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Wednesday, December 24th, 2014
You may have a watchful elf camping out somewhere in your home, but even if you don’t, you’re probably familiar with The Elf on the Shelf®. Parents across America have been busy welcoming this character into their homes—and into their children’s hearts.
Chanda Bell, a former reading and English teacher, created the The Elf on the Shelf® concept with her mother in their small hometown of Marietta, Georgia. The mom and daughter duo had no idea it would become a country-wide sensation, but it’s now their mission to make it a Christmas tradition that helps the holiday spirit thrive.
The magic began when Chanda was just a little girl. Her mother would tuck her in at night with a sweet story about a little elf who would watch over her and report back to Santa. After her mother kissed her goodnight, Chanda remembers confiding in the elf and sharing her Christmas wish-list. “He was like a magical family friend,” Bell says.
Now, the character has exceeded anything she’s ever imagined. One of her favorite ways to stir up The Elf on the Shelf® spirit is by reading the book to a group of children—or by marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade next to their inflatable elf (the tallest float in the bunch!). For Chanda, it’s a dream come true to listen to children on the sidelines chant, “Elf on the Shelf,” and hear the names they’ve given their elves at home.
Bell confesses that her main goal for The Elf on the Shelf® was initially just to create family moments. Toys and stuffed animals don’t hold the same meaning for everyone in the family, according to Bell, so she created something everyone could participate in. From mom and dad moving the elf around to the kids racing to find it first, it’s safe to say she’s accomplished that goal.
In addition to creating family moments, Bell hopes to liven up the Christmas spirit in kids across the country. That’s why she created the storybook, Elf Pets®: A Reindeer Tradition. Elf Pets encourages children to snuggle with their special reindeer friend at night in the hopes that stirring up enough Christmas spirit will help Santa’s sleigh lift off into the night. Bell says, “Elf Pets is unique because it teaches kids to actually look beyond themselves for the purpose of helping Santa on Christmas Eve!”
Whether or not there’s an elf on your shelf this Christmas, Chanda encourages all parents to remember the importance of tradition and holiday spirit—not just for their children, but for the entire family.
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Wednesday, December 24th, 2014
Remember the duo you fell in love with back in 2003, Trista and Ryan Sutter? Of course you do.
Since their days on the Bachelorette, Trista and Ryan have been sitting snug next to each other on the rollercoaster ride that is life. One of the consistent challenges the Sutters face is dealing with Ryan’s commitment to working overnight shifts at his Colorado fire department. He has to tell his kids that he’ll be away from the home for a few days at a time, and he struggles knowing Trista will have to man everything on her own while he’s away.
Since the Sutters know just how hard working overnight shifts can be during the holiday season, they teamed up with Coffee-Mate and surprised some overnight-shift workers with holiday cheer and well-deserved presents! They captured the moments in a beautiful short film, Coffee-Mate Brings Home to the Night Shift.
Trista described filming the charitable video as a total “bonding experience” between her and Ryan. In addition to giving back and drawing attention to overnight workers, one of her favorite moments was sneaking up to the security guard’s desk, and leaving him his surprise envelope. Ryan loved it too, and he says, “It feels good to give back and it’s really fun to make other people feel good.”
This holiday season the Sutters will be decorating tons of Christmas cookies to show off to their German relatives on Facetime. Ryan wishes Santa would bring him the silver Airstream trailer featured in the Coffee-Mate video, and all Trista really wants is to be blessed with many joyful holidays to come. Her Christmas wish comes as no surprise, as Trista knows a lot about being thankful. If you need to learn a thing or two, check out her gratitude memoir, Happily Ever After: The Life-Changing Power of a Grateful Heart.
This holiday season, what will you do? It might not be the worst idea to grab your partner and dive into the community with a charitable heart. Giving back with your partner seems to work magic on both the community, and your relationship.
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Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014
Insider Images/Andrew Kelly for Luvs (UNITED STATES)
This year celebrity daddy Donald Faison took on a brand-new role when he dressed up as Santa! In partnership with Luvs, Faison shared laughter and Ho-Ho-Hos with diaper-bearing cuties as part of the Luvs #Willitleak campaign at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan on December 9. The event stirred up excitement over a giggle-inducing 23 second “Will it Leak on Santa’s Suit?” video.
Faison says the Santa suit was hot—but hanging out with a bunch of kids was cool. Even cooler: Luvs will donate diapers through the Children’s Miracle Network to families in need, based on how many impressions the “Will it Leak on Santa’s Suit?” video gets by Christmas night!
Faison has one wish this Christmas, and that’s to spend time with family. You should do the same too. He says, “Relax, reload, unwind and get ready for the upcoming year. Spend time with your kids—you just can’t tell me looking at your kid doesn’t make you happy.”
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Monday, December 15th, 2014
By social-media demand, M&M has brought back M&M’s Crispy to satisfy your holiday chocolate cravings. Parents caught up with Vanessa Williams—singer, actress, former Miss America, mom to four kids, plus the voice of M&M’s Ms. Brown—about her family’s holiday traditions, what she wishes she knew when her kids were younger, and raising confident daughters.
P: M&M’s Crispy are a great holiday snack. What’s your holiday snack to make with your kids?
VW: I love Christmas cookies no matter what they are—sugar or Linzer Torte or chocolate. My parents were both music teachers so they’d always get cookies from their students. It’s one of the things that always makes me feel like I’m in the Christmas spirit.
P: You’ve had an illustrious career in acting and singing and now your daughter, Jillian, is a singer. Is Christmas a super musical holiday in your house?
VW: We listen to a lot and I’ve been lucky enough to do two Christmas CDs. I’ve done Christmas on Broadway and specials and always am delighted to have the music component. But Christmas starts too early now. It’s so commercialized. You barely make it through Halloween and then it’s the tunes. It’s nice to concentrate and focus on what the time should really be about: how thankful and blessed you are to have family and friends and to appreciate what’s happened through the year. The music for me is more reverential than commercial and that’s what we try to do with playing the music in the house and singing as a family.
P: Of your four children only Sasha is still at home. Is there any tradition that brings everyone back with childhood memories?
VW: We have a Christmas Eve pageant. When the kids were young they would each get a part depending on what class—second graders could be angels and if you were Mary and Joseph you were the stars. We still go to the children’s mass because we love seeing the kids. It also reminds us of how long we’ve been together and the roles they had. Then we come back to the house and I make a lasagna and the kids open one gift. Christmas Eve is the one we try to make consistent every year.
P: Your kids are growing up quickly, but is there anything about parenthood that still baffles you?
VW: I think it’s just the adolescent years. It’s a mixed bag every day. You don’t know what the mood’s going to be, the hormones are raging, their bodies are changing and their attitudes change as well. The biggest thing is to not take it personally. You have to be there and be consistent and set limits and [give] advice, but be steady.
P: What do you know now about being a parent that you wish you had known about those early years?
VW: I know so many parents are hyper-focused on achievement and test scores. It’s almost like you’re in competition with other parents, and the kids are overwhelmed and stressed out. Life will turn out the way it’s supposed to turn out. I think it puts too much pressure on the parents who micromanage their kids. It’s anxiety-causing. Within [kids who have the] same parents you’re going to get four different personalities, four different studying types, four different skill levels, and you have to tailor your energy toward each child. If you get a bad test score in 7th grade, guess what? You can still be the CEO of a company because if that’s what you’re good at and you work hard and life happens to bring you that opportunity, they’re not gonna know what you got on your 8th grade geometry test.
P: You have three daughters and there is a prominent dialogue today about raising women who are not defined by their appearance, yet we cannot deny that how you present yourself matters. How do you navigate this challenge as a mom?
VW: I think it’s getting worse, particularly when you have social media and the opportunity to take images of yourself and correct them. You’re presenting a perfection constantly and you’re always trying to live up to the perfect example on a day-to-day basis. Luckily for me and luckily for my kids I emphasize what they do, which is talent.
I’ve also had the luxury of taking my kids all over the world so they see the different body types and the different genetics that are different in Brazil than they are in Egypt than they are in Austria. Instead of trying to squeeze yourself into a box where you don’t fit, that’s the great thing about traveling the world. They can appreciate [differences] and I think it really helps in term of self-esteem and really feeling comfortable.
If cookies aren’t your favorite, find enough cupcake recipes for a year here!
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Thursday, December 4th, 2014
In the spirit of the holiday season, singer-actress Jennifer Hudson went to work with Johnson’s Brand as they launched their new initiative More Hands, More Hearts on #GivingTuesday. As a mom to 5-year-old David, Hudson was thrilled to assemble babycare kits to distribute to families in need nationwide as part of the campaign. Here, the Grammy-winning artist gets real about her desire to give back, her proudest moment as a mom, and the latest star David is trying to emulate.
P: What drew you to this particular project on #GivingTuesday?
JH: Well, in general giving back is very important to me. We founded the Julian D. King Gift Foundation in honor of my nephew a few years back because we wanted to be able to think of him and know that something positive was being done in the world. And with Johnson’s More Hands, More Hearts it’s that same idea of helping others. You never really think of how many needy babies there are in the world, but they need our help. Julian’s Foundation exists to provide positive experiences for children of all backgrounds so that they will become productive, confident and happy adults, but you need healthy, happy babies first. They need diapers and bottles to grow and be healthy and so I’m thrilled to be involved with this project.
P: You mention the Foundation in honor of your nephew. How has the Foundation progressed since you started it six years ago?
JH: Oh my goodness, so much. When we first started it we just wanted to honor my nephew and help kids in the community. It started with the toy drive for gift-giving around Christmas, but now we added a back-to-school supplies drive. The line was around the block. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I can’t even keep track.
P: Does it work through scholarships or is it more event-focused?
JH: Well, we do have the dinner around Christmas each year and kids in the community can be nominated by their teachers to attend. They don’t have to be getting all A’s, but they do have to be trying. It’s the effort we want to encourage. It’s not a scholarship, but we reward that effort by granting their Christmas wish around the holidays. Our mission is to be something positive, a catalyst for change in children’s health, education, and welfare. We have the Toy Drive and Hatch Day each year and sometimes other events—we do as much as we can but we are local [in Chicago].
P: Let’s talk about your son, David. What is your favorite thing about this age?
JH: He’s 5 now and I think it’s just how creative he is. His mind is just going going. He started building a tent area at home, gathered materials and built this huge tent area and then I found out he has a garbage can in there. He throws trash in it and then empties it in the kitchen trash. He’s keeping it clean. It’s so funny to see him create his own little home.
P: It sounds like he’s very much his own little person. Is there a parenting rule that he always gets you to break?
JH: Bedtime. That’s probably the toughest because he always wants to stay up late and hang out. He’ll fake being hungry, like “Oh mom, I’m hungry, I can’t go to bed yet.” And I let him have a snack, but then I realized Wait. He’s not hungry, he’s just trying to stay up.
P: What has been your proudest moment as a mom?
JH: I mean, I brought a life into the world. That in and of itself…. But he’s also so smart and creative and thoughtful. He really cares about others. Like if I’m cold, he’ll curl up next to me and cover me with a blanket. He’s very aware of others and how they feel.
P: So is he like his mama? Does he like to perform?
JH: Ohhhhhh yes. He loves to dance and he just loves Michael Jackson. I took him to see Usher and told him Usher is like Michael Jackson. He had the best time. When we got home he said “Mommy! Turn on ummm ummm what is his name?” And I said “Usher?” And he said “Yeah, Mommy. Turn on USHER! I’m gonna dance for the camera!”
P: Through your Foundation you encourage kids to express themselves and accomplish things with this idea of Hatch Day. It’s so important for kids, but it’s also important for adults to mark their accomplishments. What do you hope to accomplish in 2015 in the essence of Hatch Day?
JH: Oh wow. I never thought of it that way, but I feel so blessed. I just want to keep making music and being with my family. If I can keep making music that people enjoy, I really hope for longevity in my career. I want to work towards that.
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celeb interview, celebrity mom, giving tuesday, givingtuesday, Jennifer Hudson, Johnson's, Johnson's Brand, Julian D King Gift Foundation, More Hands More Hearts | Categories:
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Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
You 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.
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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Baby2Baby, Christmas, Christmas cards, holiday cards, holiday giving, Holidays, julie bowen, modern family, Tiny Prints | Categories:
celebrities, GoodyBlog, Holidays
Friday, November 14th, 2014
To her teammates, professional soccer player Christie Rampone is “Captain America.” But to Rylie, 9, and Reece, 4, she’s simply Mommy. As the leader of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team and a 3-time Olympic medalist, Rampone has proven her athletic prowess, and after being diagnosed with Lyme disease she proved how truly tough she is. Parents caught up with Rampone to talk about her unique schedule, how she addresses her health with her kids, and what she hopes her girls learn from Mommy.
P: You’ve been an athlete your whole life. Are your daughters also naturally athletic?
CR: They are. They’re both playing soccer right now. Rylie is obviously more competitive, Reece just played small season with small goals and was fun to watch. Rylie’s playing basketball and they’re both dancing, so very active.
Will your child take after you? Find out what career she’ll have!
P: So it seems they have no problem running around on their own. What do you do to stay active as a family?
CR: In the spring and summer we do a lot of bike riding. When I do some of my workouts Rylie will come along with me and try to understand what it takes to be where Mommy is—she always says she wants to be like Mommy. We do fun activities in the backyard where I make obstacle courses. I don’t have a hard time with them getting outside; it’s more getting them inside that’s the question for me.
P: Playing on the Women’s National Soccer Team what is your travel schedule like? Do the girls ever come on the road with you?
CR: The travel this year is pretty intense because it’s a World Cup year so I’m on the road for three weeks, off for a week. We’re doing a lot of overseas trips to Brazil, England, France, Portugal. I bring Reece, the little one, with me most of the time. My older one will come when she has a break from school or we’ll do a long weekend where she’ll leave Thursday night, miss Friday school and come back Sunday. We try to make it work. I don’t want to be apart for too long, but Rylie has a lot of activities and I want to make sure she’s there because she has committed to her soccer team and basketball. It’s kind of up to the girls if they want to come.
P: When you are home, how do you spend quality time with them but ensure that their routine isn’t compromised?
CR: Just planning ahead. They decide if they’re going to miss something what it will be and for how long. We don’t want them to miss too much school, but at the same time going overseas and getting that experience and culture is sometimes just as good in my eyes.
P: You were diagnosed with Lyme disease years ago. How did you share the news with your daughters?
CR: They’re aware that Mommy has good and bad days. There are certain days when Mommy needs a break or Mommy’s not feeling as well. They’re so independent and they understand. I just have to communicate with them. I try to explain to Rylie that Mommy does have some health issues, but you still push on and you have to fight through. The way [my husband and I] explained it is like when she’s feeling tired in a game, that’s how Mommy feels some days just waking up. It definitely wasn’t a scare for them. We explained it in a positive way.
P: What advice do you have for other parents who may receive a difficult diagnosis or have to deal with a chronic health issue.
CR: Take care of yourself as a mom and educate yourself. The next step is figuring out what works for you. For me it’s making myself more aware of my immune system, focusing on my eating and health, exercising, taking my EpiCor, and kind of pushing through the tough days. Education and awareness is huge.
P: As captain of the team and with three Olympic medals, it’s no question you’re a role model for young girls. Who did you look up to when you were a kid?
CR: I always looked up to my dad who was into sports. He was just so active and always willing to go outside with us and play—wasn’t huge into TV. I was inspired to try to earn a scholarship and go to college and enjoy sports just how my dad did.
P: What do your daughters do that was just like you when you were a kid?
CR: They are so competitive. I think of how stubborn they can be at times. It’s their way or no way. I would say that that’s how my parents had it. I would say that’s little Christie out there. It’s interesting seeing a lot of the similar signs of wanting to win and being competitive and learning how to lose.
P: We know a lot more about teaching kids to win. How have you taught her to learn to lose?
CR: We’re working on that. For a little while she felt “I’d rather quit than lose.” We had to just refocus and make sure we don’t stop playing just because we’d rather say “I don’t care” than continuing playing. That’s in soccer, board games, practicing our spelling. Rylie doesn’t want to ever make a mistake or get anything wrong and that can’t happen. Sports is made of mistakes. Life is all about mistakes and how we overcome them and that’s the lesson we try to talk about.
P: What’s do you hope your daughters learn from you?
CR: Just to persevere and believe in themselves. Life is tough and you can have people who don’t believe in you but I think as long as you believe in yourself you can keep pushing forward.
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Friday, November 14th, 2014
*By Patty Adams Martinez
Shakira is parenting son Milan, who turns 2 in January, to the beat of her own drum.
You were born in Colombia but are raising Milan in the U.S. and Spain. Is your parenting style a blend of all three cultures?
Yes. In Spain, parents speak to their children as equals, which I like, and I feel that the children respond in turn. But in all three cultures, parents are attentive to their children. Gerard [Piqué, her soccer-pro boyfriend] and I both grew up in very close-knit families, and that has made us very openly affectionate parents.
How are you incorporating your heritage into Milan’s upbringing?
Milan got his Colombian passport, which was a very special moment for me. I want him to know and embrace that side of his culture, and I plan to bring him back as often as I can to make sure it’s something he feels a part of—from music to food to family.
How much of an influence was Milan on the line of baby gear and toys that you co-created with Fisher-Price [for sale exclusively at Amazon.com]?
He was a great influence—especially on the soccer ball in particular, since he loves to kick the ball around. I also wanted to include toys that I think are timeless. The blocks in the collection (seen in the picture above right) came from a vivid memory I had of playing with some in my own childhood.
You kept a diary the first year of Milan’s life—a tradition passed down from your own mom. What were some of your favorite moments captured?
His first steps! We were in London at a recording studio, a month and a half before his first birthday. Who knows? Maybe the music motivated him to get up and dance!
You’ve said you want to have enough kids for a soccer team! Is that still true?
(Laughs) Perhaps I was a bit ambitious when I said that! Two or three children would be nice. And I’d like to have a daughter.
How has being a mom helped you learn how to delegate?
I have a tendency to want to be involved in every facet of my career, and in the past my personal life often took a back burner. Becoming a mom forced me, in the best way possible, to re-prioritize and make room for the things that are most important, while recognizing that there are things that I can let go of and the world won’t crumble around me.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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