

Oh. My. God.  Even though I hate it when people build up a movie so much that I end up being disappointed, I'm going to engage in the practice anyway.  I saw the movie Bridesmaids last night with Atheist-Friend and my husband's sister, Mary.  It had been a long day of parks, laundry, and no time to eat anything but a handful of Oreos at 9:00 am.  I arrived at the movie crabby, crampy, and hungry.  It was like my own miserable trio of Snow White's dwarfs was accompanying me. 

I just googled "dwarves" and "dwarfs" for correct spelling, and apparently both are acceptable.  

We arrived in time to buy popcorn and alleviate my hunger pains, but I couldn't bring myself to actually pay $12.50 for a small popcorn and a coke.  Mary offered me some Goldfish crackers while I dug around in my purse trying to find the 12 cent beef jerkies I bought at the gas station last weekend when they were on clearance.  Clearance beef jerkies.  As I type this, I realize I should be a little nervous eating clearance beef jerkies.  Do beef jerkies go bad?  Anyway, with my bad mood firmly established and food options limited to orange crackers or pickled meat sticks, we found our seats.  

Two hours later, I was wiping away tears of laughter and practically skipping out of the show.  The movie was hilarious.  For those who prefer high-brow stuff, this film is not for you.  For those who walk through life with a certain amount of grace and cool, this movie is definitely not for you.  For anyone who embarrasses themselves regularly and has friends who sometimes cause them to cringe....this movie is tailor-made for you.  Without giving away the plot, the movie embraces the themes of friendship, unconditional love, and poop.  YES I KNOW.  The very cornerstone of my life and blog!  Poop yet again!  Kismet.

The number of embarrassing and awkward moments in this movie probably sets some kind of record.  I give great kudos to Melissa McCarthy (Jenny McCarthy's cousin for all you Mother McAuley grads out there from Beverly who went to high school with her).  Melissa's physical humor left my sides hurting.  Star Kristin Wig's deadpan style and delivery were perfection.  Atheist-Friend walked to the parking lot raving about "Tina Fey's" performance.  When I told her Tina Fey wasn't in the movie and that it was Kristin Wig, I don't think she believed me.  We need to get Atheist-Friend a subscription to People Magazine ASAP. 

I don't see too many movies anymore because of the cost of babysitters, tickets, and now apparently mortgage-priced popcorn.  Yet for any mom out there who is having a crappy day and looking for a laugh, Bridesmaids may be your answer.  It certainly helped me.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mr. Submarine Heroes and a Side of Whoop-Ass

I got the call from my dad first.  Retired law enforcement guys always seem to know what's going on in the world well before us civilians.  They are nosier than 80-year neighbor ladies with binoculars.

"What kind of neighborhood do you live in?  You can't even get a sandwich without being jumped?"

Apparently, several hoodlums attacked a couple at the drive-thru at Mr. Sub's (which is 2 blocks from my house).  They started beating the driver to steal his money and his sandwiches. The couple were on their way home from a Catholic school fundraiser.  Yes, a fundraiser.  The Beverly theme continues.

Now cue Superman music.

Before these villainous blokes could finish the assault and robbery, two employees named Ernesto and Agustin Romero (brothers) came to the rescue, pinning one assailant against the drive-thru window.  While one brother held him there, the other brother ran outside to assist his brother.  Ernesto and Agustin did not have to do this.  The could have called the police.  They could have pretended they didn't see anything.  They had no idea if these guys had weapons, yet they risked their lives to help some patrons.

This is not the first time Ernesto and Agustin have been heroes.  I went on a 6-month Mr. Sub's fetish where I pushed my triple stroller (see below) up there about twice a week with the boys.  My triple stroller is very hard to maneuver and turn when space is tight, and every time Ernesto and Agustin saw me coming, they'd run out and hold the door.  I'd order a large subway.  Without even having to ask, they'd cut it up into 6 pieces so I could share it with the boys.  Then they would hand me extra napkins for my sloppy brood and give me free cups of water because I am too cheap to buy pop at restaurants.

I guess you could say Ernesto and Agustin were heroes to me well before the rest of Chicago knew.  It's not often that people go out of their way for others.  I have stood in the middle of Home Depot when I was nine months pregnant yelling for someone, anyone, to help me find screws.  The Portillos' employees roll their eyes at me when I check my order to tell them they forgot to include salad dressing. When we lived downtown, men in suits would frantically press the "close door" button on the elevator when they saw me coming.  And don't get me started on The Chicago Public School system.  All in all, not too many people on this planet outside of family and friends are that nice to me.  So when Ernesto and Agustin would race to open a door for a harried housewife, it did not go unnoticed.

I encourage everyone to visit Mr. Sub's on  105th & Western if you want to meet real heroes. Capturing villains and dolling out extra napkins like few in this world do.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Too Much Coffee = Free Magnets for Everyone!

As you can see from my little sidebar over there, I have placed an order for magnets for the blog.  These are free to the first hundred or so people who email me at mom@webandofmothers.com with a mailing  address.  I am having a bit of a manic episode right now (it's approaching 1 am while I type this) and am trying to think of ways to market We Band of Mothers.  With years of experience garnering press and advertising for insurance companies, one would think I could have gone a little higher-end than refrigerator magnets.  Unfortunately, my advertising budget is a bit smaller than the millions I was told to squander for Fortune 500 companies.  Plus, my husband put the kibosh on We Band of Mothers t-shirts and baseball hats.  Let's not tip him off quite yet on the WBOM national convention tentatively scheduled for 2018.  You got to think big.

So as I was typing up the text for my magnets, I suddenly realized that when I shortened the blog to WBOM, it has all the letters needed to spell "womb."  In my over-caffeinated state, I found this fascinating.  Of course, most of my day was spent doing laundry and cleaning the house, so it really doesn't take much.

On a completely different topic (giving credence to my manic state), I whipped up a fantastic dinner of Marsala Chicken with baby red potatoes.  This was all done with great gusto while I simultaneously hosted ten 5-7 year-olds at my house for chess this evening.  My over-worked husband returned from a 12-hour shift at his 2nd job and accidentally ate a cookie that had coconuts in it (courtesy of Atheist-friend-who-bakes).  Joe HATES coconuts more than anything, and he didn't even notice.  He marched up to bed rubbing his eyes and muttering something to me about not ordering WBOM travel mugs.

Alright, I'd better sign off...the weekends always tire me out.  Don't forget to order your free magnets or my mom's refrigerator is going to be overloaded.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Summer Camp Overkill

Before I get into today's topic, should I be worried that I got several hits from the Middle East yesterday and those readers appeared to have found me with the Google search "forged documents?"  Are bloggers supposed to alert the FBI?  I find it hard to believe that terrorists are looking for long-term employment at Chuck E. Cheese via forged baptismal certificates.

Moving on....
Two years ago, I had no summer plans for the boys.  I was still suffering a little post traumatic stress disorder from "the lost year" (when Joey screamed 24/7 and never slept).  One of my friends suggested the Chicago Park District.  It seemed benign enough, so I registered Daniel.  What I didn't know at the time was that a bunch of 18-year-olds would be taking my precious firstborn on a bus once a week for field trips downtown.  This warranted some advanced interrogation techniques of my unsuspecting preschooler:

"Now what happens if you get lost?"

"I find a lady."

"No!  A mommy!  You find a MOMMY!"

"Oh, right.  A mommy."

"And how do you know if she's a mommy and not just a regular lady?"

"Because she's old and fat."

"NO!  You look for a stroller.  Find a lady with a STROLLER."

This went on for about 2 weeks prior to camp.  At that point, Daniel was also suffering from a little post traumatic stress disorder.

For our second year of camp, I registered both Daniel and Jack.  It was a fairly relaxing summer.  I'd walk the boys to the park a block from our house and go for a bike ride with Joey on his German-engineered bike seat that almost gave my husband a stroke while attaching it to my bike. He of course did this in front of our house.  With neighbor kids listening.  Anyone see A Christmas Story?  Several neighbors won't speak to us anymore. 

I digress.  Anyway, I finally got around to reviewing the emails from other moms:

Hi all!  Just wanted to see what you guys had planned for your darling children this summer!  We're doing ballet camp, sculpting, AND build-your-own nuclear reactor camp.  Should be fun - email me if you're interested!

Our little Flloyd (not real name, but WAS the name of pet guinea pig in 6th grade class) just got accepted into the elite Northwestern gifted camp!  Hope everyone got their applications sent in time.  It does require a teacher recommendation.  Flloyd is so excited!

Bonjour!  Francesca (again, fake name) will be spending the summer in Paris with her grandma to supplement her French.  I'm sure she'd love to hear from her classmates, so please encourage your child to write her (in French of course).    

Fine, I might have stretched the truth a bit on the last one, but the first two examples are pretty close to verbatim.  These emails left me in last place of the Mommy Olympics.   

My panic set in. Park District Camp?  What was I thinking?  I should have investigated better!  I should have gotten a second mortgage on our house for brain surgeon camp!  I was a failure!

The voices of reason (my husband and my Atheist-friend-who-bakes) both told me to settle down.  For anyone who has read this blog longer than a day, "settling down" is really not my forte.  Unless of course you have a great bottle of Cabernet to back up that request.   

So this year I went all out.  I have already paid for 3 camps and am cursing myself for not holding out for violin/yoga/tennis/basketball camp, and if you think I'm making that up, go ahead and visit fineartsmusic.com.  I'm debating about a week of chess camp, but I'm going to need to come up with some creative financing so my husband doesn't notice I've spent more this summer on camps than I did our wedding. 

I do this not because I'm trying to rid myself of the children.  Sleeping in and packing lunches for the park are far more appealing.  I do this because of the inordinate amount of peer pressure I feel to keep pace with other moms.  My gut tells me to let them be kids and spend the summer playing in the sprinkler.  My inner Gold Medalist Mommy tells me to start planning now for the Mayo Clinic Summer Camp for High Schoolers.  Again, you can't make this stuff up.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chuck E. Cheese and Me

Chuck E. Cheese and I go way back.  When I was 15 years old, I used a forged baptismal certificate that said I was 16 to secure employment.  It was good to have friends working at the local church rectory - a clear indication that all those years of mass and CCD paid off somehow.

By the time I applied for a job at Chuck E. Cheese, I had 5 months of Old Country Buffet experience under my belt (again secured through forged documents).  The number of demanding brides in white gowns marching down the buffet line yelling out for more roast beef left me rattled.  Chuck E. Cheese was in the same plaza, and I could ride my bike there in less than 10 minutes.  It was a natural fit.  That and my mom wouldn't let me work at White Hen which was so much closer.  Something about shootings.

So I walked in that blazing summer morning and the manager told me to suit up.  I was confused as to what he meant.  I was wearing the allotted uniform - did I miss something? Name tag?  Check.  Khaki pants?  Check.  Red Shirt?  Check.  While I was left scratching my head, out walked the manager holding a giant mouse head and accompanying garments.  I was to go outside that 80-degree-morning and wave at the passerby's on Harlem Avenue. 

After 2 hours without a break and weighing in about ten pounds lighter, I came inside.  The manager looked confused.

"You been outside the whole time?"

I nodded and he directed me to the fountain drinks to rehydrate.  After that, I had to put on the Helen Hen costume and "work the floor."

One would think Helen would be a welcome relief from the heat, and in many ways, she was.  Yet Helen's costume came with big giant stuffed hen boobs that protruded 3 feet out.  Every time I leaned over to interact with kids at a table, my massive knockers would send pitchers of pop sailing across the floor.  After about 30 minutes of boob malfunctions, the manager called me over again.

"Go put on the Jasper the Dog costume for chrissakes.  You're making a mess."

Off I skipped to lose my big hen boobies and slip on a pair of comfy overalls and a giant dog head.  Now this was doable. 

I didn't work at Chuck E. Cheese past that summer.  But the experience stayed with me.  So much in fact, that I had my yearly "recession birthday party" (3 kids, 1 party) there.  The one thing I did not recall during my working days was the fact that the Chuck E. Cheese in Tinley Park serves alcohol.   Having 35 kids wreak havoc on a place with flashing lights and a big giant mouse walking around didn't faze me in the slightest.  I was chill.

When Joey refused to go in the Ticket Blaster (huge plastic box where a fan blows around tickets that kids need to grab), my husband offered to do it for him.  The sight of my 6-foot husband wearing safety goggles and frantically grabbing tickets nearly caused me to pee my pants.  His heart raced.  His face was red.  He was sweating.  The same guy that runs into fires and performs CPR on dead people turned into a giant 6-year-old before my eyes. 

Despite various sensory issues and an inability to deal with a large number of children that are not my own, things went swimmingly.  Red wine at Chuck E. Cheese did just the trick.   The only thing to remember when planning a party there: the tip cannot be put on the credit card.  We only had a $20.  We're praying that Mandy or Mindy or whatever her name was will not be our party attendant for this year, or we may have to re-think this.  I believe the bowling alley serves liquor before noon.  Kids like bowling, right?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nothing with a Face, Please

Many vegetarians will describe their prevailing doctrine as eating "nothing with a face." I have a similar eater right here under my roof.  His name is Joey and while he is very tall, a strong gust of wind could certainly knock him over.  Getting him to eat is as difficult as convincing Gandhi to down a Big Mac.  During a recent visit to Buffalo Wild Wings (60 cent boneless wings every Thursday!) I got to the heart of some of Joey's eating issues. 

Our rarely-seen waiter delivered a kiddie basket for Joey.  Inside the basket was a bunch of smiley-faced potato circles.  Throughout dinner, Joey engaged in full-blown conversation with each of them.  As I encouraged him to eat, he shook his head vehemently.

"Dey not food, mommy.  Dey be my friends.  Hi friends.  It's me.  JOEY."

After a lengthy battle of the wills that ensured our waiter never to return, I got Joey to take a bite of one of his friends.  Unfortunately after doing laundry the next day, I discovered that Joey covertly planned an elaborate escape for his comrades by stowing them all in his jean pockets.  Potato mush everywhere. 

In addition to refusing to eat anything with a face, Joey also turns his food into toys.  Last night as I cleaned up the kitchen after making Italian beef sandwiches, I heard Joey talking as though he was on the phone:

"Hi der, Nana.....How are you?......I'm having dinner........What?......Ok, Nana.....Bye."

I had assumed he had found one of his toy phones, but as I walked over, I realized he had eaten all the meat off his Italian beef and was using the Italian bread as his "phone" because it opened and closed like my cell.  I told him to eat his bread.

"I can't eat my phone mommy....den how do I call Nana?"

Before I had a chance to argue, Joey raced over and dropped the soggy bread into his toy box.  Of course I was out of my generic Clorox wipes.

One of my recent tactics is to assure him that the "family" he eats will be reunited in his stomach and throw a grand party.  He countered that statement by insisting his friends would in fact be "all chewed up" in his stomach.  I started going on about a magic stomach fairy before I realized the full depths of my madness.

So before I developed a whole subplot of stomach fairies and family reunification, I googled "anthropomorphism" which is the assigning of human characteristics to inanimate objects.  I couldn't find anything online in terms of therapies or treatment.  So for the time being, we will not be ordering the smiley faced potatoes at Buffalo Wild Wings.  If any of my merry band of mothers has experience in this area, suggestions are welcome.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CPS School Put on Lockdown

I apologize to the karma gods for poking fun at school fundraisers yesterday.  Apparently, a good chunk of this money goes directly to lockdown preparedness and training, as witnessed by my fellow carpool mom on Monday.

Ironically, yesterday was when my husband and I decided to keep our oldest in his selective enrollment school for next year.  Coincidence?  We'd been wavering between making my life easier by consolidating schools (next year we'll have 3 schools to contend with) or keeping him at the 3rd-rated school in the state.  While I'm usually one to put academics above all else, I was having a hard time visualizing my days:  hours and hours spent riding around in my minivan.  It smells like dirty kids.  I would smell like dirty kids.  Gas money would eat up my Brazilian liposuction fund.  The laundry would never get done.  The reasons were piling up faster than I could process (I didn't mean that as a laundry metaphor, but so be it).  

Carpool mom fills me in.  Apparently, some guy with a possible weapon was running amok in the area, so the school was limiting entry and carefully monitoring all exits during pick-up time.  Several of the parents were impressed with the professionalism and diligence of the lockdown.  Like they'd done this before?

I quickly called some of my suburban friends for input, and to my horror, discovered that apparently this kind of thing happens all the time.  Escapees from mental institutions, ex-husbands with weapons, gas station robbers...it seems the list of loons who can send schools into crisis management mode is endless.  Let's just keep piling on the mountain of crap that keeps me up at night.  My worry stone has already disintegrated.  I'm going to need a worry boulder to get me through the next couple of years.  Oy vey.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Rant on School Fundraising

I risk offending some of my 8 loyal readers today, but I can't go another day keeping this inside me.  I am sick of school fundraisers.  There, I said it.

They are endless.  Starting the first week of school, I am met with catalogs of Innisbrook crap to hawk to friends and family.  Overpriced wrapping paper and stale chocolates. Great.  Then there are holiday wreaths and plants.  Most recently, Jack's school chose buckets of frozen cookie dough to sell which promptly added six pounds to my ass. 

My husband also contributes to my aggravation by subscribing to every magazine, purchasing every case of chocolate, and buying fistfuls of raffle tickets from any kid that asks.  Any kid.  Even the ones selling regular M&M's (no fund raising label) in the middle of the street with an old baseball cap telling naive motorists it's for "their team."

When I was a child ("here we go" say my friends who know my school-of-hard-knocks approach), I couldn't join a lot of stuff because we just didn't have the money.  It made me understand that if I wanted things later in life, I'd have to work for them.  Not anymore.  Now it's society's moral obligation to make sure Junior experiences the joy of t-ball.  And doesn't he deserve a trophy for trying?  Let's hear it for Junior!

Enough already.

As far as school improvements, well I believe some of the greatest minds out there did just fine without access to computer labs and smart boards (I still don't know what those are, but apparently my oldest son's school purchased some with last year's fundraiser).  I respect the dedicated moms out there who work every angle to make sure their kid's school is outfitted with computers, science labs, and George Jetson-like technology, but honestly, I just can't afford all this stuff.  My own computer is 10 years old, but I'm supposed to make sure my 7 year old has the very best?

Then there are the hidden fundraisers that aren't marketed that way, but you know some of the proceeds are going back to the school.  Buy your kid's artwork on a mug for only $25!  Be sure to get 3 sheets of school pictures for $120!  The pressure to purchase these items is extremely high as you've got a little 5-year old holding up the order form asking, "don't you want my drawing on a ceramic tile, mommy?  It's only $50."

At the end of last year during Illinois' cycle of massive cuts in education, I received several letters home from the three schools I have utilized. The gist of each one:

  • We are losing a valuable teaching position!  Please write a check for $200 and maybe we can save it!
  • Parents may need to pay for all day kindergarten next year - please send a deposit today to hold your spot!
  • Our school (preschool) may loose funding for non-poverty kids to attend, please indicate if you'd pay $4000 for tuition ASAP.

Now these requests were actually very heartfelt letters sent from the administration, and I certainly felt their plight.  I also value the fine educations they have provided for my children thus far.  But to get hit up with doomsday scenarios and pleas for money right as I was sending out checks for car insurance, life insurance, and the mortgage...well, the checkbook was already running on fumes. 

There are also the teacher costs throughout the year.  Miss Kindergarten is getting married!  Let's throw her a shower!  Teacher appreciation week!  Everyone contribute!  Christmas is here - let's show the teacher how much we love her!

For the record, I give very generously to all the boys' teachers during Christmas.  If I have anything at the end of the year, I'll throw something in an envelope then as well.  Yet this is at my discretion.  There's something that bothers me about the "group effort" of teacher appreciation.  I feel the parent-teacher relationship is kind of private, like one's relationship with God. If I feel a teacher really gave her all that year, I will be extremely good to her.  If at parent-teach conference, I get the feeling the teacher doesn't even know which kid is mine, I feel a twenty dollar Target gift certificate will do. 

In addition to notices sent home on Market Day, Book Fairs, and Craft Day, there are letters sent home requesting supplies - Kleenex tissues, Bounty paper towels, Clorox Wipes, etc. Why does the school get to request name brand stuff while I'm buying generic?  Thank goodness I have a kind friend who always buys double of whatever is requested because I think she knows I've taken a principled stand on this one.  I could never contribute to an agenda that demands Dixie brand cups...I mean, have you met me?  The generic is 50% less.

Sometimes I make the mistake of griping to private school parents.  Try having to pay for all that PLUS tuition!  Living in a community where many are deeply committed to a Catholic School education, I am aware of the sacrifice these parents have got to be making.  I just don't know how they do it.  We use the public schools, rarely vacation, and buy everything on sale.  How are my neighbors able to afford food while paying $5,000/year for each kid?  And let's be honest.  This is Beverly.  Not too many people have under 3 kids.  Irish Catholics and all. 

Which leads me to Friday night.  My older son's school was sponsoring a gala at the Museum of Science and Industry.  It was $200 a couple.  At first, I was thinking about it.  Then I started doing the math.  It was a cash bar, so downtown prices with tips would probably put us at $60 for our bar bill.  $70 for a babysitter.  $20 to park.  The event quickly out-priced us, yet that didn't stop the pressure from parents:

"It's for the kids."

"It's only once a year."

"Think about what you spend on other things that are less important."  

Well, we do spend a lot on other things - music lessons, chess, swimming.  And next year, I will have 3 kids in 3 different schools.  We may live in a nice house and the kids may wear Gymboree (bought either used on ebay or on clearance with an additional 20% off coupon), but I am tired of giving.  I feel like Shel Silverstein's Giving Tree.  I'm just a used up old stump.

So in a very foul mood, I headed to the grocery store Friday night to buy milk instead of attending the gala.  The cashier looked at me cheerily and asked, "would you like to make a donation to help find a cure for breast cancer?"

The Giving Tree stump could only drop her shoulders, nod, and watch her $2.99 milk bill jump to $3.99 with donation.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Consultant

My husband is currently on furlough from the fire department and coming up with all kinds of "helpful" suggestions on cooking, child rearing, and better ways to organize the house.  He decided the other day that we needed to start eating healthier so he grilled some fish outside wrapped in foil.  When I unwrapped mine, there was about a pound of melted butter smathered all over my dinner.  Healthy living at its finest.  

I have a friend whose husband was injured on the job (I think that's the minimum description I can give to avoid identification thereby ensuring my friend doesn't get mad and discontinue my baked goods supply).  He has been home several months and the space infringement has rattled her severely. 

Another friend also recently had a husband home during a 17 day furlough and wasn't faring any better.  Her hubby had all sorts of suggestions on how to work with their three young children to improve their intellectual development.  It was usually posed in the form of "we,"... as in "We should be working with Child #1 on his flashcards" or "We really need to be reading more to Child #2."   I think "we" were very relieved when he went back to work.

I've got a name for the husband who dabbles in the homemaking arts:  The Consultant.  The Consultant swoops in (for reasons spanning vacation, furlough, injury, or retirement) and gives little credence to the established methodology.  The Consultant appears earnest, excited, and happy to offer a complete restructuring of home operations, thinking the current system antiquated and poorly run.

My husband, having some spare time on his hands to play ball with the boys, suggested I move their baseball mitts to another location instead of on top of the bookcase.  It only took a day for him to understand that if the gloves are placed within the boys' reach, they will promptly disappear.  After an hour of searching for them the other day, I noticed this morning that they have been safely returned to their place of honor on top of the book shelf.  Order has been restored in the universe.

My Husband-Consultant also suggested that we start giving the boys a bath the night before school.  He figured we would all have a little more time to sleep in the next morning.  Well, when they woke up with matted hair and various components of pee and sweat making them smell like yesterday's garbage, I think my husband started to see my side of things.  Over the years, I have given up trying to explain my systems.  I figured I had to learn the hard way, so now must he.

Despite my having to bite my lip every time a suggestion is offered, I enjoy my husband being home.  It's like watching a new fawn learn to walk.  He has certainly mastered the traditional fathering part of operations (bread winner and sports instructor), but I fear he may never make CEO.  I've only got a few more years to help get him ready should I go back to work.  What is that expression?  We learn more from our failures than our successes.

So fail away, my darling.  Fail away.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Loose Pigs Tell No Tales

I got to tell you, I was having a bad morning.  Every little boy in my household was putting up a stink about something.  So as I shoved the last school-aged child out the door, I noticed something funny on our (faux) fireplace mantle:

Daniel had lost his piggy bank "plug" months ago, but still insisted on putting his money in it.  I was getting more and more annoyed as I continued to find loose change sprinkled around the house from his uncorked pig.  I finally yelled at him to figure something out and apparently, he did...using paper like one would do with a poorly trained dog. 

Finding this made me laugh. Just as Danny made me laugh a few weeks ago when I found a bunch of plastic cups in the freezer.  He was imitating his daddy's habit of freezing a few glasses at a time for beer. I didn't have the heart to tell him that apple juice served in a plastic cup really didn't measure up, so we've kept up the practice and currently have a freezer full of plastic White Sox cups we brought home last summer.

These goofy little people we sired keep me laughing even when they're not around.  I suppose that is one of the reasons I'm doing this blog for the next year.  If I didn't, these kinds of things would be lost in the annals of my damaged brain and forgotten forever.  This way, I can print up my memories when I'm through, and still have a good laugh long after they've grown up, moved out, and blame me for everything. 

While loose pigs can tell no tales, a mom with a blog and 8 loyal followers can tell all.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger Site Went Down with My Life as a Chicken

Well, I had prepared comments on my being the "Mystery Reader" for Jack's kindergarten class this past Thursday, but apparently this Blogger host site crashed and that entry is lost forever.  If you're interested, here's the book I read:

I was a smash hit combining chocolate chip cookies with audience participation.  The book, by the way, is my all-time favorite.  I will gladly continue to read this to all my children well into their forties.

Sorry for the glitch - if I had only pursued my high school career day test results and gone into computers, perhaps I could have been of service.  Instead, I give you My Life as a Chicken

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mom Flunks 1st Grade Science Project

At first, the spirit of competition did not take hold.  I could barely believe the parameters of the science project that my first grader was supposed to complete.  It needed to display all elements of the scientific method including purpose, hypothesis, procedure, results, conclusion and application.  First grade?  Really?  Daniel could barely write the word "hypothesis" let alone decipher its meaning.

So the school conducted a science fair meeting for all 1st grade parents so they could fully understand what was expected of their child.  Wouldn't this time have been better spent informing the actual kids who I naively believed would be doing the projects?  I said this aloud to another mom who just rolled her eyes at me.

Several of the "recommendations" in doing the science project seemed overtly anti-kid.  These included:
  • Do not have your child write on the project board.  Please use stencils or purchase letters designed for use with poster-board.
  • Graphs are strongly recommended.  Computer-generated graphs are preferred.
  • While you can have your child write out his report neatly, a typed report is preferred.
After an hour of directives that seemed to be aimed at not letting my child anywhere near his own science project, I raised my hand.

"So what portion of the project are we supposed to do, and what percentage do we leave for our kid?  10%? 12%?"

"Oh, this is your child's  project...not yours," responded the Science Adviser.

"But my 6-year old doesn't know how to graph or type, so...."

"Just have them do as much as possible under our guidelines."

I submitted "our" first topic months ago.  I thought it would be fun for Dan and his friends to sort their Halloween loot and determine the most widely distributed candy.  This project was quickly rejected - apparently not "scientific" enough and too much like a market research project.  Fine...on to Submission #2: "What is the impact of helping with homework on parents' blood pressure?"  I thought this would be a funny one - watching normally reserved moms blow a gasket while teaching their kids fractions.  This too got the thumbs down.  "Too many variables" was the official excuse, but I think my son's school was adamant I not reveal how the school impacted parents' health.  Liability issues I assume.  On to Submission #3:

As you can see, putting bananas under light and in paper bags for weeks on end was the bulk of "our" project.  It was tedious.  So when it came time to put together our project board, I...er..."we" spent hours striving for perfection.  My husband ran out at all hours of the night for various posting aids (rubber glue, weird blue clay stuff, super glue, etc.).  I searched for just the right phraseology.  When it came time to place letters, we got out the level.  Insanity at its finest. 

We turned in our project months ago and still have not received a grade.  I know we were not one of the top ten submissions that went on to competition, as Daniel was happy to tell me.  Yet I have never received our written report back with any indication of how "we" did.  The only thing I can fathom is we are being punished for not typing out the report.

I am now busy selecting the perfect fonts for next year.  Never again will "we" accept this kind of defeat.

I am so ashamed of myself.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book Club Delay

I must apologize as I am writing this in a mad fury because I didn't get a chance to develop a minimally-themed blog entry for today.  I hosted my first book club meeting last night, and I am obligated to honor the first rule of book club:  do not talk about book club

Book club is the only thing that is inspiring me right now.  That and laminating.  So in the spirit of my other current passion, see picture below of my weekend progress:

For those with a keen eye, you'll notice some holiday-themed entries that I will use for window decor in upcoming months.  These are so much better than those horrible over-priced window gels that can stain your furniture forever if you accidentally leave them on something other than plastic or glass.  

When I walked in with my bag of art this weekend, the wonderful young man at Lakeshore Learning who prevents me from breaking his lamination machine every week walked over.  I told him I had been blogging about my hot plastic coated obsession.  He seemed grateful and insisted I fill out their club card so I always get the teacher discount, even on the days when he wasn't there. 

Lamination Guy is so thoughtful.  If I were 20 years younger....why I'd just work at Lakeshore Learning and laminate all the time.  This never came up as an option on one of my high school career day surveys.  Instead, I was told I had an aptitude for numbers and computer technology.  As I can't balance my checkbook and am typing this on a computer from 2001 because I'm scared to update, I feel perhaps my career survey was not entirely accurate.  Lamination is clearly my passion.  If I only knew then...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Beverly Cancer Walk and a Giant Flower Balloon

After waking up with a terrible migraine at 3 am Mother's Day morning (nothing like a Southside 1st communion party to stir up the memories of my 20-something drinking years), I nudged my husband to run downstairs and grab the Excedrin Migraine.  It was the only way I'd be able to make the Beverly Cancer Walk Sunday morning.  I tossed and turned for hours, finally awaking at 6:00 am.  Out of curiosity, I checked to see what time my husband had set the alarm for our 8 am walk.

Not surprisingly, the wake-up time he felt would allow us enough room to stir the masses, feed 3 kids breakfast, get the air pump out of the garage to fill the tires of the double stroller, drive as close as we could to the start line, and invariably walk the last 6 blocks was (drum roll please)....7:00 am.  One hour.  It is a good thing he wasn't in charge of the Von Trapp family.  The Nazis would have found them in their beds, and today's Salzburg tourists wouldn't be spinning around singing about mountain tops during their Sound of Music tour.

I must say, despite a raging hangover and battles with the children over appropriate attire, the walk itself was amazing.  An endless stream of thousands of people showed up to support the local charity event.  Not only were the walkers deeply committed, but so was every house on the route.  Little girls in full Irish dancer garb held hands and hopped away with curls a-bouncing.  Every third house was set up with water cups for any weary participants. Irish, rock, and folk bands appeared around each corner, playing live tunes at the crack of dawn.  And for those unfortunate few who can't hold a tune in Beverly, why they just set up jumbo loud speakers blasting classic rock songs. 

In my whole life, I have never seen a community so engaged in a single event.  There were huge banners honoring loved ones and pink balloons tied to trees.  I think I even saw a man with a cow bell cheering on the walkers.  We need more cow bell!

Even though the atmosphere was extremely festive and hopeful, there was one striking image I cannot forget.  For a while, we got stuck at the back of the pack due to a 20 minute Starbuck's bathroom break (shame on me for chugging the largest coffee I've ever had right before we left).  But back there, I saw an older woman who seemed to have great difficulty walking.  Every step, as small as it was, looked excruciatingly painful.  We passed her in short order, and I fully expected her to get on one of the trolleys provided for the elderly and ill.  As we talked with friends at the end of the walk, I noticed the woman finishing the 5K with a look of such determination.  I will never know if she was walking for a mother, a friend, a child, or for herself.  Perhaps I should have asked, but I was a bit in awe.  After all, I almost missed the walk due to too many glasses of cabarnet the night before.  What a jerk I would have been. 

Another image I can envision right now is my sister-in-law walking with a ridiculously large flower-shaped helium balloon.  Mary is the only girl in a family with 6 brothers.  She wanted to be sure that if any of the dozens of family members she helped inspire walk need find her, they just could look up.  I don't want to get too mushy here because I know she reads the blog, but there's something quite appropriate in her directing some of her lost sheep upward towards the heavens.  It was a  fitting acknowledgment of the mother we were honoring that day.  Though Mary would tell me I'm goofy and read way too much into such things.   

So I will start my week thinking about the amazing and remarkable community that has adopted me, and the equally impressive family I am lucky to have married into.  While I might have been a reluctant transplant five years ago, I finally understand what a wonderful neighborhood can inspire people to do.  Thank you, Beverly!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Special Mother's Day Edition

Happy Mother's Day to all my band of mothers!  Today is the one day out of the entire year where I can pretty much make any demand, and my husband and children have to comply.  A few years ago, I asked my husband to vacate the house with all the kids and not come back until sundown.  Another time, I went on a glorious all-day girls' shopping trip to Oak Brook.  I usually choose to spend Mother's Day without my actual children.  The first year, my husband was distraught by my request:

Husband:  "It's Mother's Day.  Don't you want to spend it with the kids?"

Me:  "I spend every day with the kids.  How can I distinguish that it's my special day?"

Husband:  "Don't you want to have a family day?"

Me:  "Once again, every day for me is family day.  Would you want to hang drape (husband's second job) on Father's Day?"

Husband:  "Whatever."  (code for: "you win")

I look forward to this one day as an opportunity to have all my neurons grow back.  I'm sure there's some science to back me up somewhere.  A day without your kids makes you smarter.

This year, my husband's family is honoring his mother by doing a Breast Cancer Walk here in Beverly.  It has been 15 years since my mother-in-law passed away and I have agreed to participate -  breaking my own no-kids tradition.  I feel it is the least I can do.  I never met my mother-in-law, and by all accounts, she was a remarkable woman who raised 7 upstanding children.  There's not a bad apple in the bunch - an amazing feat when you consider the odds of having at least one kid going awry.

I know there are many women out there who have some tension with their in-laws.   For me, there is not a day that goes by that I don't regret not having another set of grandparents who adore my kids.  No matter the disagreements or general personality conflicts a woman can have with her in-laws, the pool of people who love your children almost as much as you is generally small.  I also would have loved to have stories about my own husband as a boy.  There really is nobody on the planet who can fill me in on how he slept, what his temperament was like, and how it felt when he took his first breath.

So I will walk for Rita this year and thank her for providing me perhaps the only man in the world capable of understanding and accepting my fringe personality. 

After the walk, I will quickly vacate the neighborhood before my kiddies notice, take my own wonderful mother out for lunch, and not return until everyone is in bed.

Happy Mother's Day to all - no matter how you spend it!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Missing Filter: $10,000 Reward for Information Leading to Its Return

My verbal filter...how I miss it so.  I used to have a great one - it caught everything.  It worked so well, why I hardly spoke at all.  Most of my elementary school report cards read:

Marianne is a lovely girl.  She is quiet and obedient.  In fact, I don't recall a single instance where she opened her mouth this year.  Keep up the good work.  Signed, Mrs. Beatty

I felt very removed during my quiet years.  I didn't understand why some kids didn't do their homework.  It baffled me why others would throw things in class.  And the gum chewers...you knew the teacher was just going to make you spit it out, what was the point?  So I kept mum, perpetually confused by a loud and disobedient world. 

And then I got to 7th grade where I made friends with a very outgoing and popular girl.  She was blond, bubbly, and seemed to have a lot of fun.  My inner sociologist urged me to study her.  What was it about my friend that people were attracted to?  I made a checklist:

  • Keep things light
  • Laugh
  • Be willing to bend the rules
  • Let people copy off your tests
  • Let things go
My nerdy, hold-a-grudge, keep-to-the-rules misanthrope had to leave.  So I vanquished her to my memories and rolled out a new, improved Marianne who was lively and fun.  But during the course of events, the old Marianne took off with my verbal filter.

Which leads me to now.  Living in a very tight-knit community of city workers where everybody either knows everyone else or is related to them, I have found myself saying things that clearly should have been run through the long-lost filter:

"Your son is so pretty, he could pass for a girl."

"I love your home - it has so much potential."

"Catholic priests sometimes give me the creeps, Father." 

Now this all wouldn't be too terrible if it was just impacting me, but I am certain that my verbal diarrhea will one day be the source of great embarrassment for my sons.  So that is why I am looking for my missing filter.  If anyone sees a very tall 13-year old girl with bad posture who doesn't talk, please tackle her.  I really need that back.  And soon.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Q&A Portion of the Day

Now that we are on the second month of We Band of Mothers, I figure it is a good time to answer some of the burning questions that linger with my loyal fan base.  Are you there, mom?

Okay, I'll fess up.  As my goal is to write in this blog every day for a year, I'm struggling today with a little writer's block.  So I'm taking a cue from various reality shows and conducting my very own Q&A session to stall until the Blog Gods inspire me with another topic.  These are real questions posed by friends and readers.

Q:  When you had strep(t), did your husband go in to scrape the colonies per your doctor's recommendation?

A:  Yes.  And I don't want to talk about it. Let's just say it involved a Q-tip and a lot of cackling/gagging noises. 

Q:  How much is it to laminate at Lakeshore Learning?

A:  I think it's 29 cents a foot if you're a teacher and 39 cents a foot if you're a crazy mom.  I'll double check this weekend.

Q:  Do the other mothers in your carpool know you're playing the music from Rent in your car?

A:  No, why?  Do you think they'll be upset?  Crap.  Nobody tell them.

Q:  Can you post a picture of your short hair cut?

A.  I had my husband take a picture, but I didn't like how many chins I had in the photo.  Once I get the Brazilian lipo on my neck, I'll be happy to post. 

Well, that pretty much sums up all my fan mail questions.  I would really appreciate some more for the next time I get a little stuck. 

Thank you for attending.  Sorry I didn't order any coffee and donuts for the session, but I had a feeling it would be short.  Stupid writer's block.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Breaking News: Blog is Hit in Denmark

As I'm new to this whole blogging thing, one of my favorite things to do is to check "stats."  You can see how many people read your blog (thank you, my 8 loyal readers) and what country they are from.  Every few days, I get a hit from some faraway person in Russia, Denmark, or England.  I can only assume they accidentally mistyped my website while searching for porn.

But still I can pretend.  Wasn't David Hasselhoff huge in Germany?  Dare I only dream to have the kind of global appeal as "The Hoff?"  A decades-long career spanning music, television and home-video footage involving a sloppy burger?  Isn't this why my ancestors came to America? 

I've taken to reading some blogs recommended by friends.  Some are well-researched discussions of politics and the state of the world.  Others are perfectly written thoughts on life and the pursuit of happiness.  Even others are insider takes on celebrity news and happenings.

Then there's mine.  Neither perfectly written or even remotely profound.  Yet I remember what a college professor told me once when I was in too deep on a topic I neither liked nor felt all that comfortable discussing: Write what you know.

And what do I know?  My life is steeped in carpool, laundry, and bathroom-related issues.  So I'm writing what I know.  I remember Erma Bombeck once wrote about a mother who battled serious depression and wrote Erma from prison.  Prison Mom wished she could have learned to laugh at the thousands of absurdities and frustrations that frequent mothers everywhere.  Had she known to look for the humor, she wrote that maybe she wouldn't have committed her horrible crime.  That sentiment always stuck with me, even though it was well before I had children.  It just sometimes takes a well-rested pair of eyes or very large cup of coffee to realize the hilarity of mind-numbing repetition sprinkled with random poo.

I'm sure many mothers enjoy being needed and providing endlessly for their children.  Not me.  While I love and provide for them, I won't feel truly rewarded until they are grown and prove to be self-sufficient and kind people. The stuff I do now is grunt work (wiping noses and tooshies).  Later, there will be some finesse work (puberty and heartache).  While my grand reward of successful adults (fingers crossed) is years away, I do enjoy the corporate perks of today: limitless hugs & kisses, and great material for the holiday newsletter.  You just can't make this stuff up.

Like today for instance.  For several months, we have been trying to teach Joey his birth date.  He refuses to learn it, insisting his birthday is "under the sidewalk."  Yet today we had a breakthrough.  As I was talking about the weeds and grass I needed to kill that were coming up under the sidewalk, Joey got very excited.  After all, that's where his birthday is.

Then I put it together.  When all the boys ask when their birthdays are, my response is always, "it's coming up" (said because I got tired of doing the exact month/day/hour calculation to their next birthday).  In other conversations, I would talk about what was "coming up under the sidewalk" (usually meaning weeds and grass).  As Joey only thought of his birthday as "coming up," naturally it would be located under the sidewalk.

Mystery solved. 

Perhaps one day, I'll again be able to discuss foreshadowing in Shakespeare and the fly as a symbol for death in all 19th century poetry. I'm just not capable of it right now.  Yet when the highlight of one's week is decoding 3 year-old jargon, there just might not be any turning back.

But if  that day ever arises, I will be sure to rename the blog and strive for literary greatness.  Until then...shout out to Denmark!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Misty Water Colored Laminates

I'm on a bit of lamination kick.  You know the stuff - that plastic covering you can put on ID's and photos.   It started out harmless enough.  The boys had made some beautiful paper Easter eggs I wanted to keep for decorations, so voila!  Lamination was the easy answer.  Then I started going through my boxes of saved artwork, carefully selecting pieces that might not make it through the ages. 

Honest Abe is a good example.  He looks more like Jack Skellington in A Nightmare Before Christmas than our 16th president.  Those spindly paper legs would certainly not survive without an inadvertent amputation sometime over the next 50 years.  So Abe has been added to the laminate pile for this weekend.  The people at Lakeshore Learning think I'm a teacher instead of a crazy mom, so mum's the word on that one.  I think I get a discount.

The nice shiny flat aesthetics of a laminated piece appeal to my OCD/sensory nature.  Everything feels the same.  Tears are mended under the forgiving heat of laminate. Abe can live forever in this state, like King Tut but without all the curses and molten guts and such. Hope no one is eating by the way.

I have never kept a piece of hair from a first haircut.  I have never recorded anything in a baby book.   I am not sure what each of their first words were.  But their artwork?  I hoard it in droves.  I have a feeling my house is going to look like that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where they wheel the ark into that big storage facility.  That will be my house - all the boys' artwork cataloged and kept forever. 

Honest Abe was a recent creation by Jack.  He's developed a keen interest in presidential history and can give you some detail about each president.  I told him that Lincoln was my favorite and he made this paper version at school as a gift to me.  When Jack is a teenager one day and doesn't want me anywhere near him, I will dig up Abe and remember the sweet little boy who always just wanted to make his mom happy.  No tuft of baby hair could fill me with that kind of warmth.

And that is why I laminate.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Strep(t) Man Cometh

For the last couple of weeks, I've felt as though a big piece of popcorn was stuck in the back of my throat.  Seeing as I had popcorn right around the time this started up, I kept gargling in an attempt to loosen the little sucker from his evil grips.  Nothing seemed to work, so yesterday morning, I decided to go in.

I got the two older boys off to school and set up a mining operation in the bathroom with a flashlight and spoon.  But one quick look into my throat proved my earlier assumptions incorrect.  This was no popcorn.  This was strep.  I recognized the big white pulsating pockets instantly.

Strep and I have a very on-again, off-again relationship.  Strep is the reason I still don't know all my cursive letters because it was my BFF in 3rd grade - keeping me out of school repeatedly.  Strep went with me to London and Ireland.  Traveling with my friend the doctor, I thought she would be able to instantly diagnose and treat me.  Our conversations went along the lines of:

Me: "I think I have strept."

Dr. Friend:  "Have some Sudafed."

Me:  "My strept is really bad today."

Dr. Friend:  "We're going to the Guinness factory.  A beer will make you feel better."

Me: "This strept is going to kill me."

Dr. Friend:  "It's not going to kill you, and for the love of God, it's STREP...not 'strept.'  There's no 't.'"

Me:  "You think you could have mentioned that three days ago?"

Dr. Friend:  "It was funny then.  Now you're just annoying."

If strep was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, then I would be Kansas.  There's no place like home.

So I marched off to the nearest Prompt Care for my antibiotics.  The doc-in-the-box there gave me the strep test (positive) and had an interesting suggestion.  He said I had a bunch of "colonies" of strep that needed to be scraped out.  He suggested my husband for the deed.

After entertaining the very non-romantic image of my hubby scraping out  the back of my throat, I got an even bigger laugh from the "colony" description.  Were these little strep colonists seeking religious freedom in my throat?  Were they wearing little pilgrim hats and making turkey in there?  Did they come over on the Strep-Flower?  I got the giggles.  The doctor thought I was on something.

On my way out of Prompt Care, the doctor handed Joey an opened blue freeze pop.  Now that was just mean.  Give poor strep mom a big, blue sticky mess to deal with on the ride home.  

So I'm feeling a little better today while enjoying the final hours of my imperial reign.  It's not always good to be queen.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Drink to Everymom

Even though I sometimes tease my husband about preferring life at the firehouse (all guys, big shiny red truck, fresh-cooked meals, no wives or kids), I understand that it is a tough job.  I certainly would not be willing to run into a burning building no matter how much you paid me.  My husband's brother still isn't recovered from a nasty fall off a roof over a year ago fighting a fire.  It got me thinking about the book To Sleep with Angels.  It's the true story of a 1958 elementary school fire in Chicago.

I remember the story was terribly sad, but the only detail I can recall is the young boy who had been dragged out by his belt and dropped from the second floor as a fireman desperately tried to save as many lives as possible.  The boy, disheveled and bruised, walked home.  His mother saw him and quickly began scolding him for getting into a fight and forgetting his coat. He sat there at the kitchen table, dazed and bleeding, as his mother read him the riot act, refusing to believe his story until she saw the black soot under his nose.

When I read the book, I remember thinking what a horrible mother she was to not appreciate the gravity of the situation and instead go  right into "Mom the Admonisher" mode.  Now that I have 3 sons of my own, I see only myself in that mom.  I imagine what it would have been like for us aboard the Titanic:

 Son:  "Mom - wake up!  The boat is sinking!"

Me: "Knock it off, I'm sleeping."

 Son:  "Really, Mom!  We've got to go above deck!"

Me:  "Get out of here NOW."

Son:  "MOM!"

Me:  "If I have to wake up your father to yell at you, you're going to be sorry."

We'd all invariably perish.

When I first read To Sleep with Angels, my sympathy was with the poor boy whose mother didn't believe him. If I were to read it again tomorrow, my sympathy would be with the overwrought mother who made an honest mistake and probably had it thrown in her face for the rest of her life.  I think I'm going to pour a cocktail tonight and toast that mother.  Probably doing laundry, probably tired, probably worried about the world.

I hope that young boy has forgiven his mother.  I hope that mother has forgiven herself.  And somewhere, over the years of guilt, perhaps she can hear one giant pomegranate martini raised in her honor.  The second martini will be poured in an effort to forget the laundry that calls my name.  Here's to Everymom.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Wain Wain Go Away

My middle son Jack has always had funny little speech imperfections.  During his first 3 years, Jack was incapable of pronouncing the first letter in any word.  This proved highly problematic one day when I loaded the two younger kids in the minivan.  Joey was still in his scream-through-his-entire-life mode, so I was exhausted.  As I pulled out of the driveway, 2 year-old Jack started going crazy.

"OOOR, Mommy, OOOOR!"

"What's that, Jack?"  I asked as I adjusted my mirrors.


"I don't know what you're saying, Jack," I replied as I tried to find a good song on the radio.

"OOR!  OOR!  OOR!"

I started going through the alphabet to try to figure out why he was so hysterical.  It didn't take me too long to get to the letter "D."  I had left the the minivan doors wide open and was speeding along with little Jack getting the brunt of wind and snow.

Fast-forward to kindergarten.  Jack had started the year omitting "R's" and "L's" from all words:

"Mommy - I'm wiwee (really) hungwy."

"I can't weach the Wegos (Legos)."

"Can I bwing my umbwewa when it's waining?"

I never bothered correcting Jack because I thought it was cute and figured he'd grow out of it.  One morning a few months ago, Jack was getting ready to carpool with his older cousin, Drew ("Dwoo").  As Jack loaded up his bag, he stopped and asked:

"Mommy, I really want Drew to let me sit in front."

I started telling him that 5-year olds can't sit in the front seat, but then I realized his speech had changed.  Drastically.  A few weeks ago, it would have been:

"Mommy, I weally want Dwoo to wet me sit in fwont."

And so I lost that cute little boy speech.  Without a warning.  Without a chance to embrace it one last time.  Why didn't someone give me a head's up on this one?

I willy would have appweciated it.