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Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
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My 5-Step Diet Plan For 2013

5-Step Diet Plan


I'm going to go out on a limb and be the first person in history to make a New Year's resolution regarding weight loss.

Oh, what? Other people are doing that, too? Huh.

Well, it might not be the most original resolution, but I tried to think of another way to start off 2013 in a state of abject misery that was certain to end in complete failure and thus strike another crushing blow to my self esteem, and I couldn't come up with a better guarantee for that than a diet.

Oh, what? Abject misery and setting yourself up for failure aren't the point of New Year's resolutions? Huh. I thought they were.

Well, I'm going to give it a try anyway. Not a real  try, of course - I mean my version of trying, which is to say that I probably won't try very hard at all.

I've included my plan here, in case some of you also decide you're going to (pretend to) try to lose a few pounds this year. It's in a handy printable format; place a copy wherever you think you'll need a reminder that you're on a diet. Some suggestions:
  • tape it to the snack cabinet door
  • super glue it to the light-activated oinking "motivational" pig we all keep stationed in the fridge to remind us that eating is evil and wrong
  • laminate it and put it somewhere you're sure to find it, like at the bottom of a pint of Ben & Jerry's Americone Dream

As a bonus, the whole plan consists of just 5 simple steps, so we can hurry up and get to the part that comes at the very end, the part where we just give up in disgust and face-plant into a pile of Werther's Originals.

Oh, what? I'm the only one who diets that way? Huh.

5-Step Diet Plan


I can hardly wait to start the self-inflicted agony and deprivation. I'll attack this plan with the same gusto I reserve for my resolutions every year, meaning I plan to stick with it for as long as it takes. Or as long as it takes me to get tired of it. Or as long as it takes me to find a bag of Doritos.

Clicking the Top Mommy Blogs banner below is slimming -
well, I'm sure it burns calories, anyway. You overachievers should click it twice.
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A Rare Parenting Win - DIY Dance Studio

Remember when I told you that Zoe went temporarily (I hope) insane and asked for a ballet studio for Christmas?

Crazy talk, amiright?

Well, the only thing crazier than her Christmas wish is my husband, apparently, who brought home that rare, elusive Parenting Win by giving the girl what she asked for even though normal people thought it would be impossible.

My favorite part (besides the joy in my daughter's heart, blah blah blah) was that it doesn't take up any floor space, which is good, because her room is tiny. Oh wait - even better - it was FREE, constructed from junk we had lying around.

Granted, we have weird junk lying around that other people might not have, but I'll show you what he did anyway.

DIY Dance Studio



Materials:

  • Daughter with crazy wish for ballet studio (or son, whatever, I don't want to get into gender stereotypes right now)
  • Cheap rectangular mirrors - we used two, but you could use more depending on how much wall space you have
  • Bannister handrail (I told you we have weird stuff lying around) long enough to span the width of your mirrors, and related hardware to screw it to the wall
  • Spray paint for the handrail (this color is Ballet Slipper Pink - because HOW PERFECT IS THAT?)
  • Lettering for above the mirrors - I used a roll of black wall decal vinyl and cut the letters out with my Cricut machine because I'm lazy and spoiled enough to have those things, but you could cut them out of contact paper with scissors, or just paint them. Actually you can also use black paper and stick it on the wall with double-sided tape, which I know for a fact because my vinyl got sucked into the Cricut like a log into a chipper-shredder and it almost chewed my arm off while I was distracted by the baby trying to eat crayons, so I ran out of vinyl and had to make the "U" out of paper.

    But I digress.
This is the part of the tutorial where most people explain how to assemble and complete the project, but honestly if you can't tell what we did by looking at the picture then I'd say you probably shouldn't be operating a power drill anyway.

The only other thing you should be careful of, aside from losing a limb in your Cricut machine, is that siblings are likely to barge right in and start dancing every time you try to get a decent "After" shot.

DIY Dance Studio sisters dancing


This post was NOT sponsored by Cricut, although I'd happily accept some health insurance from them the next time I attempt to use their machine, preferably with an Accidental Dismemberment rider. And hey, if your arms have never been subjected to a Cricut-related mishap, please use them to click the banner below.
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This post is linked up at Mama Kat's in response to the prompt, "What gift is your child most excited about receiving this year?"


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A Real Slick Christmas Surprise

For a special treat today, my mom (Yes! My mom!) is here to tell one of my favorite tales from her sordid past.

Wait, not sordid. I meant storied. Her storied past. Whatever.


It's a yarn I've heard spun many times - one about finding the perfect holiday gift, about sisterly love, and about siblings ruining all your awesome Christmas surprises. Take it away, Marma! (Yes, that's what I call my mom.)
________________________________________

This took place a long, long time ago. To give you some perspective, there were no computers, families had only one (1) TV and no way to record shows. Viewing choices were confined to four channels. There was one telephone per household and it was tethered to the wall, usually in the living room within earshot of the whole family. Gas was 25 cents per gallon. It was the early 60s. Christmas was coming.

Have I sufficiently jolted you into the Wayback Machine? Good. We can start the story.

One of our Christmas traditions was a day of shopping for presents for family members. As a lesson in sharing (and math), each of us six children were given $20 to buy gifts for each other and our parents. I found a gift for my preteen sister that I knew she would love. The Beatles had been on the Ed Sullivan Show and everything British was to be coveted. Yardley Slicker Dollys could catapult you into the world of High Style.

Slicker Dollys
source: sugarpie honeybunch

It was hard to wrap because the die-cut heads on the top of the box caused some distinctive lumpiness, but she would never be able to guess what was under the wrapping. I couldn’t wait for her to open it on Christmas Eve!

As it turned out, she had something for me that she was equally excited about. A couple days before Christmas, we decided we would show each other one wrapped gift as a teaser. We each went into our closet and rummaged around our Hidden Gift Stash to pull out a gift; I felt completely confident that she would never be able to guess the contents of this oddly shaped package. We held the gifts behind our backs and, on the count of three, we pulled them out in a grand ta-dah flourish.

Then we burst out laughing, because both of our gifts were the same exact size, featuring the same distinct, signature lumpiness of the Yardley Slickers.

So much for the surprise.

It was the year I realized that the anticipation of giving really was more fun than receiving - but still, those slickers were one of the best presents I have ever received.
_______________________________________

Ahem, clearly my mom meant to say it was one of the best gifts she ever received besides the gigantic carved wooden "I Love Robyn" key chain I gave her for Mother's Day one year. Obviously. (What? "I Love Mom" wouldn't have made any sense - she was the one who had to carry it around, and she didn't need a key chain that said she loved herself.)

I'll let the oversight slide though, since she did type this story for me while in the throes of the Fevered Death Flu. Which she caught from me. Yet another one of my generous gifts.

Merry holidays, everyone!

If you click the TMB banner below as a gift, I promise to act surprised when I open your vote on Christmas morning!
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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!


9 Joyous Things About Putting Up The Tree

You already know how I feel about decorating for Christmas, so even I was surprised when I was tasked with listing nine things that bring me joy and the first thing that came to mind was, "I bet I could name nine things that brought me joy while we were putting up the Christmas tree this year."

Crazy, right?



I don't blame you for not believing me, but here they are:

1. Getting together as a family to trim the tree, join voices, and loudly argue over whose hideous, iridescent "Baby's 1st Christmas" ornament is whose.

2. Making fun of terrible Christmas music (Alvin and the Chipmunks, I'm looking at you).

3. Watching A Christmas Story - more specifically, ruining it for everyone else by reciting every line along with the movie.

4. The fact that all of my kids - without me even having to ask - will freeze as soon as I pick up my camera and pretend to be putting the same ornament on the tree for as long as it takes me to get 4000 pics, none of which will be completely in focus.


5. The girls staring at the cat while he lounges in his new favorite place on Earth, under tree - where he sheds roughly two pounds of fur per day on the latch-hook tree skirt I painstakingly made as a gift for my mom when I was a kid.



6. Because the cat is now semi-permanently stationed under the tree, for the next few weeks he won't spend his evenings on the back of the couch right behind my head, loudly tongue bathing himself.

7. Madeline's refusal to wear a shirt, paired with...
8. her insistence that she wear plastic beaded necklaces at all times, paired with...
9. her insistence that Gerry wears them too, even though they're too small to go over his head.


What's not to be joyous about? A huge thanks to Mama Kat and her uplifting Writer's Workshop prompt, "List the top 9 things that bring you joy."

Okay, these might not be the TOP 9 things, but apparently I didn't read the prompt very carefully the first time, and I'm sure as hell not writing a new post now!

Oops, sorry - I must've used up all my joy. I guess it's back to snark, then!

Please click below to vote for me and I promise not to make you pose for a picture (it's a trick - I'll make you pose for THIRTY pictures).
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Mama’s Losin’ It



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As The Dollhouse Turns - Christmas Special



Episode 14 - The First Annual Christmas Special


Buzz decides to surprise his family this year with a REAL Christmas tree!


"I don't know why more people don't come to the public park for their trees - this place is lousy  with them, and they're FREE," he thinks.

As he'd hoped, Sunny sure is surprised.


"Wow," she says, choosing her words carefully. "Do you think it might be a teensy bit... large for the space?"

"Fine," Buzz says. "I'll get my trimmers."

Two hours later...


"Better, right?" he asks with pride.

"Umm, sure. We'll just fill in the bare spots with ornaments."

Soon the children are gathered to participate in the Annual Tree Trimming tradition. Buzz takes a seat on the couch  with a beverage and tells baby Chiffon, "It's best that you learn early to stay out of Mommy's way when we decorate for Christmas 'as a family.'"


Sunny is already helping the girls trim the tree.

"Be careful with that one, Charmeuse! Be sure to spread them out evenly. No wait, the garland needs to come up a little on that side. Higher... higher... now over to the left... oh never mind, honey, let me do it. Hey, you can't put up all  the ornaments; let your sister hang some. But not there - we already have a red one there. Remember, spread them out. No, you can't eat these candy canes, they've been in a box in the attic for a year - they're just for show. Oh, here are Grandma's glass ornaments... Chenille, stop! Those are fragile! That one belongs to your sister, let her put it up. I see that you already did, just take it down so she can hang it up. Honey, I think we already have enough clothespin reindeer on the tree, don't you?"

Two hours later...


"Wait," says Buzz, "I know what we're missing!" He rummages around in the bottom of the box of decorations.

Sunny thinks, Surely he isn't going to dig up the tree topper I hid, the one Charmeuse made in pre-K that's 90% gold glitter and crusty Elmer's glue...

"Look what I found," Buzz announces.


He produces the glitter bomb before Sunny can kick him in the shin, and lifts Chenille up over his head to place the star at the top of the tree. Meanwhile, Charmeuse has a fit, claiming it was her turn to put the star on and besides she's the one who made it and it doesn't matter if she's too heavy to lift up, it isn't fair.

"Much better," Buzz proclaims.


The next morning, all three children wake up at 3 AM, ready to open gifts.

"Please, can we open presents?"

"I'm still asleep," says Sunny.

"Please, can we open presents?"

"Wait until the big hand is on the seven and the little hand is on the leave me alone."

"Please, can we open presents?"

"Fine."

Buzz and Sunny stumble out of bed. Sunny makes a strong pot of coffee, splashes some of it on her face in an attempt to absorb the caffeine directly through her eyeballs, and pours herself a cup. Buzz grabs the newspaper, ready to check the sports scores while the kids dig into the pile of gifts.

They find the girls in the living room, frothing at the mouth a little.


"Where's the pony I asked for?"

"I told you, you're not getting a pony."

"Please, can we open presents?"

"Just let me get the camera..."

"Please, can we open presents?"

"Fine."

Four minutes later...


"Mom, we're bored."


Dearest readers, whatever you're celebrating this month, or even if you're not celebrating anything in particular at all, I hope you're doing it with the people you love nearby. Love them and hug them - even if they're ungrateful brats.

And, as usual, the drama continues next time - until then, please feel free to catch up on previous episodes of As The Dollhouse Turns. Then click the Top Mommy Blogs banner below while I run out and buy a pony.
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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!


Holiday Dreams and Post-Holiday Letdown




The holidays are rough, for adults and kids alike.

Sure, kids get the sugarplum magical whoopity-doo part of Christmas, but they also have the pressure of asking for the Perfect Gift That Will Lead To Their Only Chance Of Lifelong Happiness, which means that, other than sending an adorably misspelled letter to Santa, the degree to which they'll be interested in rolling out of bed on December 26th is largely out of their control.

A couple weeks ago, I talked about the Cabbage Patch Kid I needed when I was little in order to ensure my life was complete. I wanted one, needed one, and halfway expected one even though I knew they were expensive and sold out of stores and that my mom might be seriously maimed by other shoppers if she actually tried to buy one for me.

The unexpected turn of events and resulting devastation that year were survivable only because I have the satisfaction of blaming everything on my brother.

The point I made in that post (I think) was that the high expectations and excitement of Christmas are hard for kids to handle, even when they haven't eaten their own body weight in sugar cookies (though they usually have).

As parents, we want our children to believe in magic and wishes, but we also want to protect them from the Post-Holiday Letdown caused by making insane requests and thinking they'll be fulfilled. We're charged with gently squashing their unrealistic Holiday Dreams, without destroying their sense of Childlike Holiday Wonder.

It's a difficult job, and sometimes it makes me wish I could just prevent my kids from having holiday dreams altogether. Especially this year, because Zoe has selected the Perfect Gift That Will Lead To Her Only Chance Of Lifelong Happiness.

She asked for... wait for it... her own ballet studio.

Unfortunately, it's my job to encourage her to want different things, to steer her away from her heart's fondest wish, try to prevent her from having an unhealthy amount of hope that we might actually tack an addition onto our house overnight and transform it into a dance studio - all while somehow still convincing her that Everything Is Possible.

But I know what I'm up against. The holiday dream of a child is a powerful thing. Chances are, no matter what I do, some part of her will continue to believe she might just get that ballet studio.

Zoe, if it's any consolation, one day you'll see all this holiday hype from a different perspective. You'll realize that fixating on one specific material object and hanging all your hopes of happiness on it isn't what the holidays are all about. You'll realize that Cabbage Patch Kids are pretty unattractive and not even remotely cuddly and you'll wonder what all the fuss was about and they're stupid and you didn't even want one anyway, so there.

Oh wait, that doesn't help you at all.

Well then, brace yourself for the crushing disappointment, honey. Hopefully you won't be too upset when you open your presents and find tutus and leotards and tights and real ballet slippers, but no ballet studio. Maybe you'll be prepared for that moment to some degree by the fact that, when you added it to your wish list, I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair.

I only did it to protect you.

And because it was funny.

Of course, my holiday dream is for you to click the Top Mommy Blogs banner below -
I hope that's a little more realistic than a ballet studio.
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This Is Life

I've been struggling over how to get back to blogging, especially humor blogging, in light of the tragedy in Connecticut and the raw emotions we're all feeling.

In the meantime, I've read (and loved) a lot of blog posts and Facebook updates over the weekend about families like mine. Homes full of grief and joy, each emotion battling to take center stage. Our hearts are determined to love so fiercely that sadness is forced into the corners - but that very love reminds us why we grieve. Then we can't hold back the tears waiting behind our eyes, and we let them flow until we can press those thoughts aside again with more hugs, more bedtime stories, more piggyback rides.

I feel like I packed a year's worth of parenting into the last two days. We watched movies. We hit balloons back and forth a zillion times, never letting them touch the lava on the floor. I wore a tutu on my head and performed elaborate teddy bear wedding ceremonies. We had dance parties. I let a tiny plastic giraffe boss my doll around for hours in the dollhouse. We ate ice cream (and cupcakes, and chocolate, and potato chips, and candy). We played cards under the dining room table. We stayed up late, reading and playing video games. We hugged, and hugged, and hugged, and I planted kisses on their heads as if a protective shield might sprout from that spot and envelop them for the rest of their days if only I kissed them one more time.

I felt like I'd woken up. I was present, and aware, and appreciative of every moment. We really lived life.

Also over the weekend, my son was invited to his best friend's house for a play date. I'll admit, my first reaction was, No, I can't have him out of my sight!  But that wouldn't be fair to him, so I reluctantly let him go. Because my kids having fun with their friends is part of living life, too.

It's part of living life, just like siblings fighting over the "good" spot on the couch. And bath time struggles against water that's too hot and soap that they claim stings their eyes and hair that only gets washed on one side because Alright already, that's good enough. And refusals to eat broccoli. And having to send them off to school this morning. And explaining the importance of clean underwear. And needing quiet time. And tummy aches because your mom let you eat too much junk food (oops).

It isn't all teddy bear weddings, but it's all real life. We can't help but get pulled back into it. There's no other way.

We will not forget.

But we will live life. All of it.

__________________________

There are so many great posts out there today on the subject of normalcy in light of tragedy that I hate to single out just one, but Suburban Snapshots' The Slow Return To Our New Normal says it way better than I ever could. Though you'll notice I made you read my whole post before pointing you to a better one. Heh heh. That's how I am, and some things never change.




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What do you say?

Lots of people are turning to their blogs tonight after the tragic events in Newtown, CT, churning through words in an attempt to organize heartbreak into obedient lines on a page.

I am no different.

I am also no different in my inability to separate myself from the loss we all feel - obviously none more than those personally affected, that should go without saying. But there's not a parent in the world who heard about this brutal attack and didn't immediately think of their own children and wonder if they were okay, though in most cases there was no reason to believe they wouldn't be.

But that's what today reminded us - that when things aren't  okay, you won't always know. Until it's too late.

So, many of us spent the afternoon feeling guilty that we'd yelled the night before, or trying to remember if we'd taken the time to hug our kids before rushing them off to the bus stop, or regretting that we hadn't called out, "I love you" one more time from the car for fear of embarrassing them in front of their friends.

One thing I didn't do this afternoon was wonder how I would discuss it with my kids, who are all adults, or a baby, or school-agers who are unlikely to watch the news.

But when the kids came home from school and I walked in the room to see them sweetly playing with their baby sister, it really hit me - the unimaginable possibility that one of them might not be sitting there, and the unfathomable fact that it isn't just a possibility for so many families tonight. It's their reality.

I lost it. I fully intended to shelter them, but suddenly I was sobbing and had to explain why and, despite having thought about it from every other angle all day, I found myself unprepared to talk about it with my children.

I gave them the briefest of overviews, emphasizing that they are safe and have nothing to worry about. They were easy to convince, having no frame of reference for something this truly horrific, for which I am indescribably grateful.

I am no different from other parents of the world today. I spent more time playing with my kids, sat at the dinner table listening to them talk long after everyone had finished eating, I hugged them more. I appreciated the fact that they were simply there.

As I rocked the baby to sleep, I closed my eyes and tried to match the rhythm of her breath, felt the flutter of her eyelashes on my arm as she drifted off. I thought about the families in Newtown, the parents feeling lost and shattered. I tried to send whatever strength I could from my heart, but what do you say? There are no words, only images.

I imagined the deep, jagged canyon that had been ripped into their lives. I envisioned the erosion of time dulling the sharpness, wearing down the peaks, softening the edges. There will always be empty space in their hearts where there once was solid ground. But I hope that someday soon, instead of staring into an abyss, they will be able to sit serenely on the ridge of a valley. I hope that somehow they will find beauty in the landscape again. I hope they will find peace.



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!


As (Never) Seen On Pinterest

The rumors are true, I write for CraftFail now.
My apologies if you couldn't hear that last sentence over the sound of me tooting my own horn.
I can't lie, it is a crazy amount of fun, mostly because I get the opportunity to document proof that Real Life is not what Pinterest would have us believe. Sadly, a lot of folks will never visit the exotic locations they pin, or wear the cutting-edge fashion, or host the elaborate children's parties they've pin-planned - and all you have to do is peek at CraftFail to know that not all Pinterest crafts and recipes end up looking exactly like the inspiration photos.

Not by a long shot.

But I'm here to make you feel better - to remind you that most people's lives aren't exactly pin-worthy. And to prove it, some awesome bloggers and I have collected some "non-pins" from our Real Lives to share. And so, I bring you...


FOOD

Toulouse and Tonic

My life And Kids


HOME DECOR


Mommy Shorts



PRODUCTS

There's More Where That Came From

Four Plus An Angel


DIY and CRAFTS

Ninja Mom



TECHNOLOGY


My Life And Kids


FASHION



HEALTH and FITNESS

Frugalista Blog



KIDS

The Mom of the Year

Our Small Moments


Do you feel better now? I know I do.

For more from these ladies who aren't afraid to get real - and get real funny - follow us on Pinterest! We're the Top 35 Most Pinteresting Moms, so you know it's bound to be full of awesome.


Also, don't forget to send me an email at HollowTreeVentures at gmail dot com, post a message on Hollow Tree Ventures' Facebook page, or send me a tweet if you'd like a giant failure of your own to be featured on Craft Fail!

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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!