Friday, November 7th, 2014
The holidays are coming up, the most wonderful time of the year. But I know many people who might disagree. For them, the most wonderful time of the year is not in the winter. It’s Girl Scout Cookie season. Seriously, I know people who wait all year to stock up on their Thin Mints, to get their hands on Tagalongs, and munch on their Samoas—or Peanut Butter Patties and Caramel Delights, #wheresourcreativity. Well, Nestle realized people clamor for these flavors and so they decided to partner with Girl Scouts USA and infuse their famous Nesquik drink with Girl-Scout-cookie flavors for a limited time.
But one mom thinks that this pairing is not in the honorable spirit of the Scouts. Monica Serratos, mother of two, has started a petition on Change.org for Girl Scouts to end the partnership. In her eyes, Girl Scouts should be promoting healthy habits and a drink with 48 grams of sugar per bottle is not in line with that ideal. According to ABC News, a Nestle spokesperson said the beverage made with the adult consumer in mind. But Serratos is not convinced given the drink’s mascot is a furry brown bunny. She believes that endorsements like these contribute to the growing childhood obesity epidemic in this country.
To date, over 6,000 people have signed the petition following the beat of Serratos’ drum. The Girl Scouts have responded, so far, with silence.
Serratos also objects generally to the Girl Scouts’ use of cookie and candy sales in general, though there is no official call to end these on the petition. The Girl Scout website emphasizes that their cookies should be a snack or special treat.
I was a Girl Scout as a kid and my favorite part of year was the annual cookie sale. Ironically, I wasn’t a huge cookie person. I just loved the competition to prove how many boxes I could sell. But there was no doubt I sold to adults and families who LOVED the chocolate-y goodness of their Girl Scout sweets. I had friends who sold cookies but were not allowed ANY sugar in their diets. I had friends who were allowed to eat Twinkies after school.
Yet Serratos’ call to action raises an interesting question: Should organizations like Girl Scouts be allowed to promote sugary drinks and snacks to children, be it through cookie drives or Nestle partnerships? Should it be left to parents to decide if and how often their children indulge in these products?
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Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Last week I had the privilege of interviewing Evangeline Lilly for Parents. She’s written a new children’s book series called The Squickerwonkers. (I just LOVE that name. Silly. Sinister. Boom.) Her book is creepy-looking—think a slightly gentler Tim Burton.
In preparation for the interview, I read up on Lilly’s firm belief that there is value in sharing the scary and ugly parts of life with little readers. She feels we shouldn’t shield children from stories and images that might be spooky. In fact, she thinks this sheltering has led to a huge problem in our society’s younger generations:
I look around and I see a lot of young people who are very entitled and who are very confused when life isn’t perfect—when life throws difficult things at them. They don’t know how to deal with them. They sort of feel like “Excuse me this isn’t supposed to be happening to me.” Especially if they’ve done nothing wrong. There’s this idea that somehow if I’ve lived a good life then only good things will happen to me, and I think that often comes from some of the messaging we receive as children from our stories. But that’s really not life.
Read the full interview here.
When she puts it like that, I have to agree. Growing up, it really was hard for me to understand why bad things happen to good people. Even today, I try my best to put good out into the world and I sort of expect good to come back to me. Yet when a roadblock pops up, my first thought is often “This isn’t fair! I’m a good person! The universe should know that!” Life is not always fair or trouble-free.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m going to stop being nice or that anyone should stop acting with kindness. We should behave well with the hope of good things coming back, but with the knowledge that sometimes life isn’t always fair. Struggles come along.
Moreover, it’s important to understand that people have faults and sometimes we can be the victims of others’ flawed behavior. Lilly brought up the example that sometimes the kid who is minding his own business is the one picked on in the sandbox. How does a kid come to understand that? Children (and adults, for that matter) can begin to makes sense of these situations by accepting that people are not perfect. There are ugly traits in each of us. Sometimes being picked on is just a manifestation of someone else’s flaw. It may have nothing to do with us. But it’s our job to do our best to grapple with those characteristics and accept people (and ourselves) for who we are. We need to push for the ideal, while accepting the reality. Life isn’t always fair, but just as is true with our stories, there are always lessons to learn and that is what makes life so exciting to live.
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Photograph: The Squickerwonkers cover art
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Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
Today is Erev (or the eve of) Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish new year—rosh meaning head and shana meaning year. (Super literal, right?) I’ll be heading home for the holiday, but this year is different. It’s the first time I’ll play the role of only child since my siblings are living large—my sister abroad in London and my brother on the national tour of a show.
Knowing that they won’t be in their usual seats beside me in synagogue or next to me at the table makes going home for the holiday a little sad. Sure, it’s home. Love to Mom and Dad. But I feel like a lone wolf without her pack. It’s this reflection that made me realize how lucky I am to feel bound to my siblings—to feel like I’m not quite complete without them. My sister challenges me like no one can. My brother is truly my best friend; no one understands me like he does (or makes me laugh quite as hard).
It’s actually this unbreakable sibling bond, the inexplicable connection, that is the driving force of the movie The Skeleton Twins that just came out September 19. This isn’t a family flick, so plan this one for date night—better yet sibling’s night out. Watching the serious side of comic geniuses Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as a pair of fraternal twins whose lives-gone-awry can only be saved by each other evokes that tethered feeling that only siblings know.
This movie and my half-empty feeling reminds me how important it is to make an effort to keep the sibling bond strong. It doesn’t just happen because you’re share genes. My parents sent us the message that family is the most important thing in the world. Growing up, my brother and sister and I clung to that and to each other. We are the secret-keepers (from who stole the cookie from the jar to how a date went). We are the trouble-makers (still not-so-secretly poking fun at our parents). We are the entertainers (making each other laugh when we would rather cry or singing in harmony). Parents are the captains, guiding us through clear skies or rough waters, but siblings are the anchors that keep us strong and feeling safe. Around the new year I typically resolve to appreciate my siblings more and be a bit kinder. While there is always room to improve, I can actually look back on this year and think to myself Good work. Now let’s raise the bar.
Does your parenting style foster a tight family unit?
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Friday, September 5th, 2014
The Queen of Comedy. The Queen of Mean. Joan Rivers certainly earned a few titles in her 81 years before she passed away yesterday after suffering complications from an outpatient procedure in New York City. Despite starring on her own reality show with her daughter “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?“, Queen of Motherhood is not a title usually equated with the woman who uttered more four-letter words in a day than many do in a year. Still, there are (at least) five valuable lessons we can learn from Joan the woman, the comedienne, the mother.
Number 1: How to be honest
Joan was infamous for her brutal and sometimes scathing honesty on E!’s Fashion Police. While I don’t advocate mocking your friends (or even celebrities), I do advocate honesty and open communication. Honesty will solve problems in your life and it’s a value worth promoting in your kids. While lying is a developmental marker for children, it’s also important to teach them the currency of the truth.
Number 2: How to Make the Best of Any Situation
As a comedian, it was Joan’s job to bring light to situations ranging from the annoying to the tragic. As the brash broad once said, “Comedy is to make everybody laugh at everybody and deal with things.” Remember to look on the bright side whenever you can.
Number 3: How to Persevere
You may not know (because I didn’t) that Joan Rivers hosted “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers” on Fox in 1986. Yup. A woman in late night! But the show flopped. (It was worse than Conan’s moment.) Yet, she is still regarded as one of the comic geniuses of our time. She worked hard through professional downfalls and personal struggles. Joan always looked forward.
Number 4: How to Love Yourself
At 81 years old, Joan Rivers did NOT look 81 years old. And she wasn’t ashamed of her plastic surgery one iota. But the difference between Joan’s plastic surgery was that she wasn’t using it to hide. Her appearance was a gift to herself. She was often indulgent and she was unapologetic for how she looked and how she spoke. Not only was she loved in spite of this, she was love because of this.
Number 5: How to Heal a Relationship
Joan said that Melissa blamed her for her father’s suicide, creating a boiling tension between the mother-daughter pair. But, Joan made a point to always be in touch with Melissa and they even entered psychotherapy together at the time. Joan fought hard (and so did Melissa) to save their relationship. And sure enough, the two came out of the woods and were as thick as thieves until the end.
Even as a career-woman, Joan was a hands-on parent. What’s your parenting style?
Photograph: S Buckley/Shutterstock.com
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Friday, August 15th, 2014
I was in fifth grade when J.K. Rowling released Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the U.S. I didn’t read it until the seventh grade, but I tore through the first few books and became one of those kids who couldn’t wait until the next edition came out. Through seven novels, Harry Potter taught my generation a lot—and does so for millions of kid readers all over the world to this day. Researchers recently revealed that Harry Potter taught us much more than the rules of Quidditch.
As reported in The New York Times, the Journal of Applied Psychology recently published a study revealing that story-reading can affect how kids feel about currently stigmatized groups in our society, from immigrants to homosexuals. Specifically, kids who “read stories about characters from a culture similar to their own cooperating with characters from an unfamiliar culture, they later display fewer stereotypes, and more positive attitudes, about the people belonging to the dissimilar group.”
I remember when Draco Malfoy called Hermione Granger a Mudblood for the first time. It made my
blood boil. I felt triumphant when Harry stood up for his friend. And that’s exactly the point. I had sympathy for Hermione. I felt nasty treatment towards her as an outsider was outrageous. This study shows much the same. Kids who read and discussed passages like these
(about the in-group , like Harry, interacting positively with the out-group, like Hermione) held more positive views about the out-group of their own culture, like immigrants. On the other hand, kids who read and discussed Harry Potter
passages that didn’t address prejudice, showed no change in their attitudes towards ostracized groups. As Harry entertained me, he also taught me.
He teaches the power of our own choices when he chooses Gryffindor under the Sorting Hat. He teaches what it is to fight for a greater cause. He teaches us to treat each other kindly, Muggle or Mudblood or Pure Blood.
This is exciting news not only for readers of Harry Potter, but any book that captures similar situations. Kids can learn to be more compassionate, accepting, and tolerant through reading. If that’s not a reason raise a reader, I don’t know what is.
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