Baltimore: My older sister is one of those who thinks it's funny and helpful when she points out someone's lack of style. Is there a response that I can give my sister that will show my kids that their mother is 1) not cruel but 2) fed up with the snarky remarks?
Tell your sister she's fat. Chicks hate that.
D.C. Metro: I have a family member who sends a gift of some animal to the Heifer fund as a Christmas present to us every year. I would like to tell this person to please stop sending these donations as "gifts" and only a card is fine.
You're a jerk. Confidential to the family member: next Christmas, send your relative an actual ox instead. Happy holidays, jerk!
Northern Va.: One of my best friends and his kids just left after a long visit—single dad, 11-year-old boy, and 4 year-old girl. My husband and I have a 4-year-old boy. Our friend's ex is a horrible parent who allows a lot of dreadful behavior, and the stepfather is no help.
We don't think we have a right to discipline the kids, but we think we should at least be allowed to say, "Hey, that was rude, and I don't like it" when a kid spits out his juice because it has pulp in it.
Any ideas for us for approaching our friend?
Yes. Approach him with a brochure for a waterpark in a distant city the next time he wants to discuss plans for a visit.
Chicago: We have a close friend who is prone to embarrassing malapropisms that surpass even the best Norm Crosby bit. These are not innocent and simple mispronunciations—but ugly mangling of words including misuse and lack of understanding of the meaning of some words. She does not have a hearing problem.
Use her penchance for malapropisms against her. Next time she hosts a party, tell her beforehand that you'll bring the dessert. When you get there, dump a bucket of sand in her living room. If she complains, tell her you have a vacuum, then tie a large plastic bag around her head with a rubber band. If she comes to, she'll see the light.
Brooklyn, N.Y.: My loving if not crazy in-laws call my husband incessantly. If we do not pick up the phone at home, then they leave long, saddened messages and continue to call until we pick up or turn our phones off. They have very little to do as they are both retired. Because I want to respect them, how do I lovingly suggest that they cut the phone cord?
Again, return the favor. Ring them up a 3 am to tell them how your latest pee was "that cool green color that only happens at night". Hang up, then call them back to tell them that "Operation Flushed Away" was a success! They'll figure it out.
As usual, check my answers against a professional and see how I did.