Friday, December 27, 2013

My Life as a Fat and Slightly Disfigured Penguin

Jack loves penguins.  I think he loves them because I love them.  Whenever we go to the zoo, they are the only animals I insist we visit.  I appreciate the fact that they don't stink.  And they also dress well.

While I am definitely not an animal person, penguins make me happy.  They seem like they might have a good sense of humor.  No animal that walks like a penguin can take itself too seriously.  So when Jack asked what I wanted for Christmas, I answered honestly:

I'd like a pet penguin.

My son delivered:

Concerned that my new penguin friend might be lonely living amongst humans, Jack also provided some friendly companions:

I was thrilled and made a big deal of the gift.

But when my youngest son Joey saw my reaction, he quickly disappeared into "his office" with a bottle of Elmer's Glue and a determined gait.

He reappeared hours later and presented me with this:

I assumed it was merely another cherished penguin buddy.
But I was corrected.
"No, mommy.  It's not a penguin.  I made YOU."
Considering that I have a bit of a waddle, I'm choosing to take this as a compliment.
My only other option would be to put down these awesome Christmas cookies and re-think my growing penguin belly.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Omitted. Again.

Jack's Christmas wishes for others this year:

For Dad: I would like to give my dad a new fire uniform because his uniform is very diry (dirty).

For Uncle Matt: I would like to give my Uncle Matt a new couch because his couch is broken.

For Grandpa: I would like to give my Grandpa a new grill because his grill is very rusty.

For Cousin Bobby: I would like to give Bobby a chance to go in the Olypicts (Olympics) for volleyball because he is very good at it.

My take-aways: 

  • I am never, ever getting any public acknowledgment from my children regarding my awesome parenting.
  • I suck at laundry.
  • I have to re-think having hamburgers at my dad's house.
  • Jack is obsessed with couches.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  And may all your couches be firm and intact!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Buddy the Elf

One of my favorite Christmas movies of all-time is Will Ferrell's Elf.  It has a bit of everything: humor, music, and smiling.

I just like smiling.  Smiling is my favorite.

So when I walked into my son's orthodontist's office this afternoon, I nearly peed myself.  Thank God for those Poise pads.

Just check out the Christmas spirit I found there:


It is really hard to have a bad day when a 6' tall elf is telling your kid his braces are coming off in February.

I'm embracing Christmas again, which has not always been the case in our PC-world of "holiday" spirit.  Read about my crazy rant by clicking HERE for today's Chicago Parent.

HINT: Definitely NOT a "Festive Tree."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wanting to Quit

From the moment my Daniel started talking, there was nothing he felt wasn't up for debate.  As a first-time mother, I dug in and fought the good fight.  I didn't care if he hated a certain sweater or dinner option.  I was in charge.  I refused to let him win a single argument for fear he'd take over.

Nine years later, I am pooped.  I've caved more times than I care to admit.  I remain strong on the things most important to me (kindness, positive work ethic and wearing a winter hat), but I've faltered on others (using an "inside voice," 7 pm bedtimes, and wearing an undershirt). 

I feel like a failure every day.

Danny drinking coffee at age 6 because he really, really wanted to be 40.

This afternoon, Danny displayed a heightened level of bull-headedness with his cello instructor in regards to correct hand positioning.  Once again, he insisted that the teacher was wrong and he knew better.

I went apesh*t crazy on the ride home in our minivan, citing thousands of wasted dollars and driving hours because of his refusal to cooperate.  The cello had been his idea, I reminded him (although there may have been some subliminal subterfuge on my part).  In my frustrated state, I was ready to give up and let him quit the cello.  I didn't care how many times I heard parents lament allowing their children to walk away from instruments.  I didn't care how many times I heard adults express regret over their own choice to end their musical pursuits. 

I was feeling murderous and ready to chuck the whole blasted thing.

But then I remembered how hard the early years of piano had been.  It had gone much the same way.  Danny would do everything short of faking his own death to get out of practice.  Only upon threats of a life without video games would he participate in recitals.  For a long time, he didn't seem to be finding any joy in music.

But then he got better. 

And later still, he even got pretty good.

Last Thursday, Danny smiled upon completion of his recital song.  He knew he nailed it.  He walked away a little straighter, and there was a quiet confidence in mastering something very difficult.

Mothering is like that.

I watched the video from his piano recital when I get home from cello and I decided to not give into my impulses.  I have never bought the argument that a child's successes are solely theirs.  For behind every great ice skater, gymnast, and professional athlete out there, there is a parent who withstood years of grueling schedules and oversight.  I also don't believe it takes a village to raise a child, but rather committed parents who don't give up when things get tough.

Naturally, I may change my position on this whole subject if the kid doesn't start flying right with his cello instructor very soon.

But today?

I held firm.

We'll see how tomorrow goes.

Friday, December 6, 2013

When Faith Plays a Hand

The following essay appears in the December issue of Chicago Parent Magazine:

When a mysterious grassy patch of my front lawn died this past summer, it left behind the non-mistakable figure of an angel with wings and a halo (click HERE for post).  My six-year-old son contended it was Blue from “Blues Clues.”  Regardless of the interpretation, neighbors and family had a good chuckle and speculated that God was telling me to attend mass a bit more regularly. 

I argued that God just wanted me to use less fertilizer.

In an age where fewer Americans believe in any kind of greater power, helping children grow up with a sense of faith has become increasingly difficult.  As someone who finds enormous strength and comfort through faith, I have always wanted the same for my kids.  I do not care what religion they ultimately practice as adults, I just want them to enjoy a sense of peace and love in their lives.  I instruct them that signs and miracles are indeed among us, but are often difficult to spot without faith.

A little while back, my brother-in-law was on his way home when he started feeling nauseous.  Convinced it was the flu, he pulled over to rid himself of the contents of his stomach.  As he was preparing to get back in the car and drive directly to his house, an old Polish woman exited a nearby CTA bus and walked towards him.  She gently patted his shoulder, and in stilted English offered the briefest of advice:

“I think you sick.  I think it your heart.”

My brother-in-law John, who only moments before had planned to crawl into his own bed for a good long rest, altered his destination immediately.  He pulled up in front of Christ Hospital, threw his keys at the security guard, and hurried to the front desk.  And at that exact moment, one of the leading cardiologists in the entire state of Illinois just happened to be standing right there.

John was on an operating table in less than ten minutes.  Had he waited even five minutes more, this story could have ended quite differently.

Since that day, the family has discussed the timing of the little Polish lady from the bus.  Most women walking by themselves would not approach a man retching in the street.  I probably would have written off the guy as a drunk.  Maybe another mom wouldn’t have wanted to risk contamination of a perceived virus.

But not that old Polish lady.

Whether she was an angel in disguise, or more likely, someone who lived her life with great kindness and caring, I do not consider her appearance a coincidence. 

John and his new wife celebrated their first wedding anniversary last month, and I can’t help but think someone out there gave them the best gift ever.

Miracles, it seems, still do happen.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Elf Drinks

After years of a strong anti-elf stance, I decided to finally embrace the whole idea.

Things have gone a little haywire from there.

Full story click HERE in today's Chicago Parent.

I wanted to add dollar bills for added seediness, but Joe wouldn't let me.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Oversight?

I love it when the kids come home with their holiday artwork.

But this Thanksgiving?

Not so much.

See why by clicking HERE in today's Chicago Parent.

In case you're not able to read bad kindergarten writing, Joey is thankful for Dad, Dad, Joey, Dad, and (you guessed it) DAD.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Broken Bed

The loud crash from our second floor could have easily been mistaken for a sonic boom.  My husband's flight or fight instincts kicked in immediately.

Joe (from his recliner):  BOYS!!!!!!  What is going on up there????

Boys (in unison):  Nothing, dad.

And yet an hour later, Joe wandered upstairs to find Jack's bed cracked in half. 





Boys (in garbled unison):  We didn't know it ...uh...broke.  We were playing football.

Thankfully, my husband is a handy, handy man:

Duct tape: How the Walsh Family Will Survive the Apocalypse

I haven't the heart to tell Joe the bed's a goner.

I'll wait for a good time.

Like when he's back on his recliner.

With a beer.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Time I Was a Bad Mother (Part 42)

It took a visit with family in Texas to help me come to grips with one of my first big parenting failures.

When it came to meeting my baby's needs, I had definitely dropped the ball.

Actually, I didn't even have a ball to drop.

Full story click HERE in today's Chicago Parent.

Ultimately, I did make up for lost time.

Friday, November 15, 2013


I am a superstitious old coot.

I believe in signs, mystery, and karma.

So when I took the garbage out to the alley yesterday and looked towards the heavens, I was stunned to see this:

I thought it was the neatest thing in the world and called Joe to tell him God was saying "hi" to me. 

Joe, being far more pragmatic and cynical, responded: "If anyone was saying hi to you, it was probably an air traffic controller."

Later, on our way home from dinner that night, I bought roses from Jim the Flower Guy, a neighborhood staple who stands in the middle of 111th & Pulaski year-round selling bunches of flowers for $5.

When we got home, I doled out one flower to each child.  The boys insisted each flower get its own "rose pot," completely separate from the others.

Remind me to introduce my kids to the word "vase."  I see their SAT scores plummeting when it comes to vocabulary.

Anyway, the boys set up three flowers in the middle of our kitchen table and went to bed.  Not a single rose was touching or anywhere near another.  Yet when I walked by a few hours later, the roses were huddled together:

Vase...pint glass.  Same thing.
I'd like to think of those three roses as my children.  They may end up in their own homes with their own lives one day, but I hope they will always find comfort and love with each other.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Free Birds & Tethered Children

It's going to be a bit trickier eating Tom the Turkey this year.

Full story click HERE in today's Chicago Parent.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I am not a passive-aggressive person.  Neither is my husband.  We don't engage in the silent treatment.  Neither one of us is smart enough to be snarky.  We don't roll our eyes behind backs or act ambiguously towards people.  If we love you, you know it.  If we don't, we'll simply try to push you down a flight of stairs to avoid any confusion.

One of the natural consequences of being the type of people who wear their emotions on their sleeves is the yelling.  We are definitely not a quiet bunch.  We yell when we are happy, angry, sad, or confused.  Tack on some cuss word and you get the general idea.  Our house is definitely not a place for the faint of heart. 

Yet, it is awesome for the hard of hearing.

Then there is Jack.  Jack is not a loud child.  He hides his emotions better than most poker players.  Only a few skilled family members can discern whether he is blissfully happy or plotting your death. 

He is tricky, that kid.

So when Jack got in trouble for refusing to put away his stuff for the 5th day in a row, there were consequences.  He was not allowed to attend the Mt. Carmel vs. St. Rita state football play-off game with his father and brothers.  The decree was handed down Friday morning.

Then Jack showed up Friday afternoon with his weekly letter home:

If I had just skimmed over the letter like I usually do, I would have missed Mr. Passive-Aggressive's little dig at mom.  See it?

The letter is addressed to "Dad."

And hidden under that word is "Mom." 

But it is erased. 

And written over.

That's right.

My kid erased me.

My husband laughed his ass off at the letter and then advised Jack that he was only digging himself a deeper hole with the woman who holds the keys to his happiness in her hands.

And Joe was right.

While the rest of the family cheered on an exciting Mt. Carmel victory that night, Jack and I headed to Menards.  For three hours.  Picking out extension cords and outlet covers. 

Since then, I asked Jack what happens when he doesn't listen to mommy and erases her name.  He responded:

"We go to Menards.  For, like, EVER."

Chinese water torture doesn't hold a candle to my methods.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Dumb-Ass Tree

I know I have written about my stupid tree before.

But I am thinking of making it a yearly tradition. You know, kind of like when Lucy pulls the football out from under Charlie Brown every year on Thanksgiving.

I truly believe in ritual.

And in a world without stupid trees.

Full story click HERE in today's Chicago Parent.

Don't let the whole "majestic" thing fool you.  My tree is daft.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Love Like I've Never Known

I'm not going to lie. I never thought I could love another household tool as much as I love my Grip 'N Grab:

But that all changed this week.

Full story click HERE in today's Chicago Parent.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Parenting Without a Net

The below essay was printed in the September edition of Chicago Parent magazine, the first time a by-line appeared on the cover!  Cake for everyone!

Thanks for the great photo, Jen (of Me, Myself & Jen)

Several months back, I made the questionable parenting decision to allow my three boys to watch one of those Flying Wallendas walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope.   Live.  There were no safety nets or harnesses whatsoever.    

What could possibly go wrong? 

I tried to remain optimistic.  Discovery Channel was broadcasting the walk, and I considered the network to be similar to Disney Channel and PBS in terms of family-friendly programming.  Yet when the show began detailing all the Wallendas who had fallen to their early deaths, I felt compelled to call my husband at the firehouse for reassurance.

“You’re letting the kids watch WHAT?” Joe demanded.

“So… you think it’s a bad idea then?  I’m sure Discovery Channel isn’t interested in airing a live tragedy.  They must recognize it’s in the bag.  The guy IS a professional.”

“Marianne, you do recall that Discovery Channel also airs Shark Week, Storm Chasers and The Deadliest Catch, right?  When Captain Phil died, Discovery got monster ratings.”

“I thought you never wanted to talk about poor Captain Phil again?”

“It still hurts.”

I hung up with Joe feeling extremely unsure of myself.  But my sons were riveted and counting down the moments to the live feat.  If I attempted to put the kibosh on things now, my teetering regime would surely be overthrown.

I next tried convincing myself that the suspense associated with these televised stunts is practically a rite of childhood passage.  After all, didn’t every kid in the 1970s tune in to watch Evel Knieval?  And who could forget that episode of Happy Days where Fonzie jumped the shark on water skis?  We were a nation of daredevils, I told myself.  Isn’t that what being an American is all about?

Except me, of course.  I make my kids wear helmets when they play Duck-Duck-Goose.

By the time Nik Wallenda made it safely to the other side, praying to Jesus with each precarious step, I was a wreck.  My kids, on the other hand, cheered wildly and pulled out a jump rope so they could start “practicing” their careers as aerialists. 

I naturally made them put on helmets.

Like most people, I am very relieved that Mr. Wallenda survived his personal challenge.  The man has an adoring wife and a young family whom would be devastated by his loss.  Yet as a mom, I am also thankful that I didn’t have to launch into a teachable moment about the dangers of walking across string stretched tightly above hundreds of feet of earth.  Had Mr. Wallenda fallen, I would still be dealing with the endless questions and extra hugs at bedtime.

In a way, I sense a certain kinship between myself and the bold Mr. Wallenda.  Parenting, as it turns out, is quite similar to tight-rope walking.

There are no safety nets or second chances.

But there is praying.  A whole lot of praying.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Laugh

Thanks to my friend Angie for sending a laugh.  I don't ever remember 7th Grade History being this interesting.

I wonder why the "Nonintercourse Act" was so unpopular?

Congress has apparently been mucking things up royally since 1809.  And giving stuff really bad names.

Go, Congress.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

When Life Sucks, But Your Vacuum Doesn't

With my seasonal affective disorder guaranteeing a long and miserable Chicago winter, I have been saving for one of these happy lamps:

Nicole Knepper, licensed medical professional and author of Moms Who Drink & Swear, promised that one of these will have me spinning around in manic delirium singing The Hills are Alive
But instead?

My zillionth vacuum broke, so I had to spend my savings on this instead:

I didn't have enough for a new one, so I bought "refurbished."  Why do I have a feeling this isn't going to turn out well?

Full story click HERE in Chicago Parent.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Matter of Syntax

When we last left off, your favorite cheapskate heroine was rejoicing in locating the perfect used cherry wood dining room table on Craigslist (i.e. Where serial killers find their prey). 

So things obviously started going a little haywire right around then.

For the record, Craigslist sellers and I have diametrically opposed definitions of the phrase in great condition:

I suppose this would be considered "in great condition" if you lived with Cujo.  I won't gross out everyone with the pictures of the upholstered seats, but let's just say Cujo also seemed to have an affinity for doing other things on the white, horribly stained seats that might make you blush. 

The second area of dispute I have with Craigslist sellers is what exactly defines "Chicagoland area."  Let's revisit the route needed to pick-up said Cujo table:

Now things would not have been so bad if I hadn't roped my husband into handling the pick-up, borrowing a truck from another firefighter, and operating on zero sleep as he was coming directly from the firehouse.  I quoted the seller's exact words of "Chicagoland area" and "in great condition" to him.  By the time Joe found himself heading home with one chewed-up and doggy defiled table a mere four hours later, I knew I was in trouble.  He was muttering things like "If you think I'm going to stain all this..." and "Good luck trying to fix that upholstering, you can't even thread a needle." 

As someone who once started a fire with her glue gun and later wound up in the emergency room while trying to hang a picture, I have spent my life shunning the Do-It-Yourself lifestyle.  But now, with the mother of all renovations dropped in my dining room, I was at a loss.

Where was I to go?

What was I to do?

And more importantly, how would Joe ever trust me again?

The exciting conclusion is available today by clicking HERE over at Chicago Parent.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Death, Dying, and Dining Room Buffets

When Joe's dad passed away back in 2005, all 7 children worked together brilliantly to sort out the stuff that comes along with a parent dying. Part of the usual process includes claiming various pieces of furniture, jewelry, or special mementos. While some families squabble or hold decades-long grudges over this situation, that just wasn't the case with the Walsh family. When both Joe and his older brother Matt expressed mutual interest in an antique buffet handed down through the generations, they solved it in typical Walsh family style.

They flipped for it.

The buffet
Joe's brother dug deep into his pockets for a quarter, Joe called it in the air, and the whole matter was resolved in under a minute.

Joe, being the ridiculously lucky sort of man that he is, naturally won.  In our thirteen years together, I have never seen Joe lose a coin toss.  A horseshoe most certainly was planted up his arse at birth and has thus remained there ever since.

Although I was thrilled with the beautiful cherry wood buffet, it proved a tad problematic in my shabby chic home.  First up, it didn't match the casual dining table handed down from my grandmother. 

The not-so-dining-room dining room table.
And in case you're wondering, no, I rarely buy new furniture.  My whole house has been furnished by people who know that I would probably use lawn furniture if they didn't gift me with used couches, tables, and lamps.

But after 8 years, even I was starting to wonder if maybe I shouldn't try a little harder to find a cherry wood dining table to go with the cherry wood buffet that suited our Queen Anne dining room.

In a moment of delusional thought, I priced a few new tables.  $2000 was the starting buy-in.


I turned to Craigslist.  Sure, I knew I was taking my life into my own hands and possibly facing murder and dismemberment, but by God, I would find us a table.

Before you could say "Last seen driving off in her powder blue minivan," I located a listing that seemed perfect.  A cherry wood table!  In "great condition!"  Listed in the Chicagoland area!  It felt as though the fates were finally working with me instead of conspiring against me.

What could possibly go wrong?

Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why It's Important to Marry Well

I am very lucky to have married "up."

And if it wasn't for my husband, the kids would never know what a home-cooked meal looks like.

Full story click HERE in Chicago Parent.

Joe with his new smoker (hint: it's not a trophy wife)

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Adam Walsh Effect

It happened at a baseball game this past spring.  My husband and I arrived early at the park when Joe noticed all the kids lining up for photos.  He asked why I had not brought any order forms or even the checkbook. I mumbled something about Danny forgetting his hat and Jack not combing his hair, so what was the point of pictures? Then I shrugged my shoulders in feigned defeat.

Joe wasn't buying it.

I have pretty much ordered pictures whenever there are pictures to be ordered. I also posses dozens of photo albums chronicling every moment of my children's young lives.

Photos are my thing.

Except those posed baseball ones.

Joe hastily dug through his wallet, found enough cash for the minimum order, and borrowed another kid's baseball hat before shoving the boys in the general direction of the photographer.

"We can't not order their baseball pictures!" he insisted, eyeing me suspiciously.

When the photos arrived a month or so later, my stomach dropped:

In a rare moment of familial unity, all three boys cooperated and looked great.  But that was never the issue.

The photos, just like every childhood baseball photo I have ever seen, reminded me of Adam Walsh.

As someone who grew up in the wake of the 1981 kidnapping and murder of little Adam, the image of the sweet little boy smiling from beneath his too-big baseball hat has haunted me for 30 years.  This baseball picture was widely circulated throughout the media at the time of the kidnapping, and for many mothers, it served as a reminder to hold tightly to their kids and trust nobody.

As a mother now, I have forced myself to shake off some of my Adam Walsh fears.  I realized that I needed to allow my boys to use public restrooms without screaming "EVERYTHING OKAY IN THERE?" every 10 seconds.  I needed to learn to let them cross the street without my all-clear.  I needed to fight the urge to homeschool them whenever I read a story of a shooting or child predator.

I started relying on statistical data and odds relative to stranger abductions in this quest.  For the first time ever, I have consciously suppressed my helicopter tendencies.  Most days, it is physically painful, but I am determined to ease up or I know my children will end up fleeing to Alaska to escape me.

I must say, though, this thing would be a whole lot easier if our last name wasn't Walsh. 

And if my husband didn't insist on buying those damn baseball pictures.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Breaking Bad, Bitches!

I may quite possibly be the last person on the planet to have jumped on the "Breaking Bad" bandwagon.

But let me just say this.

SO worth it.

Full story HERE in today's Chicago Parent.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I Never Knew OCD Could Come in Handy

Believe it or not, I have a NEW obsession.

So unlike me, I know.

Read all about it by clicking HERE for full story in today's Chicago Parent.

A hint:

Say hello to my lee-tle friend.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The One Where Marianne Experiences a Miracle

You know how Jesus, Mary, and the disciples are always appearing in people's potato chips and guacamole?

I got them all beat.

A giant patch of my lawn turned brown and died over the summer, at which time the Archangel Michael made his presence known:

Never one to appreciate a sign from God, I sprinkled some of that blue grass seed right over my miracle.
I am not sure what the Lord is trying to tell me by having an angel visit my lawn.  But when I showed the kids, Joey had a different interpretation:

"It's Blue from Blue's Clues!"

I'm going with the idea that God is rewarding my twisted sense of humor and prodigious ability to grow grass (the lawn kind, not the illegal kind).

Or Jesus may just be a Nickelodeon fan.

You decide.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Funny Friends

When picking out mom friends, always go for the ones who are laughing.

It will make all the difference.

Full story in Chicago Parent, click HERE.

I'm thinking this note should be included in the kid's future wedding video.

Monday, September 9, 2013

David Letterman vs. Steve Harvey

Back in 2002, Joe and I were in the middle of a long-distance relationship when I was living in New York.  He would fly out several times a month from Chicago and I would do the reverse.  Being the wonderful girlfriend that I was, I tried to keep things fun for each visit.  On one such occasion, we were happily exploring Manhattan and hit The Soup Kitchen. 

Perhaps you know it better by its Seinfeld name.  Yes, this was the infamous "Soup Nazi."

No soup for you!

While balancing our soup and bananas (seriously, the Soup Nazi doles out bananas...not very Third Reich-ish if you ask me), a young pair approached us with uncommon zest and blinding smiles.  Naturally, we figured we were about to be mugged.

"HEY GUYS!!  Want tickets to see Dave Letterman?  All ya hafta do is answer one question about Dave and YOU'RE IN!"

Joe and I were not used to this much pep and froze.  The pair continued, undeterred.

"Ok, so your question is: What Indiana university did Dave attend?"

My husband shook his head in surrender, fully prepared to miss out on the taping because he hadn't the foggiest idea of the answer.

I, on the hand, am a trivia goddess.  I also happened to have a friend who once reminded me daily that Dave Letterman went to her school.

"Ball State!  The answer is BALL STATE!" I cried out.

And just like that, we were off to attend our first taping of a television show.

I remember it well.  As we walked in, you were either directed upstairs or downstairs based on how enthused you looked.  I was immediately directed towards the front because of my stupidly happy expression.  Sadly, my perpetually grouchy-looking husband was directed to the very back row.  I struggled for a minute against the urge to abandon him to his nosebleed seat, but instead sacrificed my front row spot to accompany him. 

True love.

Dave's guest was Michael Douglas.  We sat through a few minutes of crowd warm-up and then Dave came out.  Remembering how my sister talked about her experience as an audience member on Oprah (where she raved about how warm and engaging Oprah had been with her audience), I was interested to see how Dave interacted.

The answer came quickly.

Dave Letterman ignored his audience.  Between breaks, he spoke with his assistants, got his make-up retouched, and never once acknowledged all the people who had come to see him.

I never watched David Letterman again after that.  Nobody puts Baby in a corner.  Or rather in the last row with her grumpy-looking boyfriend.

So when the opportunity to see a taping of Steve Harvey came up, I was a little hesitant.  Yet a couple of my pals were turning 40 within a few weeks, and we decided to make a day of it:

My friend Susan who I met when I was 23 working at the big insurance company.  She was the first person to haul all the other 23 year-old girls out of our cubes to go out to lunch.  She also makes really cool soap (click HERE to see).
My new-ish friend Shannon who was one of my LTYM sisters (to view her performance, click HERE).  She has no idea what a nut-ball I am, so let's just keep that secret, shall we?
I was amazed at how small and intimate the studio was.  Steve Harvey's warm-up guy must drink nothing but Red Bull and espressos.  The man had everyone clapping and dancing for so long, you thought you were in a Zumba class.

And then Steve came out.  I held my breath.  Was he going to pull a Letterman and ignore us, or actually show some kindness and appreciation regarding the fact that so many of us rearranged sitters, carpools, and kids all in an effort to come to his show.

The answer?

Steve was awesome.  We got stories.  Interaction.  Personal attention.

We got some Steve love.

In an era where so many people don't even look up from their gadgets when they are talking to you, Steve Harvey gets it.  His show was delightful, and I can't wait to watch the entire season.

The studio.
So there you have it.  Steve Harvey: 10  David Letterman: Zero.

Next celebrity match-up: Snookie vs. Omarosa

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

High Hopes

I had high hopes that this weekend would help sway my husband towards appreciating the thrill and skill behind chess.

Any guess on how that turned out?

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

The boys "warming up."

Do you think Joe is Googling strategic maneuvers to aid his sons?  Guess again.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How Marianne Spent Her Summer Vacation

A friend asked me the other day what we did this summer and I thoughtlessly responded, "Nothing much."

Then I flipped through the pictures in my phone and realized I was full of malarkey.

The start of summer had us bidding farewell to a dear friend:

Forget Harvard.  Barbara Vick Preschool is where it's at.

Then we said hello to Band Camp (or as I told my husband, Boxing Camp):

We attended our favorite summer charity outing, Play for Maeve, which benefits pediatric brain tumor research and awareness:

I met a Transformer:

Miniature Friend also succeeded in finally getting me in for a real haircut at a place that costs more than $8 a trim.  Julianne at George the Salon did an amazing job and I fear my days of cheapie cuts are officially OVAH.

I would have married Julianne after this cut.  But then we'd be Marianne & Julianne, and that's just plain awkward.

I feel pretty, oh so pretty....
There was romance:

Joe at our romantic getaway in Geneva, Illinois sporting my free Peapod shirt I scored at BlogHer.

We rocked the night out at some random bar where Jenny McCarthy's BFF was dancing 90's style.

Head. Hurt. Bad.
Our quiet return to the neighborhood.
Our welcome home committee & toilet paper vandals.
There were block parties:

And trips to the beach:

We road-tripped to Milwaukee.  Twice.

Irish Fest

Look carefully and you can spot Joe & two of the boys.  I almost threw up taking this pic.
Joe & pals at Milwaukee Summerfest proving he has a chin (which never photographs well in pictures)

We did another fundraiser, this time benefiting the Gold Badge Society where the Chicago Fire Department got destroyed by the Chicago Police Department.  Local legend and neighborhood guy Herbie Johnson was an honoree:

Fed up with the kids focusing too much on their gadgets, I evicted them to play outside.  Gadgets, it seems, can attract kids faster than Freeze Pops:

Joe and I also realized we are morphing into each other at a Listen to Your Mother reunion dinner in Naperville:

Photo credit: Lou Lohman

My 40th birthday festivities continued for most of August, and an old high school pal surprised the bajeezus out of me:

Me & Red
It took almost the entire summer, but Joey finally succeeded in passing the deep-end test at Kennedy Pool with his two brothers cheering him on:

Sadly, school vaccinations were soon to follow:

This would be the "before" picture.
I tried to bank a little good karma by donating blood, and I even recruited a pal to come along:

Happiest damn blood donor EVER.
Sadly, my hemoglobin was too low and they wouldn't let me donate.  I may need to increase my red meat intake or double down on my Flintstone vitamins soon.  The orange ones are delicious.

What's funny is up until I reviewed my summer pics, I really didn't think we had done that much. 

Maybe low hemoglobin makes you forgetful.

So if I accidentally tell anyone that I'm still in my 30s, please have patience.

And buy me a hamburger.