Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Wild Card

Ever wonder about the twists and turns of your child's double helix?  We weren't exactly sure where Joey got his DNA, but this week, it all started making sense. 

Click here for full story in Chicago Parent.

"Joey in Motion"

Friday, February 22, 2013

Tonight? We Do Bourbon.

For those unfamiliar with the southside of Chicago and its many unique offerings, there are certain statements that leave outsiders a bit perplexed:

"Mary-Margaret is making her First Communion this weekend.  I'm going to rely on bourbon because hosting a party for 300 guests stresses me out."


"Did you hear about poor Mick McDuffy?  He's full of cancer.  They're putting something together with bourbon to help him."


"After the wake and funeral, I understand we're doing bourbon from 2 to 5."

You may be wondering why everyone on the southside of Chicago is such a whiskey fan.  

"Bourbon" actually refers to Bourbon Street, a facility home to countless fundraisers, post-sacrament parties, and most pressing:

My next book-signing!


My banner.  I totally have a banner now. 

The wonderful folks at Barbara Vick Early Childhood center are throwing their yearly fundraiser this evening from 7 pm to 11 pm.  To get into the special Barbara Vick section, there is a $35 wristband you can buy which entitles you to food and drink.  If you just want to hang out at facility itself (plenty of bars, bands, and people), that is free. 

Yet whoever buys an autographed copy of Epic Mom will also be supporting the school as $5 from every sale will go directly back to Barbara Vick.

And I'm even bringing along the final few FIRST edition copies along with plenty of second editions:

First edition (left) Second Edition (right).  Can you spot the differences?  It's like Highlights Magazine.
The back is easier:

See that coffee stain?  It was intended to be funny & reinforce all the imperfections of motherhood.  Several people brought their books back to the bookstore asking to exchange them.  They thought the ring stain was REAL, so.....

2nd edition?  No stain. 
The first edition also has a few spacing errors that make it just that much more unique and a must-have collectible.  Who knows how many tens of dollars it will be worth one day? 

So if you're heading up for the fundraiser, or just looking for a cool place to hang out, stop by and grab the book that my Nana is calling "A Must-Read for 2013."

And if anyone out there in the blogosphere wants to order one of the few remaining first edition copies (no longer available on Amazon), email me at  I'll give you the same special pricing that I am using for the fundraiser and the book will be signed and mailed to you.

Here's to a great night of Bourbon!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Story of a Dress

Bridesmaid dresses are a complete racket.  You pay for the dress, the alterations, and post-event dry cleaning all in a delirious state of "I WILL wear this again!" 

And then you never do.

I'm putting an end to this vicious cycle.  Click here for full story in Chicago Parent.

The "final hours" of my last bridesmaid dress.  Will it live to fight another day?
Oh, and that picture above?  It was about 5 am during the after-after party.  I am using the bottom portion of the bride's dress for my blanky.  Desperate times, desperate measures. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Naming Your Baby

When I was pregnant the first time, I wanted to name our son "Jack." It was always my favorite boy name. I eventually relented when my husband's father became very ill and had not a single grandson named after him. My father-in-law's name?  Daniel.

So the order of our children's names was forever changed. 

But had the circumstances been different, the first two boys would have been Jack THEN Daniel.

And what do you suppose I would have named the third?


Why, you ask?  Think of the mileage I'd get out of introducing my kids:

Meet my boys...Jack, Daniel, and Coke.

And maybe Coca-Cola would've simply given me this rewards-catalog frying pan for free instead of sucking up my entire 1800 points accrued over 3 years.

I will admit that the pan is the real deal.  It is heavy, well-made and quite attractive.  Coca-Cola doesn't mess around.

I'm thinking of making something healthy tonight in honor of that awesome Coca-Cola Balanced Living Workshop they sent me to a few months ago.  While the workshop and free frying pan are definitely the highlights of the last several months, I can't help but think that had I gone with my original order, I'd be featured on the package of every Coca-Cola product out there.

Or on the cover of a rum bottle.  Which is perhaps more fitting.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

LTYM & The Dead Grandma Card

As several of my BFF's of the blogosphere prepared readings for the big LTYM Show that will take place this May 5th, a recurring question came up:

How are you guys preparing for auditions?

As a closet introvert, I am still amazed I was selected.  While I spent years stomping out the girl who knew only social anxiety and angst, a part of her is still with me.  I used to count steps as I walked busy city streets to provide distraction and calm.  And if murderers or muggers tried accosting me while I counted? 

Hell hath no fury like Marianne in the throes of her OCD. 

Still, people wanted to know how I was preparing.  In an effort to assist my tens of loyal readers, I have compiled a complete step-by-step guide for auditioning:

#1 Break a Window

Two days before the audition, I was Windexing our 80-year-old etched glass windows and inadvertently bumped a nearby table into the bottom of one pane.  The result:

I thought for sure this was a bad omen for the impending try-out.  When I called my husband at the firehouse to let him know what happened, I started blubbering about 7 years of bad luck. 

"That's for MIRRORS, Marianne.  Not windows."

My husband is so smart. 

#2:  Lock in the Dead Grandma Pity Vote

My grandmother died this past January, but our family scheduled her services for February 9th to allow travelers some time to arrange their schedules.  I thought for sure I would get in trouble with the LTYM producers for making demands for a preferred audition date this early in the process.  I figured they'd write me off as a diva immediately.

Nope.  Dead grandmas are apparently good luck.  Like broken windows and smart husbands.  RIP, Grandma Dorothy, and thanks for pulling for me!

#3 Rehearse in Front of Drunken Irish Mourners

With cousins aplenty, I opted to take advantage of the Irish mourning crowd and sneak in some rehearsal.  My cousins offered countless Bailey's and RumChata-inspired ideas about the piece.  Being equally imbibed, I happily incorporated all of these gems.

While the extra practice was certainly invaluable, I did get a little feedback from the producers after my reading:

"Yeah.  Um.  Let's keep it how you had it originally, 'kay?

Sorry, gang.

#4 Speaking of Liquor

In moments of extreme doubt and uncertainty, I sometimes turn to my husband's flask for a little dose of liquid courage.  For those who might not remember, this flask was a gift from my husband's cousin when he stood up in his wedding.  The cousin had everyone's initials monogrammed to the flask:

That's right, I own a J.E.W. flask courtesy of Joseph E. Walsh.  I'm also thinking of bringing it to the next Seder I get invited to.  Steph?  Rada?  You listening??  I needs me some flattened bread ASAP.

So there you have it.  The How-To Guide for LTYM success.

Good luck to everyone auditioning this weekend and congrats to all my bloggy pals who've already made it.  I also know some very talented people did not make it, but I hope that doesn't dissuade them from trying again.  The caliber of auditioners was just amazing this year.

'Cept me, that is.  I played the Dead Grandma Card.

But to all those who will be on stage this May 5th...


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Choices

I haven't exactly hidden my feelings about the banishment of treats from the Chicago Public Schools.  Instead of suckers and chalky hearts, we're all now supposed to send our kids to school with erasers and paper clips for holiday parties.

I asked for some ideas from my Facebook crowd, and choices were narrowed down to toothbrushes, toilet paper, or copies of my book.

I headed to Target for some Charmin.  Then I spotted these:


And these:

Part of me figured that if CPS was going to take away candy, then I'd take away serenity.  Imagine.  Over 30 kids armed with whistles and kazoos.  The teachers would hate me.  Or rather, hate me more.

Yet I couldn't pull the trigger.  Even I couldn't be that cruel.

So I revisited the toothbrush idea:

That didn't feel right either.  Going from boxes of candy to oral care instruments?  I was practically a representative for the American Dental Association.

I debated and stewed for hours.  The kids will be waking up shortly.  I've prepared a variety of selections to choose from, including Valentine's Day cards with squares of toilet paper taped to each one:

There's a crappy metaphor in here somewhere, but I'm just too tired to find it.  No matter.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Two Grammys

My kids have played a pivotal role in exposing me to new music this year.  So much, in fact, that I got my old butt in gear and actually tuned in to watch the Grammy Awards (full story HERE in Chicago Parent).

Taken at the Oak Lawn Children's Museum
I have only watched the Grammys twice in my life. The 1984 Grammys shattered all existing records and still remain the most-watched broadcast ever. Most experts point to the height of Michael Jackson's popularity and the Thriller album.

And the second-most watched Grammys?

That would be 2013.

So based on the evidence before you, it is clear that Michael Jackson was never the root cause of that ratings bonanza.  It was all me.  I am apparently the ultimate decider on what kind of ratings the Grammys get.  If I watch?  All bets are off.

If those Grammy people were smart, I should expect to receive my formal invitation in the mail next year. 

Now who wants to design my gown? I'm thinking floor-length with lots of bling. 

Maybe even a tiara. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Anderson's Bookshop & Why Joey Shouldn't Answer the Phone

There are many reasons to love Naperville, Illinois. Yet southsiders have a certain reputation for not leaving the confines of our local parish and neighborhood. After all, we have our regular Irish pubs, preferred pizza joints, and loyal friends who would gladly take a bullet for us. Or more importantly, drop the kids off at tee-ball.

Why would we ever leave?

Yet Naperville has been known to entice even the most resistant of southsiders to venture west of Cicero Avenue. There is the city's fantastic Riverwalk, summer Ribfest, and also the delightful ghost tours described HERE in Chicago Parent.  The city is also home to Anderson's Bookshop, an independent bookstore known to promote local writers and voices.

Anderson's Bookshop called my home the other day. Joey answered the phone and informed the caller that I was taking a bath. He also started jabbering away about "choice time" at school and how his brother Danny was getting braces.  I thought for sure he was talking to my mom or dad.

Nope.  It was Lisa, a real-live bookstore person who wanted to place Epic Mom at Anderson's!

Thank goodness I checked my caller I.D. for once and phoned her back.  And just look!  Look what Lisa went and did:

123 West Jefferson.  Call today to reserve your copy: 630.355.2665.
So thank you, Anderson's!!  And for all those people who have been on a hunger strike until Epic Mom was offered in the western suburbs, you can open your Kit Kats now.

As far as the northside, I'm trying guys.  That's right, Winnetka.  I'm coming after you next. 

Rich people need to laugh, too.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


As my very first book-signing for Epic Mom approached, I was convinced things were not going to go well.  Yet with the help of wonderful friends and family, the evening kicked off without incident:

The treat table had been set up:

The author table had been arranged:

I even brought along a gift from my co-author to serve as her stand-in:  
Julie R. Harrison as "Wheel"
And despite all my negative fears to the contrary, real-live people did in fact show up:

 I let out a monumental sigh of relief.

That sigh then turned into a gasp which turned into a squeal when another unexpected real-live person appeared:

That would be co-author Julie R. Harrison
Updated picture:  one with us actually looking at the camera.  Thanks, Mary Walsh.

Julie had flown in from Virginia, hid out at the Chicago Bean all day, and arrived at the Evergreen Park Library just in time to give me the shock of my life.

I could not have been more delighted.

Thank you to everyone who came, including Julie!  It was one of the most memorable evenings of my life.  I feel like the luckiest girl in the whole world.

A lucky girl with left-over chocolate chip cookies, that is (thank you, Missy!).

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Oh Fudge

Post-It reminders have taken over my computer.  There is a perfect storm of events, commitments, and projects requiring completion over the next 90 hours. Normally, I would relax over a frothy beverage and decompress as this kind of stress-storm makes landfall.

But now? 

There is no time.

And I think I'm going to need a bigger boat.  Er blog.

I'm choosing to man-up.  This will not be a boring recap of stupid silly things that most people would roll their eyes at and say "You call those problems?  You got nothin' lady...quit your bitchin."

Instead, I am allowing myself only one really long, run-on sentence accompanied by the systematic plucking out of every last strand of hair from my head:

Oh sh*t I hafta pick out a reading for Wednesday's book-signing, get gluten-free food for wonderful doctor-friend coming to town who I think I should re-name "celiac-friend" but she might kill me, rehearse saying "penis" 152 times for LTYM audition, make Jack practice his piano for poor dead grandma's memorial service on Saturday, write something sensical for Chicago Parent column and blog, send out a bunch of 2nd edition Epic Mom books to reviewers who requested them, and lastly.....


I've been holding it for 9 hours.

I also can't remember where I put my kids.

My kids have some stuff going on, too, but their Post-It note reminders have been obliterated by my newer and bigger Post-It note reminders.

I really hope there aren't Parent-Teacher conferences this week.

And how did people survive before Post-It note reminders?

Anyway, this is where having blog friends ROCKS.  They fill in the gaps when my brain takes a sabbatical.

Andrea from Maybe it's Just Me is giving away one of the FINAL remaining first edition copies of Epic Mom.  Go over there right now to enter! Andrea has also been singing Journey songs to me for a week straight, so I really need you guys to keep her occupied while I get the rest of this crap done.  I can't get "Don't Stop Believin'" out of my head because of Andrea.

Sh*t...that reminds me.  I, too, have to start my book giveaway.  Someone add that to the list.

Another brilliant blogger, Gossip Girl over at ~*~Whatever~*~, graciously allowed me to ramble on about goopy babies and how much I hate the A-Z challenge recently. I was thrilled when she invited me to appear on her blog, but given my answers, I'm not 100% sure she's still talking to me.

So won't you go have a look-see at my nice blog friends while I google "How Not to Kill My Celiac Friend via Poor Menu Choices?"

(As a general matter of perspective, I know things are not BAD, just busy.  I try always to remember poor Oscar below and his plight to escape a cursed, funneled life):

I have an inordinate amount of love for this picture.  Oscar the Funneled Dog belongs to my friend, Robyn.  I have 300 different post ideas bouncing around in my head about Oscar, but I keep getting side-tracked.  I promise to write about Oscar eventually, but in the meantime, let's pour on the love.  You through a funnel.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Blogging Awards & Grey Hair

With the big book-signing scheduled for this Wednesday, I figured it was about time to make myself presentable for my 4 or 5 loyal fans.  When I mentioned this to my stylish, salon-visiting friend, she suddenly became very animated and excited.  It was almost as if she had been waiting years to get some things off her chest:

Oh thank GOD, Marianne.  Here is the number of my stylist, make an appointment today as her schedule fills up fast.  And when do you want to go shopping?  We should probably head downtown and start at Nordstrom's.  Have you made an appointment to get your nails done yet?  Do you want me to drop your coat off at the dry-cleaners?  I can lend you a purse, so don't worry about that.


I think it really ruined her day when I told her the hair issue had been handled with the upgrading of my normal $2.99 CVS hair dye to the fancy and super-expensive $11.99 variety:

This is a nice product, it comes out  in a foam.  Nothing says "swanky" like foam.  
Additionally, I had taken a razor to my favorite JC Penney extra tall sweater and removed all the fuzzies.

I was red carpet ready.

Sometimes I wish I had the energy to put more work into my appearance.  And other times, I am just happy to traipse through life with that friendly, slightly unpolished "approachable" look.

No matter.  Lillian over at It's a Dome Life gave me a really cool blogger award this weekend.  Blog awards are typically a double-edged sword.  They can be both flattering and incredibly time-consuming as they are usually accompanied by rules, links, and a bit of effort.

Seeing as I don't put any effort into separating my eyebrows on a monthly basis, you might understand my conundrum.

I also don't like to play favorites with the blogs I read.  I read a lot of blogs and to highlight just a few makes me uncomfortable. Being the girl who was always picked last for dodge ball, I just don't have it in me to leave people out.

Yet Lillian's award is one I can accept happily.  There are no rules, no linking, no questions asked.  Just a spiffy little badge that I can accept 100% guilt-free.

Thank you, Lillian!! 

Now I'd best get back to taking a Sharpie to my book-signing shoes.  There are a few scraped and torn patches that need some touching up.

Friday, February 1, 2013

How the Oak Lawn Children's Museum Saved My Life

I had just given birth to my first child when I learned of the existence of these newfangled things called Children's Museums. I was too exhausted to correctly grasp the concept. I envisioned some kind of hippy-skippy art gallery where pictures were merely hung lower than normal. I wrote it all off as a ginormous waste of time. 

On Danny's first birthday, I was six months pregnant with my second son and traveling for work. I suppose this is where you'd expect me to detail the guilt and remorse of not being around on my kid's special day.


I was pregnant, tired, and thrilled to be ordering room service. I also wasn't required to feed or bathe anybody else before heading into the office. It was practically the best day of my life.

You already know that I'm kind of a bad mom by now, right?  Hopefully I'm not shocking anyone after all this time.

Regardless, I called home that evening and discovered my husband and Danny had spent the day at the Navy Pier Children's Museum.

"Wasn't he bored senseless?" I questioned. "He's only one. I can't imagine Danny really soaking up a good Monet."

"What are you talking about?" questioned my husband, perplexed.

"Isn't that what a 'Children's Museum' is? Art and statues and stuff?"

"Do you even bother reading those Chicago Parent Magazines you pick up from the lobby? The Children's Museum has a variety of interactive displays and activities designed for little kids. It's not an art gallery. Where do you come up with this stuff?"

My sick, twisted, confused little brain would be the correct answer, but I wasn't about to blow my cover now.

I continued to avoid Children's Museums like the plague. Yet when I became a stay-at-home mom, I started going a tad crazy. One desperate winter day, I piled the kids into the minivan and headed to The Oak Lawn Children's Museum to see what all the fuss was about:

I was pleasantly surprised by how clean, colorful and engaging it was. But that wasn't even the biggest selling point. As I sat down on a bench to watch my kids race wooden cars down a ramp, I heard a friendly voice:

"How old are yours?"

I looked around, confused. Was someone talking to me? Jesus?  Is that you?  I hadn't had an actual conversation with another living person other than my husband in months.

"Excuse me?"

"Kids. How old are your kids?" The woman smiled patiently. 

Was this a trick?  And why was I finding this question harder to answer than my high school ACTs?

"Um...let's see here. What month are we in? Ah. Danny is in the neighborhood of four. Jack I think is still three. And Joey, the little one there eating the golf balls? Well he cries a lot, so we stopped counting his months a while back. I'm pretty sure he's still one."

By now, most normal people would have left the deranged lady with three kids of unknown age and indeterminate origin alone without a second thought. Yet this woman stayed and offered human contact and normalcy that had been noticeably absent from my life. 

I had made my first mom friend.

I immediately purchased a yearly membership to the museum where I would go to compare notes, learn of local activities, and feel human again. The children's museum became a sanctuary of sorts. And best of all? LOOK what is connected to the building:

XL cream & sugar if you're wondering.

By the way, has anyone tried the seasonal brownie batter donuts?  AWESOME:

Liquidy, melty chocolate brownie batter inside.  It's like they made it just for ME.

The Oak Lawn Children's Museum provided me comfort, companionship, and a place where my kids stopped asking for Caillou and juice boxes every 15 minutes. I owe the museum a giant debt of gratitude. But instead of accepting my lifetime devotion, they still give back. Why, just look at a certain fabulous new book that you may recognize made available there:

Psst.  This is one of the final places to buy first edition of EPIC MOM!  2nd edition will be available on Amazon next week!  Be sure to like book on Facebook as I'm hoping to give away THREE very soon!
The Oak Lawn Children's Museum is my pick for institution of the week.

Yes, I just made up that award.

But they deserve it. 

And then some.