Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
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Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Your Summer Bucket List Says About You

With just about a month of summer vacation remaining for many of us (and NO summer vacation remaining for those of you who already started school again this week - WHAT???), a lot of parents are reflecting on all the things they'd planned on doing while their kids were out of school. Whether you've already crossed everything off your list or you're just now getting ready to maybe start to consider telling the kids to turn off their devices so you can possibly organize some kind of activity or something, what you put on your summer bucket list says a lot about you.

Go camping: You like the smell of DEET but hate comfort.

Read: Your kids are going away to camp for a week or more.

Play catch: You're trying to recapture the summers of your youth.

Play Frisbee: You're trying to salvage the summers of your kid's youth, while sustaining a knee injury.

Outdoor concert: You want to do something cultural in case the teacher asks them what they did over summer break.

Roast marshmallows: If they insist on getting sticky and amped up, you figure at least they can do it outside.

Travel: You've developed amnesia since the last time you traveled with children.

Trip to the Zoo: The hot sun beating down in your hot backyard isn't hot enough for you.

Picnic: You're willing to eat lunch on the ground if it means you don't have to clean up your kids' crumbs and spilled beverages again.

Swim at the lake: You want to swim, but you also want to feel like you need a shower afterwards.

Swim at the pool: You've run out of ideas.

Never fear, though - even if you haven't accomplished a single solitary thing all summer long, it's still not too late to accomplish everything on your summer bucket list! Well, everything on an "updated" summer bucket list, anyway.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing - and so I don't get all lonely. I get extra-pathetic when I'm lonely.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Kids' Brand New Best Budsies

I don't mean to brag, guys, but I get a lot of offers to tell you about stuff - glittery craft supplies, books about auto parts, apps that track the severity of your dog's breath - but verrrrrry few of them meet the high awesomeness requirements for me to share with you.

However, as I waded through a sea of discarded but COMPLETELY PRECIOUS artwork made by my children which I never get to look at or enjoy because OMG IT'S EVERYWHERE, a solution appeared in my email inbox.


Budsies - awesome stuffed toys based on kids' artwork! Review from Robyn Welling @RobynHTV

I bet you're drowning in some completely precious kids' artwork, too, and let's face it - if we put everything they made on the fridge, our kitchens would collapse into a heap of magnets and expired milk in the basement within three days, tops.

But sometimes some of that artwork is even precious-er (it's a word - I looked it up) than the rest, and Budsies can - brace yourself for the cuteness - turn your kids' art into stuffed toys.


I'm sorry I'm yelling so much in this post, but I'm genuinely excited and I CAN'T HELP MYSELF.

So, even though we have more that 53 zillion metric tons of artwork in the house, I had my three youngest kids make something new specifically for their Budsies, because why not?
The arteests at work.
Plus, I ordered a fourth one for our 19-year-old-not-really-a-kid-anymore kid based on some art he created that already hangs in our living room because I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

Sorry, I'll try to keep my voice down. But ISN'T IT AWESOME?

Now, Jake went relatively easy on the folks at Budsies with his simple but hilarious "mustache with a mustache."

But I'll admit, I was skeptical about their ability to accurately recreate Zoe's striped, dotted shark-unicorn-horse-cat with three curly pig tails and an udder.

Or Madeline's decidedly wild "lady wif a kinda surprised face and long, long hair yellin' YAYYYY."

But they turned out so, so much better than I ever could have imagined.

How perfect are they?!?!?


They're so crazily detailed - right down to the sharkicorn's anchor tattoo. They even sewed Jake's signature from his drawing onto his plush mustache-with-a-mustache, and worked with me to design a body to keep Kennedy's cool artwork from becoming a semi-creepily stuffed severed head.

And the kids' reactions? Priceless. I'll let pictures speak 1,000 words, since I'm probably pushing 1,000 words already.

It was so much fun to see how excited they all were, from toddler to teen, and they've been totally inseparable from their snuggly new best Budsies (especially the littles) ever since.

Ultra bonus: I got so many Awesome Mom Points, they might even forgive me if they ever find out how much of their artwork has "accidentally" fallen into the recycling bin over the years.

The only drawback? Now I want to turn everything they've ever drawn into a Budsie. Until then, I've come up with some occasions when a Budsie would be THE PERFECT GIFT (sorry, yelling again).
  • Birthday
  • Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/other difficult-to-spell winter holidays
  • Graduation
  • Back-to-school (I firmly believe every nervous kindergartner - and 6th grader - and college freshman - needs one of these special little guys to make the transition easier.)
  • Third Tuesday of the month
  • Honorable Mention in the school art fair
  • Baby Shower (OMG IT WOULD BE SO CUTE to give the baby a Budsie, based on artwork the new mom made when she was a child. AMIRIGHT? You know her mom still has a ton of it in a box somewhere.) (Related: someone please make a Budsie out of my childhood art before I'm tempted to have another baby just to get one.)
If you can't wait to get your hands on one, you're in luck! The process is super easy, and right now you can even get a $5 discount on your Budsies order! Trust me, it's so, so, OMG so worth it.

Full disclosure: I was compensated for this post with smile-inducing adorableness, but the opinions and memories of my kids' overjoyed faces are all my own. Additional disclosure: we were on vacation when I gave the kids their Budsies, so the 1970s hutch and lobster-themed tablecloth in the reveal photos are not all my own.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing - and so I don't get all lonely. I get extra-pathetic when I'm lonely.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Writing 101 - the perfect cover letter

There's no way around it, economic times are tough. Or maybe the economy has improved and I just happen to live in a crappy neighborhood, I'm not sure. Either way, I do know that competition for really good jobs is stiff, even if you have a great resume, like this toddler does.

One thing I've learned in my various, unsuccessful job hunts is that a great cover letter is essential - and not the ones full of typos or sent to the wrong company, like mine usually are. Unfortunately, writing cover letters is hard. And boring. Let's not forget boring.

Employers look for specific buzzwords, but which ones? Are they tired of hearing from detail-oriented self-starters? How many different ways can I translate "sold Girl Scout cookies in 1986" into a worthwhile skill? Does anyone still care about my familiarity with word processing programs?

What the world needs is a really killer cover letter sample - one that all job seekers can look to for inspiration (i.e. job qualifications to copy and paste), current jargon, and maybe even a lack of spelling errors.

Luckily for the world, I'm not letting the fact that I'm an idiot who sucks at writing cover letters stop me from writing just such a sample - a can't miss, must-hire, absolutely perfect cover letter.

I'll tell you the secret: it's LIES. Lies so grandiose and fantastic, your potential employers won't even think to question them. Or, at least, maybe they'll know they're lies but be slightly entertained. Either way, you'll have their attention, and according to my complete lack of research, that's some percentage of the battle! So here it is - feel free to send this to several largish corporations to show them what a confident, young go-getter you are. Then just sit back and wait for the job offers/restraining orders to come pouring in!

Dear [insert name of company that probably ain't ready for this jelly],

I'm the perfect candidate for all your positions. I'm understandably insulted that you won't just take my word for it, but I'll go ahead and humor you with a few reasons why anyway.

In high school, I was voted Most Likely To Govern a Difficult-To-Pronounce Nation. Although I haven't yet actually become a tsar, I did invent the Republic of Azerbaijan my sophomore year.

By the time I was 17, I had advanced degrees in several obscure -ologies. While completing my degrees and volunteering my time to dub Sarah McLachlan songs onto ASPCA ads, I was also CEO of an off-brand oatmeal distribution firm, taste-tested the new colors at Sherwin-Williams part time, and founded the Oakland Raiders. Of course, this was after I sold the NY Stock Exchange (too boring to keep, even just as a hobby).

I know, 17 seems old for so few accomplishments, but I did backpack around Europe for a few years as a toddler.

Currently I'm awaiting final revisions on my biography, which is being written posthumously by Mark Twain. I feel that a career with your company would be a productive way to pass the time until my book tour starts, or until my grant money from Yale is approved so I can begin my studies on the effects of self-tanners on the Naked Mole Rat.

The address to which you can forward my salary (I require a two-year advance) can be located on the envelope in which this resume was delivered - which, incidentally, I wove myself out of organically grown linen fibers originating from a new species of flax plant I discovered while on tour with Jimi Hendrix.

Now, what kind of potential employer wouldn't be impressed by all THAT? I mean, besides one who can read. What about you - ever sent a really killer cover letter, or one that was really cringe-worthy? Did you get the job? I know you'll be surprised to hear this, but spoiler alert: I almost never get the job. It's like employers don't think I take things seriously or something.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing - and so I don't get all lonely. I get extra-pathetic when I'm lonely.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Eliminating the Scruff 'Stache and Saving Your Sons

Anyone who has a growing son (or remembers high school) knows exactly what I mean by the "scruff 'stache." It's that horrible wanna-be facial hair that boys cultivate as they grow older because they're just so, SOvery excited to finally have any facial hair at all, no matter how awful it looks. It's the first outward sign that they're becoming big, grown-up Men, and they're so proud of themselves that they completely lack the ability to discern how vaguely creepy they look with a sporadic dusting of random hair patches on their upper lip.

The scruff 'stache, however, is pretty much universally detested by parents because it makes their sweet boys look like they forgot to wash their faces for a month and then fell asleep mouth-first in a pile of dog hair. Moms get especially frustrated because it's the first thing they're unable to clean something off their kid's face with a licked thumb.

And, anyone who's ever been a grown-up probably also knows that it takes a while for these young men to develop proper facial grooming habits. They might go through several awkward growth phases, from scruff 'stache to partial goatee to mottled beard-ish thing, before their full face-hair comes in. Unfortunately, that happens right around the time when many guys reach the I-Don't-See-The-Point-In-Putting-Much-Effort-Into-Grooming-Especially-If-It's-Going-To-Occupy-10-Minutes-When-I-Could-Otherwise-Be-Sleeping phase.

Compound that problem with a son heading off to college, where A) he has no money for shaving supplies and B) he has no room to store shaving supplies and C) you aren't there to nag him, and you're dealing with a potential scraggly hair-tastrophe.

Not to mention, the only thing harder than getting your growing fella to shave is taking care of his college back-to-school shopping needs. UGH, enough with the shower shoes - I'm still traumatized from my own college experience.

But here's where I can help. No, I can't give your teen a hygiene attitude transplant, and I can't convince your son not to move into the dorms if that's what he has his heart set on. But I can tell you, with plenty of time before you've finished your back-to-school shopping, that Gillette has a new hassle-free blade refill subscription service that delivers Gillette’s blades directly to his door, meaning one less thing to think about and leaving college-aged sons no reason to come home looking scraggly. And, Gillette’s best blades are more affordable than you might think—only about $1 a week for most guys. College kids have enough to think about. With Gillette subscription they can put more time toward “studying.”

By making shaving too easy and convenient NOT to do, you can save your son from a scruffy facial hair fate AND simplify your back-to-school shopping experience. Or, you can use a subscription to solve the mystery of what to get him for his graduation/Hooray You're Leaving For College party! Because hey, boys are hard to shop for, so what do you get a recent guy-grad aside from 87 rolls of quarters for the laundromat (which he spends on God knows what, but you know it isn't laundry because he brings all that home for you to wash)?

As an added bonus, when your sweet boy comes home from school for a visit you won't have to worry about nagging him about the fact that he never shaves! Instead, you can focus all your nagging on the fact that he never calls.

Disclaimer: Compensation was provided by Gillette via MomTrends. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Gillette or MomTrends.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing - and so I don't get all lonely. I get extra-pathetic when I'm lonely.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How To Scar Your Kids For Life (the sex talk)

This piece is a combination of a few all-too-true stories I've partly told before, and reading it at Listen To Your Mother-Northwest Indiana in 2014 was truly one of the highlights of my life. Ever since I read something uncharacteristically heartfelt at LTYM-Indianapolis in 2013, I've wanted to get back on stage and read something funny, because apparently I'm not terrified often enough in my regular, daily life. However, I couldn't have asked for a better audience or better reactions - a woman even came up to me after the show and said it was the first time she'd ever laughed so hard she cried, which I'm totally having engraved on my tombstone. So, now that I've gotten your expectations unrealistically high, enjoy! (Or scroll to the video at the end, and I'll even do all the reading for you.)

When it comes to having The Talk, some parents get all fired up about when we should teach our kids about puberty and what, exactly, we should call their... um... whatchamacallits.

In one corner, you have the Informers, who (I'm guessing) start a frank and earnest discussion about sexuality with their children in utero. These parents often use terms that even I, an adult by most standards, barely understand without a medical dictionary (or without giggling).

In the other corner, you have the Avoiders, who would prefer to wait until sometime after college to talk to the kids about their nether-parts. These parents often use words like "nether-parts" instead of... whatever those thing-a-ma-jigs are really called.

While I'm obviously an Avoider by nature, I've pretty much played the sex talk issue by ear with my kids. Some of you probably recognize "play it by ear" as parenting code for, "I ignore it until I absolutely can't ignore it any more. Then, I continue to ignore it for a few more days. Then it comes up again and I have to stall because I was caught off guard, and quite frankly I was hoping they'd forget about it."

I am not suggesting that this is the most effective - or mature - way of handling the subject. I know there are strong arguments with impassioned supporters for empowering our children with the right terminology at a young age. And for the most part, I agree. I know I should put on my Serious Grown Up Face and approach the topic with the gravity and dignity it deserves.

But life is spontaneous, and kids are funny, and I am awkward - which means that, despite my best intentions, sometimes an unexpected discussion about s-e-x devolves into me laughing in a crumpled mass on the floor like a second grader who just heard the word "boobies" for the first time.

I'm not saying I'm proud, but it happens. Also, I mostly blame the children.

Take my toddler, for example. At two, she followed me everywhere, including the bathroom. She didn't really care what I was doing in there, she just wanted to hang out and discuss Polly Pockets until I was finished. Which was fine, until one day when I was on my "lady time" (or whatever you want to call it) and she spied me with my feminine unmentionables. She then came to the obvious conclusion, which she proceeded to announce at top volume to the universe at large:


After that, you'd think I'd at least learn to keep my lady time accessories under wraps, but no. Another time, as I packed for vacation, my oldest daughter spied my tampons. There were roughly a skadillion other things in my bag, but naturally the tampons were what caught her fancy.

"What are those?" she asked sweetly.

"They're just tampons." I used the most casual tone possible, hoping to discourage any further conversation that would likely scar us both for life. We had to be out the door in 20 minutes, and I knew this wasn't going to go well if I had to hurry through it. I needed a chance to formulate my real answer, put on my Serious Grown Up Face, and perhaps drink heavily.

"What're they for?"

"They're for women to use. You don't have to worry about that yet." A tousle of the hair, and... done.

No? Not done?

"But what are they for?"

Obviously some sort of explanation was in order, but I hadn't envisioned The Talk with my eldest daughter transpiring on the hallway floor in front of the linen closet, with the contents of my toiletries bag splayed out on the carpet between us. It's difficult to have a Magical Bonding Moment under those conditions. Trust me.

So I opted to give her the Cliff's Notes description of puberty, and hoped that would temporarily satisfy her curiosity. Mere minutes later, I was wrapping up. "At the end of the month, your body cleans itself out so it can start over. That's where the tampon comes in - it... uhhh... keeps all that stuff from getting on your clothes."

Understandably, she looked puzzled. "You have to use a tampon for that?"

At this point I tried to explain that pads were another option, but she started laughing when I described them as long, soft, absorbent stickers that you put in your underwear. Pretty soon we were both giggling, and I congratulated myself for successfully defusing her questions - without scarring her for life!

I can be so naive sometimes.

As our gales of laughter subsided, she persisted. "But what about the tampon? Do you wipe with it, like toilet paper?"

Oh boy. I was hoping to avoid a whole anatomy lesson, so I said simply, "No, you put it inside your body."

Her smile instantly dissolved into a look of pure shock and horror.

Aghast, she blurted out, "YOU EAT IT????"

Aaaannnnnd scarred for life. Which is why (when it comes to discussing ding dongs and front buns) I am, and shall ever remain, an Avoider by nature.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing - and so I don't get all lonely. I get extra-pathetic when I'm lonely.