NCIS: Los Angeles star Chris O’Donnell has joined with The ConAgra Foods Foundation’s Hunger-Free Summer program to raise awareness for kids who depend on free or reduced lunch meals during the school year. Now in its fourth year, the initiative has delivered over 2.5 million meals and snacks to children struggling with hunger over the summer. The goal is to reach at least 25 percent more children in need during the summer than before, over the course of five years.
We spoke with O’Donnell about the program, his career, and what it’s like to raise five children.
How do you manage raising so many kids? Do you ever have peace and quiet? On a normal day, peace and quiet doesn’t begin until the last one goes to sleep, which gets later and later as they get older. My wife Caroline and I do try to find time for just the two of us, run out for a glass of wine or a quick dinner. The noise feels like the new normal at this point. If it gets too quiet, that usually means trouble.
What’s the best part of having a big family?
In terms of our children, we try to encourage each of them to explore their individual interests since they are each so unique. It is fun watching them as they dabble in all types of sports and extracurricular activities.
You took time off from your acting career to focus on your family. Was that a scary decision to make?
I had a couple moments early in my career where it was more about re-examining my life. I started young and had a lot of success out of the gate. I would go movie, to movie, to movie, and would never see the people I worked with again. I was really getting burnt out on a personal, emotional level. And that’s just not who I am. The road I wanted to go down was to be married and have a family.
Did raising kids ever get easier for you? By the time you were on the fifth baby, did you feel like you had a handle on things?
I think going from two to three kids was the most difficult, but it does get easier. The older kids start to behave and help out, and we are more experienced as well. We don’t stress out over small things that may have freaked us out in our first couple years as parents.
What’s your best advice for busy parents out there?
From my perspective, it’s important for parents to set a good example for their kids, and impart on them that they should think about and help others.
Why is the Hunger-Free Summer Program particularly important to you?
I was shocked to learn that one in five children in the U.S. faces food insecurity—and that the situation only becomes more worrisome during the summer months. It can be an invisible issue, so as a father of five, I want to do something to help.
Want to help O’Donnell and the Hunger-Free Summer initiative? Check out www.ChildHungerEndsHere.com and watch O’Donnell’s message below. For every video viewed and shared, ConAgra will donate one meal to Feeding America, the country’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.
Did you catch the Tonys last night? To be honest, I know almost nothing about theater, but I was excited that Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella won Best Costume Design of a Musical. I was lucky enough to see the show a few weeks ago, and it was a wonderful experience. And it’s no surprise that the costume design was recognized—even the Broadway-obsessed friend I brought with me was impressed with Cinderella’s transformation from rags to beautiful ball gown right in front of the audience’s eyes. I’m still trying to figure out how those seemingly magical outfits worked, so I’m sure as a little girl, I would have been convinced that performer Laura Osnes was a real princess.
The story is a bit different from the classic Disney animated film that most of us are familiar with, but it’s a nice change of pace. And a cheeky sense of humor combined with the lively, gorgeous score keeps adults engaged throughout. The show is almost two and a half hours, so it may be a little long for very young kids (the official recommendation is 4 years and up). But otherwise, it is a fantastic family event. Find out more about the show here, and be sure to check out the original cast recording so you can relive the experience over again.
Calling all Hayao Miyazaki fans! The acclaimed Japanese filmmaker’s animated film My Neighbor Totoro is turning 25 this year. The whimsical movie tells a tale of friendship and sisterhood that the whole family will enjoy. And the Disney version features the voices of real-life sisters, Elle and Dakota Fanning. To celebrate its anniversary, Disney and Studio Ghibli are releasing it—along with another Miyazaki classic, Howl’s Moving Castle—on Blu-ray for the first time ever on May 21.
We are excited to announce that Disney and Studio Ghibli are also letting us give away a Miyazaki Blu-ray gift basket, containing these two films along with The Secret World of Arrietty, Whisper of the Heart and Castle in the Sky, a $200 value. To enter, just leave a comment at this post. You can comment once a day between now and the end of the day on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. You can also read the official rules, or find additional information about the films here.
And be sure to check out this fun clip of My Neighbor Totoro:
UPDATE: This contest is now closed. Congratulations to our winner, Bonnie! Please check your Facebook “other” message folder to claim your prize. Thanks for playing, everyone!
Looking for a unique Mother’s Day gift this year? Consider making a difference by giving to charity in Mom’s name. While there are certainly many worthy organizations out there, we are particularly excited about IMA WorldHealth’s Safe Motherhood Kits. For $25, a kit provides a woman in a developing country with clean and sterile childbirth supplies, training on how to prevent infection, and warm clothes for newborns. In countries where childbirth in unsanitary conditions often leads to death, these supplies can save lives. To donate a kit, call 1-877-241-7952 or designate your online contribution for a “Safe Motherhood Kit” (use the “If Other, Please Enter Designation” box). And don’t forget: while Mother’s Day is an ideal time for this gift, donations for these kits are accepted all year round.
Already bought your tickets for this summer’s 98 Degrees and New Kids on the Block tour? Now you can share the experience with your little one! Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees just released an adorable children’s album called A Father’s Lullaby, and the mix of original and classic songs is sure to relax you and your baby.
Nick and his wife Vanessa became parents back in September, when their son Camden John was born. Now, the proud papa gushes to us about his music and his little boy:
Congratulations on Camden! How is fatherhood treating you so far? I love being a dad. It’s just a blast. He’s a great kid, so I got lucky there. It’s definitely life changing but it’s been positive in every single possible way.
Do you have any advice for other new parents? The best advice I got was to not give advice. Every kid is different and every scenario is different. You have to find your own way and figure out what works for you as parents. The only broad stroke advice I would give is enjoy every day. There’s something cool that happens every day with Camden and I’m just glad I’m there to see it.
You’re a huge sports fan. Will Camden be going to games with you? He will! But I am open to the possibility that he doesn’t like sports. But until he tells me otherwise, we’re going to be all about it. Of course as a father, I look forward to taking him to his first baseball game or playing catch in the front yard. But I also want him to be his own person. Maybe he won’t like sports, and that’s fine. He’s got to make his own way and discover his own passions.
Making A Father’s Lullaby must have been a different experience for you. It was a really special project for me. I became interested in doing it once I found out we were pregnant, and I started thinking about all the changes that were going to happen. There were a lot of emotions and feelings that I wanted to express. And I thought what better way to do it than a lullaby record? It wasn’t like writing a typical pop record, because the idea is to be calming and soothing. The producer and I poured ourselves into this project as fathers.
Are there any songs on the album that are particularly meaningful for you? The two most important men in my life are my dad and my son. “A Father’s Lullaby” is a song about passing on traditions that I got from my father to my son, and one day in turn, he’ll pass them onto his son. It’s about that bond between generations that’s so important. There’s also the song, “You Are My Sunshine,” which my grandfather used to sing to me all the time. It was special to put that on the record for him as well.
It sounds like the whole CD is pretty special to you. I’m really excited to share this album with all my fans out there. A lot of them were fans of 98 Degrees many years ago, and now they have families and kids of their own. I think it’s a great way to continue to share the music and the experience of being a parent with them.
Putting together a fashionable wardrobe during pregnancy can be a tricky business, and things only get more complicated as hot summer weather approaches. Luckily, designer Liz Lange is here to help!
Liz started her clothing line during her own pregnancy, when she discovered it was impossible to find flattering and sophisticated maternity clothes. “My idea was to design pieces with more fitted silhouettes that looked chic and complemented the body,” she says. “I built my brand around this idea of celebrating the bump—not hiding it.”
Now, she gives us her top fashion tips for moms-to-be:
1. Embrace the bump. “Trust me, it’s more flattering to flaunt it than hide it,” she says. “I incorporate lots of stretchy fabrics and side-ruching into my Target line to flatter the figure and really highlight the bump.”
2. Stay true to your own style. “Maternity wear has evolved so much over the years. There’s no need to wear oversized, shapeless dresses or your husband’s sweats, because women can now find cute, stylish maternity apparel that suits their unique fashion sense,” she says. Many of Liz’s designs incorporate cut-outs, lace paneling and color-blocking to let women express themselves.
3. Be daring. “I love bright colors and bold prints on a pregnant woman—in the right proportions, they’re surprisingly flattering,” Liz says. But if you’re going for a more subtle look, she recommends sticking with neutrals and incorporating trendy, punchy accessories into your outfit instead.
4. Don’t be afraid to show some skin. “Highlight the thinnest parts of your figure—your arms and toned legs—with tanks, mini-dresses and shorts. If you’re uncomfortable baring your belly at the beach, try a tankini. They provide the security of extra coverage while still drawing attention to the right places. I especially love versions with convertible straps so you can go halter or strapless.” Her favorite summertime item is a simple dress, perfect for the office or a day by the pool.
5. Wear sensible (but cute!) shoes. “No teetering around on high heels! Opt for wedges or a low kitten heel if you need a little lift.”
6. Invest in a few classic essentials. Liz recommends a great-fitting pair of maternity jeans (ideally in a darker wash so they’re easier to dress up) and a versatile black dress. “These two pieces will take you everywhere you need to go, day or night,” she says.
7. Above all, enjoy yourself. “This is an exciting, celebratory time so have fun with maternity fashion!”
We listen to a lot of children’s music here, but one recent CD particularly stuck out to us: a rap album by Flipping Out star (and expectant mom) Jenni Pulos. So naturally, we were very excited when Jenni stopped by the office last week to give us the scoop on her music and her pregnancy.
As it turns out, Jenni started working on her album, Old School Kids Beats, four years ago—way before she became pregnant. But its release last week is conveniently timed just a few months before her July due date. And the album has already staked a spot on the iTunes bestseller charts for children’s music, so it looks like all that hard work is paying off. “Watch out Spongebob, I’m coming after you!” Jenni declared with a laugh.
Old School Kids Beats tackles everything from potty training to bullying, the latter being particularly important to Jenni. “’Bullies Aren’t Cool’ is especially close to my heart,” Jenni said. “It’s a true story saying we should support one another.” While many of the themes are targeted towards toddlers, Jenni believes parents will dig the album too. In fact, one of her major inspirations was Pixar, because of the way they create entertainment that kids and adults can enjoy equally. “I thought, let’s get popular music and fresh beats and mix that with timeless messages,” she said.
Making the album ended up being a family affair for Jenni, as her 19-year-old nephew wrote “Cell Phone 411” and her husband wrote (and sings!) the chorus to “The Doctor Says.” Even better, 10 percent of the proceeds from the album will go to several of Jenni’s favorite charities, including the American Cancer Society and Opportunity Village.
Jenni’s devoted fans can also look forward to catching an inside glimpse at her pregnancy on the new season of Flipping Out, which is filming now. You can also catch her on Interior Therapy, which returns to Bravo this summer.
Finding wholesome, quality television that your big kids will enjoy can be a tricky business. That’s why we’re excited to hear that all three seasons of the hit Teen Nick series H20: Just Add Waterwere released on DVD this week. The show—which originally aired in Australia several years ago but has now gained a worldwide audience—focuses on three teenage girls who find their lives changed forever when they become mermaids with magical powers. The best part? H20 is often commended for its strong female characters and positive messages for kids.
I recently spoke with Phoebe Tonkin, one of the stars of the show (she plays Cleo, in the center of the photo). Here’s what she had to say about her work and what it’s like to be a role model for girls:
H20 was your first television job. What was that like?
It was incredibly exciting. I hadn’t ever acted professionally before, and it was a big change from drama class at high school. But I was lucky that Cariba [Heine, on the right], Claire [Holt, left] and I were all in the same boat, so we all learned over the course of the series together.
The show is praised for its positive messages for girls. Was that important to you?
Of course. Throughout the show, the main priority for these girls was their loyalty to each other. The message that stayed consistent during H20 was that friendship is very important, despite the magical elements. That was the biggest underlying theme.
What message would you like young girls to take away from the show?
That leaning on your friends, especially as you are growing up and going through changes, will make everything a lot easier, and a lot more fun!
You finished the show quite a few years ago now, but it’s coming out now on DVD in the US, and it’s been gaining a following here over the last few years. Is that strange for you?
It is! Its so flattering when I hear a young girl with an American accent come up to me on the street and express how much she loves H20. It was always a big goal for us when we were filming to get it into the US, so it’s really amazing that it has been so well received here.
Is there anything else you think parents or kids should know about H20?
The three characters that we play are very real, and even though they are put in the extreme situation of becoming magical mermaids, their issues are very real: boys, school and growing up. And there is always a valuable lesson to be learned at the end of each episode.