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Parent Hacks

Tips & Tricks

Can't find a chip clip in your messy-ass junk drawer?  Roll the bag over on itself and Scotch-tape it shut.  No more chips spilled everywhere!  No more throwing away a perfectly good half bag of ant-infested chips.

Are you pregnant?  Hah!  I'm not. 
Anyway, if it's not your first baby (and maybe even if it is) you've probably p*ssed your pants a few times while you've sneezed.  So how does a pregnant woman keep her shoes not smelling like they've been hanging on R. Kelly's headboard?  Don't wear regular shoes.  Wear Crocs!  They've stopped selling them, but find yourself some used ones on Ebay or wherever used shoes are sold.  They’ve even got cute-ish, ballet-flat-looking ones that remind me of Ali Wong’s much more expensive shoes on Baby Cobra. But they don't need to be cute because after you crank out the baby you'll throw the stupid Crocs in the trash where they belong.  You'll thank me when you're hosing urine and vomit out of them but it only takes 45 seconds and they don't permanently stink.

Has your child soiled himself in a public place, making it necessary to wash out his underwear in, say, the bathroom of a grocery store?  For the love of Jesus, throw those damn underwear away right now.  Nobody has time for those heroics when there is a three-pound bag of dinosaur nuggets thawing in your cart in Aisle 12.  If someone (such as your spouse) questions this mildly wasteful practice you can claim that you're effectively cloth-diapering your definitely-way-too-old-for-this-sh*t kid and you ran out of bleach.

Whatever you do, do not put the underwear straight into the wash.  All that happens is your husband’s work jeans will be coated in a fine layer of poo with occasional pocket surprises of dryer-baked turd pebbles.  Meanwhile, butt-nuggets will have accumulated in the gasket of your front-loader and the entire load of laundry will end up scented like Gain-meets-campground toilet.

Going to a park with your kids at lunchtime?  Bring a picnic in one of those big, “whole-batch-of-cupcakes” dimensioned Tupperwares.  It takes less time than having to find all the lids of sixteen separate containers and packing everything individually.  And you’re only getting one food container dirty.

Is your heated discussion with your partner getting a little too intense in front of the kids?  For next time, set up a safeword that means you both have to stop immediately so you can cool off and stop arguing.  Ours is Pittsburgh Dump Truck, because why not at least try to laugh about something unbelievably filthy together when you’re furious?  Unless, of course, your kids seem to understand what that term means—in that case you’ve got other kites to fly.

Getting ready for an upcoming road trip with your kids?  They won't make it on Stuart Little 2 alone.  Save a plastic, lidded, handled bucket that ice cream comes in.  Put your kids' Happy Meal toys and other accumulated plastic bullsh*t in there that you'd rather not have kept in the first place, close the lid, and hide it in your closet for at least a few weeks.  Write "Small Plastic Crap the ShopVac Will Totally Take Care of After the Road Trip" on the side so you remember why you've kept it (and what fate awaits it all).  The kids'll be bored to tears at some point along the journey and you'll heroically bust out the entertainment.  Good luck and Godspeed.

Do you have a vehicle that's full of random garbage?  Put a little cube-shaped, lidded trash can on the floor.  It won't help, because if anyone knew how to use a trash can we wouldn't be in this mess.  But you'll feel good knowing you tried.

When you run out of bread, save the plastic bread bag and stuff it into a big shopping bag in your car.  You can use it for when you have a dirty diaper to throw away but there's no trash can at the soccer field.  Tie that sh*t off so nobody has to smell it while you drive for the next 10 minutes.

Go ahead and stop dropping $2/pop on those milks from fast food restaurants when your kid needs a pick-me-up.  Save the next purchased one's plastic jug (just ONE; no need to hoard them) and its cap. The next time your kid wants chocolate milk, make ‘em wait ten minutes 'till you get home, mix your own with some chocolate syrup, and save $.  Everyone's happy.

Do this (see picture below) when you meet your kid's new friend's mom.  Unless your kid's old enough to drive, you'll need this parent's contact info for when your kid wants to hang out with said-friend at your house.  You don't have to know their first and last name--just put "[First name:] Chris.  [Last name:] Evelyn's parent.  [Company:] Zachy's friend from school."  If you're like me, you can't remember a damn thing unless it's in your phone, much less someone's last name and which-the-hell kid (of yours or theirs) they belong to.  And if your kid and this friend really end up hitting it off, you'll eventually figure out the parents' last name(s), anyway.*

*CAVEAT: Try not to send your kid off on his merry way with someone whose last name or address you do not know yet.

Does your kid tear up the soles and toes of their shoes within a month of getting new ones?  Some brands are sturdier than others.  But one of my sons used to wear the soles right off the toes of his brand-new Vans within a few weeks, just by the way he dragged his feet while riding his bike and playing handball.  Two little words: shoe glue.  (Literally) cobble that sh*t back together.  It's easy.  You'll save some money, buy yourself some time between pairs, spare the landfill some rubber, and show your kids how to fix stuff first before mindlessly consuming more stuff.  Boom.  Shoes for miles.

Need to have an awkward conversation on a tough topic with one of your older kids, tweens, or teens?  Ambush them while you're driving in the car.  And passive-aggressively manufacture your talk by using a Conversation-Starter Playlist (like one that I'm currently working on under Family Roadtrip Playlists That Don't Suck on the right hand menu of this blog).  It's not fun times to listen to Violent Femmes' Blister in the Sun to kick off a talk about just how much masturbation is too much masturbation (even if that song is actually about heroin).  Or Eminem & Rihanna's Love the Way You Lie to address relationship violence.  But it might be effective.  Even Eminem can bridge generational divides.  And otherwise it's hard to fit in everything that needs to be talked about!  You don't want to wake up one day to find that your kid's eighteen already and you haven't ever talked about the tragedy of Amy Winehouse's alcoholism.

The real reason I love doing this is because, by relating to your kids through pop music playlists, you are indirectly teaching them some stuff about poetry.  You're not, like, explicating sonnets together, but they're learning a little bit about the power of things like stressed and unstressed monosyllabic words ("All the leaves are brown/ and the sky is gray", for instance, in The Mamas and The Papas' California Dreamin').  Later, when your kid's in a literature class reading Marianne Moore's What Are Years? and starts to put this concept together, she'll be able to think of some similar effects in well-known songs.

Do you have WAY the hell too many stuffed animals and the local thrift stores, hospitals, and police stations (who sometimes use them to comfort traumatized kids) won’t accept them?  Pick up one of [these].

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but if you’re looking for your kid’s socks and shoes, they’re in the car.

If you want your child to be healthy and resilient, let them do this stuff--even if they might break something.  It's all about joie de vivre.

See the stairs next to these slides? 
Kids sprint up them 'cause they're excited!

High prevalence of obesity in the
U.S.--solved with a pump track

Walking to school in packs  =
a reasonable, empowering thing

Kickstart your child's resentment of Big Government by taking an obscenely large bite out of her ice cream cone and gleefully shouting, "Taxes!"

Have a metric ton of laundry to fold, but no time to do it?  Put a basket of clean clothes in the middle of your house, ideally near a flat surface.  Every time you walk by the basket on your way to do something else, take a second to fold one piece.  For a large family simplification, stack the laundry in piles that are based on bedrooms, not individual wearers.  For example, James and Will share a bedroom, so their clean laundry is intermingled with each other’s in a single folded stack—leave it to them to figure out whose is whose when they put it away.

There’s no real need to Marie-Kondo all of your stuff into oblivion, but minimalism is a parent’s best friend.  Nearly 18 years of parenting have taught me this interesting paradox: the less clothing you all own, the less laundry you’ll do.

Fill up your kid’s cup completely with ice before adding Sprite to it at the fountain drink station.  Until they’re teenagers, they won’t figure out you’ve been cheating them out of some of that sugar.

Need to talk to your kid about something sex-related, but having trouble finding the right words?  Check out Amy Lang’s website for a script—

Teach your child to make guacamole--It’s the gift that keeps giving.  Yes, even eight-year-olds can learn to use a sharp knife; there is really only one little part of the guacmaking process that involves a sharp knife.  But if you're a nervous Nellie, there's always one of these.  And get one of those press-down apple slicers so that your kid can slice his own d@mn apples if he doesn't want to eat them whole.  

If you’re having a hard time getting your kid to do chores, start with giving them one daily chore that is the same thing every day.

The Executive Membership at Costco is usually worth the money if you’re buying diapers, wipes, and formula there.  Or even just gas by itself.

Stop giving a damn about swearing.  Understand that preschool teachers are lying their @sses off when they claim that your child doesn't swear at school.  I have never had a teacher of my preschoolers actually admit this, but it's true.  I have reasons to suspect that they regularly walk away from the snack table, laughing hard at something colorful a child just dropped.  Don't worry about it.  

DON'T be those parents who collect the car keys from all the teens and let them drink in your basement.  As blogger Dooce once said, "Be ye not so stupid."  DO promote responsibility by telling your kids they can call you at any hour of the night asking for a ride home from a sketchy situation (or having done something dumb), no questions asked.

Join one of those Buy Nothing Project Facebook groups.  Lots of parents have too much baby- and kid-related stuff and desperately want to give it to someone who will be stoked. You’ll save money, help save the environment, and meet like-minded people in your neighborhood.  It’s better than Craigslist because it’s usually much more local to where you live, and nobody has to drive 20+ minutes to pick up a free Exersaucer. If that doesn’t work out and you really need something, check Goodwill first—often there is very-gently-used clothing, a nice pair of soccer cleats, etc, that are perfectly good.

Scrapbooking item: my oldest
child's birth story

If you need a trashy magazine fix but don’t want to shell out $7.50 for something that’s only going straight into the recycling bin, check the library’s periodicals.

Start brainwashing your kids early that bike helmets are required for good fun but drugs are not.  My five-year-old used to roll down the car window and chastise people who weren’t wearing a helmet as we drove by, and I’d never been so proud.

Thinking of naming your twins Crimson and Clover?  Head on over to, look at their lists, and ask the name nerds on the forums if this is a good idea.  They're really into this sort of thing, and there's usually a more nuanced set of perspectives than on other name sites. 

Skip the training wheels and pick up a used Strider bike for your preschooler on your local buy/sell/trade FB group.  Or, better yet, your local Free Stuff group.

Have a bunch of kids and not a lot of time to devote to scrapbooking?  Are your kids' baby books going down in quality (and quantity) as your family grows?  Welcome to the club.  Throw your kid's flotsam & jetsam (pictures, preschool crafts, Kindergarten report card, first lock of hair, etc.) into a labeled shoebox and put it all into a nice baby book later.

Is your kid being an @sshole?  Strike fear into his heart by making him clean the bathroom (or the inside of the car) as a punishment.  Your child gains competence and a healthy reluctance to continue said- @ssholery.  You get a clean-ish bathroom.  Everyone wins.  (Thank you, Aunt Kay, for my favorite Mom Hack.)

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