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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Tuesday
Oct042016

Don't Miss Out on Cirque du Soleil Luzia #promo #greatdeal

Have you seen Cirque du Soleil's LUZIA yet? Everyone who has seen this Mexican-inspired show has been raving about it. The show is leaving the Port Lands on October 16th but I have a great deal so you can catch it before it flies like a monarch butterfly heading for warmer climate. Maybe you will see me there next Wednesday night.

Some of my best memories involve Cirque du Soleil. My husband and I saw "O" in Vegas just after we got married and when we decided to start trying for a family (Is that TMI?). We met a couple in Mexico who were acrobats at Cirque and I often think of them when I see the ads (they are still performing with them!). But the best memory is when I picked up my son (who suffers a bit from middle child syndrome)  from school as a surprise and took him to see Cirque du Soleil. He loved it, and I loved it. But most of all, I loved watching his delight in the show, and in the knowledge that I had planned that evening just around him. 

My longtime readers (you are still out there, aren't you?) know that I don't do very many promotions or contests. Since I love Cirque, it only seemed fair to pass on this great deal of 30% off of tickets to see #LUZIA. Just click this link, you don't need a promo code

Or Click here:

LUZIA is inspired by the warmth and cultural richness of Mexico. The Globe and Mail calls it "a magical Mexican dream" with the audacity to cast characters as both a demigod and a cockroach. I'm so excited to surprise all my kids, and experience the show through their eyes.

Happy Thanksgiving!  

*I got two tickets to LUZIA for promotion. (But I would bought them anyways.)

Thursday
May122016

The best medical care can miss one important thing #nobabyunhugged 

Once you have been one of those new mothers, you see them whenever you are at the hospital. They are the ones sitting sadly in a chair right near the exit, waiting for a car to pick them up. They have the tired bewildered look of a woman who has just given the birth, her stomach pooches, her hair is a mess and she is wearing maternity clothes. She is missing something though; she is leaving the hospital without her baby.

Sixteen years ago, I was that woman. I had spent two months on bedrest, one of them in the hospital because of a placental abruption. After an emergency C-section at 37 weeks, I went home without my baby. It was one of the most confusing and disheartening experiences I have ever been through.

 

How could they keep my baby and kick me out? Who was going to hold him through the night? Even 16 years later, I hold on to tremendous guilt that my son spent his first two nights in this world alone.

I can only imagine how much better I would have felt if there had been friendly volunteers willing to hold my baby when I wasn’t there. And that is exactly what the Huggies #nobabyunhugged campaign does. Huggies has created No Baby Unhugged programs in two Canadian NICU units where the premature and sick babies can get all the benefits of hugging, even if the parents can’t be there all the time. These programs supply rocking chairs, stations and volunteers to neo-natal units, so babies can benefit from the power of touch, even when the parents are unable to do it themselves.

The medical technology in the NICUs across the country is incredible, and the babies receive the best care possible. But researchers have found that is not all about high-tech, the power of touch is transformative for newborns. Hugging can regulate a baby’s breathing and slow down their heartbeat, it can help with pain and improve baby’s sleep. Skin to skin contact can release powerful “love hormones” such as endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin. All of this together can mean shorter hospital stays and happy homecomings for both baby and parents.

The hugging program is currently at the NICUs at Cape Breton Regional Hospital and Southlake Regional Hospital in Newmarket. Huggies is providing an additional $50-thousand dollars to expand its hugging centres to two other Canadian hospitals this year. If you are, or know an expectant or new mother, they can join the campaign by uploading a photo with your babe (or your bump) and becoming a no Baby Unhugged Mom. Click here for more information. For each photo Huggies will donate five dollars to the #nobabyunhugged campaign, and send the new mother free diapers. And you know what Huggies says: they put a hug in every diaper. Checking out the No Baby Unhugged Mom page is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face – even if your first baby was 16 years ago.

When my son was born, the nurses thought I was crazy when I gave him “kangaroo care” by stripping down and placing him on my chest for skin to skin contact. I insisted that we held him every moment we could while at the hospital. It’s amazing that the research has caught up with what we mothers already know – the power of touch and hugs is much more than skin deep. I'm glad that Huggies is advocating and educating people for such a simple and effective treatment.

My only question is: how do I become a #nobabyunhugged volunteer? I totally want to add "baby hugger" to my resume.

*this post was sponsored by Huggies. They are donating diapers to the Syrian family who I am sponsoring. So more hugs all around!

 

Tuesday
Dec082015

Making the Refugee Crisis Real With Unicef's Help

Syrian refugees hoping for a new life, maybe in Canada

I can hardly look at the photos of the refugee children anymore. I literally feel sick to my stomach to think of these children lining up for food in refugee camps, of having to flee their homes in the night, of living in colourless camps waiting… waiting for something.

This is why we have teamed up with friends and neighbours to sponsor a refugee family. I feel very strongly that is my turn to step up. In past wars and conflicts it was my ancestors that had nowhere to go, many of them eventually exterminated by war and hatred. (For more info on my sponsorship journey, read my post at Today's Parent)

But now we lead a comfortable life in Canada. How could I not pay it forward when I am surrounded by such gifts?

It was an easy decision for my husband and I (along with 19 other families) to step up to support and settle a family. But explaining it to our kids has been more challenging than I thought. How do we make them feel connected to a family who is far away living a life that they will (hopefully) never know?

Yes, we talk about it at dinner. I even showed the older boys the photos of where Syrian children sleep, which haunts me.

Then Unicef sent me their 360° viewer, which along with a phone app shows a video about 12-year old Sidra who is living in the Za-atari refugee camp in Jordan for 18 months. The technology gives a true 360 degree view of her surroundings, her school and the pathetic soccer pitch. It’s nice to see video game technology used for good. In fact, it goes one step further it inspires empathy.

I was able to say to them that our sponsored family may be one of Sidra’s neighbours, they could be in that camp right now, looking out at the barren landscape. They probably wishing that they were home but they are there – and the best hope they have is that the world helps them.

As Mr. Rogers says, look for the helpers. So I told them about Unicef, how Unicef provides food, shelter, medication and schooling to these families. Unicef tries to help the millions of children who are at risk because of armed conflict, they work on the ground, and in the political sphere trying to make the world safer for all children.

 As a family have also decided to give Unicef Survival Gifts out this holiday season. The kids are leaning towards ones that provide education and schooling to the kids in the camps. (It’s funny, kids say they hate school but they recognize how important it is.)

I have always given out the Survival Gifts as teachers’ presents because I think that teachers probably have enough mugs. I have had many, many thank you notes that say it is the best gift they have received.

My kids were so moved by the video, that my budding director decided to produce a commercial for the Unicef 360 and the survival gift program. Watch it to see the world through a 12-year old’s eyes. 

*Sponsored but 100% authentic

Tuesday
Dec012015

Dear New Principal that I Will Never Meet

Dear New Principal,

You don’t know me, and it is very likely that we will never meet. I was a parent at your school for over a decade. I have a daughter who is in Grade Five but she doesn’t attend your school anymore.

So you can stop reading now if you want, as the concerns of a parent who is no longer standing in your schoolyard can hardly top your to-do list. (Especially, since our school is notorious for pushy and annoying parents.)

But I really wanted to let you know how your school let us down. My daughter is the youngest of my three kids. She is an engaging, joyful and a motivated child. She is kind and keen and social. She is also tough, organised and clever.  That’s the child I know. But it isn’t the child that her teachers saw. She was in French Immersion and slowly slid below expectations. Her reading was delayed and because of that her math fell behind as well. She was increasingly frustrated and aggravated by being behind in her work.

She would have loved to catch up – but was never given a chance. Instead, they told us and her, that she needed to work harder, she needed to listen more. When I asked about extra help I was told to hire a tutor. And no, no one could refer me to anyone good. She was never given any extra resources – instead she was made to feel that it was her fault.

 

I was told my only option was to pull her out of French, but no, there would not be any resources available to help her in her switch. And I know from experience that the school does absolutely nothing to comfort or support a child who changes streams. The playground is a rough place – full of French Fries and English muffins and woe to the child who doesn’t know what side they are on.

I didn’t realize the damage that had been done until she started in her new school this year. Within a few weeks, her teacher said to us that my daughter is sensitive, that she is nervous to make mistakes, that she thinks of herself as a bad student and a bad learner and winces at any kind of correction like a dog who has been beaten. Her new teacher’s project is to undo all the damage that has been done. Her goals are academic as well – but she realizes that my daughter’s self-definition is the key to her becoming a good student.

According to her teacher she is two grades behind in reading. Which means that she should have been given special education services at your school – at our old school. Perhaps, her levels didn’t fall low enough, maybe no one bothered because she is a nice girl, one who doesn’t like to sit, but one didn’t make too much trouble. But now she is catching up and showing that in fact, she is an excellent student who is responsible, motivated and engaged.

I think that a school is measured – not by their outliers, the high achievers or the troublemakers, but by the mushy middle. The kids who fall under the radar but who have incredible strengths as well as weaknesses. How they feel about education will shape their futures and in turn, our society for they are the majority. The mushy middle was ignored – if we asked for less homework because our kids were crying, it was a family problem. If we requested a gym teacher who didn’t humiliate our kids, we were told there was nothing to be done. If we suggested that perhaps the teachers could yell less and engage more, we were told the kids were “toxic” or needed to practice better “self-regulation”.

Your school may be different now that you are in the Principal’s office, maybe you foster a sense of community, maybe your teachers are motivated to teach with positive instead of negative comments. Perhaps you have taken the focus off of self-regulation and put it more on joy. Hopefully, you honour every student and your teachers follow your lead. Or maybe you don’t. I will never know. But I can hope.

We have abandoned our neighbourhood school. The school I used to push strollers, wagons and carry babies to. The school that was the centre of my own social life for a decade, and I admit to feeling some grief when I walk on by.

But now my daughter goes to a school that nurtures her. They tell me that she is an extremely motivated learner, despite the fact that she has obvious delays. It's not perfect, what is? But at least they see her for who she is -- warts, beauty and all --  and I can't ask for much more than that. 

Yes, her classes are now in English. But you and I both know that isn’t the whole answer. She is at a school that nurtures and respects her. She is taught by people who love teaching and want her to be the best she can be.

And I shouldn’t have to pay for that. Every child should have a chance to be seen and heard by their school community. I hope you are working hard to create that. Your students deserve it.

Sincerely,

Emma Waverman

Thursday
Nov262015

An advance screening of Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 with my teens in public, with Amex Invites

Last Saturday night, my husband and I offered to take my 15-year old son to a movie of his choice – he looked at us like we were crazy. As if any teen would be caught dead in a movie theatre with their parents on a Saturday night.

One of the challenges of having older kids is being able to spend quality time with them. Gone are the days when a simple walk to the playground meant hours of fun together. Now I’m competing with friends, phones and the outside world just to connect on a human level (or at least a parent to teen level).

So, I have to up the ante.

After his swift rejection of me last week, I wasn’t sure if he would join me in an advance screening of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.  Through Amex Invites, Cardmembers get to experience early access to get tickets to blockbusters, special restaurant experiences and Front Of The Line access to concerts.

But how could he turn me down when I was tempting him with early street cred? Both he and his younger brother loved the books and were eager to see the final installment of the Hunger Games series. I promised the both of them good seats, special treatment and free popcorn. What teen could say no to that? (Even if they had to be seen with their parent.)

As it turned out, it wasn’t just a movie;  it was sharing a moment.  And that is what American Express Invites is all about – sharing moments with your loved ones (or your parents) in a way that is one step beyond the ordinary.

I got to share in my sons’ excitement and even bore them by talking about how when I was a teen all movie theatres had big screens and comfortable seats like at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. In turn, they tried to ruin the end of the movie for me, knowing that I had only gotten halfway through book 3. They finally admitted it that they felt a little bit special by being part of an exclusive event. (They were especially impressed by the free popcorn and drinks.

 

 

 

Even better, American Express is giving all Canadians the chance to taste what it’s like to be an Amex Cardmember. If you’re already a Cardmember, you can head on over to AmexInvites.ca to learn about upcoming events and see what tickles your fancy.

The next special event Amex is offering for all Canadians is a great one – it is an exclusive dining experience at Bar Raval on December 14th. Bar Raval recently won a coveted spot on the Canada’s Best New Restaurant list, as determined by Air Canada enRoute Magazine, and is considered one of the city’s hottest dining spots. My husband I went in the summer and to say we are obsessed doesn’t quite cut it. We still fantasize about sneaking off in the middle of the afternoon to spend hours drinking gin cocktails and eating the methodically-prepared Spanish dishes. Grant Van Gameren, the owner of Bar Raval is what we call a completist – the design, the food and the drinks are all part of his vision of a Spanish Pinxtos bar.

But I digress.

The point is, even if you are not an American Express Cardmember you can have a chance to get on the guest list of this exclusive event by going to www.AmexInvites.ca from November 26th to December 6th.

It was great sharing a moment with my two boys at Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, we were able to nerd out together on the finer details of the story and discuss how the book (what I read of it) dovetailed with the movie. But the next experience will be one for my husband and I to share -- we need our own moments too.