‘Modern’ Mom Julie Bowen’s Favorite Holiday Traditions

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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Should I Get My Baby Into Modeling? He’s Really Cute

* By Liz Krieger for American Baby magazine

Once in a while I see a kid so deliciously cute, I almost want to tell the parents that it’s their civic duty to share that baby’s beauty with the world. But it’s no easy feat to get your little guy into the pages of, well, this magazine.

An old coworker of mine, Stacy, found this out a few years ago while jostling her infant daughter in her arms at a casting call for a commercial. The hallway was teeming with other moms and babies, the whole thing was running late, and as naptime came and went—let’s just say it wasn’t the quietest of hallways. Later, during some test shots, she was shocked when a makeup artist dabbed a bit of rouge on her 4-month-old’s face.

And that’s the thing, says American Baby’s photo editor, Amber Venerable: “You’ll definitely need an open mind and a relatively open schedule if you’re serious about helping your kiddo make it big. But most important, you have to really consider if your baby has the right temperament for all that action,” she cautions. For instance, some kids won’t let strangers hold them or won’t smile for anyone but their mama. For baby modeling to work, your child has to come alive in front of others, smiling for a room full of strangers.

All that said, if you’ve got the time, and your babe’s got the good cheer, dial a local modeling agency (none that charge an upfront fee, please!) and get those headshots sent in.

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

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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Shop Healthy — With Affordable Prices

Thrive MarketGrocery shopping can be such a dreaded task. For most parents, you either have to open up your wallet and shell out big bucks for healthy foods, or get over your guilt of buying less-expensive foods that aren’t as healthy.

The founders of Thrive Market know your struggles, and they have crafted a pretty smart solution. They’re offering more than 2,500 of the most popular non-perishable products from trusted brands like Tom’s of Maine, Annie’s Homegrown, and Gerber.

For $59.99 a year (about $4.99 a month), members gain access to their favorite healthy food, beauty, and cleaning brands at 25-50% off their regular retail price. New members get a 30-day free trial and 15% off of their first order when registering. The founders of Thrive consider their business model “Whole Foods meets Costco.” They told us that their goal is to democratize access to healthy living because, after all, why shouldn’t products like these be available to all families?

Members have the option of shopping in categories such as paleo, vegan, gluten-free, Healthy Mom. You can also search by ingredients, such as GMO-free, peanut-free, and pesticide-free or by environmental/social standards like cruelty-free, made by a family-owned business, and locally sourced.

So how deeply discounted are Thrive’s prices? A 6-ounce box of Annie’s Homegrown Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese is ordinarily $2.65, but on Thrive Market it’s $1.75. Tom’s of Main Fluoride-Free Antiplaque and Whitening Toothpaste sells for $5.99, but Thrive Market gives it to you for 34% off at $3.95. (Note that you can’t see the discounted prices until you register for the service.)

Here’s what I really like: Thrive Market donates one membership to a deserving family for every membership purchased. So, not only are you taking care of your family, but also you are helping a family in need.

Image courtesy of Thrive Market

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The Hottest Hair Trend for Holiday 2014

We’re guessing Frozen has something to do with it: Braids continue to reign supreme! We love this trend for girls big and small because braids look fancier than ponytails, but work just as well to keep the hair off your face. And even if you don’t have a lot of length, you can still find a style that works. Take, for example, this short and sweet look shown on Stroller in the City mommy blogger Brianne Manz’s 3-year-old daughter, Siella. I met both of them when I hosted the Johnson’s No More Tangles Seasonal Celebrations Hair Workshop .

Need more inspiration? The beauty feature in the December 2014 issue of Parents is dedicated to fairy-tale-inspired hairstyles with a grown-up twist, including this one we’re calling The Spellbinding Side Braid. It’s a french braid on top and a fishtail on the bottom. Sounds complicated, but our associate photo editor (and resident hair model), Michele, will help you get a handle on it with this video. Cheers to gorgeous holiday hair!

Get Fairytale Hair: How to Do a French and Fishtail Braid
Get Fairytale Hair: How to Do a French and Fishtail Braid
Get Fairytale Hair: How to Do a French and Fishtail Braid

Young woman with beautiful hairstyle, isolated on white via shuttershock.com

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How Cluttered is Your Garage?

cluttered garageAccording to the U.S. Department of Energy, ¼ of people with two-car garages have so much stuff in there that they can’t park a car. We want to know, what items in particular are to blame for all this clutter? Weigh in by taking our poll below.

Image: Cluttered garage via Shutterstock

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Parents Goody Giveaway: Enter for the Chance to Win a Fisher-Price Power Wheels F150

What do you get the kid who has everything? How about his own car?! The 2014 Power Wheels are out for the holiday season, promising to make your kid the coolest on the block with a roomy truck bed, working tailgate, speeds of up to 5 MPH, the ability to reverse, and in some models, a working radio and lights!

And for laughs, you need to see their new commercial, just click on this picture: 

ONE (1) lucky winner will receive one (1) Fisher-Price Power Wheels F150, worth approximately $360 and appropriate for children ages 3 or older. (If you don’t win but still want one of these, start your shopping here!) To enter, leave a comment below, up to one a day between now and the end of the day on November 24, 2014. Be sure to check back on November 25th and scroll to the bottom of the post to see who won. We reach out to winners via Facebook message (it goes into your “other” message folder on Facebook), so if you win, look for us there as well.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  Open to legal residents of the 48 contigual United States and D.C., 21 years and older. Begins: 4PM EST on November 18, 2014. Ends: 11:59PM on November 24, 2014. Subject to Official Rules at http://www.parents.com/blogs/goodyblog/official-rules-for-enter-for-the-chance-to-win-fisher-price-power-wheels-f-150/. Void where prohibited. Sponsor: Meredith Corporation.

For more check out our official rules. Goody luck!

Best Toys That Get Kids Moving
Best Toys That Get Kids Moving
Best Toys That Get Kids Moving

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Christie Rampone: A True Female Superhero

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.

The Parent's Role During School Years
The Parent's Role During School Years
The Parent's Role During School Years

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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