Emma Waverman writes about the chaos of modern family life. She is the co-author of the family cookbook Whining and Dining: Mealtime Survival for Picky Eaters and Families Who Love Them and is hoping to one day finish her certification as a parenting coach. She lives with her three kids, ranging from tween to grade schooler, and husband in Toronto. Emma has written for a variety of national parenting and lifestyle magazines and newspapers. When she's is not making typos, telling you what she thinks, and thinking about dinner, you can find her on Twitter at @emmawaverman. You can contact Emma at embracingchaos@hotmail.ca.

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Thursday
Mar272014

Breakthrough New Parenting Study Is A Must Read

I was going to write about all the new parenting studies that tell us we are bad parents. You know the ones that scare us, chastise us, and go against the last instinct that we have managed to hold onto despite every media organisation, Facebook link and bitchy parent in the schoolyard telling us we are wrong.

Last month we killed babies with swaddling, gave them ADHD by taking Tylenol, hurt their horomones by using plastic; we didn't give them grit and worked them too hard. We over-managed their homework and taught them bad math. We texted too much, they texted too much. We gave them dumb names. 

We do everything wrong. And if there is a moment when you think you did something right, someone, somewhere is ready to refute you.

But finally an article came out from the esteemed New Yorker magazine that got it right. It was a small article but it's resonance was large. Under the low-key headline New Parenting Study Released, is this finding:

A recent study has shown that if American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go fucking ape shit.

One example:

Frieda Duntmore, a thirty-nine-year-old Baltimore-high-school teacher and the mother of twin six-year-old girls, recounted standing in line at a supermarket, reading a magazine article about how being a parent sucked, and then recalling that, that very morning, she’d read another article, which said that being a parent was awesome, and that anyone who didn’t have kids might as well just take their own life. “All of a sudden, I felt my skull start to split right down the middle. I put my hand up, and there was literally blood there.” Duntmore paid for her groceries and fled. “About fifteen minutes later, my skull pieced itself back together, so I figured I’d forget about it,” she said.

Yes, the article is satiric. No such study exists. But it could, couldn't it? 

How many times do you read about a  new study and get that feeling in your gut, the one that tells you that you are the worst parent ever but it's too late to change. These parenting "hate reads" are common fodder of parenting magazines, blogs and newspapers (I am guilty as charged as well.)

They get passed around Facebook pages and discusses on the schoolyard, no parenting theory or parent is immune from the sounds of contradictory evidence. 

The (fake) parents in the (satiric) study from the New Yorker chose to deal with it this way:

... they began a protocol of recovery. They cancelled their Facebook accounts, and they go online only when absolutely necessary. If they leave their house, they wear horse blinders, which Waterson’s husband, an inventor, has adapted for human use, and which can be purchased on Waterson’s Web site. Upon greeting other parents, they hand out pre-printed cards (also available on their Web site) that read, “Please do not talk to me about my children or your children, or children, or schools, or schooling, or learning, or Tae Kwon Do, ballet., etc. Also, please ignore the horse blinders.

“Most people just smile and walk away,” Duntmore said. “But, once in a while, someone wants to talk about Crimea, which is a treat.”

We could all use a pair of those blinders. 

Sunday
Mar232014

The Truth Behind the HPV Vaccine (Spoiler: It Saves Lives)

Despite all the hullabaloo over measles outbreaks and the unvaccinated, the amount of children who do not have the basic childhood vaccines is (thankfully) small. I don't understand why people are choosing to put their children at risk as well as those who are immune-compromised around them, but I hope that the trend reverses soon.

What is also worrisome is the people who opt out of what they consider the "secondary" vaccines like the meningitis and HPV shots. I don't get that either. 

The HPV vaccine is given to girls in Grade 8 free of charge (in Ontario). The vaccine decreases their risks of genital warts by 90%, and more importantly it reduces their risk of getting cervical cancer. Cervical cancer kills.

It killed Linda Lewis, the editor of More Magazine (and former editor of Today's Parent). Linda had cervical cancer and later died of leukemia, likely related to the treatment of the first cancer. Linda inspired everyone around her -- as a journalist, editor, person and later in life as an activist. She became an advocate for the HPV vaccine in the hopes that no woman would have to undergo the terrible treatments that she did.  

Before she passed away from leukemia, she made this video to inspire parents to make sure their daughters got the vaccine. 

She continued to advocate for the vaccine until her death co-founding a cervical cancer research institue at Princess Margaret Hospital. One of the things that we can thank Linda Lewis for is better and a larger amount of understandable research available to parents. She knew that parents aren't perfect, and they are doing the best they can. But she hoped to reach them with her advocacy.

At this point, the vaccine is only available to girls though there is discussion that boys should and will have it as well. 

There will always be people who will avoid vaccinations I'm not one of them, though I understand that people have their reasons. I just can't imagine watching my daughter go through this, knowing that I could have changed the course of their life years earlier.

Will you opt in for the HPV vaccine?

 

Tuesday
Mar112014

My Daughter Is Bossy. But Don't Tell Her That

"So, who here has been called bossy?" Sheryl Sandberg asked the primarily female crowd at BlogHer13. Almost every woman raised their hand (except me, I'm opinionated but not bossy). 

"And who has called their daughter bossy?" again, many hands stayed up, mine went up.

"Who has called their son bossy?" But then most hands dropped. 

Sandberg, author of Lean In, and feminist du jour, gave a convincing argument that bossy is applied to girls who show leadership skills, but not to boys. The word bossy is a rebuke, a signal that being passive is better than assertive, that girls should be seen and not heard.

I thought about that term bossy after that. And I tried not to call my daughter bossy, even when she was being bossy -- which is quite often. I don't always succeed.

Sandberg is now going a step further than the Chicago Convention Centre with her message. The #banbossy movement has hit the airwaves with some big names -- Coach Sue, Beyonce, Jennifer Garner, Condi Rice all appear in a video and posters for the #banbossy movement. The Lean In organization has teamed up with the Girl Scouts (in the U.S.) to encourage girls leadership skills and #banbossy is their war cry.

I am all for the idea of building girls' leadership. If girls were encouraged from a young age to be leaders, I think there would be less destructive Queen Bee shenanigans on the schoolyard and would lead to more women embracing their assertive side. We are building the next generation of economic and political leaders and I sure hope that my daughter experiences a culture where there are more women surrounding her. 

But in the meantime, the #banbossy message is getting pulverized out there. Even I have mixed feelings about it. I agree that girls are called bossy when boys are not. When girls show leadership skills, in fact when women show leadership skills they are often called bossy, bitchy, shrill -- you know the drill.

The term bossy, does have a double-edge to it. Bossy is unkind, ungenerous, self-centred. When I call my daughter bossy, it is not because she is leading a crusade, it is because she isn't let her friend get a word in edgewise. And so what is right about this intiative -- teaching girls (and maybe boys too) to own their leadership skills and exercise them in a positive manner is being lost in people defending their own bossiness and arguments over semantics about the word itself.

I have no doubt Sandberg is sitting in her palace banging her head against the wall to the reaction. No, that would be passive, aggressive. She is articulately defending herself and charismatically explaining that it is the double standard she is trying to erase, not the word itself. Because words do matter, they describe our world and how our children function it. Both boys and girls can be leaders, and both men and women can be bossy, but only one gender gets called it. When was the last time a man was called bossy? How about a woman?

My first thought is that this campaign isn't going to change the world. It is a highly digestible, celebrity-driven Internet-friendly meme that will disappear in a few days. But then I ended up in a day-long Twitter conversation about the word, the semantics and why it does matter. All day long we kept returning to the idea of what  the word bossy means to us, and to girls. (I created a Storify of it here.) So, I guess I have to hand it to Sandberg, the conversation is happening. The word bossy is on my radar once again, and I am reading over the banbossy.com resources so I can nurture and inspire my daughter to use her alpha skills for good and not evil. 

Because my daughter is going to change the world. Isn't yours?

At banbossy.com there are some excellent resources for parents and kids who want to nurture leadership and high-level executive function skills. There are cute videos, inspiring quotes and there is Beyonce. Because she is the boss.

What do you think of Ban Bossy? Is it overkill or a great way to get people thinking about girls and leadership?

 

 

Sunday
Mar092014

Easiest And Best Dish to Win At Bake Sales, Showers and Potlucks: Graham Crackle

These buttercrunch graham cracker squares with chocolate are going to make your life a whole lot easier. And better -- since you will now win at the bake sale table, and be swarmed following every potluck. And they can even be made gluten-free and nut-free.

You probably have eaten them before, and maybe have a recipe for this somewhere in the back of your recipe folder. As a food snob, it is hard for me to admit how easy these are, but I so many people have asked for the recipe that I couldn't deny anyone any longer. (Though with apologies to my BFF who wanted it all for herself)

This version may look pretty, but was still highly addictive.

My daughter christened this Crackle, and it can be made with all different kinds of ingredients, depending on what is in your pantry and what you are craving.

Graham Crackle (or as my husband calls it Graham Crack, Crack for short)

This recipe is based on one of my mother's recipes for Salted Caramel Squares. I chose to use graham crackers because that is what I had, and also I prefer them. You could use any square cracker you want, my friend uses Breton crackers. 

I have also made them with gluten-free grahams.

Graham Crackle:

This recipe is for one baking sheet worth of crackle. But you will probably want to double it. And you will have extra cookies left from the box. 

1 box of Graham Crackers (or enough to cover one baking sheet) You won't use them all, but the 1 box may not be enough for two cookie sheets. 

1 1/4 cups butter, cut in pieces

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup Skor bits (optional, omit for nut-free squares)

3/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)

1/2 cup chocolate chips, or shavings. A mix of dark chocolate and white is nice but not necessary.

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Line an 11-by-15-inch metal baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Lay crackers over parchment. Make sure the crackers are touching and fill the entire cookie sheet. Break some in half to fill the gaps.

Those are gluten-free crackers on the bottom edge that I was testing. Worked great!

Combine butter and sugar in a small saucepan at a medium heat. Bring to a boil, whisking to ensure a smooth, caramel-like consistency. Let boil for one minute.

Pour butter mixture over crackers, it won't be completely combined but that is okay. Smooth out mixture over crackers, some of it will leak to the bottom which is good. Once all the crackers are covered, sprinkle the nuts and skor bits on top. Add the chocolate chips.

This is a nut-free version for school.

Place in oven for 8 minutes, or until you see bubbling.

Once removed you can try and swirl the melted chocolate to look fancy.

Let cool, cut into squares using the breaks as a guide. 

Do not eat all of it yourself, you will feel sick.

Other options:

  • Use gluten-free crackers (saltines, or graham-like)
  • Add sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds and skip the chocolate. 
  • Add coconut 
  • Only add chocolate
  • Add the mini peanut butter chips and skip the almonds.
  • Add candied pecans

 

I happen to love sweet and salty so I have also turned the recipe into an easy appetizer.

Goat Cheese and Pear Crackle:

1 box of Graham Crackers (or enough to cover one baking sheet) You won't use them all, but the 1 box may not be enough for two cookie sheets. 

1 1/4 cups butter, cut in pieces

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 tsp cayenne

3/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)

Goat cheese

2 pears or apples

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Line an 11-by-15-inch metal baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Lay crackers over parchment. Make sure the crackers are touching and fill the entire cookie sheet. Break some in half to fill the gaps.

Combine butter and sugar in a small saucepan at a medium heat, add cayenne. Bring to a boil, whisking to ensure a smooth, caramel-like consistency. Let boil for one minute.

Pour butter mixture over crackers, it won't be completely combined but that is okay. Smooth out mixture over crackers, some of it will leak to the bottom which is good.

Once all the crackers are covered, sprinkle the nuts on top.

Place in oven for 8 minutes, or until you see bubbling.

Let cool and cut into squares using the breaks as a guide.

Once cool, add a thin slice of pear or apple to the square. Add a dollop of goat cheese and sprinkle a couple of sliced almonds on top.

Place on a serving tray and feel very smug. Then pass on the recipe, or tell them you worked for hours, whichever.

 

 

 

Monday
Mar032014

Parenthood Recap: Just Like At Home

This week, I am a-ok with the title the actual writers gave the NBC show. Just Like At Home was about just that -- finding and accepting a definition of home. It was about #familyfirst, according to Twitter, except for Sarah who is always about men first. But we will get to that.

Unfortunately the Joel and Julia storyline isn't the strongest part of the show -- mostly because of the lack of believability over their split. Or at least, they haven't revealed to us viewers what is really at the core of Joel's exit (Pete? Could it be Pete?) But the small ripples from their splits are starting to affect most of the other characters on the show.

We start off with the chilly send-off of the kids for the weekend. Julia packed their brand new bags and they are off. As a child of divorce, I've been there and I can only hope they remember their favourite pair of underwear as they schlep back and forth. Because getting dressed and remembering that you left your lucky underwear at your Dad's is a major drag. Anyways, Joel's apartment is so typical, it looks like he went to Ikea and bought a catalogue page under the inoffensive section.

He has the classic Dad bribe of an Xbox and a Rainbow Loom. Wait? A Rainbow Loom, sorry I agree with Sydney on this one, a 20 dollar toy does not compare to an XBox. And, yes, Rainbow Loom is over -- folks. Over. As soon as the temperature starts to rise in the room the best shiny thing of all is revealed -- a pool! All is forgiven, he bought them bathing suits already! Woo hoo! 

I have to take a minute to say how much I love the Opening Credits. The childhood photos of the actors does a lot to draw us in closer to the characters. I feel like I know Dax Shepard because I was invited to see him as a kid. And the scene around the dinner table with the warm candles and sly sibling smiles. Classic. Aren't we all a little jealous and a little buoyed by the Braverman clan having dinner in their bohemian Berkeley garden?

We return to Julia making herself the saddest dinner in the world: microwave popcorn and a bottle of wine. She is alone in her glamorous house and it hurts. Why Joel? Why? Julia ends up sleeping in Sidney's bed. I get it. It's smaller, and the scent of her children around her may help her sleep -- for a minute. Julia earns the first tear of the episode. 

Onto the inevitable love triangle with Sarah. Is she so desirable that she must always be involved in a love triangle with two less-than perfect men. Carl gets the taco trucks and remembers her sister's name. He is so sensitive and he is into her! I guess, we will magically forget all the young sex kittens he had parading down the hall. Because you know, tacos. Also, he digs her when she is wearing a fedora. Hank, jealous of Sarah's lipstick (why didn't she put it on in the car??) photoshops the funky taco truck out of her photos because he says it looks better. He doesn't get her. Oh wait, it looks better without the truck and you know why? Because he is a professional  photographer!

Anyways, Sarah and her puffy face have to choose between her newly-sensitive reformed playboy tenant and her boss who is now her subordinate, cranky, emotionally-scarred ex-boyfriend. The only part of this I like is Hank. I think Ray Romano is killing this role. And I don't care if you disagree. 

Finally, the episode begins to pick up as we move into the territory the show is best at: interpersonal relationships between family. Sure we are all a bit messed up, and we don't always say the right thing but it is #familyfirst. Sarah tells Julia that it will get better, or if not better easier. She knows the pain that Julia is experiencing. (Except Amber and Drew's dad is a super loser -- he is no Joel.)

The perfect married couple are on a dirty weekend getaway. You know that isn't going to last long. But first, Adam and Kristina are relaxing in the mud bath after sex in the hot tub. That's as much smut as we get here in Braverman country. When Kristina thanks him for standing by her, we all know she didn't need to. That is who Adam is -- he is Mr. Perfect and standing by is what he does, and why we love him. He says:" If I have to be stuck in the mud, I want to be stuck in the mud with you." That's marriage, folks. I'm giving that conversation one tear. Because my husband is a bit like Adam (but bossier, and grumpier).

Later on Adam and Kristina climb some hill, admire the view and decide to head back home from their romantic weekend (cancer gift FTW) so Adam can stand by Julia. Though, not before joking about the sex trifecta. Again, that's marriage. Who hasn't had that conversation on a dirty weekend? (Can't just be me?).

Back in Braverman central, Dax is confronting Zeeke about the selling of the house. Of course he doesn't want to sell, that man can't abide change. But then Zeek says:

Your mother and I have been together 47 years... I realized that I love her a lot more than I love this house. So if selling this house makes her happy, that is what I’m going to do. So that’s it son. That is the ball game. 

And that is the crux of tonight's episode, it doesn't matter where home is. Home is with the people you love, and the people who sit in the mud with you. Home is at your Dad's greige apartment or in your beautiful house without your kids making noise, home is what you make it.

Which brings us to Amy and Drew. Amy is essentially homeless. She seems to have left Tufts with only a small backpack and no shred of self-esteem. She is a first-class clinger, waiting for Drew between classes and staring at him with her wide eyes filled with tears. Drew tells Amber that he understands what is like to love someone and yet want them to leave, something that Amber knows about.  Drew finally talks to Amy and says she needs to talk to her parents about everything that "has happened". Amy is obviously having a breakdown and I feel a little bit like they are blaming the abortion for her mental state. Amy marches off to tell her parentseverything. (I hope her parents can handle that much information in one night.) But Amy has to learn that her home is not in Drew's dorm room but with her own family. She is not eligible for the Braverman support network. 

Meanwhile, at rancho single dad Sydney is sporting some Rainbow Loom bracelets and is openly dismayed at spending another full day at the man cave. Victor, meanwhile looks very chuffed at the whole thing. Sydney had a perfect life until Joel burst her bubble. But Victor is a master at change, he was moved around foster homes, he came to J&J as a fully-formed kid. He gets broken homes and sad children -- and as far as change goes -- this one is looking pretty good so far. That is until the middle of the night when he needs his mom to talk him down from a fear of the nasty,noisy elevator. 

Julia walks around the house talking to him, but she isn't alone this time. Each bed is filled with one of her siblings. They have all come over to drink, feed and nourish her with sibling love. She is in the mud and they came to dance and drink her way out of it. This leads to the best conversation of the episode when they compare their ranking of black sheep  in the family. All of them, except Adam of course -- he is Mr. Perfect. 

Meanwhile the next generation is having s'mores with their grandparents. Because you can have beer anywhere, but you can only have S'mores at home. 

Two tears at the end! 

For a total of: FOUR tears. Not the cryingest -- but still a good episode.

Next Week: Is the cancer back? And Sarah gets nekkid with Carl.

Big news: They remembered Hattie exists! Hattie will make a one show appearance later this year. 

Did you know? There are Friday Night Lights/Parenthood crossovers on the web. Also, wait for more About A Boy appearances. 

My God, I'm a nerd. 

Thoughts? Tears?