Monday, October 31, 2011


I played it smart this year.  I waited until Saturday to buy our Halloween candy so I wouldn't guppy my way through 8 pounds of Snickers before October 31st.  I also bought only chewy yucky candy so there wouldn't be a moment's temptation to morph into a Chilean miner and dig my way to the bottom of the economy-priced 155 piece bag of Almond Joys.

I also sent my husband off to work.  He often tries to take the day off for Trick or Treating.  In the past, this has resulted in us hitting only 3 houses in an hour and a half because Joe knows everybody in Chicago.  While I'm dealing with anxious kids wanting to sprint from house to house, Joe runs through his Fantasy Football picks with the neighbors, his 20 first cousins, and everybody he went to high school with. Because they all live right here.

As mentioned in previous posts, I also arranged costumes in advance. I'm saving the big reveal for Wednesday's edition of Chicago Parent Online.  Yet for you, loyal reader, I will offer a teeny weeny hint:

If you've already guessed, don't mention it in the comment section (but you can still leave recommendations for therapists if you'd like). If you don't know, just reflect on my mastering of all things inappropriate.

I better get back to the laundry before my three CPS schools start calling to demand why someone as insensitive and tone-deaf as myself is allowed to raise children.

heh heh heh

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Sunday Confessional

What kind of mother lets her 4 year-old ride the mechanical bull?

Or her 7 year-old drink coffee?

Just doing my job to make sure nobody is being too hard on themselves today.

No thanks required. 

I've already got plenty of Taffy Apples.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

WANTED: Affy Tapple Delivery Person for Questioning

Alright. Who is it?

After a long day out and about, the family and I returned home to find a plastic bag hanging on our front door. Atheist-Friend does this sort of thing pretty regularly when when she buys me Berry Berry Kix cereal from Costco. They don't carry Berry Berry Kix at my Dominick's and Joey loves the stuff. So I'm accustomed to finding hanging plastic bags of cereal on my door.

For anyone who thinks Chicago is a crime-ridden urban nightmare where you just don't leave unattended breakfast options out in the open, think again.  The Beverly neighborhood is different.  With several cops living within striking distance and even more observant neighbor-moms ready to pounce, I've never had a single box of Kix go missing. 

As I walked up our front steps, I realized it wasn't cereal.  It was something else. Something unholy. Something only a serpent would leave.

Affy Tapples. WITHOUT nuts.

More damn picketers.

It was as though somebody had been reading my blog. As though somebody knew that Jack had refused to eat his Affy Tapple because he doesn't like the "seeds" (peanuts).   As though somebody was taunting me...

I've got my suspicions.  We've obviously got a Jack-sympathizer on our hands.  Somebody who feels bad for the kid whose mom didn't order him a single nut-free apple. 

I will get to the bottom of this.  If it's the last thing I do.  As God as my witness.

It's mostly because I really need to write a thank-you note and set a good example for the boys. It's a compulsion.  I will start feeling nauseous if I can't.

So fess up before I put the FBI on the case.  I've got them on speed dial, you know.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Forbidden Affy Tapples

To help alleviate my guilt over never doing Market Day or Innisbrook fundraising, here is visual proof that I willingly jumped right on board for the big Affy Tapple school sale:

They kind of look like angry little picketers, don't they?

Is it just me, or does anybody else find it ironic that most schools have strict anti-nut policies, yet this is the fundraiser they run with? 

Anyway, I placed my order as the boys all promised to do their duty and help dwindle down the supply.  Joey sat at the table for an entire hour licking his Affy Tapple like a sucker. Unfortunately, it is now apparent that it takes more than an hour for a 4 year-old to erode peanuts with his tongue. I promptly ate his drooly mess when he announced his "sucker" didn't work right.

Jack took one bite and told me he didn't like the "seeds" (the peanuts). I inhaled that one, too.  Daniel licked most of the carmel and nuts right off his and handed me the rest with a thoughtful, "I saved some for you, mom." Not a problem. Affy Tapple #3 was dispatched of immediately. Each Affy Tapple has 120 calories. I had already polished off three. In 15 minutes

I decided to swear off the rest of these carmel-laced temptations and dole them out to friends and family as quickly as possible. The apples obviously have some sort of ungodly hold on me. It was as though a conniving little serpent was whispering in my ear:

SSSS...they're just fruit.  Fruit is good for you.

SSSSS....they expire on November 7th.  You abhor waste, right?

SSSSS...apples make you smart so you can help Daniel with his math homework. Finally. 

My punishment is evident.  Cast out of single-digit clothes.  Cursed to roam the world without grace or favor.  Forever subordinate to those who can control their Affy Tapple desire.

Reason #63 why I hate school fundraisers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Let She Who is Without Sin Never Raise a Child

I recently read a story about a mother who had Child Protective Services come to her house because of some sarcastic comments she made about her kid on her blog.  I read the actual entry, and it all seemed pretty innocuous to me.  Her subsequent treatment reminded me of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.  It took just one overly-righteous reader crying Sinner! and suddenly her whole family was subjected to interrogation and cast under a shroud of suspicion. Very Salem witch trial-esque if you ask me.

It also left me quite paranoid.

I started reading through all of my entries and realized that some might consider my use of faith and even Santa Claus as "mentally abusive" in child-rearing.   And what about all that instant oatmeal I feed my boys?  Surely the healthy mommy brigade would be knocking down my door at any moment with broccoli stalks aimed at my head.  I also mention an affinity for the occasional Mike's Hard Lemonade.  Could I be forced into some kind of program involving steps?  And let's not even get into the excessive piano practice I inflict or the fact that until last week, not one of my kids owned a single matching pair of pajamas. 

For some mothers, this kind of behavior is grounds for my immediate burning at the stake:

Mismatched pajamasWhat kind of monster is she?  She's obviously in league with the devil. 

She doesn't buy Innisbrook?  I bet you she doesn't participate in Market Day either.  Heathen.

Look at those plain, simple names she gave her boys.  It's apparent she doesn't love them enough to put much thought into worthy and important names like my precious little Star Dust and Pickle Lily.

For me, Mom Blogs are all about humor, satire, and the telling of a good tale.  Being eccentric shouldn't be considered a crime.  Nobody has this whole mom thing figured out. 

Jack was helping me sound out a word here.  I think it was "neurosis."
Did you know that Franklin Roosevelt's mom used to dress him as a girl?  Kennedy children were forbidden to cry.  Albert Einstein's mother made him practice the violin until he begged to stop and she sent him to Catholic School (despite his being Jewish).  Some of the nuttiest moms out there have produced the world's greatest minds. These women are my heroes. Yet why must we throw each other under the bus just because we look at things differently?

I disagree with most moms.  I personally believe that women who let their kids win at Chutes & Ladders are making a monumental mistake.  Do I call Child Protective Services?  No.  It's because I'm open to being wrong and I figure my kids will one day gripe about how I never threw a single round of Candy Land to help improve their self-esteem. 

But who can say for sure which way is really better?  And who gets to determine what actually defines "better?" 

We need to make mistakes as mothers.  A lot of them.  It's how our kids learn to cope in a world of flawed humanity.  It's how they realize you can screw up and move on.  All those competing stories over who has the crazier mother actually unifies us.  Across cultures.  Across the ages.  Across the Candy Land board.

When Joe and I bought our house from a family who had recently lost their mother, I remember the adult children all sitting in the kitchen the night before our closing.  There were 10 of them.  I still can't believe they survived with one kitchen drawer.  With ten children. For hours and hours, these wonderful people sat around and recounted tales of their mother.  The funny stuff.  The crazy stuff.  The touching stuff.  The stuff that made their mother memorable, unique, and legendary.  The stuff that made their mom theirs

That's exactly the kind of mom I want to be.  I want my boys to laugh at the fact that I bought used girl bikes at garage sales to build character. I want them to remember how I invented ominous figures like the "Toy Taker" so they never left their junk on the floor at night.  I want them to complain to their own children about how I made them listen to Rent and Les Miserables in the car for hours and hours on end.   I want them to chuckle over my chronic lectures on the importance of family.  I want them to remember how even as they grew into adult men, my final cry of departure as we left any place was always the same:

Come along, my babies. Come along.

I'm not sure where my methods will lead.  This stuff I do.  Yet if my children one day sit around in this very same kitchen telling the same kinds of stories with the same measure of love I witnessed not so long ago, I will know the sins of this mother are forgiven. 

It's all I can hope for.  It's all I really want.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fat Old Dogs

I'm feeling so lazy today.  I am one-part big fat old dog.  I don't really want to move, but if someone comes over and wants to take me for a walk, I will begrudgingly oblige.  This is why I hang out with Atheist-Friend.  She walks me quite regularly.

I am also one-part guppy.  If you leave a pan of brownies at my house, I will eat them until I explode and die.  Oddly enough, the brownies on my counter are also from Atheist-Friend. 

So why the hell isn't she here taking me for my walk?  I'm about to die here.

I felt a little less lazy yesterday when my stubby little fingers flew across the keyboard as I wrote a must-read article on why I hate Halloween. It's right here.  One click away.   

You gotta cut me some slack.  I promised those people at Chicago Parent Magazine something for today, and it was either give them the Halloween write-up or my college paper on why I hate Middle English. 

Thank you, loyal reader.  I knew you'd understand.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lessons of the Laundromat

When my laundry dryer failed to cooperate yesterday, I grabbed a handful of quarters and my youngest child to go in search of a laundromat.  It's been a while since my last visit, so I couldn't help but wax nostalgic about my past experiences as a downtown single gal doing group laundry.  

I somehow remembered it all as being rather romantic. 

The interesting people

The communal folding

The dumping out of other people's wet laundry because nobody bothered claiming it when all the washers were full.  

I even built up the experience for Joey and insisted this was going to be a grand adventure.

As I walked in, I couldn't get over the size of the washing machines.  They were mammoth.  I stood in front of one such beast for about ten minutes trying to figure out what to do before the laundry matron (is that the term?) walked over to assist.  I pulled out my handful of quarters and looked sheepishly at her as she began to direct me.

Oh, honey.  You got a twenty?  There's a change machine over there.  I think prices have gone up since the last time you were at a laundromat.

I was confused.  I brought like $6 in quarters.  That wasn't enough?  By the time I got back from the change machine, the laundry lady was busy shoving 4 of my comforters into a machine.

Um....isn't that a bit much for one washer?

Oh, darlin'.  This machine takes 9 loads.

Of wash??

Uh huh.
Where can I get one??

This was so much better than the olden days.  The woman continued to stuff my 15 loads of wash (4 comforters, sheets, pillow cases and a weekend's worth of clothes for 5 people) into 2 washing machines.  Holy sh*t.  I wanted to live here.

But then came the tricky party.  Joey.  Joey got bored.  He started climbing in and out of washing machines.  He got his hand stuck in a gumball machine.  He damn near broke the only arcade game there by banging some kind of gun on the screen while yelling "die...DIE!"  The laundry boss gave me a a dirty look.  I now needed to get out of there ASAP.

I quickly proceeded to the dryers.  For as fast and efficient I found the washing machines, the dryers were like molasses in January.  Every 12 minutes (which is how much time you get per quarter), I'd test one of my 15 spinning lots to see if the items were done.  It was like trying to keep plates turning on a stick.  I suppose I could have tossed in extra quarters just to make sure enough time was purchased for sufficient drying, but that's not my way.  Plus, Joey used like 6 of my quarters to buy M&M's out of a dirty old candy dispenser.  My laundry funds were nearing depletion.

I dropped and dropped and dropped more quarters in.  And each time I opened the door to check for fluffy clean towels, it was as if my wet clothes were mocking me.

Four hours later, everything was mostly dry.  Or rather, only slightly damp.  It took 5 trips back and forth in a busy parking lot to get everything in my car.  I dropped one of the comforters in a puddle.  Joey screamed at the top of his lungs from the front of the laundromat where I left him for a second with another mom to keep him from darting through traffic:


Moral of the story: laundry sucks. 

But I guess you already knew that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Monday Morning Meltdown

Okay.  My laundry dryer has died.  I can deal with just about any household disaster except a broken washer or dryer.  I'm trying to stay calm, but the kids have already been yelled at twice this morning.  

I'm a woman on the brink.

So in lieu of a lengthy post, here's a happy moment that I'm going to try to hold onto while I have my Lucy at the chocolate factory kind of day:

Jack has his first pair of matching pajamas ever courtesy of my $10 off coupon at JC Penney's and the pajamas being on sale for $10.  Final cost was around fifty cents. Once again, I think fate has intervened on Jack's behalf.   Naturally, the only pair left was in his exact size.

Out of all my boys, he's the one with the biggest horseshoe up is you-know-what.

I'm looking forward to taking him to Vegas one day.

Now if only he knew how to fix a dryer.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Lost Binder

Jack lost his binder for Catholic Ed last week.  I was annoyed.  The kid loses everything not glued to his person.  All those prayers.  All those colored pictures of Jesus.  Gone gone gone.  I was now going to have to slink into church this week and beg for forgiveness and a new book for my forgetful middle child. 

It was a busy week which ended with my husband attending the funeral of a dear family friend he has known his entire life.  The man was the father of 13 children and a retired firefighter.  I could go into detail about his remarkable life and legacy (conveyed mostly through Joe), but it's really not my story to share. 

As Joe walked into the packed church, he found a pew and somehow noticed an abandoned binder.  Another mourner held it up commented:

Oh, little Jack in 1st grade is going to be in BIG trouble with the nuns this week!

My husband, unaware of the lost materials, took a careful look at the name printed across the front cover and realized it was our Jack's book.   He quickly claimed it and continued on the day of traditional Irish mourning.  Joe couldn't help but wonder about the odds of his selecting that exact pew which would lead to the return of the lost binder.

It got me thinking about that father of 13 and all the lost hats, gloves, books, and shoes he must have experienced in his day.  In my normal superstitious and "there are no coincidences" kind of way, I feel it was no accident that the book was discovered by Joe.

A little extra "here you go" from above.  From one father to the next.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Morning Reality Check

In my twenties, I thought marriage was supposed to resemble some weird combination of a Hollywood movie and 18th century poem.  I had already predetermined the types of phone conversations I would have with my betrothed.  A sample: 


Joe:  My darling, you sound tired.  Have I awoken you from restful slumber? A person so emblematic of virtuous mind and spirit should not be disturbed by my clumsy love and desire to hear just a single word from your lips.

Me:  My angel.  Even the most miraculous of dreams could not compare to a single waking moment with you.

Joe:  Have you ever known such a glorious sunrise?  Why, cast back the curtains and take hold of the dazzling morning light that beckons our eternity together.  Its brilliant gold radiance and heavenly aura, though breathtaking, still merely pale in comparison to my burning desire to see you again soon.

I could really draw this out for a while, but the thought of Joe actually talking this way is making me laugh.  I've had 3 kids.  Laughing does not bode well for my bladder.

Anyway.  Here's the actual conversation I had with my husband Friday morning:




Me (trying to hide the fact that I just woke up):  Hello?

Joe:  Did you just wake up?

Me:  No.

Joe:  Is Danny ready for school?  It's almost 6:30 (Danny has to be at the bus by 6:55 am).

Me (lying):  Yup.

Joe (doubtful):  Ok.  Anyway, we had a fire last night.

Me: Everybody okay?

Joe: A staircase collapsed.  One of our guys fell through it and sprained an ankle.

Me:  Oh Jesus.  That's scary.

Joe:  Yeah.

Me:  So where are you now?

Joe:  On my way to hang drape (2nd job).

Me:  How are you feeling?

Joe:  Like I'm tired of making the flippin' donuts.

Me:  Can you pick up some milk on your way home?

Joe:  To go with that home cooked meal you're whipping up?

Me:  That's right.

Joe:  Ok.  The roofer is coming by at 12:30 to give us an estimate.

Me:  Do I need to be here for that?

Joe:  Why?  Meeting up with your boyfriend?

Me:  I need to get the boys something nice to wear to the wake tonight (for the death of a close family friend).  None of their good shirts fit.

Joe:  Just promise me you won't buy them stupid matching outfits. 

Me:  I love you.

Joe:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Stupid Matching Outfits.  Not the cutest items I came across, but I had a coupon and a gift card.
To be perfectly honest, I prefer my husband's morning check-in calls to the fabricated romantic comedy scripts I had once so admired.  He calls us because he wants to remind himself who all his hard work is for.  He calls us because he misses us after 2 days away.

He calls because he has no confidence in his wife's ability to get all 3 kids off to their respective schools on time.

Smart man, that Joe.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Keep Out of Reach of Tall Children

Sometimes I get a little distracted. Like the time Danny and Jack went coasting down a hill in their double stroller as I stood there trying to locate the gorilla house on the zoo map.  By the time I looked up, they were 50 feet away and tipped over in the grass. 

I've gotten better.  Really I have.

Yet as I gathered up hockey equipment yesterday, I somehow lost track of the hour.  It was suddenly time to start my afternoon school pick-ups and I was late.  I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror and realized I looked askew.  So I ducked into our first floor bathroom to quickly comb my hair and spritz a little hairspray on my Supercuts 'do so the bus moms wouldn't laugh at me. 

Unfortunately, I also keep other aerosol bottles right next to my hairspray.  Can you guess which one I used instead?

Helpful hint to people with babies: do not leave your child unattended at my house.

Let's just say my head has a whole new army of scrubbing bubbles working their smiling little a$$es off to keep my hair tidy and free of mildew.  You think I would have caught this?

Yellow nozzle.  White nozzle.  So obvious.  
Oddly enough, after I wet my hair a little bit and ran a comb through the toxic cleanser, I was good to go.  My hair didn't budge for the remainder of the day despite wind and rain exposure.

Sadly, this is not the first time I've done such a thing.  Last month, I took the worry out of ever having ants in my hair.  For the record, the Raid bottle is bright blue.

Maybe it's time to make an appointment with that eye doctor?

(Disclaimer: The high-end hairspray highlighted in today's blog was bought on clearance at the Hair Cuttery this summer.  I picked up every last bottle while the boys got their buzz cuts.  It was cheaper than Aqua Net).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My First Meet & Greet

Being an international blog sensation with hits all across 3 states can be exhausting.  It shouldn't come as any surprise then that my fan base has reached out for some face-to-face meetings with moi. 

If you're a stickler for details, it was really just one fan who moved back to the neighborhood, had a baby, and needed a night out with some moms. 

Still, I googled the scenario and discovered that this was a textbook example of how sociopaths with a fetish for chubby blog moms set up their kills.  It was all very Ted Bundy.  Prey on a victim's sympathies. Find items of relatability. Then smack 'em upside the head with a bottle of Chianti.  My family would have to bury my vintage Little People instead of me since my body would never ever be found.

But I'm like Super-Blogger.  I mean, if you're really going after a mom blogger, you don't opt for the  6 footer with a history of swearing and over-reacting.  Yet just to be safe, I lined up a few of my girls to help out in case my fan was truly a whack job.  In hindsight, I probably should have selected some bigger friends instead of the 90 pound weaklings who tagged along.  I think I could have taken them all put together.

Because of all the Ibuprofen and Vicodin I've downed the last couple of days for my back pain, I wasn't sure if meeting up for drink was such a good idea.  Eh.  I've never really been known for my reason and logic.  Impulse and emotion rule my zodiacal sign.  At least that's my gut feeling about the matter as I'm not really sure what my zodiacal sign is. 

The Beverly Mom Posse showed up and grabbed a table right by the door just in case we had to make a hasty exit.  Within moments, a frighteningly disheveled and peculiar-looking woman walked in.  My friends burst out laughing.  The woman kept walking right past us.  Not my fan.  *whew*  Of course my friends made comments about how the crazy lady seemed to fit the profile of the kind of people who would enjoy my blog.  My eloquent, high-brow English-Major response?

Shut up.  You guys suck.

A short while later, a very normal-looking person walked in.  This was of course my real fan.  Within a few minutes, we ascertained the normal southside-connections (which is to name 4 people in Beverly and figure out which one you're related to).

We all had a lovely evening and I am grateful to have found the one non-relative who reads my blog. 

Also, the nice policeman at the bar gave me some valuable advice about not meeting anyone I've talked to "on the Internet."  I tried explaining blogging, but I don't think I communicated it very well. 

I promised the nice officer that next time I meet a fan, I will take the proper precautions.  I thought he meant to bring a can of pepper spray.  He was thinking sharp-shooters. 

I love Chicago.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Very Vicodin Voice

I threw my back out putting away a shirt.  One shirt. Not a sweater.  Not a coat.  One of Joe's stupid Budweiser t-shirts. So now I'm on Vicodin.  I have completely lost the ability to write coherently.  Or operate heavy machinery.  Or locate my car keys.

Help me out here, loyal reader.  What is the universe trying to tell me?  Ease up on the Budweiser? Laundry sucks?  Time to spend a day stoned and sitting on a heating pad?  

You will now be directed to today's Chicago Parent where I wrote something before I became incapacitated.  I thought about crafting a lengthy blog on the under-rated genius of Nutella, but that would only be the pain-killers talking.  I'm on my 2nd jar.  Costco sells them in 2-packs.  Right around the corner from all their weight-loss products.  Coincidence?

The biggest reason I could never become a Vicodin addict is all the itching.  I nearly scratched my eyes out last night.  When I was given pain-killers after my c-sections, I rubbed my nose damn near off my face, and it was days before doctors finally threw me some Benadryl.

Back to Chicago Parent.  If I'm remembering this correctly, I believe I wrote something about homework and my withdrawal of parental involvement.  Too much fighting.  The skirmishes were getting intense.  Daniel was starting to embrace incorrect answers just to watch my head explode.

Oh, wait.  Maybe that's the reason for this swift karmic justice.  Impatient mom = crippling punishment from God. 

Got it.  Thanks, Universe.  You suck.

This is called irony.  I actually took my Vicodin with water, but don't think this option didn't cross my mind.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Joey and the Pizza Shush

Anytime Joe tries to convince me that cereal isn't a valid dinner option, I argue that I've been eating it as such for most of my adult life.  I've also got the lowest cholesterol my doctor has ever seen in an adult. 

Cheerios works, people. 

Still, when Joe sees a restaurant on one of those foodie television shows, I usually try to be a good sport.  But some of these places are in really horrible neighborhoods.  I write this not as a former suburbanite prone to over-reacting.  This is a 15-year city vet who knows a corner drug deal when she sees one. 

So last weekend, we again went in search of some kind of magic pizza puff about which great things have been written.  The neighborhood was one of the worst I'd ever seen.  Dirty.  Lots of corner activity.  Graffiti everywhere.  Not another minivan anywhere in site. 

As the five of us piled out, I was relieved to spot a police officer through the window eating a 6-pound pizza puff.  This told me two things:  the food was going to be great and we probably weren't going to die.

When we took our seats, I couldn't help but notice a very large woman eating her dinner.  My husband (who is in the business of moving very large people as a paramedic) later estimated her weight at about 700 pounds.  I'm not one to judge.  Left to my own devices, I could easily become a 700 pound pizza puff devotee.  It's really not outside of my realm of possibility.

Up until that moment, my youngest son Joey had never seen anyone this large.  He immediately started to talk.  I immediately started shushing him.

Joey:  Mommy...see dat wady (lady)...


Joey:  Mommy...dat wady is....

Me:  STOP talking, Joseph.

Joey:  Mommy...dat wady is willy willy (really really).....

Me:  Joseph! Say another word and you're in TIME OUT.

Joey:  But Mommy...see her.  Wite (right) THERE!

I finally got the kid to be quiet as we ate our amazingly awesome giant pizza puff.  The policeman nodded his head in agreement as we "mmmm'ed" our way through dinner.

Unfortunately, this is where Joey saw an opportunity to finally make his point.  He started up about the "wady" just as I shoved a giant-sized bite of puff into my mouth.  It all happened in slow motion.





Willy (really)

Willy (really)

(right at this point I started choking on my food trying to stop him)


Oh dear God.  Thank you.  The woman turned and smiled at us.  I took a sip of water in order to alleviate my spastic coughing.

Despite my near-death choking experience, I got to say.  It was so worth the food

Random shot of Joey since I didn't bring my camera.
And it's now time for Joey to endure the old "everybody looks different, so please let's not point it out in a public establishment, shall we?" speech.

I suppose my inspiration for this lecture comes mostly from the fact that the woman really could be me one day.  I'm talking awesome pizza puff here - 700 pounds or not, the lady had great taste.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Things that Go Bump in the Light

I was at the park on a gorgeous Saturday morning with Atheist-Friend and our children.  Fall was in the air.  Crunchy leaves whipped around the playground.   I filled my lungs with fresh air and happiness.  What a way to start our day.

Then I hear crying.  Not the normal, melodramatic self-pitying "I skinned my knee" crying.  The real stuff.  The kind of crying that makes a mother's blood run cold because her child is seriously hurt.

It's Daniel.  Apparently, he and his friend had twisted their swings into knots so they could spin around with dizzying speed and glee.  In his untwisting frenzy, Daniel smacked his forehead right into a park pole.  It took me 3 seconds to get to him and a golf ball had already sprouted from his forehead.

A little background before I continue: I don't do well when my children are hurt. My instinct is to hug them in hopes that pure maternal love will instantly heal their wounds.  I also overreact and call ambulances anytime there is a head injury out of fear that they are oozing brains or suffering a cranial bleed. We've all read about Natasha Richardson, right?

Thankfully, I know my husband is home.  He's a licensed paramedic.  I race Daniel to the car, leave the other boys with Atheist-Friend, and nearly pass out when I see his bump is now the size of an apple.  It looks like a giant purple tumor.

Normally, it would take me 4 minutes to drive home from the park.  I made it in 29 seconds.  Even in that short time, his wound grew into the size of a grapefruit.

I raced in the door, spied my husband, tossed my broken child at him and demanded that he "fix him."  Like NOW.  Like one of those Evangelical healers.  Can I hear an amen?

Joe, still wiping sleep from his eyes (he had worked the night before at the firehouse), calmly set about getting an ice pack and evaluating Dan's mental state.

He knew his name, the year, and that his mother was crazy.  We were good.

After repeated assurances that Joe would keep an eye on him and call me with any changes, I headed back to the park for my other children.

Within a short period, Joe called.  Daniel was having some memory loss and threw up.

I wanted an ambulance. I wanted a chopper.  I wanted Marcus Welby MD.  STAT.

Joe said he'd take our son to Prompt Care for a concussion evaluation.

Thankfully, it turns out that throwing up is normal when you bump your head.  As is a lot of swelling.  The key to a concussion (according to our local doc-in-the-box) is uneven pupil dilation in the eyes. 

Once again, I refer to a recent drawing by Jack for visual assistance:

Feel free to print up a copy for your refrigerator.

So there is your medical tip for the day.  I'm wondering if I should submit the drawing to publishing companies who handle medical text books.  The kid is spot-on.

Daniel is doing much better, his bump has all but disappeared, and I am seriously considering making my kids wear helmets 24/7.

Or commit to indoor activities for the remainder of the year.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wine & No Cheese

Thoughts on the Wine & Cheese Fundraiser from last night:

  • Wearing ridiculously tall heels might not have been a good plan for a standing-only event
  • Because cheese was not included in the $55/couple admission price, I'm feeling a little misled
  • True wine connoisseurs should have known better than to spend 10 minutes discussing the bouquet and aroma of each wine in a long line full of cops and firemen.  They were really taking their lives in their own hands
  • The people from my neighborhood rock, including the parents who decided to hang with us at Cork & Kerry afterwards
  • School fundraisers don't always suck
  • I could support a family on what my babysitter makes an hour
That's all I got except this big bottle of Excedrin Migraine and a fine story about how you can determine whether a 7-year-old has suffered a concussion after slamming his forehead into a pole at the park while spinning madly around on a swing.

More on that tomorrow.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Some People Cannot be Helped

Another fundraiser.  Another school to support. Another reason to buy a box of hair dye to get these greys under control. While I was at it, I would also squeeze in a visit to Supercuts. My split ends were starting to hurt.  

I have no brand loyalty.  I buy whatever color is on sale. 

She could be my twin.
So as I ran through my plans for beautification to the other moms at the bus stop, I got the look to end all looks from Miniature-Friend. As a reminder, Miniature-Friend is a size 0, runs daily, and sees personal grooming as a measure of salvation. 

Miniature-Friend:  Oh, Marianne.  You didn't just say SuperCuts.

Me:  Uh...

Miniature-Friend:  And you're dying your own hair?

Me:  Uh......

I started having flashbacks to 7th grade gym class and braced myself for the onslaught. Yet instead of going all mean-girl, Miniature-Friend grabbed another mom's phone and tried getting me an "emergency" appointment with a real salon. Much to her chagrin, she couldn't get me on the schedule that day. So she begged and pleaded. She offered to watch my kids the next day. She volunteered to drive me to a salon downtown. Just anything, anything other than Supercuts.

No woman who has birthed 3 children should have to go to Supercuts!

I'm not sure what she thinks happens at Supercuts, but I have a feeling it's a lot worse in her head.  Nonetheless, I appreciated her concern for my well-being.  It came from a very pure and perfectly manicured place.

The Supercuts lady who did in fact cut my hair was very nice and told me she never ever wanted to get married or have kids. I would say that makes her smarter than all those girls at Mario Tricoci's combined.

So with the extra money saved from eschewing high-end professionals, I got a new pair of shoes on sale at Macy's:

I will be the tallest person EVER.

If I could ever be as adorable as Miniature-Friend, perhaps I would also seek out the best salons and services to accentuate my looks.  Instead, I choose to highlight the fact that I can see everybody's bald spots and roots.  The power of being 6'4" in heels is awesome.  I feel divine.

Until of course I have a little much of that wine at the Wine & Cheese gala and fall flat on my face in my big honking shoes.   I'll be taking bets on that later.

Friday, October 14, 2011

About That Marathon Hero

As promised, I finally wrote that blog entry about one of the true heroes of the Chicago Marathon.  I decided to use it for Chicago Parent Magazine's online page this week and I've included the link below.

I know I'm being lazy in not writing something brand new just for this page.   But I'm not like those 26.2 mile marathoners.  I'm a slacker.  I probably would have hitched the bus to the finish line like some of those runners they discovered at Sunday's Marathon. 

Which is why my punishment is to never ever fit into a size 8 again.

Click Here to Read About Someone We Should All Know.

13 mile mark of Marathon.  I would have already jumped on the 22 Clark Street bus by then.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why We Civilize Children

Lately I've been hearing a lot of nonsense about allowing kids to be themselves.  I fight the urge to not laugh aloud at such wack-a-doodle parenting theories.  If I allowed my children to "be themselves," they wouldn't shower, eat anything except french fries, or know how to read.

This is where our job as parents comes in.  We civilize them.  Prep them for polite society if you will.  Thwart their egocentric wills at every turn.  Crush their desire to roam the earth naked while eating a bag of Cheetos.  Then we pick them up, dust them off, and direct them towards education and careers so they can move the heck out of my house.

To prove my point, here is the latest video of Joey displaying his new obsession with "farting out of his mouth."  It has been a month-long battle to get him to stop doing this:

For those not completely distracted by Joey's performance, that would be Jack practicing the piano in the background.  His civilization is coming along quite nicely, thank you very much.

I will start allowing my kids more room to "be themselves" once they can cut their own meat, properly wash their own hands, and take baths without leaving an inch of standing water on my bathroom floor.

Until then, they are all mine.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

We Merry Band of Bloggers

Okay, you guys must have already figured out that my sense of humor is a bit outside of the norm (and I still owe you a blog on my whole "tickets to heaven" scheme to get the kids to behave).  So you shouldn't be surprised that a few of my favorite blog choices are decidedly off-kilter. 

I promised Gweenbrick a few weeks back to participate in some kind of Blog Chain Letter where I post links to my own entries and then highlight some of my favorite bloggers.  That's entirely too much work, so I'm simplifying.

I'm going to instead just provide a link to a few of my favorite blogs and explain why I read them.  I have to disqualify both my right and left wing bloggers because if they ever realize I read both sides, I'm toast.

Here goes:

Gweenbrick: He's funny.  And twisted.  And I think he works with children.  Be sure to start with his first entry as he's one of the few bloggers who hit the ground running.  Lots of wildly hilarious stories and illustrations.  An example:

Ho-Hum Life & Just a Mum....?  Two of my gals.  Doing the mom thing.  Making me feel a little less lonely in the world.

Mothers of Brothers:  Anyone who can direct like 1,000 hits my way in 10 minutes is my hero.  I'm seriously willing to give the lady a liver should she ever need it. Or spleen?  Uterus? I can't keep track of my organs.  Anyway, she's really funny and her October 6th blog on having a pathological need to be liked rang very true to me.   I also want everyone to like me, but my tragic inability to remember people has really hindered my popularity.  I call the mailman by a new name each day figuring I have to get it right eventually

My Suitcase Full of Tricks:  Once you check out the picture of what she did with overgrown lawn mushrooms, you will never be able to leave.  Oh, and I think she dated George Clooney.

The Writer's Poke:  This was one of my college friends who now has a PhD and writes a blog that is supposed to make you think.  Since I can't actually do that anymore, I pretend to be smart by visiting his blog regularly.

There are many other blogs I read and plan to highlight soon.  It's just that we had swimming and CCD last night and I forgot to make lunches for the boys.  I also think I'm out of bread.  PB&J on soft taco shells it is!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cheater Cheater Pumpkin Eater

I never thought I could feel such hostility towards a bunch a kids as I did the other day when we visited Santa's Village amusement park.  There was a Park District group in attendance.  The children all wore green shirts.   The place was pretty empty, so the lines were moving fairly quickly.

Until the Green Shirts descended.

Over and over, a Green Shirt would cut in line and then turn to convince other Green Shirts to join him.

The first couple of times, I gave the kids a pass.  They had such sweet innocent faces, perhaps they were just confused over line etiquette?  I was with Joey while my husband took the older boys on scarier rides. But soon, it became apparent that I was on my way to a state of righteous indignation. With each unchecked line transgression, the whole pack of Green Shirts felt emboldened to continue their reign of terror on the unsuspecting line-abiding parents of Santa's Village. By the time I met up with Joe, my blood was boiling.

Joe, too, had noticed the unruly Green Shirts but figured he just had the misfortune of standing behind an isolated few bad apples.  Once he realized it was an actual epidemic of cheating little 8-year-olds, we hatched our plan.  We would again go "southside" (but without the normal swearing).

As we set off for the second half of the day, Joe and I were committed to calling out these kids on their unacceptable behavior.  Every time they tried to cut, we would yell:





Naturally, the Green Shirt chaperones looked at us as though we'd lost our marbles (which was not an unfair assumption).  Yet where was the guidance?  Where was the direction from adult chaperones who should know better?  The kids all looked around at each other like we were yelling at someone else.  This is where my husband is great:

No...I'm talking to YOU.  In the GREEN SHIRT.  Don't think you're getting away with anything today.  It AIN'T happening.

Normally, I cringe when Joe drops an "ain't," but it did give him that little extra edge and street cred needed to shut down the grammar school crowd.

I'm still thinking about writing a letter to the suburban Park District responsible for allowing such behavior to go on unabated, but I suppose I can't be sure that my own children haven't acted this horribly outside my presence.

This fear lead to an hour-long lecture on the ride home about how I expect them to behave when I'm not around.  I threw God, Santa Claus, and the ghosts of their dead grandparents into the mix as far as people who will be monitoring their behavior at all times.

Then I got more serious.  I started to worry about peer influences in the future.  So many Green Shirts obviously felt uncomfortable and hesitant to cut in line, but they were egged on by less virtuous friends.  I went into a long speech about how the measure of person is based not in how he behaves in the presence of moral character, but rather how he acts in the absence of such. 

The kids grew confused by my diatribe, and kept insisting that they didn't cut.  Then they asked what kind of "presents" this Moral Character guy has.  Like a Nintendo DS?

By the time we pulled into the driveway, the boys asked to never go to Santa's Village again.

Mission accomplished.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Chicago Marathon and Me

I love a good re-creation of ancient Greek couriers as much as the next guy, but watching it with thousands of fellow Chicago Marathon fans Sunday morning was really something special.  I hope to do a write-up this week about a real Chicago hero who ran Sunday, but I would like to take a day or two to  fittingly capture this person's amazing feat before posting.  Look for it soon.

The crowd at the event was first-class all the way.  I have never heard so many cow bells at one time.  Life needs more cow bell.  The audience was polite, wildly supportive, and extremely tidy.  It made me proud to be a Chicagoan. 

I fought the urge to yell "Run, Forrest" all day.
Part of me feels a tad envious that folks can actually train, sacrifice, and push their bodies to such extremes.  I can't even do a sit-up.  The dedication needed to run 26.2 miles exceeds most people's physical and psychological limits.  I get grouchy when I don't get a close spot at the grocery store.  How do they do it? 

As I was feeling all disappointed about my lumpy, middle-aged body, my husband reminded me how happy I was when I took up running a couple of years ago.  Back then, we even decided to run the Shamrock Shuffle 8K together.  Little did I know that race day would correspond with a horrible, late-season ice and snow storm. Still, the pride we felt after completing our frosty little run was immeasurable. This was the point my husband tried making Sunday night:

Joe:  You completed an 8K! That's nothing to sneeze at.

Me:  But they gave you beer at the end.  There was an incentive.

Joe:  True.  But why don't you think about running again?  You loved it.

Me:  I am so out of shape now.  You're calling me fat, aren't you?

Joe:  No, I'm calling you grumpy. 

Me:  I know you are, but what am I?

Joe:  C'mon.  I'll buy you a beer if you do it.

Me:  Start running again?

Joe:  Yes.

Me:  Make it an appletini and you have a deal.

So I think I'm ready to start trotting around Beverly again at an amazing 11.2 minute mile pace while dazzling everyone with my gazelle-like grace and superhuman speed.

They're all going to laugh at me. 

But perhaps not as much as this guy:

I wonder if he already has locked in a running buddy?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dear God - Please Cancel PJ Day at School. Yours Truly, Jack

The Chicago Marathon is today and I promised to go and cheer wildly for a policeman friend of mine who is running it for the 3rd or 4th time. Unfortunately, his wife and I lost our standard tour guide who used to map out all the points and El stops for us to take in order to witness our man in blue racing by (based on his average pace). Apparently, the tour guide couldn't get away from his wife and 5 kids to show our dumb a$$es where to go. So instead, we'll dash around blindly trying to locate our runner and hopefully find him at some point before dinner. 

Which leaves me only enough time to offer up a blog showing that I didn't lie about the horribly mismatched pajamas we wear nightly at Casa de la Inept.  I was able to get my hands on one of Jack's drawings to prove another one of my maternal failings:

I know I'm biased, but I really think the kid has an eye.  By the way, if anyone tries to teach Jack how to draw hands more accurately, they will be shut down.  I LOVE the hands.  They're like happy little pinwheels.  I also get upset when anyone tries to correct Joey when he uses the word "drawlar" (a combination of "draw" and "color").  It's one of the last cute malaprops left in our house and I will not hurry along its demise.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the picture, that's not a doll he's holding.  It's supposed to be Joe in his Father's Day hammock.  Joe has never actually used his hammock, but I suppose there's nothing wrong with taking a little creative license.

For the record, here are Jack's real pajamas:

Uncanny, right?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Joseph Christ Superstar

It never fails.  The second I finally sit down for the day with a magazine and reality television, I will hear a voice calling from upstairs.  It's always my husband.

Marianne.  Come up here!  You gotta see this.

I know what he wants me to see.  He's checked on our sleeping children and one of them has invariably fallen asleep in a ridiculous position.  The usual suspects:

  • The shooting victim (arms wide open above kid's head)
  •  The shipwreck victim (kid halfway off bed, top half of body clinging to mattress like Jack in Titanic)
  •  The suicide victim (kid again halfway off bed, but this time head resting on floor while lower half of body still on bed
I've seen them all, but I usually try to humor my husband by marching up the stairs to marvel at the oddity of it all.  But the other night, even I was caught by suprise:

Do 4-year-olds have crucifixion dreams?

There's an old joke about Jesus being Irish because he lived at home until he was 33, thought his mother was a virgin, and she thought he was the son of God.  Based on this picture, there may be some truth to this stereotype.

For anyone who follows the blog regularly and has noticed that my kids never sleep in any kind of matching pajamas, good eye.  I hate pajama day at school because it casts an unforgiving light on my pajama failures. 

Go in peace and sin no more my followers.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Refinance Rumble

I really just wanted to get my Halloween decorations put up yesterday.  So I shoved Joe out the door with Joey and a coupon for Konow's Pumpkin Farm and set about my house with an ungodly number of  pumpkin window gels.  Good times.

Joey was sure to pick out some extras for his "bludders" Dan & Jack.

Then the phone rang.  It was Joe.

Hey, Dennis just told me that mortgage rates just hit an all-time low.  Can you look into that today?  Maybe we can do a refinance?

Curses.  Dennis is Joe's best friend and a very nice guy, but he just mucked up my entire day.  I put down my window gels and sat down at the computer, looking up various banks and requesting quotes.  I really wasn't up for the task, but Joe knew full well that I am physically incapable of ignoring money-saving opportunities.  It's why I buy in bulk.  It's why I shop Goodwill.  It's why I need medicine.

On a whim, I called Archer Bank.  The guy quoted me 3.95%  I nearly laughed.  That can't be right.

Me:  That's on a 30-year?

Mortgage Guy:  Yup.

Me:  No points?

Mortgage Guy:  Nope.

Me:  You guys are actually making money on this?

Mortgage Guy:  Not really.

Me:  What do I need to do to lock in that rate?

Mortgage Guy:  (and I'm paraphrasing here):  You need to get me a sh*tload of paperwork within the next couple of hours and drop off an application because these rates aren't set in stone.  They can change in like 3 minutes.  Maybe even a minute and a half.  Now GO!

Me:  Sh*t.  Sh*t.  Sh*t.

I knew I hadn't filed any of my important paperwork in like a year.  Now I was in the position of having to locate 2 years worth of tax returns, pay stubs, insurance documents, and bank statements in a mountain of stuff that included drawings from the boys, medical receipts, bills, school notices, and ripped-out Box Tops for Education.

Stupid File Pile.

It took me 3 hours and 6 phone calls to Joe to find all of the paperwork required.  Then my printer broke.  So I cried.  If any of my neighbors were around, I am sure they could describe the sounds of a sobbing woman talking about her window gels in the house next door. 

I bought my window gels at the end of last Halloween season for like a nickel! 
After some last-minute pawning off of children on Atheist-Friend and Miniature-Friend, we were at Archer Bank with our stack of papers.  I wish Joe would have told me that I still had mascara smeared across my face from all the crying.

So we are apparently locked in at a really great rate that will allow us enough extra money to perhaps buy Danny some new pajamas that aren't 3 inches too short on him. In typical Joe fashion, I got a scolding for not feeling overly blessed at being in a position where we can actually take advantage of these great rates.  Joe always likes to point out that people are suffering in the world and I need to be happier and more appreciative.

Hogwash.  I'm too sardonic to be grateful.  Plus, I know about suffering.  I used to walk 2 miles to work every day.  In the snow.  Uphill.  In heels.   

Geez I gotta get back on that plan.  Being a size 8 was awesome.

Gotta go.  10 minutes to Wapner.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Furlough Joe

As a Chicago firefighter, my husband is not allowed to have a beard.  I think it has something to do with his mask not sealing properly if there is hair in the way.  I, for one, can certainly appreciate a good safety rule.  I make my kids wear helmets and knee pads.  I yell indiscriminately at any child running with a stick at the park.  I carry a first aid kit in my purse.  My husband only recently put the kibosh on my forcing the kids to wear life preservers in the kiddie pool.  Haven't we all heard of cases where children drown in an inch of water?  My point exactly.

Yet despite wanting Joe to return safe and sound from the firehouse, I do miss out on the ability to mix things up a bit.  When Joe grows a beard, he looks like a different person.  Part lumberjack.  Part high school teacher.  It's like having a whole new husband:

Why in the name of God won't firemen ever smile for the camera?

So during those rare instances where Joe goes longer than a few days away from the firehouse, he will skip a day of shaving.  Then I pounce and ask for the old "furlough beard" that firemen sometimes grow.  Joe goes along with it for me because it makes me happy.  He tries hard not to scratch and complain too much.  He's a trouper.

The beard will be gone in a couple of days and I will soon be left only with my memories of "Furlough Joe."

I will never let go, Furlough Joe.  I will never let go.

(cue Celine Dion ballad)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

O Borders! My Borders!

I mourn Borders today. The one time bookstore titan was neither noble nor kind. Over the last fifteen years, it destroyed legions of mom and pops around the country. It served coffee and lattes while hawking pillows and CDs. Those who ran the company seemed largely ambivalent to the written word - an insulting slap in the face to the true book lovers of America.

So why am I sad? After all, I believe in karma and karma really stuck it to Borders. Yet at the end of the day, I love books. Real books. Hold-'em and smell-'em kind of books. I like bending the corners, making notes in the margins, and stacking them endlessly on my bookshelves.

The demise of Borders reflects a shift in how we access our literature. Kindles and iBooks are this generation's Borders and Barnes & Nobles. The implication is clear: paper books are dead or dying.

"Our fearful trip is done."

As I attended the wake of Borders a few weeks ago at the Orland Park store, it was hard to not take notice of the traditional bookstore archetypes: the middle-aged newly divorced woman in the self-help section, the geeky 30-year-old comic book reader who lives in his mom's basement, the eccentric college professor growing frustrated when employees don't know how to spell Nietzsche. They were all there, paying their last respects and picking up a few 80% off deals.

I of course fall into the most offensive of bookstore archetypes: the poser. I am equally happy reading Graham Greene or People Magazine. True literary types hate me, but I am what I am.

"The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won."

So where does this leave the mom who refuses to read her books with something that requires batteries? All of my batteries are tied up in Leapsters and remote control cars. I will not give in. I am a proud tree-killer when it comes to how I want to view my poetry or tragic memoir. I crave the satisfaction of turning a page. Of slamming shut the final chapter. Of throwing a book across a room to make a point.

Exactly two blocks from where I live on the southside of Chicago (2419 W. 103rd) is a tiny little used bookstore crammed with people and the written word. They offer store credit when you decide you're never going to read that John Grisham thriller your Nana gave you for Christmas. Its name is Bookie's.  I call it my salvation:

"From fearful ship, the victor ship, comes in with object won."
So I toast today the demise of one of the largest Mega Bookstores the world has ever known. I also raise my glass to Bookie's, in hopes that its fate is also in the hands of karma. 

The king is dead.  Long live the king.

(All of the picture quotes are from Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!"  The poem is really about the death of Abe Lincoln, but I have a history of stretching applicability when it suits my needs.  So here's to Walt, Abe, and any poser archetypes out there who aren't ashamed to read about the Kardashians.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

7-Eleven and I Just Broke Up

First, they turned my White Hen into a 7-Eleven.

I still went.  I told myself it was just a name.

Then, a whole new owner came in and hired people I didn't know.  One overly chatty and extremely annoying woman takes 10 minutes to give you accurate change while simultaneously criticizing the long line. 

I mean this is Beverly for chrissakes.  We don't do new people.  Especially when they're annoying.

While trying to limit my exposure to the cashier-challenged, I figured out what time the woman worked and only visited during her off-hours.

Next, they switched the in-store ATM from our bank (no fees) to another bank (fees).

I growled, but I still needed my coffee.  But I'd be damned if I was getting cash!

Then worst of all, they let go of the old-timer who knew our neighborhood, our kids, and our regular lottery numbers by heart.  

I stopped going for weeks.

Shamefully, I returned when I started arriving late for the school pick-ups because getting coffee at Dunkin' Donuts was taking way too long.

But finally, I've reached my no-return limit. 

They upped the price of coffee from $2.03 to $2.18.  That would result in a complete depletion of all my car wash quarters (needed for regular vacuuming of the minivan).  If I tried to conserve my vacuum quarters, I'd end up toting around a purse weighed down with the results of all those 82 cent change transactions.  Madness.

There are a lot of neighborhoods in Chicago where none of this would matter.  Beverly is not one of those neighborhoods.  Our kids walk up to this 7-Eleven for Slurpees and chat with the cops getting coffee.  This 7-Eleven is en route to the downtown train and each morning dozens of related family members, friends, and neighbors congregate in front for a groggy hello.  This 7-Eleven might as well be the nerve center of our little 'hood in the big city.

I am not sure what else I can do to communicate how upset I am over these recent developments.

Perhaps a strongly worded letter to 7-Eleven is in order?

Monday, October 3, 2011

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I got to be honest.  I'm a little angry. Somebody asked my kids recently what they did this summer. Their response?



Instead of banishing them to their rooms or refusing to ever drive them anywhere ever again, I'm rebutting their claims with photographic evidence to the contrary. Consider this Exhibit A in my future defense against charges that I ruined their lives.

Lemonade Stands


Fine Dining


Rides on "The El"

Sheer and Utter Exhaustion

I may just decide to request an essay from each of them on why their mother is the most noble and self-sacrificing person to have every lived. Right after I finish this Miller Lite that is.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Battle of the Chicago Area Pumpkin Farms

Before I had kids, I did not know why pumpkin farms were such a hot topic come October.  You go.  You buy a pumpkin.  End of story.

Seven years into parenting, I get it.  It's about the photos.  The rides.  The day.  The fun.  We've even forgotten to buy pumpkins after getting distracted by all the petting zoos and train rides.

As a seasoned veteran of two of the most frequented pumpkin farms on this side of Madison Street, I'd like to offer a suggestion to the newbies: 

Skip Bengtson's.  Go directly to Konow's Corn Maze.

I am not being compensated for this review.  I'm just looking out for parents not wanting to get hosed.

At one time, Bengtson's was our family's choice of pumpkin farms. This was back in the day when Joe and I were both working, and dropping $120 for an outing with the family was no big deal.  But alas, those days have disappeared along with my flat stomach and good humor.

Bengtson's charges $10.99 per kid and $11.99 per adult.  For our family, that's around $60 to just step through the gates.  You'd think you'd have free run of the place, right?  Hardly.  Now it's 2 bucks a ride and the place feels more like a traveling carnival than a pumpkin farm.  I suppose they did try to add a little "country" with the $5 pony rides, but multiply that by three and you've got milk money for the month. 

While there are other things to do besides the rides, the boys have a special knack for gravitating directly towards anything that costs money or involves a carny.  This 15 second ride, for example,  ran us $4 for Jack and Dan (cousin Grace in the middle): 

In stark contrast to the blatant commercialism and money grab of Bengtson's, there is Konow's.  Konow's will run you $9.00 a person.  One-time fee.  No further obligation required.  Done.  Now put your wallet away.

But in case you're interested, Konow's does offer reasonably priced food and pumpkins (transported effotlessly to your car via a courtesy John Deere wagon).  The fun is so much less carny and so much more folksy.  Toss the kids into the huge corn pit and you've got an hour to relax and drink your coffee. The corn maze, hay rides, and tractor-bikes are also great fun.

Kids still got energy to burn?  Throw them into the hay barn with the giant fort to climb and they'll be asleep by 7 pm. But this year I will be stashing some Benadryl in my purse as I sneezed for 45 minutes due to an apparent hay allergy.  Stupid city girl.

At Bengtson's, you're usually standing in a line waiting to hand over your money.  At Konow's, your kids are in constant motion climbing, jumping, and riding.  It's a beautiful thing.  Some pictures to prove it:

It only took us a minute to convince Joey to stop eating the corn.

Anti-photo boy actually smiled for some pictures.

Poor thing wants to be a farmer.  Not with those allergies.

35 minutes from our Chicago home and there's a farm in the background!  Who knew?
So there you have it.  Do with it what you will, but don't say I didn't warn you.  Please do me a favor either way - use the coupon codes on the links I provided.  You'll at least save yourself a few bucks no matter which of the two you look to try.  And if you've got some other recommendations, feel free to post!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Why They Stamp Your Hand at Chuck E. Cheese

My husband and I get into legendary battles of Street Hoops every time we have to endure a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party.  My back just can't do Skee Ball anymore.

Yet last weekend was the first time a Chuck E. Cheese venue didn't offer side-by-side Street Hoops.  I blame it on Naperville's overall lack of city planning.  So Joe and I had to take turns, which is when I started appreciating those stamps they put on you and your kids' hands with matching numbers.  John Wayne Gacy could have easily walked out with all three of my children in tow.  Our levels of distraction and competition were simply out of control.

For the record, Joe would like everyone to know that he whooped my a$$ at Street Hoops.


The video below shows a previous visit to Chuck E. Cheese where the hoops are placed in the more desirable side-by-side fashion.  For some unfathomable reason, I allowed Joey to take a turn next to his father.  I'm assuming it was probably his birthday as I'm not normally this generous at the Cheese.

For all those parents getting "the Cheese migraine" from the blinking lights, hyper kids, and noisy games, keep in mind we've gone to 12 Cheese parties this year alone.

I seriously must have killed someone in a prior life. 

Maybe I was John Wayne Gacy?*

*Yes, all you serial-murderer enthusiasts, I know I couldn't have been John Wayne Gacy because he was alive when I was born.  But the fact that you know so much about serial killers has left me slightly alarmed.