Chicago dad: 7 holiday life hacks that change everything

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood  of Chicago with Professor Foster ( his “Brown Mom” wife), and their daughter Viva, who is gluing some macaroni to something for you right now.

You’ve probably noticed a lot of lists of “Life Hacks” on your Facebook feed. We used to calls these “jury rigs” (actually an 18th century nautical term for repairing rigging with whatever was lying around), and they were looked down upon – now they are considered some kind of domestic heroism.

Most of these “hacks” make for good lists but aren’t very practical: “Use old egg cartons to store Christmas ornaments.” Great idea, if all your ornaments are shaped like eggs. “Restore old bulb ornaments with glitter and furniture polish.” Or, for the price of glitter and furniture polish you could, y’know, buy two dozen brand new bulbs ornaments.

Others are just obvious: “Make your chandelier into a Christmas chandelier by hanging decorations on it.”  Wait – you’re saying hanging Christmas decorations on things makes them decorated for Christmas? How did we live without Buzzfeed?! Or, “Drinking less sugary drinks can keep your calorie count down.” So can eating less food, Obvious Claus.

I know I can come up with better hacks than this … after all, I am a Chicagoan, and we practically invented life hacks. We are the city who turned the rubble from our giant fire into a park, who reversed the flow of our river to improve the smell, and who renovated on old football stadium by placing a giant intergalactic toilet bowl on top of it.

So, I put my industrious and frugal mind to work, and came up with these seven genius tips you’ll frankly be ashamed you didn’t think of first.

Wrapping paper makes inexpensive party clothes for your children

Fancy Christmas clothes for your kids are a complete waste of money. They’ll have outgrown them by next year, and the ensemble will be too warm and the wrong color for Easter. You’re essentially spending a fortune on one night’s wardrobe for some photos you’ll probably just lose in a house fire.

See the photo attached to this post? My mother, who evidently has mad life hack skills, made that lovely dress – with complimentary glittery shoes – in just a few minutes time using some wrapping paper I got on sale, scissors and scotch tape. If I’d given her more time, she probably could have saved the tape and done it through clever folding. My kid looks better than your kid, and the fabric of her dress cost 99 cents for NINE YARDS.

Your friends’ horrible Christmas letters make great gift wrap

“Stephen lost another job but is happy to spend more time spreading conspiracy theories on the Internet.”  “Little Trevor isn’t allowed back at school but is putting those spray painting skills to good use under local viaducts.” “Gammy’s stomach pains turned out to be fatal. Guess she wasn’t a hypochondriac after all!“ Nothing says, “having friends isn’t worth it” like reading Christmas letters. Your friends’ lives are depressing, and when they are better than yours, that’s even more depressing. What to do with this huge waste of paper?

Since you used all your wrapping paper making party clothes for your children, wrap gifts in old Christmas letters. Accidentally wrap a gift in the receiver’s own letter?  It’s not rude – it’s META!

Make adorable snowmen from marshmallows and washable markers

Crayola markers are non-toxic, right? I mean, they have to be, kids play with them. So get some marshmallows, one of the cheapest of “foods,” skewer them on toothpicks and draw faces and buttons on them with friendly markers! Fun for the whole family – even the wildly untalented members! Eat the snowmen, throw them away, set them on fire. Doesn’t matter – it’s marshmallows.

Switch bowls to turn old Halloween candy into new Christmas candy

If you’re anything like us, your toddler got a mountain of candy at Halloween, you hid most of it in a bowl on top of the refrigerator, and now it’s Christmas. Kick out the orange bowl, put the loot in a red or green bowl, and – voila! – Christmas candy. Some of the wrappers have pumpkins on them? Doesn’t matter – your gluttonous, half-shnockered guests won’t even look down at their greasy little fingers to see what they’re packing into their eggnog hole. Life = Hacked!

Have your kid glue macaroni to stuff – Kids love that

Macaroni holiday art objects are the gold standard of holiday art objects. Often they are actually spray-painted gold just to drive this point home. Bored kids loafing around the house? Lock them in a room with a glue gun and some Barilla and tell them not to come out until Christmas is saved. Give the crunchy wreaths as gifts your relatives will feel obligated to display! Or hang them up forever in your own house! Or throw them away when no one is looking! Hit them with a hammer and blame the Elf on the Shelf!  Switch up the Macaroni with Orecchiette for ear-shaped fun! Boil it and eat it with a side of rapini! This is classic life hacking stuff, here.

Donate to one charity and put it in everyone’s names

What are they going to do, check? No way. Call you out? Uh-uh. Dude, You DONATED TO CHARITY. It’s a great way not only knock out a gift, but make your relatives feel inferior to you in the process! What kind of monster would see how much you gave or how many people’s names you wrote next to it? Also do this for birthdays. All the birthdays in 2015.

Booze makes the pain go away

Stressed about bills? Depressed about the weather? Worried about out-of-town guests? Sick of your children being on break? Here’s one simple trick to making everything go numb: alcohol. This time of year, booze is everywhere, even at work events(!). Seriously, the boss will probably MAKE YOU drink. Go get it, Don Draper. Play your cards right and the second half of December can be one big blur of feel-better-juice and Uber surge pricing.

Seven hacks, and I came up with them in about as few minutes. Buzzfeed, you can have my talents for a price so low you won’t believe what happens next. As for the rest of you … consider it your Christmas gift. Oh, and I gave to a charity in your name.

You can CALL the White Dads now on their hotline: (347) 766-3866. Leave a message or a question they can play on the podcast!

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