Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Parenthood - My Thoughts on the Bravermans, Part 3

Okay, with Part 1 and Part 2 done, it's time for Part 3 - discussing the Braverman grandkids. Thanks so much to all who are chiming in in the comments section. It's fun to discuss this show together!

I have one random pet peeve I'd like to express before I go on. Now that we're caught up and watching the show as it airs, I am really peeved at their previews/scenes from next time ("next week on a very special Parenthood!"). They have a tendency to show us, in the previews, how next week's episode is going to END. Whaaaa? Where's the element of surprise there? Talk about spoilers. Wow.

Let's go family by family again, starting with my favorite (/end sarcasm), Adam and Kristina's clan.

Haddie Braverman

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Nice picture, right? Can't you just HEAR her whiny, nasal-y, annoying voice droning on about some injustice in her life?? BAH. Like, it's so, like, you know, like, hard, like, to be, like, a Braverman, like, and, like, it, like, makes, her, like, eyes, seem, you know, like, dead, or something, like. Why are all the kids on this show, particularly the girls, so bratty?!? The teen angst is soooo over the top in this show. Honestly, the whining. It burns. She drives me crazy.

Sarah Ramos, who plays Haddie, is a lovely girl, but man has she had some bad hair seasons. It was as if the make-up people were trying to make her look bad. And that episode where she dyed her hair dark? Why was that such a big deal? Why did her parents flip out? She wasn't dropping acid. She was making her hair darker. And it looked nice, too. Honestly, it's like Adam and Kristina aren't happy unless they're mad about something. They seem to think it's a parent's job to be constantly annoyed with your kids (unsolicited advice: it's not). It doesn't make you cool. It doesn't make you hipster. It just makes you kind of an ass.

Speaking of, she hasn't exactly had it easy. I mean, the first couple of seasons show her parents repeatedly missing her school events, sports games, and awards ceremonies. They'd apologize and swear they'd try to do better and then they'd forget all about her again. It has GOT to be tough to be a sibling in the situation she's in with Max needing so much attention and special care. As I watched the early seasons of the show, I couldn't help but think of the book Wonder and how Auggie's sister didn't ever seem to get mad or resentful about all the extra attention her brother got. I suppose it's normal to have some resentment. Haddie doesn't have it easy and she's generally a good kid. It would've been nice for her parents to recognize that more and to work to have a relationship with her, too, instead of her just "being there." I felt for her.

This brings me to a pet peeve I have about this show in general - their portrayal of all teens as difficult, angst-y (it should be a word), withdrawn, sullen, attitude-y (that, too), whiny, rebellious, and troubled. I. am. so. sick. of. stupid. teen. stereotypes. I hate that all teenagers are portrayed the exact same way. There is no other subset of people who would ever stand for it. People trample on teens because they think they can. Well, I cry foul. Teens are capable of much, MUCH more than pop culture leads us to believe. So, please, writers, give them more credit. And less pigeon-holing. Geez, you'd think America was made up of a homogeneous type of adolescent - look around your high schools and communities. That's just not true.

By the way, Sarah Ramos, in 2013, began attending Columbia University. Not too shabby.

Max Braverman

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I. Love. This. Kid. Max Braverman is the bomb! And Max Burkholder, who plays Max on the show, is a brilliant, brilliant actor. I seriously had to stop watching one time and look him up to find out if he had Asperger's in real life. His portrayal of Max is uncannily good. It is utterly believable and I just love how this show tackles the issues surrounding Asperger's Syndrome. So well done. 

Max says what he thinks. Always. His parents don't always know how to connect with him, because bonding with him isn't easy (they do try, for the most part). He struggles with eye contact, empathy, and considering others' feelings - it's all part of the diagnosis. He is obsessive and has tantrums. He is hyper-focused and can not be interrupted without blowing up in frustration. Life with and for Max isn't easy. But they try hard. This show really, truly addresses the struggles of dealing with a family member who has Asperger's and, at times, it's heart breaking. 

And, at times, it's funny. One of our VERY favorite episodes is called "Small Victories" and Mark and I both laughed out loud so hard that we nearly fell off the couch. I have tried and tried to find a video montage (how has someone not made one yet?!?) of the hysterical lines in that episode, but to no avail. Zeek and Camille have a great, casual interaction with Max about his entering puberty, while Kristina drones on in protest under her breath. Hysterical! The talk he has with Adam about changes is so sweet and poignant. And then when they get him to shower and wash his privates and he tells them about it in the hallway as he struts around in a towel (Skittles!). So freaking funny.

Max is a terrific character - one of my very, very favorites.

Kristina and Adam also have baby Nora - she's cute (reminds me of our kids' cousin Zoe) and a fun, additional storyline. The timing, how they found out, how they portray the struggles of babyhood . . . all excellent. Sometimes you've got to wonder with the Adam and Kristina story lines, how much can one family handle?!? Geesh!

Sarah's kids are . . . 

Amber Holt

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This is another one of those mystery-to-me-why-everyone-likes-her-so-much characters. She is her mother's daughter - lost, afloat, directionless, confused, and messed up. Every time she tries and things don't go her way, she throws a fit and does something unhealthy (drinking, drugs, and other impulsive behaviours - yes, behaviours. I feel British today.). I know people like this - they must get their way or else they get mad and take it out on life. I don't understand that mentality. I get being angry, but the self-destructive behaviours? Not so much. Especially with a history of alcoholism and substance abuse in her family. And yes, kids can understand that. If we think they can't, we're back to stupid teenage stereotypes again and low expectations for all adolescents.

Sometimes she seems to have some sense - doesn't trust her father, doesn't trust Ryan when he reminds her of her father . . . and then she does something stupid like drugs or a bad haircut or getting that hole of an apartment. She doesn't seem scared enough, in my opinion, of a guy with a temper (MAJOR red flag). And then, after some ups and downs, she goes on a bender and just happens to end up, unbelievably, at a bar where her estranged father works. Will wonders never cease. 

Amber suffers from the same annoying affect that most of the females do on this show (except for Sarah, the lovely Lauren Graham) - she is flat, monotone, whiny and can't seem to string together a sentence without an equal part of "likes" and "you knows." People love her and her dynamic with her mother and her brother, but I can't for the life of me figure out why. Just about every scene with her is histrionic and verklempt. And not in the pass-me-the-tissues way. More in the OMG-I-can't-take-any-more way. I want to like her, but she makes it very hard.

Drew Holt

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So, Drew. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh sorry, I nodded off there for a second. Um, hmmmm. Like his sister, he plays guitar sometimes. Let's see. What else. Another teen who is uncomfortable to watch. He's overly shy, not very assertive, and so awkward. He is also so flat when he speaks that I sometimes forget I'm watching a show and start making my to-do list for the next day. I just can't bring myself to care about his story lines. 

His girlfriend Amy was a cute first love for a while, but then she blew him off when he was totally there for her and then she showed up when he was in college and zzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . oh, so she stayed with him for a couple of weeks and zzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . . I guess we were supposed to be upset that it messed up things with Natalie, but I wasn't, because I just can't bring myself to care about any of them - not Drew, not Amy, not Natalie, not his, dude, roommate, Berto (Berto?!?), though I do love the scene where soldier Ryan shows up to lay down the law. Just a giant snorefest all around.

Joel and Julia's kids are . . .

Sydney Graham

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Sydney is a gigantic brat. She is one of the biggest brats on television. She grates on my every nerve. Do you see it? Do you see how every granddaughter on this show is annoying and bratty and every grandson is more endearing? I can't stand Sydney. She is spoiled, pampered, catered to . . . it's like her parents are scared of her. What the ????? I sort of love the episode where her grandparents call them out on raising a brat. Part of me was outraged like it was none of their business, but I have to admit that what they said was spot on. She's a sore loser, a sore everything. I can't stand that kid. 

Victor Graham

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I really like this kid and, man, is he adorable. Of course he's sweet and likeable since, you know, he's a Braverman grandson as opposed to a Braverman granddaughter. He's been a wonderful addition to the show and it helped illustrate such a sweet storyline about frustrations and unexpected surprises in infertility and adoption. I love that they dared to show Julia's difficulty bonding and her second thoughts (especially after the bat-throwing incident, you can't blame her). The adoption scene was great and the season finale was also very sweet. I love, too, how Zeek stood up for him at the baseball game. Do not mess with the Bravermans! I read an interview with him that says he's nothing like his early, angrier character. He's a sweet kid, so it's kind of fun for him to play a different role like that.

Crosby and Jasmine's kids are . . . 

Jabbar Trussell (Braverman?)

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Did they ever legally change his name? I'm not sure. Love this kid. He's one of my very favorites of all the kids on the show (though, admittedly, that's not hard, since so many are brats, especially if they have 2 "X" chromosomes on this show). Such an unassuming, sweet kid. He's the biggest reason I root for Crosby and Jasmine. I want him to have Crosby in his life always, because Crosby loves and adores him and is so good to him. I love how he has transformed Crosby. It wasn't instantaneous, but it was a slow evolution and it was beautiful.

Crosby and Jasmine also have baby Aida. Not much to say about her, though I love when she's born and Crosby is all, "She's white!" Hilarious.

Next installment will have any characters not discussed so far. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Parenthood - My Thoughts on the Bravermans, Part Deux

Okay, so now that we've covered the immediate family, let's move on to their significant others (when I started this post, I was going to cover the kids and other side characters, too, but then I said so much about Kristina - and considering that Sarah has so many men - I figured that we better stick to S.O. only).

Let's just go family by family, shall we? And let me also say that as much as I may have to say about all of these characters, I would LOVE to have siblings half as involved as the Bravermans!

So, Adam (BLECH!) is married to Kristina.

 Kristina Braverman
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Kristina Braverman will not be deterred. There are things I love about her and things that drive me nuts. Let's start with the positive - she can pull off any hairstyle (lucky women with strong jaws!). Monica Potter is a phenomenal dramatic actress. She deserves the credit she gets and she definitely deserved the Golden Globe nomination she received for her amazing performance in season 4 (the video she makes and Adam watches is so heart wrenching!). I have cried more tears during scenes with Kristina than possibly any other character on the show. She's a powerful actress.

Kristina is determined, feisty, spunky, headstrong, compassionate, driven, and very committed to her family. She's an impressive lady. While I do think that some of her solutions are ridiculously over the top (starting a charter school? Really? I've seen multiple articles saying why that's a ridiculous and unrealistic solution.), you have to hand it to her - she WILL go after whatever she wants. And that's admirable. (Side note: I think they should play to Max's strengths, and get away from the stupid frustrations with the school system that isn't serving him well, and homeschool. I see parents do it all the time. The kid is 15 already - he's doing his school work just fine - he's right that he's smarter than his teachers - and he's learning life and career skills like photography and body surfing. He can learn more from that than from being forced to be like everyone else in a system that is failing him. Buck the system! He's thriving elsewhere - do more of that! That has way more to do with real life skills than anything he could learn in school.)

But man, oh man. Her affect! GAH! It is SO flat! Listening to a conversation between her and her daughter is enough to make me wish for a soundtrack of sharp nails on a very old chalkboard. She is so monotone! And, like, she, like, often sounds, like, you know, so, like, whiny and annoying. It takes her forever to say nothing. Spit it out, lady! Of course it doesn't help that the second she starts to express herself or say anything, her dumb-butt husband interrupts and rants and gesticulates and yells and tells her why he doesn't support her (until, you know, he eventually does).

She does NOT take no for an answer and I often cringe when I see how pushy she can be, but I have to hand it to her - she has chutzpah out the wazoo! When she pushed for Max to get invited to a birthday party - ugh, that was painful! Oh! And she butts in where she doesn't belong AT ALL. Like when she barged in on the politician and Amber - so not any of her business! I kept thinking, "Isn't Amber over 18?!?" While it wasn't the best choice on Amber's part (then again, what is? Have you SEEN the finale yet??), it was completely NOT her place to do what she did. Yeah, yeah, she's a caring aunt looking out for her niece, but she really crossed a line there. (In her defense, she was probably having PTSD from the lousy way she found out her daughter was sexually active).

See? The writers are so genius at writing flawed characters! That's why we all feel so passionate about this show - they're so good at making us mad, happy, angry, frustrated, excited, you name it. It's brilliant!

I think Adam and Kristina do care about their kids, but they seem to care more about control and being in charge and laying down the law than they do about being nurturing or respectful or considering their kids' feelings on things. It's maddening. I do see some personal growth, though, particularly in the season finale with how they treated Haddie. It's about freaking time, too. One of the WORST things they ever did as parents was to lie to Haddie about her mother's health just to get her to go back to school. So INCREDIBLY disrespectful. Again, they mean well, but it comes out all wrong and they go about it with dishonesty and their usual we're-right-everyone-else-must-bow-to-us attitude. That's why they often engage in power struggles and fighting matches with their kids. Rather than trying to understand their children and listen to them and hear them and understand and respect their feelings, they exert their authority and demand to be obeyed. So much for mutual respect! No wonder the kids sometimes disrespect them. They model it so well! Blech.

I felt bad for Kristina when her mom wouldn't show up to help her. That was so sad. I'm always curious about the in-laws' families!

I'll end on a positive note - I love that Kristina goes after what she wants in life and that she thinks outside the box. Mad respect for that. Also? I totally love the scene where Adam goes and gets her pot to help ease her suffering. That was a loving act and that whole scene was so great. They have their moments.

Seth Holt

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Sarah's ex - an absent dad, an alcoholic rocker, and a drifter. Yeah, mystery why Sarah's back with her parents. I like John Corbett and he plays a good character on here - very flawed. But again, it allows them to tackle such big issues that I'm sure many in the world can relate to. 

I do have to say, though, that the episode where Amber just happens to drive off to who knows where and just happens to enter the place of his employment (and yeah, right - a recovering alcoholic working at a bar) and just happens to see him . . . way too difficult to believe. Seemed very forced and strange. She has resisted him for so long and suddenly he's there and she's cool with him making her pancakes? Weird. 

Love Triangle #1

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And the season where he shows up again, promising to change (so difficult to know if you can believe someone with such a strong chemical dependency)? That really helped showcase Sarah's codependence toward him. She nearly jeopardized a very good thing in her life due to that (no worries - she managed to mess it up for other reasons later). She was torn between the love she felt for a man with whom she has a history (and children) and a new good thing in her life. And that good thing was . . . 

Mr. Mark Cyr

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Isn't he adorable? Played by the charming Jason Ritter (son of the late John Ritter), he plays a GOOD guy who is smart and sweet and patient and kind and good. I like him. He tries hard. He sets boundaries with kindness. He is a really good communicator (so, of course, Sarah can't handle that - why does she keep self-sabotaging good things in her life?) and he's so good to Sarah and her kids. 

Not sure I have a ton to say about him, but you can't help but root for him, if not with Sarah, then with someone who deserves his goodness. 

But wait!
Love Triangle #2

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These kinds of love triangles are delicious, because they're between two GOOD guys. And that's how life can be for people sometimes, right? Choosing between two GOOD things and trying to do what's best for everyone, especially oneself? That brings us to . . . 

Hank Rizzoli

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I love this guy! Who knew Raymond could be so cool?!? He plays a GREAT dramatic role. He's endearing - he tries so hard and means well and just can't seem to get it quite right, which makes him all the more loveable. Some people don't like him and find him boring, but I love Hank. I love his emergency calls to Dr. Pelican. I love his slowly-dawning self awareness. I love his bluntness. I love, love, love his relationship with Max. I love how he works so hard to navigate relationships and life. I love Hank. 

Love Triangle #3
(What, you're getting tired of it, too? Join the club.)
introduces this weird distraction

Carl Fletcher
(Dr. Carl Fletcher, no less) 

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I have very little to say about this abrupt subplot. He's a playboy that she can't stand! Oh wait, he's a life-saving doctor who does overseas charity work?!? Pfft.

So yeah, Sarah's a hot mess. But for so long, Julia had it all together with Joel. 

Joel Graham

Photo image from someone's Pinterest
Yep, Pinterest. The place where people pin pretty things. Like Sam Jaeger. Julia's (until recently) devoted husband. Joel, the hot-carpenter-stay-at-home dad. Joel, the family man. Joel, the really good guy. Joel, the superman. Oh Joel, what happened?!?

This past season has been some kind of anomaly. Some kind of horrible aberration. Joel is a GOOD guy. A family man. He puts his family first, always! I don't understand where the storyline took a reallly bad turn. I really don't. It was all so abrupt. I found myself thinking, what did it? Was it the infertility? The adoption (I love that scene!)? Her screw up at work? His going back to work? An asteroid hitting him in the head? What happened?!?!??!?!?

I love Joel. And I think it will eventually all work out. I don't think it's unrealistic that they had problems, but I think the lead-up to a split was completely out of left field. And I'm very pissed about the hypocrisy. He's mad that she kissed another guy. HELLO!! Joel kissed another woman in season 1 and yet, no one is talking about that!! Why not?!? I think that would resolve their situation, too. Someone bring it up! They both screwed up. Forgive. Move on. How could he fight so hard for Victor and then just up and leave? It makes no sense. This is a story line I am NOT liking. It's just out of nowhere. Joel is a great in-law, the best one in fact. Bring that guy back, please. 

THIS guy.

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In earlier seasons, he's great with his kids (even though his daughter is a colossal brat), he loves his wife, and he is great with the extended family he married into. He sets boundaries with his in-laws. He is supportive. He is patient. He is GOOD. (And, he really is Pinterest worthy). :P

That leaves Crosby's significant other, the lovely Jasmine. 

Jasmine Trussell

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Jasmine is beautiful. SO beautiful. She is a strong personality, raised by a strong mother in a strong family. She can be controlling and irritating and kind of a diva and queen bee type. I think Crosby helps bring out a better side of her. She's with the Braverman who, while not perfect, has the BEST lines and best personality. 

I was so mad at her for lying to her family about Crosby and his supposed abandonment of Jabbar. And I love, love, love the evolution of that relationship (Crosby and Jabbar) and how it made Crosby grow so so much. The ups and downs with them were quite a roller coaster for several seasons. I was happy when the campout turned into their reconciliation. He screwed up, yes, but she'd be a fool to walk away from him. At his core, he's a good guy and he loves the hell out of his family. 

Okay, whoops. So that turned into another Crosby-love post instead of being about Jasmine, but I'm not sure what else to say about her. There was a time I really didn't like her. She can be kind of selfish and want everything her way and be dismissive of Crosby, but I'm glad to see them grow together and work it out. 

Next installment will include kids and other characters. I'd love to hear your thoughts on these partners . . . . Did I forget anyone?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Parenthood - My Thoughts on the Bravermans, Part 1

I love this show. Mark and I marathon watched it on Netflix and got caught up and just finished the most recent season with the rest of America. I have so many thoughts and often want to write reviews of the episodes like I used to with American Idol. I would love to have a pop culture/opinion column as a job - can you imagine getting paid to write this? I know. I'm a nerd. Also, I have a ton to do. Hence, this distraction post.

Photo Image from Huffington Post
It should come as no surprise that this show ranks so highly for me. I love ensemble casts. I'm a big Lauren Graham fan. I am fascinated by family dynamics. I really enjoy good character development. I appreciate a show that can make me laugh, cry, feel happy, get angry, and (almost) always make me care and hold my interest. This show delivers on all fronts.

I have so many opinions on the characters in this show that I decided to write this post. If you haven't watched the show, this probably isn't spoiler free. Also, it is a show that must be watched in order. Watch it from the beginning. Don't ruin it.

Let's start with the patriarch and matriarch of the clan - Zeek and Camille Braverman.

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I had a hard time finding a decent picture of them together. Often, one of them looked angry. Though I suppose that's appropriate. I have a love-hate thing with these two. I often find them annoying, enmeshed, and controlling (especially Zeek), but when all is said and done, they are amazingly loving and supportive of their kids and grandkids.

I love how Zeek calls everyone "grandson" and "granddaughter." I like how riled up he gets in defense of his family. You just know he's got his family's back. He can be a bit much at times and he is annoyingly stubborn and proud, but he comes through time and time again. The writing on this show, I'm telling you, is brilliant. They do an excellent job of writing flawed characters.

Camille kind of gets on my nerves sometimes, because I find her too mousy and I wish she'd speak up more. I get why she doesn't - she's been dismissed for years, but even when she stands up for herself, it doesn't come across well. I think she could be a stronger character. I know, I know - she went off and studied art and took charge of her life, but overall, meh. She's a little dull as a parent. That being said, I think she's beautiful.

One of my favorite, hilarious exchanges with Zeek is the one with Crosby at the diner:

Zeek: "What kind of name is Jabbar?"
Crosby: "What the hell kind of name is Zeek?"

On a more critical note, I think they sort of left some story lines blowing in the wind - what happened to his health worries? What about all the cheating and marital issues? What happened when he got himself underwater with that investment property gone bad? I think they sometimes distract us with other story lines (and they do a good job at that), but it bugs me a bit to have those loose ends just . . . there.

I also love the (also left-hanging - no pun intended) story line about his stint doing an erectile dysfunction commercial. Hysterical!  

And I'm often surprised how few issues they have with their in-laws. They're so good at treating the in-laws as their own, but surely there would be more blow-ups with how enmeshed they are. Where are the other families and the tensions that often result from both families wanting time with their kids/grandkids? You see it every so slightly with Jasmine's family, but conveniently we know very little about Kristina's side of the family (other than a self-involved, distant mother) or Joel's (his mother died). Where are their fathers? Their siblings? Their cousins? How is it that the Bravermans control all?

Another thing I like about this show (though at times it annoys me to no end) is all the talking they all do at once. That's a new technique we're seeing more and more in modern television. Shows like New Girl and Modern Family also employ this method. In general, it's realistic and often funny. But with some (ahem, Adam and Kristina), it's irritating.

Also, I love, love, love their backyard and I totally want it. Their big family dinners outside; the overhead, outdoor lighting; the fire pit . . . gorgeous, warm, and inviting. Almost makes me want to move to Berkeley. Almost.

From someone on Pinterest
I'm obviously not alone in coveting their backyard - I found this picture through Google Images. Someone pinned it on one of their boards, because they love it, too.

The Bravermans

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So, Zeek and Camille have 4 kids - Adam, Sarah, Julia, and Crosby. Let's discuss.

Adam Braverman

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I hate this guy. I just do not like him. I don't know why everyone is enamored of him. He is uptight, high strung, angry, controlling, negative, initially unsupportive, annoying, and he has a temper, as well as a stick up his butt. 

But he has his redeeming qualities, too. Like here:

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  And here:

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And when he goes to bat for Haddie's first boyfriend when he is in trouble (you know, after initially being against it and generally being a jerk). 

It is wild to think that the guy who plays Adam is dating Lauren Graham (who plays one of his sisters on the show), because I often look for real life, on-screen chemistry (there shouldn't be any as they're siblings on the show) and I must say they hide it well. I believe them as siblings. But man, I hope he's different in real life, because on the show? What a tool.

Every time his wife has an idea or thought or frustration, his initial reaction is negative and contrary and angry. He almost always eventually comes around, but he doesn't ever start out supportive (and he should, because she's a determined lady who goes after what she wants and is happy doing it). I don't know how she stands him.

He has also left her high and dry countless times while he runs off to solve some problem for one of his siblings (they always run to him as he is the "responsible," eldest one). It drove me crazy in the early seasons how often his siblings would interrupt him at work to whine about something. Users. But seriously, Adam, set some boundaries!

Their communication skills are absolutely abysmal. They don't listen to each other. They all talk at once, constantly interrupt each other, and go on and on at the same time. No wonder they have issues!

As a father, he has great difficulty relating to any of his children (admittedly, that has to be extra challenging with their son Max, who has Asperger's Syndrome) and comes across as militant and controlling instead of loving and nurturing. Yelling at your kids all the time and then giving them an occasional, slightly relenting hug does not a good father make. Blech.

I think over time, the writers are helping him unclench (oh, how often I want to yell at the TV, "UNCLENCH!"), and that's been nice to see. But yeah, overall, he really bugs me. He's an annoying goody-two-shoes and know it all who goes around preaching to everyone, whether or not they are related to him. Not a fan. He's a character I love to hate.

Sarah Braverman

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Ah, Sarah. The character drives me crazy, but it's hard to get past how much I love the actress playing her. Sarah is a mess and goes through guys like I go through germ killer. She is the second oldest and one of the two "rebel" children. She is a single mom, in part due to her horrible choices in her roller coaster (more like spinning tea cups really) of a love life, who has returned along with her two teenage children, to live with her parents and get her life and her kids' lives back on track.  

She is aimless, though I don't criticize her for that. To be quite honest, it is a mystery to me how anyone chooses one job for life and doesn't go crazy. I have varied interests, so I get bored after a while. I think it would be fun to do about 10 different careers over time, though I know that's not necessarily practical or terribly realistic. But it is more interesting.

That being said, she has been a bartender, an intern, a playwright, a photographer, and . . . a super? Weird. I read an interview with her and even she thought it was odd. You see, Parenthood does this bizarre (but unique) thing where each season starts out months after the previous one left off and you're supposed to divine what happened in the interim. Drives Mark nuts.

I have much to say about her love life, but that will have to wait for another installment of my thoughts on the Bravermans. Bravermen? Anyway, her story lines are rather driven by the men in her life, so they need their own segment. Though I will say this, if you're going to have sex, for heaven's sake, lock your door. Unless you're okay with people walking in on you. And that is a message for ALL the Bravermans.

Julia Braverman

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So Julia is the female equivalent of Adam, but less annoying (though only slightly at first). It was horribly uncomfortable to watch any scene with her in the first season, as she was sooooo competitive and insecure. The writers did a terrific job showing the guilt and insecurities that some working moms deal with. 

I think Julia is beautiful. Apparently, she is known as an embrace-your-curves model and actress. She has a gorgeous body. I wish that were put forth as the norm instead of twiggy Rachels and Monicas. She has an annoying deadpan delivery, whether she is ecstatic or upset, that makes her sound monotone and whiny. 

The writers do a good job manipulating our feelings about these characters. I've gone from totally cringing in the early seasons when she seemed so awkward with her own family-work balance and being out of touch in her kids' lives (one particular cringe-worthy moment was when she showed up at her kids' swim practice in her swimsuit to show up the other moms and their teaching methods, employing a more "Braverman" approach of pushing rather than nurturing) to feeling annoyed with her (man, those Bravermans are persistent - her interactions with pregnant Zoe were so often uncomfortable) to feeling more at ease with her as her character has developed to feeling sorry for her in this most recent season. I love how her siblings support her - when they all showed up for her is one of my very favorite scenes. Plus, they got "the fever" and I love that. It was such a sweet episode ending.

I have always loved her marriage to Joel - I like how they play to their strengths with him as the at-home dad and her as the working mom (they are both so much happier and fulfilled that way) and I like how they tackled how it affected their relationship to try on new dynamics (with disastrous consequences). I do feel like the writing was pretty weak with regard to Joel this past season. I've seen so many people online lamenting that they don't ever give Joel a story line, relegating him to a constant, steady, likeable supporting side character. Well, the writers sort of listened but I think it was choppy and abrupt - where was the lead up to all the marital strife?!? It seemed very out of left field.

That said, this show tackles some big stuff - infertility, adoption, work-life balance, marital dissatisfaction, personal satisfaction, parenting, guilt, work screw-ups, being torn, bratty kids, spoiled kids, etc. And that's just Julia and Joel. The other three kids all handle other tough stuff (affairs, illness, spectrum disorders, alcoholism, codependency, single parenting, financial struggles, etc.). Impressive to see what they tackle, in my opinion. I think that in some cases they are pretty cutting edge - I don't know of many other shows that address (or so well) the kinds of issues Parenthood does (particularly with regard to Max's Asperger's).

Crosby Braverman

Photo Image from
He is my FAVORITE Braverman, hands down. I love this guy! He is another deliciously-flawed character, but he is, in my opinion, the easiest to love. Zeek and Camille really saved the best for last. (I've seen conflicting things online as to whether he or Julia is the youngest - I thought it was Julia, but I may be wrong).

When the show starts, he is a rogue - unreliable, lives on a houseboat, doesn't want to be tied down. But all that changes when a very unexpected person shows up in his life. He and Sarah comprise the two more rebellious and seemingly-aimless Braverman children (whereas Adam and Julia are more boring responsible).

Crosby likes his life. He enjoys himself. He is easy going and affable. I would totally want to hang out with him more than any of his siblings. When the show first starts, they really want to portray Adam as the "good guy" and Crosby as the charming rascal, but from the get go, I've liked Crosby more than Adam by a mile.

He rides a motorcycle, lives on a houseboat, enjoys a good beer, laughs, jokes, and is great with everybody. He is kind of a bad boy. So not my type of guy. Except that he is a GOOD guy. He is not perfect and he makes a lot of really dumb and hurtful choices, but at his core and through and through, he is the one who is consistently himself and, though flawed, cares and loves more naturally and easily than any other Braverman. He is the most consoling, comforting, supportive, willing, kind sibling of them all. Naturally.

He interacts with his siblings' spouses and significant others with more ease than anyone in his family. He always knows what to say. He is genuine. He is THE best at diffusing tense situations with humor, all while stating his case and maintaining his boundaries. He has an incredible knack for being able to argue with someone without it escalating out of control. How does he do that?!? He jokes whilst debating with others in a way that's so easy and comfortable that it makes arguing practically look fun and not horribly uncomfortable, as it is for most people. I'd go the rounds with him and end up laughing on the floor. He diffuses tension like no other and I love that about him.

He thinks outside the box more than any of them - allowing himself to dream and pursue ideas that the others wouldn't dare consider, ultimately making him the most successful of them all. I'm sure there's a lesson in that.

When the show started, I have to admit that I did not find him attractive at all. I knew he was married in real life to the lovely Kristen Bell and I had a hard time seeing the two of them together, wondering what attracted her to him. Well, the more you see him, the more obvious the answer. You can't help but love him. He has a wonderful personality and sense of humor and manner that makes him easily the best-looking guy on the show (though Joel is no slouch - hubba hubba). I love, love, love Crosby and any scene with him is a joy, even if he has to learn things the hard way sometimes. I think the world could use more Crosbys.


I have to stop there. I have soooooo much more to say. All of the above characters have significant others (several, for some). There are kids, friends, neighbors, coworkers, bosses, lovers . . . so many more characters about whom to have opinions! Stay tuned. I'd love to write more about them . . . :)

Do you watch Parenthood? Who are your favorite Bravermans of those I've discussed so far? What are your thoughts on the overall family dynamics? Are there characters that drive you nuts? Are you an Adam fan (like most, endlessly surprisingly to me, seem to be)? I want to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

March Wrap-Up

I can't believe it's April already. So, here's March in a nutshell:

Books I've Read 

Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham


Fun, good read. Interesting to hear the story of a struggling actress trying to make it big. I think it might be semi-autobiographical, though I'm not sure. I was pretty excited to read this book, because it's by Lauren Graham and I really like her as an actress and on interviews. She is in two shows that I really enjoy - "Gilmore Girls" and "Parenthood." I hear she's writing a sequel. It's not the greatest thing I've ever read, but I enjoyed it well enough. I love the title and the book is filled with doodles as well as the story itself. The main character, Franny Banks, very much reminds me of Lauren Graham with her personality and quirks and adorable awkwardness. Fun read.

Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene


I read this with the kids. They enjoyed it well enough and recognized that it's not great literature, but just a fun book. I devoured this series as a kid and loved it. Nancy Drew is always a quick, easy, good read.

I'm just about done with The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler with Max, and Kate and I finished Part 1 of To Kill a Mockingbird. More on those next time . . .

Movies/TV Shows I've Watched

"Freaks and Geeks"


I've already mentioned this one - it's one of my favorite series, if you can call it that after they cancelled it after one season (idiots). Kate and I have two episodes to go. Such a funny show.

"Little House on the Prairie"


I've been watching some episodes of this show with the kids as we study the westward expansion of the United States. It's not terribly exciting for them, but the simple stories are good.

Loving Parenthood, Goldbergs, SNL, and Amazing Race. Totally rooting for the Globe Trotters and the Cowboys. I now dislike the father-son team for their dirty play this past week in telling the cab to go the wrong way. I was on pins and needles. So glad Flight Time and Big Easy didn't get eliminated over that.

So, movies.

"The Goonies"


LOVE 80s movies and "The Goonies" is no exception. I love everything about it - the hair, the clothes, the characters, the goofy acting, the kids. How can you not love Data? And Chunk! I love Chunk! I even love Sloth. "Goonies never say die!" Watching this film was inspired by an episode of The Goldbergs. Love that show for all its 80s wonder!

Really haven't watched much this past month apparently . . .

Games I've played

We didn't play as many games as usual this past month either, but here are some we did play:

Mario Kart - Our general standby that we all enjoy playing together quite a bit
Bugs and Co.
- Got this one for my birthday from Mark and we have been playing it a bunch! It's a quick, frantic game, so it's easy to pull out and play really quick. I love the simple things in life like playing games together, eating good food together, and watching something great together. 
Catch Phrase - Played this at Game Day, too. Always fun.

Other Things I've done, Places I've visited, etc.

So, this is the section that should be chock full since the above ones are not. :P Buckle up!

* Handled the semi-annual administrative stuff related to our homeschool group's organizational overhaul. It's sooooo helpful.

* Bought a new washing machine because the old one's transmission broke.

* Learned that washing machines have transmissions (who knew?).

* Visited our townhouse rental to do some repairs (we've made sure several times this winter that the pipes have not frozen, too).

* Found out that a house we've had our eye on dropped their price 10K

* Watched the Oscars. Meh.

* Turned 40.

*  Had a FANTASTIC 40th birthday

* Had a great birthday lunch out with some of my "older lady" friends - it was me, two women in their 60s, and a woman in her 80s

* Went out for what I thought was dinner with one family and turned out to be a WONDERFUL surprise dinner out with several great friends AND a first-ever surprise visit from my mom and Jim! It's the first time my mom has spent a birthday with me since I turned 19. It was so so great to have her there for my 40th. I cried when I saw her and Jim. It was a GREAT night. So so special. Also, I was genuinely and completely surprised. It was my kind of birthday celebration - a wonderful dinner out with family and friends and love and laughter and good food, like something out of a movie. I felt very loved to be able to celebrate with so many of my very favorite people!

* Enjoyed a nice, but quick visit with my mom and Jim (they were here for one full day) - we ate out, played games, visited the house we've been eyeing, etc. We enjoy visiting with them.

* We met with a representative in a new home development in our town to sit down and go through, feature by feature, designing a new home using an existing floor plan. We like the location of the new development and we also like that it doesn't have a big HOA (we hate those). We did it to compare the prices there to the price of the house we've been eying (a former model home).

* Had the Johnsons over to watch "The Goonies" and eat pizza.

* Attended an open house to help visualize the floor plan we'd been discussing. Didn't love it, though Max is a big fan of the upstairs rec room (so not kidding).

* Attended the Sting/Paul Simon concert as a family - it was INCREDIBLE! Such legends!

* Had lunch out with Christie to help cheer her up after her surgery. We got sushi.

* Enjoyed a day with Jack and Sherri that involved food, fun, talking, playing and book club!

* Hosted "20 Things" Club (monthly, fun research club at our house for tweens/teens).

* Celebrated Pi Day with over 50 people in our homeschool group - nerdy fun. Hung out with good friends and enjoyed good conversation.

* Attended Brennan's fun "My Little Pony" birthday party with good friends. Had dinner out altogether - us, Johnsons, and Sherri's clan. Watched Amazing Race with Sherri, Ron, and Jack afterward.

* Max dealt with a cold for a few days, so we took it easy. Kate went ice skating with friends.

* I surprised Mark with a Redbox copy of "American Hustle" and movie snacks - we really needed a movie night. Things have been a bit stressful for a while. Lots going on. Good flick. Jennifer Lawrence is a gem. Bradley Cooper is awesome, too.

* Found out my brother has kidney cancer, due to his high blood pressure and medications for his high blood pressure.

* Mark took the kids to a fantastic class on blood typing at a local college (huge hit with both of them, especially Max) and then a class on eagles at our friend's house. Kate babysat two little ones for an entire evening by herself, cooking them dinner and getting them to bed.

* Had Kirsten over (weekly) and Mark took the girls to an earlier-than-midnight (thank goodness!) showing of Divergent. Much excitement. Many funny stories afterward about the other people at the theater (e.g., stupid, annoying girl who hadn't read the book first and proceeded to be exaggeratedly shocked by every surprise and who also fawned loudly over every shirtless scene with Four). Max and I hung out together after his Yu-Gi-Oh Club.

* Another Eagles class and a VERY stressful day of trying desperately to get lending approval after a series of issues (totally unrelated to our finances or credit!) kept stopping lenders from getting back to us. It was ridiculous. Major meltdown for me. Major. Like of the I'm-embarrassed-now proportion. It was good to have dinner out with Sherri, Ron, and Jack that night and also to get a call back from a lender who helped us move forward. Victory!

* Took Thing 1 to a job fair for the Ren Faire, where she applied for her first job, filled out her first job application, had her first interview, and got hired (on the spot!) for her first job! She is SO excited! What a great place to work for a first job - she gets to be in costume and character as part of it! You can read about it on her blog. I'm so proud of her!

* The boys were super cute to get a celebratory gift and note for her new job as Soda Pourer (the front gate greeter jobs were already taken and those are the only two jobs for 14-year-olds). We also all went out for frozen yogurt to celebrate!

* Saw the beautiful, new business space to which we're moving our business.

* Put an offer in on a house. Received a counter offer. Countered again.

* Hosted our book club (monthly).

* Fridge started breaking. Lovely.

* Surprised Mark after a stressful morning of work for him. Had a rendezvous lunch with him. It was soooo nice.

* Violin, taekwondo, clubs, activities, volunteering, art class, events, etc.

* Attended an interfaith dialogue at the local college- representatives of 6 different religions discussing America's attitude toward death and dying and the idea of an afterlife. Fascinating!

* Found out our offer was accepted. We're getting a new, beautiful house! Celebrated at a new restaurant (get it?) that was ridiculously delicious. Every. Single. Thing. was scrumptious. Drove by the house at night and felt over-the-moon excited about how beautiful and modern it is.

* Attended a second interfaith dialogue at a different college the very next night after the first one. Some of the panelists were the same. Some were different. This one was very broad in scope (no particular topic or theme), but this one also had representation from the non-believer's community, which the first panel was missing. Fascinating again! I love learning!

* Kids made awesome birdhouses at a Nature Club (Go, Sherri!) and played with friends.

* Dealt with a VERY loud fridge for over two weeks (repairman came today, but part will take a day or two - the guy helpfully said, "Wow. If I had to live with a noise like that, I'd kill myself!"). Gee. Thanks.

* Had a full weekend of friends and fun. Max had play dates both days (he's insatiable and social and loves to play with friends). The first day turned into a full day for not only him and his friend Kristina, but also our family and hers. They came over to tell us they're moving. We told them we are, too. They're not going too far (30 minutes) and we're not moving too far at all (2 minutes) - we are committed to being in touch and getting together.

* Spent an entire day with Sherri, talking and laughing and sharing stories. Jack played with our kids all day and had a GREAT time. We celebrated Sherri's birthday (again - this time with our homeschool group) with Indian food and it was delicious!! I craved it again that night.

* Busy with lots of the nitty gritty related to the house. Things are happening! Very exciting!

Pictures from the Month

Matt and Max playing games
Kate and Kirsten, BFFs (Scout LOVES Kirsten) watching Friends

My 40th birthday
Breakfast in bed for the birthday girl - homemade scones, thick blueberry drink, green tea
A naughty puppy on my birthday morning

We went out for sushi - here is Thing 1 eating raw octopi

We played Laser Tag!

We played Mario Kart!

Mark made us taquitos - so yummy!

I'll share, but you have to be good.

Birthday "cake" - toasted chocolate chip muffins with butter (Max is laughing about something - a frequent occurrence)

Me with my birthday loot - sweet gifts from my hubby and kids and friends and family

My birthday lunch out with my friends/the ladies the next day :)

Around the house
Thing 1 watching Dr. Who; Scout asking for popcorn

Thing 2 playing Minecraft

Scout insists on being on my lap when I try to write - it's a trick!
 My surprise birthday party

Me and the kids

Linda, Mom, Me, Jim, Dick


Me and Mark (and please note my first time wearing a tiara)

Wonderful birthday celebration!

Lindsay, Matt, and baby Avery joined us for frozen yogurt

So did the Geckers

Thing 2 shares his games with Vavó

The ever popular "How Tall Is She?!?" game (5'6 so far)

Playing Family Trivial Pursuit with Jim and Vavó

Playing Thing 2's really cool comic game (Thing 2 gets really chapped lips in the winter/cold/wind)

A dog in  need of a haircut
Sting/Paul Simon Concert

Nosebleed seats - my new favorites since that's where the fun people are who DANCE!

Sting is DAMN sexy. It's insane.

Paul Simon!

Speaking of damn sexy . . .
Of course we took the kids - Sting and Paul Simon are LEGENDS.
Sting and Paul Simon

 Crazy story: after buying our tickets, we found out that our good friends the Geckers also bought tickets to the concert. We looked up our seats and they were only one section away. We could totally see each other easily through the whole concert. So we went out to dinner and car pooled, too.
Car pooling with the Geckers
 Around the house

Scout cuddling with Thing 2

One of Thing 1's daily lists

Scout loves to cuddle on our clothes

Hey, she got a haircut! And a bow! And a bandana!
My Little Pony party - proudly crushing gender stereotypes!
Sherri got this cute picture of our family
Ice skating with friends (Max wasn't feeling well and couldn't go)

Off to her first job interview!

The boys' surprise for her when we got home to them
Interfaith Panel

Around the house and yet more playdates

Scout LOVES our laundry!

Playing Wii with good friends (Sorry, Kristina, I caught her right as she played with her retainer) :P

How was your March?