Emma Waverman writes about the chaos of modern family life in the kitchen and out of it. She has a weekly food column on CBC Radio One, Here & Now. 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 university student, and husband in Toronto. Emma has written for a variety of national 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 and Instagram. You can contact Emma at embracingchaos@hotmail.ca.

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5 Lessons This Cynical Parent Learned From A Professional Optimist

Let's be clear, when the glass is half full, it is still half empty. Even when the glass is 100% full, it is on it's way to being half empty.

I live by this mantra. So you won't find me posting inspirational quotes with sunrises in the background (up at sunrise -- blech), or putting a cheery face on an difficult situation. I know some people gather strength by those things, but I don't. In fact, I'm so cynical that I often think the people posting all those rainbows and happiness quotes are way further down the negativity rabbit hole than I am. 

But the business of optimism surounds me. This push to the sunny side of the street can make us natural cynics even more cynical. Happiness and optimism is the new aspirational must-have, to go along with your gleaming children, Fitbit, Pinterest cupcakes and labradoodle puppy. 

I'm not knocking optimism, if anything, I'm a little envious of those who are optimistic. I don't think it is in my DNA, and my kids aren't far behind me on the cynicism front. Sometimes I wonder what it would feel like to be optimistic? Could I still make snarky jokes? Who would I be if I was glass half-full kind of person

So it’s always interesting when a natural cynic like me meets someone who is a natural optimist like John Jacobs, co-founder of the Life is Good company. You probably know John’s products – T-shirts, ballcaps, mugs all with a positive message about life being good.

I am going to be honest I find that stuff cute but super cheeseball.

Like any good positive person, Jacobs was not put off by my negativity. Happiness is different than optimism which, said the company’s Chief Optimism Officer, is a strategy.

And it turns out, a strategy I can get behind.   

As Jacobs describes it, a key part to optimism is accepting that life isn’t perfect or easy but life is good and we can make a conscious decision to focus on the good. But how do we do that when life is so busy that we forget the hockey sticks on the way to the hockey game?

Jacobs has some ideas – and a lot of them are about tapping into feeling grateful. Here are his top * ideas:

Tune into the highs and lows of day: The father of three young kids has a nightly ritual where all the kids give their “mad props” for the day. In our house we do “highs and lows”, some families do “roses and thorns”. When you take a moment to focus on a highs and lows of the day, you are reminding your kids that a day can be good and bad. That even bad days have something funny, and sometimes really good days also have some downtimes. Life is textured and complicated and they got through it all and ended up at the dinner table – how great is that?

Change your thinking: A simple shift from “I have to” to “I get to” has been a powerful tool for Jacobs. So instead of  “I have to go to this meeting, he thinks “I get to… go to this meeting, or walk to school, or eat this sandwich.” This idea has partially been fueled by the powerful responses to his products. The Life is Good company hears from their customers almost every day on how their positive message has helped them get through some tough times.

Practice gratefulness: Even a man peddling optimism admits that he had down moments, which can be an opportunity to exercise gratefulness. He asks: “Can you practice gratitude in the harder moments. Can you remember the core things that make you who you are and tune into them?” That is optimism, he says. And much to my surprise it’s something I already to. Maybe I’m not such a cynic after all.

Don’t rule over your kids: Jacobs says that he is a Type A hippie, which probably helps when building a 100-million dollar business about optimism but sometimes he let that Type A get in the way of parenting. One thing his kids have taught him, is that he needs to let them lead the way.

Reflect on the good: The Jacobs family went through some tough times, John and Bert who run the company are two out of eight kids. They grew up in Boston with a “difficult Dad” and a mom who chose to focus on the good in everyday. “Every night at dinner our mother would ask “Tell me something good? And it would change the atmosphere in the house.”

Other key elements of the Jacobs brand of optimism: openness, courage, simplicity, humor, gratitude, compassion, fun, creativity, authenticity and love are all detailed in his book: Life is Good:the book --  how to live with purpose and enjoy the ride.  They call them superpowers – I call them good values, and I hope that I show some of them on any given day.

The more Jacobs talked about optimism being a strategy the more I realized that I am much more an optimist than I thought. And that idea of being grateful, and the knowledge that I have the tools to get through tough times is something I am passing on to my kids.

Life isn’t black and white we don’t have to choose to rule out optimism or happiness just because sometimes we live in the dark – most of us live somewhere in the grey. So, I still say the glass is still half empty, but that’s okay I know where the tap is, and I get to walk over there whenever I need to. 



On being grateful and carrying the PanAm flame 

I read an article about happiness recently (they are hard to miss, thanks to Gretchen Rubin!). And while I consider myself a fairly happy person, (despite some healthy cynicism and touch of anxiety), everyone can up their happiness game once in a while.

And like most happiness articles  it focuses on feeling grateful and how taking the time to feel gratitude can literally change the wiring in your brain so you are a happier person. I don't know if that is true or not, but a focus on appreciating what you have can't be a bad thing -- even if it doesn't cause those synapses to fire in rainbows all the time. 

Don't let my smile fool you, I was petrified at this moment.

And I am grateful. Though I won't bore you with my list -- but I know that my life is charmed. If I could use blessed (#Blessed!) in a non-ironic way, I would even say that. 

But when I got nominated to be a PanAm torchbearer I did not feel grateful. I felt embarrassed.  And not worthy. Of all the people around me I'm the least likely to be a torchbearer. I am not sporty at all, our family doesn't watch sports. Everyone knows that I do not run -- ever. Even my trainer gave up on that. Plus, I'm extremely klutzy. 

My best friend who saves children's lives? Better choice. Her husband who does cancer research and LOVES the games with his whole heart? Also a better choice. My friend who applied online and who does half marathons and embodies the notion of sport and health? Better choice. 

But they didn't get picked I did. President's Choice who is a PanAm sponsor put my name forward, and I was grateful to them for thinking of me. (We all know that my heart (and dollars) belong to Loblaws and PC.) 

My husband thought it was great and he insisted that I do it. So I quietly filled out the forms on the last day, and I didn't tell anyone. My kids didn't know, my parents didn't know. 

As the day approached I kept thinking about getting out of it. But my stalwart husband kept telling me to get over myself. So on Sunday at 3pm, we drove to the appointed meeting place -- a community centre in Scarborough and met up with the other torchbearers. They were all thrilled and excited, I was still a little embarrassed and awkward and a little panicked about how far 200 metres is. I had done a little training -- meaning I had jogged slowly up my back alley with my dog, just to make sure I didn't puke after running two blocks. 

I got my outfit -- the shirt was enormous on me. Embarrassingly large. I noticed that no one else had a shlumpy-looking shirt on but most of them looked like athletes, not a 40-something WAHM mom. So, I just figured it was my lot to look even more ridiculous. A PanAm employee came to my rescue , and got me the right size. Seemed they had slipped a men's shirt into my package instead of a woman's. The new shirt totally changed my outlook on the day.

After an embarrassing torchbearer warm-up and introduction circle, the Pan Am staff told us about our "torchbearer journey". And I can say, with absolutely no cynicism or irony, the staff are amazing. They are the kind of young people that you want your kids to turn into. They are enthusiastic, kind, lots of fun and super-organized.  The timing and operational intricacies of this event is mind boggling. And they do it around the world. I was runner 108, they had over 140 runners on that day. My group was 20 people. We were a motley crew that included a retired Beach Volleyball player, a shrink who banks at CIBC, a CIBC worker, a pharmacist, a teen volunteer. About half of the group were through sponsors (like me) and the other half volunteered on the PanAm website. 

That's us, they people they trusted with PanAm flame for a few hours.

The torchbearers have the far easiest job in the convoy. The torch bearers run in a "box" -- it's a human box made up of burly police officers who surround you on every side. In front of the box is a truck with two people pointing massive cameras at you. In front of them are police cars and cops on bikes and motorcycles. Behind the "box" is more trucks and police. It's a huge convoy. And I was supposed to "trot gracefully" in the middle, as my mother said.

There are also PanAm staff who are on bikes who meet each torchbearer at their appointed stop and guide them through their run. The bikers are leapfrogging each other to make sure that you are never standing all by your lonesome at your spot.

The torchbearers are on a shuttle bus that travels a few hundred metres in front of the convoy. We were carrying our torches already, it is just the flame that is passed. (I can buy a torch for $550 but I guess I will just treasure this blog post instead). They drop you at your spot just a few minutes before the flame arrives. 

The shuttle bus had a party atmosphere with lots of cheering and selfie-taking.

A little nervous as we head to number 106.

After about 20 minutes, or an eternity, it was finally my turn. Hayley the enthusiastic group leader cheers me off and then I step into ... a giant wall of people waiting for me!


Seems that spot 108 was in a No Frills parking lot and the store had gone all out. They had snacks, and a bullhorn and were setting up for a media event. And that media event was for the flame -- and by extension me.

I stood awkwardly facing the crowd as the runner carrying a lighted torch ran up to transfer the flame to my torch and start on my 200-metre journey. But wait, said the Loblaws guy, we need pictures! And so number 107 and I had to stand there touching torches while everyone took pictures. People even took selfies. The manager with the bullhorn introduced us, and we took more pictures. My husband is giving me the "smile harder" look. And my police bodyguards were starting to look mean.

Look at me, all famous like a figure at Madame Tussaud's.

Eventually my hunky police detail yelled "no more pictures" and crowded around me like I was the Brangelina clan exiting LA airport. They shuffled me through the parking lot towards the street. Now was my turn to run -- but no! Traffic had built up during our photo op. So I stood there in my white polyester outfit as the police detail yelled "no more pictures!" and Deanna my PanAm runner kept reminding me to hold the torch with the logo out. 

The flame is on the move. My graceful trot with my bodyguards.

Finally we were on the move. I was lightly jogging, smiling, waving, I was like the Queen but without the matching hat and fugly shoes. Cars were honking, I was trying to remember to suck in my gut for the pictures and not worry about my double chin and then suddenly we were at Stop 109.

Deanna directed me to runner 109, we touched torches posed for more photos (gut sucked in!) and then I was done. The flame started moving west towards downtown Toronto and I had done my job carrying the flame through the parking lot and a block of Eglinton East.

And I was grateful. 


8 Things You Didn't Know About the PanAm Games and a Ticket Giveaway

I have a secret. It’s one that I am embarrassed about.

People keep telling me that I should be excited, but I have that voice in my head that tells me that I’m not really worthy of the honour. It really isn't a secret, it's just that I haven't told anyone.

I am going to be a torchbearer for the PanAm games. It was a lucky thing to happen, and I am grateful for the opportunity. And I think my embarrassment comes from the fact that there are so many deserving people who could be part of the games. And me, I’m just a mom who can’t run very far. But I’m excited to be part of what, I hope will be a magical moment, and not an 'embarrassing, fall-on-my face and put out the torch' one.

Something like this but with a torch and wearing white shorts.

So the least I can do is get people excited about the PanAm games. Because they are very exciting! The top athletes from 41 countries will be here and they have been working for their entire lives to get to this point. The PanAm games are from July 10 – 26 and the Parapan games are August 7-15.

There are over 7,000 athletes coming and they will all show grit, perseverance and sweat – and most of them will go home without a medal. Aren’t those great lessons to teach our kids?

And behind the athletes, are their families, coaches, therapists who have been cheering them on. There are also the people who have been working to get Toronto ready for the PanAm games. (And yes, I know that traffic is already a nightmare and the HOV lanes are rage-inducing. But I am choosing to focus on the positive.)

One of the positives, is some new facilities, including the Athetes' Village. They are expecting to have 10,000 athletes staying in the Athletes' Village over the course of the PanAm and Parapan games. My son and I went on a tour of the Village and learned some interesting facts such as:


  • Olympians galore: The PanAm is a qualifying round for the 2016 Rio games in 15 sports.
  •  Lots of stuff: 5,400 beds – enough to cover three soccer fields, including 900 bunk beds and 8,500 pillow
  •  Fun sports to watch like: wakeboarding, roller skating and squash. There is even something called the Modern Pentathlon that shows off the skills of a cavalry officer and includes fencing, swimming, equestrian, running and shooting.
  •  Revitalized the portlands: The athletes’ village has already transformed a derelict area of downtown Toronto. The new Y is going to be incredible, and the athletes’ homes are going to be converted into mixed income rental and condo housing.
  •  A small town: The village also have a full-service medical facility on the site, working bank, hair and nail salon (athletes often have amazing nail art!) and a Loblaws.
  • Lots of laundry: Maytag donated 400 washer and dryers to the village. And also created the Ultimate Laundry Room for the athletes' convenience and to make sure they look their best on the podium (and hanging out in the village.)
  • Ground Zero for athletes' dirty laundry is the Ultimate Laundry Room
  • Dogs for stress relief: There will be 125 therapy dogs available for the athletes to try and help with the tremendous pressure of the games. 
  • Bunches of bananas: The temporary Dining Hall is the largest restaurant in Toronto and is open 24/7 during the games. They will serve 90,000 bananas, 50,000 portions of steak and 75,000 Litres of ice cream will be served. 

Oh to be young and extremely athletic and hang out at the village. 

So far we have tickets to see Track and Field, but we gave the kids some options for some other events as well. It should come as no surprise that my teen son suggested Beach Volleyball.

Giveaway: But if you want to be part of the PanAmania as well – I have TWO tickets for Men’s Basketball on July 23 to giveaway to give to ONE reader, thanks to Maytag. I don’t usually do giveaways but this is kind of special!   

All you have to do is enter below through the totally the Rafflecopter App. Contest closes on July 5th and the winner will be announced on July 6th. Contest is open to Ontario residents, transportation is not included. 




a Rafflecopter giveaway


Does Performance Really Count? 

(*Sponsored post, but still readable)

My kids do not play competitive anything. And sometimes that makes me feel like we are in some minority made up of slackers and uncoordinated nerds. But even though they aren't stellar athletes they still try, which is more than I can say I ever did.

Alll three of them play ball hockey. None of them are any good, none of them have played all-star but they all have been on winning teams and every year they get a medal and a trophy. (And I have no problem with that.)

In fact, they know they aren’t good and they still play. Even my 15-year old cheerfully goes out to his games, knowing that they are going to pull him when the game gets close. But he still enjoys the competition. And that is a great gift.

So, when I come across an athlete an actual, honest-to-goodness athlete I am always a bit in awe. They were born with natural skill, and they had the kind of parents that I will never be – competitive parents who give up everything to foster their kids’ athleticism.

Recently, I met Kyle Jones who is a Canadian triathlete competing in theupcoming Pan Am Games. It was kind of exciting, because we are looking forward to the Toronto-based games. (We can still be fans, if not jocks.) He too, talked about how he trained with his Dad and the support he got from his family, and now his wife.

And just like when I met with the Canadian women’s hockey team, the conversation turned to cleaning. Because cleaning up after an athlete is drudgery. They have a lot of dirty, stinky clothes with lots of crazy high performance fabrics. Kyle said his clothes all went in his Maytag washer and dryer, which I found surprising since half my friends don’t even put their Lululemon pants in the dryer. (The other half, which I am part of, do. Because convenience is everything.)

Kyle also happens to be sponsored by Maytag, so he is used to talking about his laundry. Also, if you check out this Maytag commercial he should get used to having some fans.


Maytag is a key part of the athletes’ village for the PanAm game. They have supplied 400 washers and dryers in the athelete’s village, because even though we think athletes are superhuman, they have to boring tasks like make sure their gear is clean.

Maytag is using the hashtag #performancecounts to promote the PanAm games. I’ve been thinking about what that means, as a parent. Because #performancecounts when you are an athlete, and it also counts in a washing machine. (Because of all the things that I want to work really well, my washing machine is way, way up there.)

But does performance count when you are a kid? Or does participation and persistence count more? I think this is one of the issues that I grapple with as a parent – for example do I reward my kids for good marks (which comes more naturally to one) or for the work they put into it?

When I meet athletes like Kyle I can see how their pleasure in success doesn't just come from winning, but also in the process of working hard towards a goal. This is something that I really do want my kids to learn from. The idea that winning doesn't always happen, but that sometimes the payoff is in the working hard and enjoying the competition. 

So even though we aren't athletes, performance does count sometimes. But until my kids' are on the world stage, I'm going to teach them that persistance is an important part of that equation. (But it was pretty great to see my son's team win the gold medal in ball hockey.)

In the meantime, I have some seriously stinky and dirty ball hockey jerseys to deal with, so Maytag sent some laundry tips. To be honest, laundry isn't my forte as I often put it all the machine and then forget to move it to the dryer -- but I'm working on it. But I do have a front-loader and the I didn't realize that I could do small loads in between the large ones without feeling guilty!


  • As your laundry accumulates, pre-sort it into designated baskets for lights, darks and whites. This way, a load will be ready to throw in the washer whenever you have a minute to spare.
  • Don't forget to close zippers and clasp hooks, and to also check pockets to avoid washing tissues, money, lipstick, etc.
  • Streamline the laundry process by incorporating storage solutions and flat working surfaces into your laundry room. This will keep laundry where it belongs and eliminate the need to treat, sort and fold in other rooms of the house.
  • Wash small loads as needed between laundry days. Today's high efficiency washing machines use substantially less water and energy than a conventional top-loading washer. Which means you can do small loads when you have time, rather than waiting for the basket to fill up.
  • Don't overload the washer or dryer. Clothes come out cleaner and less wrinkled when given room to move freely.


Stain Removal: (I didn’t know about putting stain removal on the underside! Life changing)

  • Treat stains promptly. Fresh stains are easier to remove than old ones. If the stain is on a non-washable fabric, take it to the dry cleaner as soon as possible. Tell them the stain and the fiber content of the garment.
  • When using bleach, do not try to bleach just one area of garment. To prevent uneven color removal, bleach the entire garment.
  • When cleaning a stain, place stained area face down on a clean paper towel or white cloth. Apply stain remover to the underside of the stain, forcing stain off the fabric surface instead of through it.
  • As for cleaning sporting gear, Maytag recommends using the Maytag Maxima® Front Load washer and dryer to get your sports gear smelling good again. The Maytag Maxima® washer delivers the best cleaning in the industry with the PowerWash™ cycle. PowerWash™ technology uses a combination of extra wash action, heated water and a thorough rinse to help remove even the toughest stains.

If you are PanAm games fanatics, next week I'm going to host a giveaway for two tickets to men's basketball, thanks to Maytag! And what I am sure will be a funny store about my own embarrassing involvement with the games.





*This post was sponsored by Maytag.


23 Things I Have Learned in the last 6 Years as a Mom Blogger

Gone are the days when we all read one revered parenting bible, now we turn to the web for answers to our biggest parenting questions. For better or worse, I am one of those parenting bloggers. Since 2009 I have written about 2,000 posts about parenting, for my own blog embracethechaos.ca and Today’s Parent, among others. Not all of my posts were good, most of them have at least one typo, and all of them had too many commas. I hope a few of them made people feel a little less alone in this crazy world of parenting. Read my listicle of the 23 off the top of my head things I learned as a mom blogger...

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