Several years ago I started a blog (midwest musings) to feature my musings on parenthood, bad drivers, and horror movies, to name a few. It
quickly garnered a small following, and has been a place for me to share my odd humor – and love of horror – ever since. Below are two blog posts from midwest musings. Find more by clicking on the archives to the right (most October postings will be 31 Days of Horror movie reviews and other Halloween-related posts).
Annual Favorite: A Gift for Parents: A Stress-Free Christmas Morning
All parents love the joy and wonder they see in their children’s eyes on Christmas morning. We envision langorous, loving exchanges of gifts and resulting hugs, sips of hot toddies by the fire, and magical elves that cook breakfast and bag up a landfill’s worth of wrapping paper and bows as classic Christmas tunes serenade our relaxing repose.
The reality, however is a bit different. For instance, at 6 a.m. on December 25th, we are already blurry-eyed (or hungover if you previewed the hot toddies after Midnight Mass) from staying awake until 2:30 a.m. to:
- Wait for sugerplums to start dancing (start, already!) in their bursting-with-excitement heads.
- Finish, or, er, start, building that bike or 250-piece deluxe dollhouse and furniture with magnifying glass and a hot glue gun.
- Clean up reindeer poop and free Santa from the chimney after a few too many cookie/milk combos.
Because of these challenges, we often set ourselves up for a less-than-satisfying experience, not the ideal we dream of. So in order to help parents everywhere better prepare and maybe even enjoy the day, I’ve created this handy checklist of THREE WISE things to remember:
1. Three Things to Have on Hand for Opening Gifts
Why? Because every parent knows toys are boxed for maximum display, not ease of removal. Take Polly Pocket or Barbie sets, for instance. Military-grade plastic strips and twist-ties are used to hold EVERY SINGLE limb, accessory, and hair in place in the box. These require hours of finger-numbing work to loosen, untie, or remove. Same goes for CDs and DVDs. They are encased in SPF 1000 plastic which you may or may not be able to remove before the second or fifth installment is released at Easter.
2. Three Things to Prepare Ahead of Time
Next, be sure to have 212 batteries on-hand for all those toys that say:
No kid wants to open a gift they can’t play with until you run out to the store in your pjs and curlers to get the batteries!
Finally, despite our best efforts to avoid them, there are always toys on our kids’ wish lists that tend to be a bit noisy:
A great set of headphones attached to something playing those classic carols will help you keep your sanity in check.
3. Three things to Make this Christmas the Most Magical and Memorable
More important than anything else, be sure to take the time to ENJOY Christmas morning…these are precious memories for you and your family. Can’t walk in the living room because of the huge mess? Leave it for a while. As long as the baby isn’t trying to eat a ribbon or the cat trying to do her business in the crinkled wrapping paper, let it go. At least until you need to search for the miniscule missing part that makes this year’s must-have toy go BING, BANG, BONG (bet you’re glad I recommended those headphones now, huh?).
Sit back, relax, and enjoy your time together as a family. Bake a batch of cookies. Sing some carols. Attend church together in matching ugly Christmas sweaters (don’t forget to take a photo too…it will be great for embarrassing your kids in their teen years!). Laugh and joke and do all the things that make family time great. When you just can’t stand being together any longer, say, 11 am, head off to relax a bit…
…so you’re recharged and ready for more TOGETHER TIME!
And finally, be sure to teach your kids what this joyous day is truly all about. No, not that:
Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas and
Very Happy New Year too!
As a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I spend a good portion of my time researching unfamiliar topics and reading in a variety of genres. Over the past several years during these efforts, I’ve noticed an unsettling trend emerge – writers of books, movies, and TV shows creating a seedy and sad cast of characters named, um, “Tanya”.
First, researching a picture book I was writing in 2015, I found this gem: Presenting Tanya, the Ugly Duckling, whose description on Amazon states: “After being assigned the lead role in her spring dance recital of The Ugly Duckling, clumsy Tanya wonders if she will be able to live up to the part and truly be able to dance like a swan.”
Then, this popped up: The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 1 (light novel), wherein “high above the blood- and mud-soaked trenches, a young girl pits herself against army mages in high stakes aerial duels with bullets, spells, and bayonets. Her name is Tanya Degurechaff and she is the Devil of the Rhine…”
Next: the confusing Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide to Feline Chronic Kidney Disease… by author Helen Fitzsimons (huh?).
450 pounds? Hmmph!
Now, I want to blame this Tanya hate-fest on the notorious Tonya Harding. I mean, who can forget this face:
Or this one:
And of course, the new movie I, Tonya serves to bring even greater attention to the bad-girl ice skater of the early ’90s.
But then I also found this 1976, uh, quality comedy:
HBO’s Hung, starring Jane Adams as Tanya Skagle, pimp.
And, who can forget the over-sexed Tanya on Mamma Mia!?
Notice the spelling? I soon realized that “Tanya” and “Tonya” exist on different planes. And I did what I do best: research.
- On namestatistics.com, I discovered that Tonya is the 209th most popular girls’ name in the U.S., while Tanya lags behind at 237th.
- “Tonya” and “Tanya” are both Russian names, but the former means Praiseworthy and the latter is usually listed as a Roman clan name.
- Tonya is rarely mispronounced as Tony-a, whereas Tanya is often mispronounced (or pronounced differently) as Tan-ya.
Yeah, yeah, I discovered other things too, but you get the idea. And now that I’ve brought this important issue out into the open, I wanted to beg, implore, and plead with writers in all genres to P-L-E-A-S-E (with double cherries on top) get those creative juices flowing in the character naming department. Don’t fall into the I’ll-just-name-the-crazy-lady-Tanya trap! Branch out a bit. Mix it up. Try, say, “Tonya” for your next freaky female. NO! Just Kidding. Try Olive or Becca or Carly instead.
Meanwhile, I’ll be downtown filling out some forms. Starting today, I plan to answer to the oh-so-lovely name of Tania.
Bacon Heaven: A Gift for Every Bacon Lover
Still searching for that just-right gift for a special someone this holiday season? You know who I’m talking about: that certain person in your life who seems to have everything, want nothing, and deserve, well, something. I have compiled the ultimate guide sure to make everyone on your list happy. Because everyone LOVES bacon (
proven fact: even if they don’t like to eat it, everyone loves to smell it!).
BACON, IT’S WHAT’S FOR EVERY MEAL
For your friends and family members who do love to eat bacon, but still can’t get enough of that crunchy, meaty flavor, try these gift ideas:
And to top it all off: Bacon Beer in a Bacon Mug
WORK IT, BACON
For that fashion-forward person who can pull off anything:
BACON GETS PERSONAL
Great add-on gifts and stocking stuffers:
BACON HERE, BACON THERE, BACON BACON EVERYWHERE
Still haven’t found something that seems just right? Give these and you’re sure to be remembered:
Still looking? Here’s the ULTIMATE idea:
(Portrait of Kevin Bacon. Medium: Bacon)
Finally, after all this bacon, you might want to consider a more, um, long-term gift:
Just be sure to wrap it up the right way. No, not this:
The Difference Between Men and Women
By now you’ve surely heard that Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, right? Well, it’s been over twenty years since John Gray’s book of that name brought this to our attention, yet the fact remains: the two sexes could not be any different if they tried.
I’ve compiled a small sampling of reasons we are orbiting this world on not just different planets, but in entirely different galaxies as well:
Men: Use all-in-one shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, aftershave, body soap, and toothpaste.
Women: Use 23 different products for hair alone.
Men: Sort laundry into “mud,” “sweat,” and “track marks,” all washed on Super in scalding hot water with a dash of bleach.
Women: Use special mesh bags for delicates, and different detergents for “cold wash,” “whites,” “regular,” “brights,” and “that time of the month.”
Men: Idea of a romantic evening is letting her have the first hot wing and sip of beer at a local sports bar.
Women: Will scrub, wax, and pluck for hours to prepare for a date until even CSI couldn’t find a trace of DNA.
Men: Feeds the kids pizza, hot dogs, and mac & cheese 4 times a week.
Women: Tracks the USDA progress for each child on an hourly basis.
Men: Idea of a perfect vacation is “anywhere as long as there’s a Hooters nearby and a flat screen TV.”
Women: Reads travelers’ reviews sites, subscribes to newsletters, checks out books, and attends seminars just for a weekend getaway.
Men: Thinks wearing underwear on his head and calling it a hat is funny.
Women: Likes RomComs and Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions.
Men: Dances like a robot or The Walking Dead.
Women: Takes ballroom dance lessons and Zumba fitness classes for fun.
Men: Spends free time playing sports until he pulls or tears something internally.
Women: Free time…haha!