Tip Thursday: Enjoying a stress-free Christmas

December 20, 2012 | Posted in Childhood, Family, Holidays, humor, Parenting, Tip Thursday, Writing | By

Christmas TipsThere is so much to get done during the holidays that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Once you factor in baking, decorating, and wrapping gifts, there’s hardly any time left for sobbing into your eggnog because the only Christmas card you received was from your divorce lawyer.

Just me?

In any event, here are some Christmas tips for today’s Tip Thursday that  I hope help you manage holiday stress a bit better. I’ve used them all to varying degrees of success.

1. Elf on the Shelf – Get rid of it. If you’ve got more than one kid, the truth is you don’t need it. You’ve got a built-in Elf on the Shelf every day of the year. I’ve got two kids, and I’ve even given them both incentives to reporting behaviour. For example, one tattle earns a square of toilet paper. Two tattles? You get a sheet on your bed tonight! Three? That’s big time, helper child, and you’ve just gotten yourself a full glass of milk with dinner. Now nothing happens in this house without me knowing about it, and if something is so well thought out that it involves both children, I don’t want to know about it.

2. Caroling – Just say no. Seriously, does anyone even do this anymore? If you must participate in this tradition, make it easy for yourself: drive around the neighbourhood with your car windows open, cranking Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas CD.

3. Baking – Today’s home chef can make treats rivalling those found in European bakeries. Thanks to speciality shops and pushy friends selling Pampered Chef products, you too can churn out delectable, gorgeous treats just like those in a bakery. Have I said “bakery’ enough to indicate you should just GO TO A BAKERY? No one will know. Jab a few of the cookies with your finger, and maybe throw a couple into the toaster oven to burn the bottoms if you’re worried about appearing too perfect. I wish I had your problems.

4. Gift wrapping – Fancy papers, ribbons and bows, personalized name tags…Where does the madness end? You’re already getting a present. You expect me to spend 30 minutes carefully wrapping it in foil paper with co-ordinating hand-punched calligraphy name tag? Take a cue from my Ex-husband: wrap everything in the bag it came in and seal it up with whatever roll of tape is in the junk drawer. Some of the nicest things I ever got came in duct taped Wal-Mart bag. (And by nice I mean okay. And by okay I mean not good at all.)

5. Decorating - Right now my lawnmower is sitting out, mid-lawn, right where it ran out of gas in August. I just threw some lights on it and called it a day, so maybe go elsewhere for decorating tips.

6. Meals  - Planning nutritious meals for your family while you’re busy with things like shopping and crying, or wrapping and crying, or trimming the tree and crying can be hard. Well, wipe those tears away, friends! For I bring to you one of the greatest gifts God bestowed on the Universe: the grocery store rotisserie chicken.  This golden BBQ bird has saved my hide (and potential calls to Children’s Services for suspected neglect) many, many times. In fact, in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” the verse “partridge in a pear tree” was originally “A chicken in my buggy.”

7. Parties - Make them “BYOBAFAYNLUEICU” : Bring Your Own Booze and Food and You’re Not Leaving Until Everything is Cleaned Up. Enforce this. Hide people’s coats, their keys, whatever you have to under piles of crusty dishes and empty wine bottles. They clean the mess, they find their stuff! This is also a great way to keep guests entertained. You’ll secure a reputation for being the “hostess with the mostest” employing this technique.

I’ll check back after the holidays to see how it all worked out for you. Please, add your tips in the comments if you’ve got some to share.

Merry Christmas!


Read this when your turkey coma sets in; that way you won’t remember and/or be disappointed

November 22, 2012 | Posted in Family, Health, humor, Parenting, Tip Thursday, Writing | By


Today is the American Thanksgiving, but here in Canada it’s just Thursday. It’s kind of special because my kids don’t have school tomorrow, but I do have to go for Parent/Teacher interviews. If past year’s interviews are to be used as my yardstick, I expect to hear a lot of this: “Keep on keepin’ on.”

My kids are excellent students, and know how to fly under the radar. That’s not bragging; it’s disbelief. They’re smart – don’t get me wrong about that – it’s more that I can’t believe they didn’t fall into the genetic trap my family lays down for its members: make them smart, give them a good (albeit twisted) sense of humour, and then put them in a room with a captive audience. Oh, and make sure they have a zero bullshit tolerance and maybe have them over think everythingsinglethingever. Result: We usually quit (or are asked to leave) by high school.

But so far, so good.

Anyway, I’m not well this week (fluish something) and while I am on the mend, I have no energy for a Tip Thursday other than this:

Tips For Not Getting Sick this Cold and Flu Season:

  1. Take your vitamins.
  2. Avoid excessive sugar.
  3. Don’t lick doorknobs.

That should do it.

So just like the big TV networks on a holiday, here’s a re-run for you. If you’re celebrating today, have a great Thanksgiving. And please; if you’re shopping tomorrow on something called “Black Friday,” don’t get trampled. “She Died Saving $7 on a Bagel Toaster” is not something you want on your tombstone.

Cheese Club

(originally run on December 16, 2010)

According to my Advil Advent calendar, Christmas is just over a week away. Until now I felt that I had everything under control in the holiday planning department – most of the gifts we need have been bought, wrapped, and are under the tree. My annual manifesto Christmas letter is almost complete; I’m just holding off with some of the details until I see how the judge makes his ruling. I’ve written my final exams for the semester and with the kids still in school for the rest of the week I finally have some time for leisurely pursuits like my annual leg shaving.

There are just a few people we still hadn’t bought gifts for, so PM and I headed out this afternoon, determined to buy everything we needed today. But after all the shopping I’ve been doing recently, I was exhausted after half an hour into the trip.

(Actually it was probably the episode earlier at a Big Box Home Store that sapped my energy. I’m sorry, but when there are more than 6 people in a check-out line and the cashier is interviewing each customer and counting out their change in pennies I cannot be held responsible for my actions. I’m also thinking that most of my shopping will soon have to be done primarily online for legal reasons.)

We decided to be brave and go to the Price Club. By the time we had walked the 40 acres from our parking spot, I was done. PM and I made plans to split the list and meet after an hour. The next thing I knew I was being woken up by a lady in a smock poking me in the face with a tray of European cheese samples. I took her tray and went to find PM. He was looking at electric saunas.

“Hi there!” He was cheerful. “Look what I found while you were napping on the doggie beds.”

I peered into his Hyundai sized shopping cart and said, “I was tired. That car tire sized wheel of Gouda made me drowsy.” I picked through the stuff in the cart. “Are these the gifts?”

“Um…yeah. Yeah; they are.”

“Huh. Who are the pickled asparagus and sledgehammer for?”

“We’re playing Secret Santa at work.”

“Hmm. What about the 40-pack of mousetraps, 2 qt. jar of Cheez Whiz and the 2011 Monster Truck Encyclopedia?”

“My Mom.”

“Lucky lady. And what’s that?” I asked, pointing to something at the bottom of the cart. “Everything in this cart is for us, isn’t it?”

“I got some pancake mix…” he started.

“That’s a bag of powdered drywall spackle!”

“…and a frying pan that makes snowflake shaped pancakes!”

“For the spackle?”

“If it’s shaped like a snowflake and covered with maple syrup the kids aren’t even going to notice.” He seemed confident.

“Did you find Rock Band 3 for the Wii?” I asked.

“No; but are you sure the kids even want it?” He didn’t seem convinced.

“Absolutely! Yes! Kind of. Probably. I mean, when I mentioned it they didn’t say no…exactly.”

“You told me they were begging for it.”

“Because I think it will be good for them. They need the guitar practice.”

“The Rock Band guitar is an electronic stick with push buttons on it.”

I pressed on. “Regardless, They should master the bass pedal and high hat on the drum kit. Plus, I think they are ready to understand the pressures of the road.”

“Jeni…Jeni, put the cheese down. You are never going to ‘go’ again if you don’t lay off the dairy. And you know that you’re not really in a band, right? It’s a game…something you do for fun – like karaoke or home dentistry. And you really need to stop referring to your minivan as ‘the tour bus.’ I should tell you that people are starting to talk.”

When we left he had to pull his toque down to cover the snowflake shaped red mark on his forehead.


Tip Thursday: Effective Internet Communication

November 15, 2012 | Posted in Education, humor, I'm a horrible person, Irritation Level: High, Tip Thursday, Writing | By

The internet is a real paradox. It brings out both the best and worst of people, and while I love that so many of us get passionate online about political ideology, current events, and worthy causes, sometimes internet commenting can get to be just a bit much. (Have you read anything on “YouTube” lately?)

Online discussion can provide a wonderful forum for people who want to get involved in their communities, and sharing opinions and opening dialogue often acts as springboard for debate.


I have a few requests. Today’s Tip Thursday is devoted to ensuring the best in high calibre discussion, so pay close attention. This list is culled after reading hundreds – if not thousands of internet comments, and from that number, I’ve taken notice of the most common problems.

  1. Physicality.  In any argument, make sure you make reference to physical traits, sexual preference, age, hair colour, or religious affiliation. We all know that someone is what they look like, so don’t let anyone forget it. For instance, I have a questionable hair cut, so naturally one can conclude that I am an idiot and a bitch. Oh wait; I think I’m a bitch because I don’t wear dresses? I can’t remember. I must be blonde.
  2. Language. Please, swear as much as possible. The internet isn’t censored, so why are you not taking advantage? If you can’t think of a synonym for “ignorant,” try “asshole.” Can’t remember how to spell “misogynistic?” Use “dickhead.”  (Bonus points for using curse words as adjectives, nouns, and verbs. Super bonus points if you do all three in one sentence.)
  3. Facts. Simply put, who needs ‘em? In their absence, suggest research is “lefty propaganda,” or perhaps voice your opinion with the caveat “but whatever; that’s just me.”  
  4. Spelling and grammar. These are the cornerstones of effective written debate, and therefore, have no place in internet discussion.  Got it, shithedd? That was to see if you’re still with me. Add three points if you caught it. (PS. “Points” actually mean nothing here, but studies show people love points.)
  5. Punctuation. If youre mad and in a hurry when you type don’t be concerned This will actually serve to also further confuse the reader proving how stupid they are anyways right.
  6. Conjecture. Throw in some random conspiracy theories. People who don’t believe in conspiracy theories are probably just breathing in too many jet chemtrails… (See also: reference to pinko commie/lefty propaganda.)
  7. Rationality. Should someone try to enter into the conversation using such things as clarity, facts, or intelligence, you must immediately shut that shit down. Gather the troops, link up, and share away. This type of intelligence discourse must be avoided at all costs. Knowledge is power and that’s not good for anyone.

Now, go forth and argue effectively!

If you’re having trouble finding something to get fired up about, I’ve got quite the dossier on Ann Coulter, and  there’s always Fox News.


Tip Thursday: Talking to Teens

November 8, 2012 | Posted in Childhood, Family, humor, Parenting, Tip Thursday, Writing | By

How to Talk to Your Teen

Being a teenager is hard. But being the parent of a teenager is harder.

If you are the parent of a teen, or even if your children are still small, today’s “Tip Thursday“  is for you. One can never prepare enough for the turbulent years ahead, and any little morsel of information you can gather may pay off in droves later.

So here are a few of my favourite tried and true tips I’ve used to build trust with my newly teenaged daughter in the last year. She’s often been reduced to tears by some of these methods, so with such a visceral emotional reaction, you just know they’re working.

  1. Learn who their crushes are. If you can identify said crush by name, twitter handle, and astrological sign, then you are on the right track. Referring to someone as “the cute little guy with the bad haircut” is too open-ended, and really, that could be anyone on the Family Channel. Pro Tip: Be sure to get their full name correct. Accidentally referring to One Direction’s “Harry Styles” as “Harry Ballsack” will earn you nothing but full-force eye roll and a door slam.
  2. Kids respond to music. It’s a form of expression and communication, as well as being a safe method of venting frustration. Teens often organize themselves into cliques based primarily on musical genre, so why not get your kid some street cred by blasting “cool” music when you’re in the pick-up line at middle school dismissal? Try something with a catchy beat: “Bad Bad Leroy Brown”  or “King of the Road” are always crowd pleasers.
  3. All teens need a trusted advisor. Parents today are busier than ever and some kids are going to fall through the cracks, no matter how loved they are. This applies especially to girls around the time of their first menses. Why not organize a “field trip” to a local drugstore for your teen and her friends to talk to the pharmacist about hygiene options? Don’t pick a large chain store. This calls for a personal touch. No; it’s best if you call the hometown pharmacy owned by the guy with the milky eye. Sure, he’s 102, and deaf in one ear, but he’s been around since women used “hygiene belts,” so he really knows his stuff.
  4. Most teens love fashion. Your own clothing choice is one way to show your kids that you’re hip to their jive. Surprise your teen by showing up at one of their parties or gathering places in head to toe Disney trademark clothing, or a Justin Bieber t-shirt and slouched jeans.  If you really need to jumpstart your relationship, insist on matching outfits.
  5. Take an interest in their life. If your teen seems down, ask them to “cop a squat for a rap session.” Some hesitancy is normal, and can be expected. Teens are not by nature communicative with adults so you may have to pursue answers. I’ve found that asking countless questions about even the smallest things is often a springboard for discussion. Here are some to get you started:  Where did you go? Why? Who was there? What did you do? Why did you do that? Why do you think I’m asking why you did that? Why didn’t you do something else? Why are you crying?
  6. Today’s teen is nothing on the social scene without the latest technology. Ensure your child’s popularity by allowing them and their friends unrestricted access to the family VCR and record player.

If, after applying all these helpful tips your teen is still hesitant about opening up, remember that it’s perfectly normal. It’s hard for parents to be cut off and shut out after so many years of our children never wanting to leave our side.

If you are feeling particularly disconnected from your teen, get them in a situation where they cannot tune out, i.e.) the car. Then give them a long, detail-rich reiteration of their birth story. Be vivid – remember that the teenage brain responds best to images, so get graphic when describing their exit from your vagina.

*If you’ve got other tips, I’d love it if you’d share in the comments.


Tip Thursday: Fight-Free Bedtimes

November 1, 2012 | Posted in Childhood, Family, humor, Parenting, Tip Thursday, Writing | By


I’ve been on nightly vampire look-out duty with my son for almost a year. It’s at the point where neither of us even remembers exactly why it started.  When he’s at his dad’s house and I sleep in my own bed my back hurts because my muscle memory is gone in regards to that mattress. I no longer recall what it’s like to snooze atop a Sealy “Comfort Sleep Pillow Top” queen. Nope; my spine now only recognizes the lumps of an Ikea “Who Cares If It Gets Pissed On” twin.

I have to start sleeping in my own bed again. Otherwise how will I get used to being alone forever? Really, I’m just spoiling myself. So I’ve consulted experts in the field (a lady at the liquor store) and experienced veterans (my Gramma,) considered their advice and come up with the following list for getting your child to sleep at a decent hour, in their own bed.

Good luck. I’ll be having an afternoon exhaustion nap on the couch if you need me.

  1. If your child says they’re afraid of, say, vampires, make sure to tell them there is no cause to be afraid. Explain that a vampire won’t actually kill you, but rather that they would merely bite you on the neck causing you to become a vampire yourself. This ought to lay their minds to rest immediately.
  2. The best bedtime snacks are nutrient dense and highly caloric. Smoothies are a great night-time snack option.  I like to purée a pound of butter with some turkey gravy. Add a splash of chamomile for resistant sleepers.
  3. Wine. Just keep drinking until you don’t care anymore. Heads up: This tip will appear in many future Tip Thursday columns.
  4. Avoid television before bed. No media means no scary images for your child to worry about in the dark. Last week my son caught the tail end of the Obama/Romney debate and I was up until the wee hours explaining that a.) we’re Canadian and b.) my son doesn’t have a uterus, and even if he did, he could do whatever he wanted with it.
  5. Wear that kid out. Sometimes a simple trip to the playground will be enough exercise for a child. If your son or daughter is particularly high-spirited, you may need to go beyond that. Does your roof need to be re-shingled?
  6. Change the clocks. You’re already going “no media,” so they won’t know what time it is. As long as the sun isn’t high in the sky, they will probably fall for it. Start yawning at 5pm. around 6, makes offhand comments about how tired you are, and how “fast this day has flown by.” Don’t worry about the antique clock in the hallway you lost the key for; no kid has known how to tell analog time since 1998.
  7. Make your bedroom as unappealing as possible to night-time travellers. Mouse traps under newspaper as effective and don’t hurt for long.
  8. A hot bath followed by a lavender oil foot rub is conducive to sleep. Just make sure your child rubs your feet for long enough to really wear themselves out.
  9. Start the bedtime routine early. Most children dislike abrupt transitions, so try to make “awake to sleep” times seamless. I like to give my children ample warning when bedtime is approaching. When you send them more to school in the morning, say something like, “Have a great day! It’s bedtime in 9 hours!”
  10. Host a sleepover. Chances aw your child won’t want his friends knowing he still sleeps with his mom. Peer pressure is a strong force, and it’s going to bite you on the ass later when your kids want every gadget Apple pumps out of China, $200 running shoes and tickets to One Direction concerts. Peer pressure OWES you. Sure, sleepovers mean you’ll have extra kids in your house, but as long as they flush the toilet and don’t tell anyone how much you say “shit” in, then who gives a shit? At least you’ll be all getting some sleep in your own bed.

If you’ve tried these tips and nothing seems to be working, rest assured your child will not sleep with you forever. Once they’re married, their spouse will probably put an end to it.

Beautiful sleeping baby


Tip Thursday: School Picture Day

October 25, 2012 | Posted in Childhood, Education, Family, humor, Parenting, School, Tip Thursday, Writing | By


Source: www.ellentv.com

School has been back in swing for weeks now, and in our region, the school photographer is making the rounds. Every year my children head off to school looking reasonably tidy, with me waving good-bye and knowing that this year?

This will be the year they hit the mark.

A few weeks later they’ll pull crisp white envelopes out of  their backpacks and proudly show me their school photos.

Photos I paid for.

And this year? This year will not be the year.

So in the interest of preventing our children from becoming a horrible Facebook meme, I’ve prepared some school photo tips for this Tip Thursday:

  1. Write the date down as soon as you receive notice. I can’t tell you the number of times my son has been photographed in a skull and cross-bones bathing suit simply because I didn’t mark the date on the calendar. (Note: Three.)
  2. Practice photo poses at home. Showing your child how to smile at a stranger may not keep him safe on the playground, but it’ll pay off come Christmas card season.
  3. Send a tidy lunch. Picture Day is no time for marinara meatball surprise in the thermos, parents. Keep it dry and keep it tidy. Crumble free crackers or soft pieces of bread are a good bet. Actually, it may be best to “forget” to pack your child a lunch altogether that day. Offer a big breakfast instead. Bonus: gaunt, pale cheeks in photos are flattering to all body types.
  4. I’m a firm believer of the “If you’re not the worst, then you’re pretty much almost sorta the best” principle. It works like this: if in a class of say, 25 kids, mine aren’t wearing the most unmatched patterns, have the most unkempt hair, or sport the most mustard on their t-shirts, we’re in the clear. No one’s gonna remember my son as being the standout if another kid in that year’s picture is missing one sleeve of his hoodie and he looks like he’s been crying because his lunch was stolen.
  5. Before children assemble for pictures, sign in at school as snack-parent. Find your child’s locker, then move two lockers to the right. In that locker you will no doubt find school gear including a hoodie and a lunch box. Tear one sleeve off the hoodie, and steal the lunch box. Pro tip: hoodie sleeve can be used to wipe down fingerprints left at scene.
  6. If you’re lucky and your school offers a green screen “choose your own background” option, request “pig pen” or “mud pit.” This will pre-emptively quell the “What the hell is on his face?” questions you’ll no doubt get from well-meaning relatives who clearly never had male children.

Finally, if – despite all your best efforts to starve, vandalize, and bribe your way to successful photos – cherish the ones you get. They’re a clear snapshot of who your child was that day. If that means he or she is wearing a superhero themed pajama top, mismatched bedroom sneakers, and a hat they took from the bowling alley lost-n-found, then so be it.

Unlike the hat, the photo won’t smell like beer and urinal cakes.