Sunday, July 31, 2011

Money Laundering

While doing wash, I discovered that my General Electric dryer left a tip.  $14 to be exact.

Couple of quick questions to anybody out there who works for the IRS: 

Am I required to claim this as income on my 1040? 

If so, do I get to deduct the Tide?

This was a much better discovery than last month's pocketful of melted crayons.  Hot wax in a dryer = only time I've ever cried doing housework 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Fish Called Stubie

I was paying bills and tossing a bunch of junk mail into the recycling bin when Daniel started rifling through the container. Daniel loves the recycling bin. He sees it as his own personal supply chain for making "projects" (usually a bunch of random cereal boxes and pop cans duct-taped together). Something caught his attention.

No Pooch?  No Problem.
Daniel:  Why did you throw this away, mom??  It's a contest from our bank!  I can win $25 for writing a poem about my dog!

Me:  We don't own a dog, Dan.

Daniel:  It says here that it can really be about any pet.

Me:  Joey is not a pet, Dan.

Daniel (the $25 dangling like a carrot before him...reaching, reaching....) But we did have a pet once.  Remember Stubie?

It is beyond me how kids can remember things.  Stubie came home in a plastic bag after a field trip to the pet store when Dan was in 3-year-old preschool.  Despite my best efforts to kill Stubie that night, he persisted for a solid 3 months before meeting his demise.  The cause of death is still under investigation.

Me:  How can you remember Stubie?  You were three!

Daniel:  I loved Stubie.  He was my best friend.

Satisfied that I seemed to have green-lighted an entry into the Bank's "Pooch Poetry Contest," Daniel went to work.  Dan's motto?  When in doubt, resurrect your dead fish.  I must say, I was quite surprised by the quality of his work.  So much in fact, that my Tiger-Mom persona kicked in.  I made him re-write it three times with black Sharpie for dramatic effect and to improve legibility.  I asked that he include gills on his fish.  I almost wished I hadn't promised to turn it over to the bank as I fought the urge to laminate it and keep it for myself. 

I'm thinking future blogger.

So with a a solid entry in place, I will be dropping off Daniel's tragic lament of a goldfish apparently lost at sea.  Did I mention there was no physical evidence to link me to Stubie's death? 

And as for the final vestiges of Stubie's existence, they have been carefully put aside  for my next garage sale:

What do you think?  $1.50?  $2.00?

Friday, July 29, 2011

CPS, Jean-Claude Van Damm & Me

My old-fashioned, nobody-actually-calls-on-it-phone...has been ringing off the hook this month. The answering machine's red blinking light will not take a break. What was this all about? Did I win Publisher's Clearing House? Did somebody need a kidney? Did I leave a kid at the park?

Like all vigilant mothers after a long day, I wrapped a Mike's Hard Cranberry Lemonade in my favorite Hanukkah coolie, grabbed the Cheetos, and anxiously played my answering machine to see what the fuss was all about:

Well, that was a relief.  Of course the next several messages were also courtesy of CPS.  The new CEO of the school system was on there, reminding me of the importance of first day attendance.  Joe happened to walk downstairs when that message was playing:

Joe:  Who is that?

Me:  Jean-Claude Van Damm

Joe:  The bad actor?

Me:  What?

Joe: Jean-Claude Van Damm??

Me:  Oh no, I mean Jean-Claude Brizard, the new head of CPS.

Joe:  Nice coolie by the way. That one's mine.  Thief. 

After getting through the barrage of other messages from assorted Chicago celebrities and politicians advising me that education in Chicago is important, I decided to wade through the mail instead.  There was a letter from CPS reiterating the popular "get your ass in school" mantra of the month.  I called my best friend to vent.  As I don't believe she's been properly introduced, I've known "Best Friend" since I was 13 when we both wore granny underwear in the 8th grade locker room and bonded over being nerds.

Me:  I am being hounded.

Best Friend:  Huh?

Me:  I've gotten mayoral calls, letters, emails.  It won't stop.  Even Jean Valjean is calling me.

Best Friend:  Who?

Me:  Jean Valjean.

Best Friend:  From Les Mes?  I think you need a break from your iPod Broadway selection.

Me:  I mean Jean-Claude Brizard, the new head of CPS schools.

Best Friend:  Well tell them to stop calling you and that you already know when the first day of school is.

Me:  (silence)

Best Friend:  You don't know when the first day of school is, do you?

Me:  (reluctantly) No.  But Atheist-Friend always calls me the week before and reminds to get school supplies.  She even tells me which stores have the best sales on dishwashing soap, Clorox wipes, and paper towels for going back to school. 

Best Friend:  Nice supply list.  Are your kids going back to school or cleaning the school?

Me:  Good question.  Maybe I'll email Jean Luc Picard that question.

Best Friend:  The captain from Star Trek?

Me:  I thought that was Captain Kirk?

Best Friend:  You're drinking a Mike's Hard Lemonade again, aren't you?

Me (agog): Noooo.

Best Friend:  Cranberry.

Me:  I'm going to bed.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Atheist-Friend Takes a Stand

I was invited by Atheist-Friend to join her family at their local pool this past Saturday.  It didn't take much convincing.  The temperature was going to be 102 and her pool allows you to drink and carry in Brown's Chicken.  Good and good.

Yet somewhere between Jack's piano lesson and Dan's piano lesson, I received a series of texts.  Apparently, Atheist-Friend's street was having their block party that day and Atheist-Friend's husband was lobbying hard for that event instead.  The texts went along the lines of:

He wants to stay for the block party.  We're arguing.  More later.

We're still fighting it out.

I may have gained an advantage.

Nothing decided yet.

He wins.  Bring the kids' bathing suits to the block party just in case the tides turn.

Although I appreciated the minute-by-minute updates, I was more impressed with Atheist-Friend's texting abilities.  It takes me an hour to figure out how to send a reply of "yes." But of course I don't have a text-friendly phone and need to press buttons in rapid succession in order to get letters to appear. I also don't know how to erase which leads to my texts being generally indecipherable and to speculation that I might have a drinking problem.

Anyway, by the time we arrived in the neighboring Chicago community of Mt. Greenwood, every child on the block was an alarming shade of crimson from the heat. I suppose my look of trepidation was apparent, as Atheist-Friend was quick to point out:

I wanted to go to the pool.

That refrain was heard throughout the day each time a kid needed to be iced down. Or when my husband pressed a cold water against his temple.  Or even when I got bit by a mosquito. In her mind, the preferred pool option would have prevented all of the world's problems including plague, pestilence, and the national debt ceiling crisis.

I knew Atheist-Friend was in fine form when she took one look at my husband who excitedly sported his brand-new OFF! clip-on bug repellent, and asked:

What is that?  You come with your own personal air freshener now?

Personally, if I was Atheist-Friend's husband, I would have saved myself the grief and just gone to the pool.

Regardless, I love a good block party and my husband particularly appreciated Atheist-Friend's husband's arranging of the cooler.  It resembled an overhead shot of the city and clearly embraced the Chicago grid system:

15 years of marriage to a Type A wife = perfectly organized beer

So for the first time that week, I enjoyed several hours of unadulterated peace as the kids raced up and down the block, bounced to their hearts' content, and beat the ever living sh*t out of some pinata.  A grand time was had by all.  Here is how I will remember Joey for the better part of 6 hours:

Just don't tell Atheist-Friend.  I think she would have preferred us all miserable and full of malaria so she could heap one more, "I wanted to go to the pool" on her husband.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Second-Hand Addiction

I'm thinking about writing a regular feature on the treasures I find at second-hand shops.  Back in the day when I used to shop the sale rack at Nordstrom's wearing heels and hose, I thought my mom was nuts for patronizing resale shops.  I would begrdugingly accompany her to places with names like Bibles for Missions (resale shop whose proceeds go to buy bibles) and Once Upon a Child.

Watching my mom in action was quite the sight.  She would race over to the toy section to find used dolls and books for her granddaughters.  Then she would head to housewares for old linens.    My mom loves vintage tableclothes.  The lacier, the better.  I don't think I even own a tablecloth. 

Despite her enthusiasm, I remained skeptical and couldn't get over how dirty everything seemed.  My mom kept trying to assure me that items could easily be run through the dishwasher or washing machine and turn out beautifully.  But I continued steadfast in my refusual to touch anything from these stores. 

After years of being elbow deep in poop, it now takes a lot more than a dusty old cup to gross me out.  Every weekend after piano lessons, I stop by my mom's with the kids and we head off to Goodwill, Bibles for Missions, and Spree.  The boys know what we're on the hunt for:  Vintage Little People, Thomas Wooden Trains, Legos. 

We map out our strategy before we even get to the door:  divide and conquer...never let your cart out of your site (people are known for poaching items that have high value on Ebay)...if you're not sure, put it in your basket because if you wait, it'll be gone.

I've even been known to grab the occasional item not on my list simply because it makes me laugh:

Hands off, my Gentile-Jew households - this one's mine.
So once again, life has come full-circle.  Despite my vows to the contrary, I am now a second-generation second-hand junkie.  I feel a bit like Sanford & Son (theme song here), except instead of the old orange pick-up truck, I have a blue minivan with fold-down seating for extra storage.

Once again, mum's the word to Joe.  He thinks all I'm doing after lessons is buying toliet paper with my mom and her Costco card.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

In an ongoing attempt to decrease the number of orphaned footwear in my life, I have started pairing together obviously mismatched socks in hopes that nobody notices.

Of course everybody notices. Joe's response can be heard each morning at about 6 am as he pulls a pair on his feet, "What the f@*k?!" Danny simply takes them off and tosses them back in the laundry pile hoping for a different result from the next spin cycle. Jack holds them up confusedly, shrugs his shoulders, and puts them on anyway because he's the only child who really loves me.  Joey, being the sole OCD kid in the mix, instantly goes ballistic and throws himself on the floor in a massive display of over-reaction, crying, "Why dees socks wrong, mommy...why dey so wroooong???"

But I trudge on. 

Same dingy white color...looks like a match to me.

Every time I knowingly mismatch a pair of socks, I start thinking about that old Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the other" (click link for Cookie Monster's rendition).  Then I think about all the other things I have encountered in day-to-day operations that don't belong together.  Like the rubber duckie found swimming in our toliet.  Or the open tube of Neosporin discovered next to the boys' toothbrushes. 

Even my television preferences seem at odds with each other: 

I'm thinking about pitching a show to NBC about a serial killer who only slays people to the beat of Broadway musicals.

It really doesn't fit any kind of  personality profile for a person to be obsessed with a show about a serial killer as well as a program that embraces all things kitsch-musical.  But that's where I'm at. 

(Quick shout-out to my sister Megan who mailed me Season 1 of Glee when she read on my blog I was hoarding my Coke Rewards Points for this very boxed set.  Perhaps I should have mentioned I was instead saving Coke points for...I don't know...having my stomach raised up from knee-level and put back in its original position?  Meg? You still there?)

My husband and I don't always seem to be an obvious pair either.  People often think I'm nicer than he is because I smile more and don't swear as much.  Yet Joe is the one who calmly stays up with sick and vomiting children while I'm threatening to put them in foster care.  Joe gives money to people on street corners and once even handed a homeless guy the gloves I gave him for Christmas during a particularly cold Chicago night.  My comment?  You could have just said you didn't like them.

I get irritated with the Street Wise people. I tell them to stop harassing moms pushing double strollers and hauling diaper bags. When they try to throw their hot bagels at me in retaliation, I remind them that it's been 7 years since I ate anything warm. They sit down on the sidewalk in their schizophrenic haze telling me I'm a bad person. That doesn't stop me. I start yelling that I don't sit down each day until after 11 pm. Even Dexter is viewed from a standing position while folding laundry at a kitchen table. By the time I'm ready to walk away, the homeless person is frantically looking around for a police officer to rid himself of the psychopathic mom threatening to steal their hot bagel.

You get the idea.  My ability to maintain calm died years ago. Murdered by the reality of daily poop and boogars.  There are days where I dream of world where this is no poop or boogars at all.  Over the rainbow maybe.  Where poop and boogars melt like lemon drops.  Or not.

While my husband and I may not seem to be a natural match, it seems to work.  At least until he wins PowerBall, drops me like a hot potato, and gets himself a shiny new trophy wife. But until then, I will continue to offer him mismatched socks and a stack of take-out menus each night. Some women look for husbands with money or exceptional looks. I looked for a man with unwavering sanity.

Somebody needed to balance out my crazy. 

One of a handful of pictures of Joe & I together and I'm pregnant.  Anyone know how to Photoshop out my cheeks?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Missing Virgin. Last Known Address: Beverly Neighborhood circa 1990

My grandparents lived in a tiny two-bedroom house in Beverly many years ago.  To this day, I have no idea how they managed to jam six kids and a dog in that place.  My grandfather was a Chicago policeman who spent his Depression-era youth in a Roosevelt work camp to help support his parents and siblings.  He lived most of his life convinced that the sky was about to fall  -  a common view amongst many Irish of that generation.

My Papa:  "I may be smiling, but I'm fairly certain the Irish are going to be tossed out of the country next week."

I have some very early memories of visiting my grandparents at their house on Washtenaw.  Riding out from the burbs, my siblings and I knew we were getting close when we started spying all the Virgin Mary statues on people's front lawns.  It became a game: who could find "a Mary" the fastest?  It was like Where's Waldo? The 1977 Edition.

Even though I've lived in Beverly for almost 6 years, it just recently dawned on me that I have never seen a Virgin Mary statue since we arrived.  I suppose generations change, displays of faith alter, and saints go out of vogue (being the bad Catholic I am, I had to Google "Mary" to make sure she's actually a canonized saint.  Apparently, she's considered a "super-saint"...who knew?).

So at a block party on Saturday, I caught a glimpse across the street of a Virgin Mary statue praying in some shrubbery. I grabbed my camera to take a picture of this throw-back display. As I was clicking away, my husband walked up.

Joe:  What are you doing?

 Me:  It's a Mary statue!  I haven't seen a Mary statue on someone's lawn for years!

Joe:  Uh..Marianne?

Me:  (trying to get less glare on the night photo, annoyed) What?

Joe:  You're standing in front of a church.

And as God as my witness, lightening flashed across the Chicago night sky at that exact moment.

Forgive me, Jesus.  I'm Googling the mass schedule for Sunday.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

To My Future Daughters-in-Law: You're Welcome

So he may not have done a perfect job, but in Joey's accidental spilling of an entire box of Raisin Bran in the pantry, he tried multiple avenues of clean-up:

The kitchen towel proved somewhat ineffective
After successfully scattering every last piece of bran flakes and raisin to the four corners of the pantry with my kitchen towel, Joey then implemented an "eat and sweep" technique:

I have instilled a deep responsibility for any mess my boys create.  Therefore, they frequently attempt to rectify gross negligence in the areas of spilling, leaking, and messing before discovery is made.  Being as they are only 7, 5, and 3, I can usually spot the work of an amateur from a mile away.  Despite this, they persist.

Which is far more than I can say for certain other people:

Joe finished prepping the wall 4 days ago.  Perhaps he feels a shrine to his work is warranted.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The T-Shirt

I watched the news for hours yesterday while folding laundry.  The coverage of the Oslo bombing and shootings left me feeling angry and sad.   So I diverted my eyes back to my piles of unfolded clothes.  And then I  recognized the shirt I was holding.  It was the very t-shirt my husband wore on our 2nd date.  The man throws nothing away.  It made me smile:

I wore a dress.

Joe continues to wear this shirt regularly.  For him, it's one part tongue-in-cheek and one part, "No, really."  If only those who commit horrible crazy acts of violence could choose a similar method to express their displeasure, discontent, or overall disturbed nature.

I'm sure for that reason alone, millions of people worldwide would give the very shirts off their backs.  And I would have one less vintage t-shirt to fold each week.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Book of Daniel

Watching the recent Diane Sawyer interview with kidnap victim Jaycee Dugard, I was left an emotional basket case. My husband unsuspectingly walked into our bedroom that Sunday evening to find me sobbing my way through the interview and demanding GPS tracking devices immediately installed in all 3 children. 

Besides the obvious empathy a person would have for Jaycee and her family, I also felt an enormous amount of gratitude towards the two campus police officers who simply got a bad vibe off kidnapper Phillip Garrido and finally brought Jaycee home after 18 years.

The women described their basic "maternal instinct" as the reason they chose to act. It got me thinking about my own maternal instincts and whether or not I actually have any.  After all, I am not a particularly focused or alert person.  I lost Daniel at a block party when he was 2.  I never remember to tell the Prompt Care doctors that my kids are allergic to penicillin.  I let the boys march up to the counter at McDonald's to get me scalding hot coffee while I run Joey to the bathroom.

Am I a neglectful mother?  Didn't I just allow my 7-year-old to accompany his father on some kind of raucous "we're all turning 40" party at some random lake this past week?  Initially, I had strictly forbidden any of my children to participate in this adventure, citing the deadly combination of alcohol, water, and small children.

Then I got to thinking.  Was I being selfish? Who would save my husband in my stead? Who could report on potential dangers? Who is observant enough to alert people if anything went askew? Due to my belief that this entire weekend water event had not been properly vetted, I felt a trustworthy chaperone needed to be assigned.  I just wasn't up for it.  But who?

The answer was clear:  Daniel.  Captain Morality. King of Righteousness and Order. The Prince of Piousness. After all, isn't this the kid who spent the last 2 years advising teachers on which children ran with scissors?  In Daniel's book, there are only extremes: good vs.evil, right vs. wrong, what mommy says vs. what daddy says.

The child thinks nothing of telling adults when they are breaking the rules ("excuse me, ma'am...I do believe the life guards said there is no eating on the deck and I'm fairly certain that big bag of Fritos you have there constitutes food, albeit a poor choice and perhaps lacking in basic nutrition...").

Yup. Daniel would make sure my husband and perhaps several of his friends would come back alive and well. Three years of swimming lessons. A strong moral compass. Unyielding focus. I couldn't think of a better appointment.

Daniel did return his father safe and sound in time for a family christening on Sunday. I realized that whatever maternal instincts skipped over me landed squarely on my son's shoulders instead. He is a marvelous watchdog, protector, and humanitarian - at times annoyingly righteous, and other times remarkably kind and loyal.

Now if he could just keep the rest of his family flying right....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Perhaps Having "Deathly Hallows" in the Title Should Have Been a Tip?

Miniature-Friend called me a couple of days ago as I was driving back from piano lessons and asked if Daniel wanted to go to the movies. Instead of instantly agreeing (like I would have done as a child, delighted at the opportunity to go anywhere with people who were not my family), Daniel asked, "What are they seeing?"

I don't know Dan.  A MOVIE.

Daniel quickly outlined his conditions: Call them back, mom.  I will go if it's 'Transformers' or 'Harry Potter.'  If it's anything else, forget it.

I knew my odds of reducing the child load for a few hours were zero when I heard the selected movie was Winnie the Pooh.  Thankfully, Miniature-Friend and I agreed to meet up the next day for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.  It was an exceptionally hot one in Chicago yesterday, and I was feeling bloated.  Air conditioning and Swedish Fish seemed the perfect antidote.  Maybe I could even get a nap in.

So I lined up the babysitter (Joey hates loud movies) and firmed up plans.  I was surprised to see my husband walk in yesterday morning after his 24 hour shift at the firehouse.  No 2nd job call.  Do I cancel the babysitter?  Which parent goes to the movies?  Joe suggested we keep the babysitter and head out together to see Harry Potter.  Like a date even.

I didn't have the heart to outline how this was going to go down, so I played along. 

Yes, like a date.
Well one hour later, my husband was annoyed that I insisted we make a Target candy run (I mean did he think I of all people was really going to pay $5 for one box of Junior Mints at the theatre?).  We drove into the parking lot right at the movie's posted "start time."  He continued to grumble about being late and got even testier when in a heat-induced snit, I snapped, "you have heard of previews, right?  They take like 20 minutes."

Distracted as I dolled out Target candy to our group, I couldn't dissuade Joe as he snuck off to buy $20 popcorn. We were sitting directly behind our boys and their little friends. Did my husband honestly think the little beggars were going to be happy with their discounted Kit Kats once the smell of movie popcorn wafted past them?

The moment the hungry little gaggle realized popcorn was in the possession of an accompanying adult, the requests started.  Thankfully, I am well-versed in the rules of $20 popcorn purchases and the free-refill amendment.  I couldn't tell you what the Bill of Rights encompasses, but free popcorn I know.  I assured the kiddies that Mr. Crabby Toes would eat the first bag of popcorn, and I would turn over the refill to them for the 2nd half of the movie.  I shot daggers at my husband who just looked at me like "what?"

Not having a clue about the storyline since the first Harry Potter movie, all 3 adults were completely baffled by the plot.  But all 3 adults were keenly aware that this was a far more violent and less child-friendly movie than the first.  My husband continued to look at me with horror each time a particularly upsetting scene came on the screen.  What was I exposing our children to?  The Swedish Fish sugar crash caused me to snap again:

Those freakin' flying monkeys in 'The Wizard of Oz' were ungodly frightening, too.  Leave me alone.  You're not coming next time.  You can stay home and watch 'Swamp People' or 'Storage Wars' or whatever makes you happy.

Maybe I Should Have Paid More Attention to the PG13 Rating?
And with that, we got the twelfth request inside of 20 minutes to take another kid to the bathroom thanks in large part to the free-refill quart of pink lemonade. 

Just like a date. 

Miniature-Friend was worried about the kids having nightmares.  I figured they spent half the time in the bathroom and the other half of the time asking when Joe was going to be done with the first round popcorn so they could have their free refill.  I tried to assure her:

They're fine.  I saw 'The Shining' when I was 7, and I'm perfectly normal and well-adjusted.

Miniature-Friend did not look convinced.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pointy & Sticky

I was ready for the tie-dye shirts.  The camp sent home notices so I had some time to wrap my brain around drippy & messy t-shirts making their way into my home. I reminded myself that this kind of activity was a right of passage for little kids during the summer. I rehearsed the scene in my mind. I discussed coping devices with friends. So when I picked up my minivan full of campers toting leaky plastic bags of disaster, I was able to maintain some passable version of sanity.

$2 craft shirts on sale at Michael's last week...perfect timing
What I wasn't ready for was pointy & sticky. Pointy & sticky made their appearance in the minivan yesterday without any warning. No note. No time to seek counsel or Valium.  Giant plates of sticky marshmallows stabbed with pointy sticks greeted me as I claimed my campers.

Dan's "art."  I wanted to photograph Jack's plate of pointy & sticky as well, but he ate it on the ride home.

Pointy & sticky exist on a whole different level than drippy & messy. Drippy & messy impact the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Pointy & sticky attack the entire central nervous system.  A head's up from the camp counselors or local neurologist should have been required.

Now there are probably some moms out there who do not fully appreciate the differences between drippy & messy and pointy & sticky. Let me explain. Drippy & messy intrude on a mother's desire to maintain a certain amount of order in her world. Non-washable dye dripped on leather interiors (albeit used leather interiors) violates that basic human need.

Pointy & sticky cunningly deliver a two-pronged attack on a mother's psyche. First, there is the obvious safety issue.  Amped up little boys should simply not be allowed to run around with plates full of mini-daggers and a complete disregard for long-term vision care.

Second, we have the sticky issue. Contrary to drippy (whose path can be easily followed and maintained), sticky is akin to an aggressive cancer, spreading its unpleasant nature to all elements of car, home, clothing, remote controls, etc.  Even when you believe you have sent sticky into complete remission, you often find it persists somewhere.  Like your hairbrush or telephone. 

Unlike Jack, who devoured his pointy & sticky offering within moments of bouncing into the car, Daniel opted to save his project.  He asked me when we could go have it laminated.

I don't think the laminating experts at Lakeshore Learning would be able to cope with that idea without a neurologist's express written consent.  And possibly some Valium.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Little (Lotto) Things

I sat down at my computer the other day and noticed that my husband had dropped a stack of cardboard codes on my desk - all torn out from boxes of Coke products.  He knows how much I enjoy a good rewards program and I only recently came to terms with no longer being a Pampers' Gifts to Grow member.  I should have known that potty training Joey could only bite me in the ass one day.

Codes, magical codes

Joe is currently the firehouse "treasurer" (translation: guy who fills the vending machines).  Don't repeat that, please.  He feels he's finally putting that EIU finance degree to good use. 

Regardless, the position has its perks.  Every time Joe fills the pop machines, he tears out the codes for his crazy code-collecting wife.  I'm Chicago's version of John Nash in A Beautiful Mind.  If there's a code which can lead to a free t-shirt or monogrammed towel, by God...I'll find it.

I started rifling around my desk to see if he had left any more and noticed a stack of unchecked Little Lotto tickets.  I love Little Lotto.  My husband prefers the big games - PowerBall, MegaMillions, etc.  He has dreams of paying off all his friends' mortgages, retiring, and moving all his buddies somewhere warm.

 I'm not sure if he's planning on taking me.

Little Lotto, Little Dreams

I don't like those big games. I know that statistically, Little Lotto has better odds, but that's not why I play.  I have seen one too many of those curse-of-the-lottery television shows.  The winners all end up sick, miserable, and broke.  I like Little Lotto because the money wouldn't change our lives that dramatically. Things are pretty okay the way they are.  A Little Lotto win would only mean that Joe wouldn't have to work every day of the week. Perhaps we'd get HBO. I'd add cello to the boys' musical rotation. We'd have a fund for their future therapists. Nothing too crazy.

I suppose at the heart of my not wanting to win millions is the joy that would be stripped from my existence.  It wouldn't feel the same getting a free oven mitt with my Coke points if I had $300 million in the bank.  People would laugh at me for wasting my time.  I currently have $5 waiting to be spent at Kmart with my rewards card there, and I am giddy.  Every time I get a CVS $10 ExtraBucks reward, I buy Tide because it makes doing laundry, I don't know, happier.

Spend image
I have enough for this 300 pt. gift, but I'm saving for Season 1 of Glee (1800 pts)
The people I know with a lot of money all seem to be good, decent folks.  Yet there is always a sense that their right to complain has long-since been revoked.  I mean what do you think the reaction is to a multi-millionaire moaning about the line at the DMV?

" own a yacht.  Shut the f*#$ up."

I for one like to complain and wouldn't give it up for all the money in the world.  My husband would second that if he hadn't already gone to bed lamenting his having to fill up the vending machines this week. 

And I'm just that much closer to Season 1 of Glee.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Make 'Em Laugh

In the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, "With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die." 

Most mothers live in the midst of their own civil wars.  The impetus can vary: clothes, choice of television viewing, friend selection, homework, piano practice and even menu options.  Children will continue to rise up and wage battle with their moms over the ridiculous as long as we continue to try to set the parameters.  As a mother, I can wholly appreciate Lincoln's need for the occasional chuckle.  Although I have never thought of Honest Abe as being a particularly blithe fellow, you must figure with that countenance and characteristic ten gallon top hat, he most certainly valued the absurd. 

You got to hand it to a guy with a sense of humor. This quality is perhaps made even more noble when it is built on the alter of self-sacrifice and true to the philosophy of anything for a laugh.

Joe's in-law Steve is just that sort of rare breed. Several years ago, he  asked a dear friend what he wanted for his 40th birthday. The friend had one request: a picture of Steve in a Mt. Carmel high school wrestling unitard (or rather "singlet" as Steve gently corrected me). Steve carefully set up a lovely backdrop for his "gift" and went all-out in delivering on his promise to a friend:  

If I was Steve's mom, this would have been my Christmas card.
Not willing to waste this exercise in abject self-degradation for a mere solo laugh, our philanthropic friend promptly loaded the image into his Facebook account and clicked "insert new profile picture."

I applaud our unitard singlet-wearing Steve. Too many people are quite incapable of laughing at themselves out of fear the world will not respect or admire them. Yet the people whom I respect and admire most in my life have all found their inner funny.

Steve shows us that sometimes, the best laugh out there is right in the mirror. Or perhaps posing seductively across the fireplace next to a Beethoven bust.  Either way, Abe Lincoln would be proud.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jack in the Box

Joey likes to sit on my lap when I blog.  If you find any horrible grammatical errors or typos, I'm pinning it on the 3-year-old.

Yet when I wrote the blog that included a video of Jack playing the piano, Joey kept insisting I play it over and over. Each time, Joey cried out for his brother to acknowledge him and became increasingly agitated by Jack's non-response:

I of course found it hilarious. Until I shut down the computer and Joey became hysterical, convinced his mother had forever banished his big brother to the Dell monitor.  He was edgy for hours and was only soothed when we picked up Jack from camp. 

I don't know who he thinks I am. 

Casey Anthony?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Did I Forget to Mention?

I won't lie to you, loyal reader. It's been a long week.  So in the midst of it all, I omitted a few noteworthy items:

Item #1:  I did not win the Porn basket at the Christmas without Cancer fundraiser.   I told my sister-in-law to put $50 in raffle tickets towards various gift baskets.  Originally, I swore I'd kill her if she put them all in the Porn basket (" are the winner of the PORN BASKET....come collect your PORN BASKET, Marianne").  Then I started to appreciate the humor in winning such a prize.  Alas, they did not call my name.  But I did win another basket.  Wouldn't you know?  After all my blogging about the ridiculous cost of a visit to the Shedd Aquarium, I won admission for 4.   Oh and Mary - I finally got around to dropping that check in the mail. Actually, Joey dropped it in the mail.  Or maybe in the sewer.  Let me know if it doesn't arrive in the standard Chicago delivery time of 4-6 weeks.  You are over a mile away after all.

Admission for 4 but we're a family of 5.  Who to leave behind?  Oh!  Pick me!  Pick ME!
Item #2:  Daniel and I went 10 rounds over bedtime.  He kept insisting he wasn't tired and I kept insisting he was.  At 9:30 pm, I threatened that if he came downstairs just one more time and said even one more word about not being able to sleep, I was going to call his father. When I went upstairs several hours later, I discovered my son made absolutely certain he got the the last word on the matter:   

Item #3:  And what's a Friday night without the emergency visit to Prompt Care?  Of course it was already 6 pm when I realized Jack was sporting a goose egg.  I assumed he hurt himself at camp, but upon further inspection, I realized it was a mosquito bite.  With a history of cellulitis courtesy of such bites, I scoured the internet to find an open Prompt Care before infection damaged my baby's brain.  Thank you, Orland Park for offering the only location that stays open until 8 pm on a Friday.

"Will I need a shot?" followed by "Can I get a Captain America drink at Baskin Robbins?"

God bless you Physicians ImmediateCare of Orland Park.
Now that you're up-do-date, here's to a great weekend and I hope to see none of you at Prompt Care of Orland Park or any Emergency Room in the entire tri-state area.

Friday, July 15, 2011

You Just Can't Be That Tired

It is official:  I am no longer a morning person. Somewhere between midnight feedings and crack o' dawn carpools, I lost my affinity for the A.M. This was not always the case. Before kids, I cherished mornings. I would bounce out of bed, shun coffee, and start my day excited about the world of opportunity that lie ahead.

If only I knew then what I know now.  The boys have systematically eliminated the slow dawning of consciousness. Before I even open my eyes each morning, I know there is a 3-year old perched on my head. Yes. My head.

"Are you awake now, Mommy? It's good morning time!  Good morning, Mommy!  It's me...JOEY"  (said as he attempts to pry my eyelids open with his sticky fingers which just leaves me to wonder...why are his fingers so sticky?).

I tiptoe downstairs where I know the other two have been eagerly anticipating my descent.   They begin the barrage of questions and demands before I can even reach the coffee maker:

Can I have another bowl of cereal?

Daniel hit me and didn't say 'sorry.'

Can we go to Great America??

I want to quit piano.

Do we have to take baths today?

Just so you know, I don't think I actually peed in my bed...I think it's just sweat.

Can you hold me?

Can you please not breathe on me so much?  You kind of stink.

Do you know where I put my cup of lightning bugs?

So it begins.  After embarking on the inaugural load of laundry, we commence piano practice (c'mon... you knew I had to insert one video of my 5-year old playing the piano eventually):

I was unable to video Dan's session because when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force, the results are not fit for video.  Daniel will play the piano until he's 18.  Or I will die trying.

After lessons, I dig around for some allergy medication.  The evening before included the dreaded soccer league that has been my albatross this summer.  Wednesday night, I was in charge of putting together the net.  My husband had assured me this would be easy.  I rammed together giant rods with little comprehension of how a soccer net is actually supposed to look.  To help matters, I arrived there extra early to allot myself time to figure it all out.  This plan backfired as there were no examples of an actual assembled net with which to compare.  Finally, I managed to put it together with a special caveat to our team to not actually touch the net, or even try to score for that matter. 

Seriously, kids...don't even breathe on it.

Thankfully, I brought along my father to keep the kids occupied while I swore at the net.  He disappeared with Joey for most of the game, which did a lot to preserve my faltering sanity.

So back to yesterday morning. After a stressful two hour practice session, we initiated bath and shower protocol. Sometime during the 4 minutes it took me to run downstairs and perform a laundry transfer, the boys managed to completely flood the bathroom and discharge the entire contents of a brand new tube of Crest into the sink.

Short on time, I slapped together some PB&J, packed camp bags and drove my lot to Kennedy Park.  After depositing the older boys, Joey insisted on going to the playground.  He immediately soaked himself in the park sprinkler and ran around laughing and giggling at the good time he had found.  As much as I wanted to share in this moment, I had only one thought...more wash.

We headed home and continued our laundry and housekeeping.  A repair quote came in one and a half times higher than expected.  CPS (Chicago Public Schools) still hadn't contacted me about Joey's placement, so I put in a call there.  I realized I forgot to pay a credit card bill.  I had Joey run it to the mailbox on the corner, but he quickly became distracted and decided instead to try to shove the bill down the sewer. 

Before I could even think about sitting down, it was time to pick the kids up at camp and run them to violin.  During my hour "break" while the boys learned a new string, I pumped gas, bought GoodNights, finally grabbed a coffee, and called my husband.

I told him there was a Chicago Park District outdoor movie that night.  After going the rounds with Daniel over his music and battling Joey over his refusal to nap, I figured nobody had "earned" the right to this treat. 

Joe disagreed.  He decided that between his after-work volleyball game and his buddy's 40th birthday party, he could most certainly take the kids to the movies.  He asked if I had gotten a sitter so I could accompany him.

I told him I was spent. 

There was a long pause on the end of the line.  He seemed to think I was secretly avoiding him.  After a few moments of uncomfortable silence followed by his reminder that he, too, had worked all day, my volleyball-playing birthday reveler shared his final thoughts on the matter:

You just can't be that tired.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Have I Mentioned the New Driveway?

If men are allowed to go on and on about their cars and golf handicaps, I feel that dedicating a certain portion of my blog to the new driveway is quite rationale and to be expected. 

It completes me.

As has been established, the boys were mesmerized by the entire installation process.  So much in fact, that they really took to heart the installer's instructions to "water" the driveway as often as possible.  We are now more than a week out from pouring concrete, and my trio of free laborers has diligently followed these directives to the letter:

Well, Jack started out watering the driveway, but noticed a few flowers looked a bit withered....

Daniel of course took complete control of the hose and dolled out water to Joey in tiny plastic cups

Joey was assigned to monitor and point out any dry spots his brother may have missed.

If you knew how much I hated my old driveway, how many skinned knees I had to repair due to its cracks, and the amount of profanity that dripped from my husband's mouth each time he had to shovel snow, you would understand my singular obsession.

Part 15 of "My New Driveway: A Love Story" coming soon to a blog near you.  Do you suppose this is where "We Band of Mothers" jumps the shark?  I can hear the critics now:  It was like....could she just stop with the driveway already?  I got so sick and tired of  hearing about this flippin' driveway.  Who cares about an ugly old driveway anyway?  Couldn't she just give it up?

Did Fonzie stop once he put those jet skis on?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Doctors' Wives Should Have Known Better

I'm on Day 4 of post-wedding recovery.

Things are not going well. My husband refused to believe me when I tried to convince him I was actually ill. He walked around muttering "self-induced" and "alcohol-related" as the likely causes. Being a paramedic, he felt confident in his medical assessments. Being a wife, I went to Prompt Care.

Fairly certain I was on my ninth case of strep(t) for the year, I opened wide and waited for the big giant gag-inciting Q-Tip to find its way into my mouth.  For once, it came back negative.  I was still given a prescription for a sinus infection and upper respiratory something or another.  

I spent much of the day yelling at the children to be quiet.  Jack actually got reprimanded for sighing too loudly.  Danny got a time-out for throwing himself down after 3 hours of swimming and playing at camp to announce that his parents never let him have any fun.   Joey whined and whined and whined until I tossed him down for a nap with the ominous threat of, "take one step out of that bed, and I will give all your toys to poor kids."

Joey, being Joey, appeared to have fallen asleep thumbing his nose at his mother with two steps on the ground and his beloved army of vintage Little People at his side.  Only children are capable of sleeping like this:

So I had a good laugh and spent the rest of the day resisting the urge to abandon the children at a Chicago Safe Harbour location...namely their father's fire station. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Smell of Commerce in the Morning

Having once possessed an actual paying job, I must say: I miss capitalism.  I know it's not a popular notion right now, but it's true.  Sitting within a stone's throw of the head corporate honchos, I often had a unique sideline view of year-end earnings, meetings with rating agencies, and the whispered hints of pending mergers and acquisitions.

Of course at the time, I was bored senseless. 

Don't get me wrong, I loved my actual job.  But I worked in insurance.  Insurance.  No little girl goes to bed at night secretly hoping to land that big job at AIG.  I would ask all potential English majors to heed my warning:  English is not a practical major.  Minor?  Yes.  You'll be able to jot off a stellar memo.  But as a major?  You'll be the red-headed stepchild in any field outside of academia. 

Just saying.

It took the monotony of 3 kids in 3 years to help me appreciate the excitement of American capitalism.  Sure, a lot of  Fortune 500 companies botched it over the last 5 years, but insurance companies have pretty much held their own.  I'm sure having an army of actuaries drawing up models and financial forecasts didn't hurt. 

The pinnacle of my career came when one of the companies I worked for went public on the New York Stock Exchange. I got to witness first hand the opening bell at the epicenter of global capitalism. Prior to that day, I hadn't been that enthralled with business as a whole. I secretly planned to go back for my PhD in something 18th Century English Romanticism.

Yet that day.  That day.  I got goosebumps watching Wall Street in action.  Tiny little Maria Baritromo stomped across the trading floor scaring the dickens out of anyone who crossed her path.  Traders frantically signaled to each other about what, I still don't know.  The energy was palpable.  It was incredible. 

 At the end of it all, representatives from my company all received an NYSE medal. My kids recently found it in a box and were very intrigued. They wanted to know what NYSE stood for and if they could use "the coin" to buy some gum.  I told them it was a very special medal that I got all the way in New York from a short, bald man named Dick Grasso. 

"You only made one quarter, mommy? You should have gotten a different job. Maybe then we'd at least have a Wii."

While I may not have always appreciated the spirit of free enterprise back in the day, I embrace it now.  It was such a thrilling ride compared to pairing hundreds of faded socks together week after week, year after year.

It is with this same entrepreneurial spirit I will begin plotting my return to capitalism.   I have been carefully biding my time and waiting for just the right moment.  That time is now.  It has been 4 long years since I've conducted a garage sale.  I was stymied by the obvious liability issues associated with my cracked-up driveway.  With new concrete and a smooth exterior, there is nothing to stop me.  Except a Chicago garage sale permit and perfunctory ads in The Beverly Review

Thank you America for affording me this opportunity to hock old baby bouncers and outgrown toys.  Thank you for giving me a chance to rise through the ranks and earn a little extra for all these piano and violin lessons.  God bless you America for being that last great hope, that beacon in the sky. 

At long last I will again experience the smell of commerce in the morning.  It may not be the New York Stock Exchange, but it's all I got.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Weddings & Things I Know for Sure

After a fantastic weekend wedding and through the haze of recovery, I have come up with a few foggy truths about life.  Follow along.  I'll type slowly as my brain is still not 100%

1.  I'm a sucker for romance.  

2. When given the choice on martinis, stick with the small:

3.  The only way to party like a rock star after the age of 30 is by stashing a couple of these in your purse (next to your flip-flops):

4. My brother Joe is very tall:

5.  My blog will be welcoming a new follower very very soon:

6.  When in Lake Geneva, the best "recovery" food can be found at Popeye's (not that chicken chain, but the rotisserie place)

7.  It's never a good idea to put the "Cubs" number card at the table where my husband the Sox fan is sitting.   I believe this was face-down for most of the reception with the exception of when I took the picture.

8.  Per the instructions of the girls at the wedding, if your problem area is fat arms, channel the Venus de Milo and pretend you don't have arms:

9.  Even though a great time was had, sometimes it's nice to just come home and look at your new driveway:

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Wedding in Lake Geneva this weekend to be discussed once my head stops pounding.

In the interim, please enjoy pictures of my shoes. I'll leave you to figure out which ones I wore to the reception, and which ones I sported on the stumble back to the hotel.

Congrats Tommy & Julie!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cap'n Crunch Meets Cap'n Literal

I got the scare of my life the other day.  Going on my usual 4 hours of sleep a night, I stumbled downstairs to perform the perfunctory headcount of my children.  Figuring they would all be glued to Phineas and Ferb, I was surprised when I reached the bottom of the steps only to find a tidy family room. Could they all possibly still be sleeping? My little roosters were usually up at 6:30 am.

I cracked my knees and headed back upstairs to do a "visual." I began to panic when I found their beds to be empty. Then I remembered that Joe was off that morning.  Could he have taken them to breakfast at one of his Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives locales? I looked out our front window and saw both cars parked and the construction crew working diligently on our driveway.

With my pulse racing, I checked the backyard and saw Joe calmly talking to the head of the crew with absolutely no kids anywhere in sight. Were they already run over by that big roller thing and soon to be forever blazoned in my driveway?  My stomach turned. I was now on the warpath as I opened the back door and blasted over all the noise:


My husband yelled something back, but I couldn't hear him.  Thankfully, Joe is a gesturer, so I took notice of him pointing west.  I ran back to the front door and swung it open to find:

Apparently, the little goons had plotted their way to (1) a Cap'n Crunch breakfast (which I strictly forbid as this is "Daddy's cereal") and (2) an escape out the front door to oversee all the excitement of driveway construction.

When I asked who told them they could go outside, I got the stock response of "Daddy knows we're here."  This meant they performed the action first, received no reprimand from Joe, and now felt completely vindicated. 

I threatened them all within an inch of their lives if they moved even one single step down and went back inside to make myself a pot of coffee.

A few minutes later, one of the construction guys came over and jokingly asked Joey if he could finish up the work for the crew. We always call Joey "Captain Literal," as he hasn't quite mastered the art of repartee.  I would have assumed that Joey instantly agreed and marched towards the driveway to get his hands on all the equipment he'd been coveting for days.  Instead, his response?

"I'm telling my mommy on you.  She said 'WAIT HERE.'  You in twuble now."

He proceeded to run inside, recount the whole exchange, and then ask for another bowl of Cap'n Crunch.

For valour in the face of great temptation, I granted my younget's request by pouring the last bit of cereal into his waiting bowl

And Joe got stuck with Cheerios.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Exercising a Video Option

There are no words to accurately capture the moments filmed below.  Expecting to find my husband watching cartoons with the boys in bed, my assumption was proven incorrect:

By the way, I have got to stop talking when I film home videos. I am so much more annoying and nasal-sounding on video than I am in my head.  Any good speech therapists out there? 

May your weekend be filled with a few surprises of your own!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Diva and the Secret Truth Behind Flash Mobs

I am loathe to do this, but I fear it is my responsibility to finally advise one of my best friends that people are starting to not like her.  It's all the talk at the water coolers lately. Nary a kind word has been said about her in ages.

Her name is Chicago and her reputation is nearing ruin.

Most of it is in fact her own doing.  She's a high-maintenance diva who costs everyone around her a mad fortune. She neither nurtures or protects her children and mocks her allies' trusting nature.

An example:

Say you're a man returning home from a long 24 hour shift at the firehouse and in need of a little family time.  You suggest an outing to visit your friend "Downtown Chicago" via the Shedd Aquarium.  But first you got to pay $19 to park (cash only). Chicago and her cohorts chuckle when you try to put away your wallet. You might want to keep that handy. 

You head over to the stairs to purchase admission tickets. If you want to see anything beyond goldfish at the aquarium, it's going to cost you. The "Total Experience Pass?" Why that's $34.95 per adult and $25.95 per child aged 3 and older.  Chicago laughs at you again when you try to pass off all your kids as "under 3."  Daniel is taller than the attendant and the guy isn't buying it.  Better luck next time, sucker.

But perhaps you're not that concerned about the expenditures.  After all, this is Chicago.  You're close. You practically grew up together.  A day out with your family in her beautiful downtown area is worth every hard-earned penny.

After a fishy few hours at the Shedd, you head over to your favorite pizza joint, Pizano's. The pizzas are pretty reasonable ($20). If Chicago does anything right, it's her pizza.  You remember why you're friends with this city again.  None of your other friends are capable of such culinary splendor.  So you order an additional pizza to bring home because it's just that good. 

You lean forward to whisper something to your waiter. All the old-school Chicago waitresses knew how to accommodate those special requests of regular patrons.  For instance, Pizano's pizza dries out something fierce in the fridge and a little extra sauce sent home in a Styrofoam container does just the trick.  Back in the day, Gertrude-the-waitress would take care of you:  

Oh sweetheart, it's on the house. Gratis. Thank you for coming and God bless those beautiful children of yours.

Not today.  In an age of city surcharges and extra restaurant taxes, "executive management" now mandates a pretty substantial fee for a little extra sauce. You have some strong opinions on this new policy and express them rather colorfully to your young hipster waiter who basically tells you to lump it. He storms off in a huff and sends someone else over with your bill.

Where is Gertrude when you need her? Oh. She moved to Alaska 5 years ago?  No state income tax you say? No state sales tax, either? Gertrude liked the Iditarod?  Who knew.

So you stomp out of Pizano's even lighter in the wallet because you forgot that they do not accept Discover card.  You've only got $5 left  due to the cash-only Shedd parking lot and the Discover-shunning Pizano's. No worries. Look at that skyline. Look at that lakefront. Your friend is just as breathtaking as always. You sally forth to your next stop: Michigan Avenue. The wife wants to look at shoes.  Again.

Before she can say "size 10 in a strappy sandal, please," a gang of thugs knocks you to the ground, pummels you ruthlessly for 5 minutes, takes your last five dollars, and runs away. Final score:

City of Chicago:  $200 and a cracked rib
You: A solemn vow to never visit this Godforsaken downtown area ever again.

In a period where families are struggling financially and personal safety is a legitimate concern, the lure of downtown is diminishing (Daley's flower pots notwithstanding). Even the city's premier food festival, The Taste of Chicago, drew fewer crowds and faced a significant downturn in business (see SunTimes article). 

A recent mob attack in Boy's Town (see Trib article) has led to a community meeting to address the issue as well as a Facebook group called, "Take Back Boystown."  As I am a big fan of the neighborhood from my years spent living near there (safest place in the world for a single 20-some girl to walk home alone at night), I was sad for the plight of this tight-knit community. I checked out the Facebook group to see what the residents were suggesting.

I got to tell you, there were pages and pages of thoughts on the matter. Everything from re-forming The Pink Panthers' Patrol to demanding an upsurge in police presence were batted around. Some people were angry, some people were hopeful, and some people were just trolling for a fight. The divergence in opinions was obvious.

One perhaps slightly naive poster felt that the thugs were basically bored kids angry about not being admitted into area bars because they were underage. Her solution: juice bars. Because behind every felonious, knife-wielding teen is a kid who just wants to hang out and drink apple ciders. Perhaps low blood sugar is the true dark catalyst behind all of this recent madness. Juice bars.  Of course.

Forget Pepper Spray - Offer your Attacker a CapriSun instead.

My boys have been dying to take a ride on "The El" this summer like they have every year since they were born. Heck, I used to ride the Red Line every day with Daniel clutching my hand and Jack bopping around in my stomach. I'm just not as comfortable as I used to be with that idea.

Some will say that I am perpetuating a myth of urban violence that is being exaggerated by the press and those easily agitated.  My recent car ride through several neighborhoods on the northwest side suggests otherwise. Good people are waking up every day on blocks were there is no order or likely assurances that daylight will shine on them or their families again.

I love you, Chicago.  But you can do better.