Author Archive

‘Modern’ Mom Julie Bowen’s Favorite Holiday Traditions

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Julie Bowen at the Baby2Baby Nutcracker Party, Presented By Tiny PrintsYou probably know her best as Claire Dunphy, the lovable matriarch to Luke, Alex, and Haley (and sometimes Phil!) on Modern Family. But off-screen Julie Bowen has her hands full, too. She’s a mom to three kids, 7-year-old Oliver and 5-year-old twins John and Gus. So around the holiday season, things can definitely get a little hectic. Parents caught up with the Emmy-winning actress to talk about the awesome charity collab she’s working on with Baby2Baby and Tiny Prints holiday cards—as well as Santa and some of her favorite holiday memories and traditions.

Parents: Baby2Baby and Tiny Prints have collaborated to create holiday cards that let people give back. Why did you get involved with Baby2Baby, and what about its mission was most important to you?

Julie Bowen: I got involved with Baby2Baby right after the birth of my first son. There was a writers’ strike going on, and I had a lot of time to focus on my new baby (thrilling!) and the astounding amount of baby gear accumulating in our house (horrifying!). When I discovered there was an organization that wanted to redistribute this seemingly endless trove, it was a no-brainer! I jumped at the chance to help out.

Parents: The card collection is so festive! Which is your favorite one?

JB: I am really loving the gold foil stripes (both vertical and diagonal!) on the Tiny Prints collection [pictured below]. I think they are super-chic and still festive. This year, I think we’re going with the old school “Happy Holidays” one. It’s got the rustic vibe and feels low-key.
Baby2Baby and Tiny Prints Holiday Cards CharityBaby2Baby and Tiny Prints Holiday Cards Charity

Parents: Do you always send out cards around the holidays? And if so, are you a “family portrait session” kind of family, or a “family-selfie” kind of family?

JB: We do always send out cards. I have a full—and embarrassing—collection of my own family’s Christmas cards from my childhood. Let’s just say my hair went through a “stringy” stage…

As for my own kids, I try to make the photo casual or funny. I love a beautiful family shot, but honestly, we are lucky to get them all in one picture! I like the card options with different windows; Sometimes you have to use a few pics to get the whole family!

Parents: What are some of your family’s favorite holiday traditions?

JB: My family growing up was old-school. We read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve and left sugar cookies and carrots for Santa and the reindeer. I still have the same knitted Christmas stocking that I had as a kid! I’m in the process right now of making my boys’ their own stockings, but my knitting skills are rusty.

Parents: Your boys are getting a little bit older now, Oliver is 7, and John and Gus are 5. Have you had to answer any tough questions about Santa yet?

JB: Part of being a kid is believing in the impossible, so I try to strike a balance between practicality and magic. I don’t want to rob my boys of “Santa excitement,” but I also don’t want to shove it down their throats. Oliver recently said, “Mom, there’s no way one guy can get all those presents everywhere on one night.” I just agreed with him and said, “Yeah. That’s always struck me as fishy, too, but it seems to work out every year. There’s definitely SOMETHING going on, but I’ve never figured it out…” The boys are determined to sleep by the fireplace this year and get a video of Santa. Thank god my husband has a great sense of humor and will definitely “help” them get the footage they want.

Parents: Do you have any holiday traditions with the Modern Family cast?

JB: We give the crew a gift every year, and that is usually our big focus. They work longer and harder for far fewer rewards than the cast receives, so we really sweat the gift decision and its execution. As for the cast, I tried to institute a “Secret Santa” wherein each cast member only bought a gift for one other cast member, but it would never work. Nolan and his mom make amazing ornaments for everyone every year no matter what. Nobody wants to miss out on that!

Parents: Between all of the typical holiday chaos—sending out holiday cards, getting presents, spending time with family—holidays can get stressful! How do you keep it all together?

JB: I have no idea! I have started telling myself over and over that Christmas morning is messy and chaotic, and that’s part of the fun for the kids. I need to live with the boxes and the wrapping paper everywhere for a while and just stay focused on happy kids on a sugar high…

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Parenting In the Age of Social Media: Randi Zuckerberg Shares Her Tips!

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Randi and Asher

As the CEO and founder of Zuckerberg Media, editor-in-chief of the digital lifestyle destination Dot Complicated, bestselling author and SiriusXM radio show host, and the sister of a certain hoodie-clad entrepreneur, it’s hard to say if there’s a mom out there who’s more social media–savvy than Randi Zuckerberg. We caught up Randi to talk tech/life balance, oversharing on social media, and her favorite job of all.

Parents: Your children’s book, Dot, promotes the message that tech devices are great, but so is embracing your surroundings in real life. Do you let Asher, your 3-year-old, use any devices? What are some of your favorites for young children?

Randi Zuckerberg: I’m definitely of the mindset that when you’re talking about young children, the tech/life balance should skew WAY in favor of the life component—going outdoors, getting dirty, experimenting with different materials, etc. That being said, there’s definitely a time and a place for tech—it’s very important that children develop a sense of tech literacy, along with the other skills they are developing, so that they’re armed with the tools they’ll need to be successful later in life and so that they’re on par with their peer group. Tech can also be wonderful to promote creativity, with apps that foster a love of art, music, reading, and more.

In our house, digital minutes are special and they need to be earned. They can be earned by doing chores (in the case of our 3-year-old son, “chores” involve things like putting his shoes on by himself and remembering to say “please”) or given during special occasions, such as airplane travel. For older children, I recommend giving a set amount of minutes each week, and giving your child control of how they want to allocate it—almost like a bank. I find that MomsWithApps and CommonSenseMedia provide excellent suggestions around apps and devices that are right for each child and family—enabling you to search for apps catering to different sensory levels, apps you can use without wifi, and more.

Parents: What are the pros and cons of letting children so young use tech devices?

RZ: I think the pros of introducing children to technology early far outweigh the cons. That being said, there’s a difference between mindlessly sticking a child in front of a tablet as a babysitter, and mindfully choosing apps that engage their minds and creativity. I will never fault any parent who just needs a few minutes of peace and quiet and puts a video on for their child to watch (I live in the real world, after all!) but in an ideal world, screen time is a time when children are actively engaged, rather than just passively sitting and watching.

For older children, one of the biggest risks I see are around sites that allow people to be anonymous. While I understand that teenagers like to have spaces to go online away from their parents and prying eyes, those sites also run an increased risk of bullying, when people feel like they can say hurtful things without consequences. Before your children use sites like that, it’s a good idea to sit down and talk to them, to make sure they are ready to handle it.

Parents: What’s a good rule of thumb for when parents should know their kid is ready to use a tablet or smartphone?

RZ: These days, it’s common to go out to a restaurant and see a 1-year-old baby playing on her parent’s device. I remember when my son was 6 months old, he picked up one of his toys and started pretend text messaging on it, because he saw my husband and I doing that so much. Yikes! For very young children, I recommend one of the special early childhood tablets, such as the LeapFrog device—if you hand your phone to a child under 2 years old, you should just automatically assume it will become a chew toy, or you’ll be bringing it in for cracked screen repairs after it hits the floor. Once your child has the motor control and the attention span to hold the phone and concentrate, he or she is ready to engage with a tablet or smartphone—but that age varies for every family.

Parents: Is it easier or harder to parent in the age of social media? It certainly makes it much easier to judge another parent’s choice—or be judged for yours! What’s your opinion on that?

RZ: Parenting in the age of social media means that every single person you’ve ever known is now an armchair parent, judging you and commenting on everything. In some ways, it’s made parenting a lot easier, because you now have a constant support system at your beck and call, 24/7. I’ve had some pretty rough nights of children being sick, not sleeping, etc—where I’ve found great relief in my online network. That being said, it’s also way too easy to be judgmental. Parents, it’s hard enough raising children as it is! Let’s please try to stop judging each other. You never know what’s really going on behind the scenes of that perfect, glossy, happy-looking Facebook photo…

Parents: What advice would you give to moms if they’re considering sharing a photo or story about their child online?

RZ: Most of the time, sharing about your children or family online is absolutely harmless—it can be a great way to get support from friends, keep connected to loved ones who live far away, and contribute to a virtual “time capsule” that you’ll have to look back on years from now. On the other hand, more and more information is available about all of us at just a Google search away…make sure that if you’re contributing to your child’s digital footprint, you’re not posting something that could potentially embarrass or harm them years from now when they are applying to schools or jobs. If you find yourself thinking, “should I post this or not,” the answer is probably “not.”

Parents: It recently came out that Steve Jobs was a “low-tech” parent. What’s your take on that lifestyle?

RZ: I think it’s great to be thoughtful about the role of technology in your household and make informed decisions based on what’s right for your children and your particular circumstance. There’s lots of time for children to be exposed to technology in years to come, so if you want to have a low-tech household, power to you! That being said, I don’t advocate for a completely tech-free household, especially if you have young girls. We need more girls going into STEM fields!

Parents: You just had a new baby a few weeks ago. How are you adjusting to having two little ones around the house?

RZ: It’s absolute chaos! Happy, wonderful, amazing chaos…but chaos, nonetheless!

Parents: You’ve said before that you believe women can hold many titles. For you, along with being a CEO, author, radio host (and more!) you also hold the title of “mom.” What’s your favorite part of that job?

RZ: Of all the jobs I’ve held, “mom” is definitely the one I am proudest of. It’s just so amazing to see the world through a child’s eyes. We’re so busy rushing, rushing everywhere, I’ve found that having children has really forced me to stop and smell the flowers and prioritize what’s truly important. It’s also really brought my husband and I together around the values we share that we want to instill in our children, and the legacy that we want them to carry on. I’m totally outnumbered by boys now, though…help!

How to Choose an Electronic Educational Toy
How to Choose an Electronic Educational Toy
How to Choose an Electronic Educational Toy

Photo of Randi Zuckerberg and her son: Delbarr Moradi

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Our Favorite Halloween Treats

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Roll up your little ones’ sleeves because we’ve rounded up some of our favorite make-at-home treats that are spooky and scrumptious.

Brand Castle Crispy Rice Pumpkin Kit 

Brand Castle Crispy Rice Pumpkin Kit Brand Castle Crispy Rice Pumpkin Kit

Make your pumpkin and eat it too! It only took us 35 minutes from set up to clean up to create six individual treats, and kids will love decorating their pumpkins with the green and black icing provided in the kit.

Available for purchase in-store only at Walmart and select Christmas Tree Shops.

 

 

Crypt Keeper Crescents

Crypt Keeper Crescents

This delicious recipe is no longer under wraps. All you need is Nutella, bananas and Pillsbury Crescent dough to make this sweet twist on pigs in a blanket.

Get the recipe via Our Best Bites.

Photo courtesy of Pillsbury.com.

 

 

 

Harry & David Caramel Apple Kit

Harry & David Halloween Caramel Apple KitA splurge item at $34.95, this is a DIY-kit that’s just as much fun to look at as it is to make. Locked inside magical-looking spellbook box are fresh, in-season apples from the Pacific Northwest, ready-to-melt caramels and also cashews and mini chocolate candies that your little ones can use to make their treat one of a kind.

Order your kit online here.

 

 

Chex Mix Recipes: Deviled Chex Mix and Iced Pumpkin Chex Mix

Halloween Produce Roundup - Deviled Chex Party MixHalloween Produce Roundup - Iced Pumpkin Chex Mix RecipeOne is sweet and the other is salty. Offer kids the Deviled mix – just in case they get tired of devouring all of that sugary candy. And satisfy sweet teeth even more with the Iced Pumpkin, which includes real pumpkin to get an authentic flavor.

Get the Deviled recipe here and the Iced Pumpkin one here, via Chex.com.

 

Haunted Cookie Cups

Haunted Cookie Cups

When you use Nestlé’s premade cookie dough this treat is a snap to make – just bake and decorate. Warning: These little ghosts may just fly off your countertops!  

Try out this recipe below:

Ingredients

  • 1 package (16.5 oz.) Nestlé Toll House Refrigerated Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar Dough
  • 1 container (8 oz.) frozen light whipped topping
  • 1 gallon-size plastic food storage bag
  • 48 (about 1 teaspoon) Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels
  • 24 (about 1 tablespoon) Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 24 mini-muffin cups. Place one square of cookie dough into each cup.
  2. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. With tip of butter knife, remove cookie cups from muffin pan. Arrange on serving platter.
  3. Fill plastic bag with whipped topping; seal. Cut ½-inch from corner of bag. Squeeze bag lightly to pipe whipped topping on top of cookie cup to form ghost shape. Position two mini morsels as eyes and one regular size morsel as a mouth on each ghost. Serve immediately or store refrigerated for up to 2 hours.

Make Ahead Tip: Cookie bases can be made ahead and stored covered at room temperature.

(Recipe courtesy of Nestlé’s VeryBestBaking.com)

Can’t get enough? Try out some of our Wicked Good Halloween Treats here. 

Daddy Longlegs Cupcake
Daddy Longlegs Cupcake
Daddy Longlegs Cupcake

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Josh Duhamel Talks Fatherhood and Giving Back

Monday, October 20th, 2014

For Josh Duhamel, it all comes back to being a parent. Whether it’s getting involved with Unilever’s child hunger campaign, Project Sunlight, or raising his son Axl with wife, Fergie being a dad has affected his perspective. Here at Parents.com we recently had the chance to chat with him about everything he has going on these days.

“It’s really about making a brighter future for children,” he shared about his work with Unilever. “And that never meant more than it does now to me because you just see things differently as a parent.”

But between that and his new movie and TV roles, you might be wondering how he has time for it all – don’t worry, we are too!

“Pretty much everything revolves around scheduling time to be with the fam,” he said.

To get the full scoop on some of his new projects and what he thinks of raising a toddler, watch the whole interview here:

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How to Feel Good About Your School Shoes Shopping

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Donate old shoes for back-to-school shoppingFor those little feet that always seem to be growing, it can feel like you’re constantly buying new shoes. But rather than throwing out his old shoes the next time you need a new pair, you can now do some good (and save some green) in the process.

Through Sept. 30, as part of the “Big Hearts, Little Shoes” campaign, Stride Rite is teaming up with the international charity, Soles4Souls to donate as many shoes as they can collect to children in need both here in the U.S. and abroad.

For every pair donated in-store throughout September customers will get 20 percent off a same-day purchase of new shoes. And as a bonus with that purchase, families will also receive a certificate for a free class at The Little Gym. (You can also donate online and still receive the 20 percent off.)

Hundreds of millions of children live in extreme poverty throughout the world, and these kids might not have access to adequate footwear, which leaves them more susceptible to disease and often, unable to attend school. Soles4Souls has provided shoes to kids in nearly every state in the U.S. at homeless shelters and disaster areas, among others areas, as well as to dozens of other countries around the world.

Back to School: British Rock
Back to School: British Rock
Back to School: British Rock

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Project Night Night: Give a Stuffed Animal or Blanket to a Child in Need

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Project Night Night Care PackageEvery parent knows the soothing comfort that a security blankie or stuffed animal can offer a child at bedtime. But many children around the country don’t have that simple luxury.

Each year, 1.5 million children go to sleep at night without a home, and the nonprofit, Project Night Night, is trying to make those long nights feel a little more secure by providing care packages made up of a blanket, children’s book and stuffed animal for children in need.

“Project Night Night strives to give children something they can call their own, something that can give them that little bit of comfort, and confidence, to deal with what’s in front of them,” the organization states.

To help, the organization lets you give back in several ways.

  1. Donate items: you can mail-in or, if you live near a drop-off location, you can give new blankets and new (or like-new) children’s books and stuffed animals.
  2. Donate money: You can make a tax deductible donation online.
  3. Or, for $25 you can provide a fully prepared “Night Night Package” that will be distributed to one homeless child.
  4. To learn more about how you can contribute, visit projectnightnight.org.

How to Establish a Bedtime Routine
How to Establish a Bedtime Routine
How to Establish a Bedtime Routine

Photo of care package courtesy of Project Night Night.

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