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Monday, October 27th, 2014
You might know her as Tauriel the eflin warrior from The Hobbit trilogy, or as Kate Austen from Lost, but actress Evangeline Lilly may soon be known best for her writing skills. Her new children’s book series The Squickerwonkers hits shelves November 18 and it’s different from any kid’s story we’ve seen. Parents caught up with mom to 3-year-old Kahekili about her creepy new children’s book, upcoming Halloween plans, how she cultivates creativity in her son, and why she thinks we all can use a bit of Squickerwonker spookiness in our lives.
P: You first wrote a version of The Squickerwonkers when you were a teenager. Tell us about the evolution of this story.
EL: I read it to my mom when I was a teenager and she was like “Sweetheart, you really should try to publish that.” As a 14-year-old girl not only did I have no idea how to publish a book, I also was used to my mom thinking everything I did was incredible even if it wasn’t because she’s my mom and she loves me. Twenty years later I was working on The Hobbit in New Zealand with Peter Jackson and I went into the Weta Workshop—which is the creative arm of his where they create his armor and all these other things—and there was so much creativity going on in that place. I was like “I want to create something of my own, too.” I want to start this [book]. For about five years, I’d been really seriously intending to start a writing career. That was my dream. I had all these incredible people and artists and resources all around me, so I ended up connecting with Johnny Fraser-Allen at the Workshop and he came on board to work on The Squickerwonkers.
P: His illustrations are so fabulous. They compliment your characters so well.
EL: I can’t say the story is completely independent of him and he can’t say the illustrations are really independent of me. We really collaborated. I knew the Squickerwonkers were what I would call human but not human. Johnny came on board and he had this idea that they should be marionette puppets on this traveling wagon. And I gasped, “Oh my gosh that’s exactly it.”
P: Part of your intention with this book is to purposefully put something out there for children that is a little darker and creepier.
EL: I do think that there is beauty and value and meaning in having very uplifting, sweet, innocent stories for children. But I’m a great believer in balance and I think that everybody, children and adults alike, needs balance in their life. The good and the evil, the right and the wrong, the truth and the idealism. That’s important to me. I look around me and I see a lot of young people who are very entitled and who are very confused when life isn’t perfect. I think that often comes from some of the messaging we receive as children from our stories, but that’s really not life and especially not on the playground.
The Squickerwonkers is really a playground drama. How many times do mischievous little kids do something mean or unfair to a kid that’s just minding his own business or being perfectly kind? How does a child learn how to deal with those situations? How do they learn to deal with the side of life that maybe isn’t as pretty, but is very real and prevalent? And then very importantly for me: How does a child makes sense of “the devil within themselves?” Or when they do something and they know it’s wrong but for some reason can’t stop, how do they accept and love themselves with the good and the ugly? That’s important to teach children also. That nobody’s perfect. Mom and dad aren’t perfect. You’re not perfect.
P: You’ve said previously that acting is your day job and you said earlier that writing was your dream. Is this a transition period for your career?
EL: I’ve always been an opportunist. Lost and starting acting…that was really just opportunism. I didn’t want to be an actress, but I saw this opportunity. I think I will always live to a certain degree that way. I will probably always take an acting job if it comes about in a way that feels like it was meant to be or if it’s a great idea, but really my focus is to transition to writing. It’s truly a dream come true for me.
P: How does being a mom affect how you pick your projects? Were you drawn to write a children’s book because you have a child?
EL: I started writing The Squickerwonkers immediately after he was born, so maybe? Nowhere inside of me was I consciously writing for my children. I can say that is one of the reasons why I took the first film job I did after Lost—Real Steel with Hugh Jackman. I remember distinctly thinking “You know, I’m gonna have kids one day—and hopefully one day soon—and this is a movie I would really love my children to watch.” It’s the kind of entertainment and the kind of film that I believe instills beautiful, incredible values in kids—to stand up against adversity, that if you’re the underdog you can make it in the world. What’s interesting is I’ve sort of continued on in that thread. The Hobbit is great family entertainment. Ant-Man will be great family entertainment.The Squickerwonkers is for the whole family. I think that’s the kid in me coming out. I never really grew up.
P: Your book takes place in this spooky alternate puppet world. The Hobbit is a fantasy. Even Lost was sci-fi. So you seem to be attracted to fantasy and imagination. Do you find that your son is imaginative?
EL: He’s learning it. It’s fascinating to me as a mother to realize that imagination is not innate. You have to teach it. I was a very imaginative little girl. I always assumed that was innate and that every child is born with a massive imagination that takes them to all different wonderful worlds. As a mother I’m learning Oh! You actually have to teach children about what it means to play imaginary worlds and invent imaginary characters. My son is 3-and-a-half and he’s starting to blossom into the little boy who has an imagination. It’s heaven to watch.
P: What do you do to encourage his imagination?
EL: I play with him. And it’s funny because I don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that parents need to play with their kids. In my generation, nobody’s parents played with us. Nobody. There’s a pressure nowadays to play with our children and I think it’s unnecessary, but I can’t help myself. I want him to have the gift and the joy of an imaginary world the way I did. Maybe not to the extent that I did. I had more imaginary friends than real-life friends. He’s a much more grounded little man. He’s a very practical, responsible, grounded little person. Very unlike his mother.
P: Is he more like his dad?
EL: A little more like his dad and, honestly, just his own person. I sort of go Where did this come from? He just sort of came out that way. He’s a little Taurus. He’s a little bull so I wonder if that has anything to do with it.
P: Speaking of all things spooky and creative and playful, Halloween is coming up. Do you do anything special?
EL: Now that I have a child and my partner’s kind of into it, he makes sure the three of us have costumes. As we speak I’m at a consignment store, we just finished finding his costume this year. He picked it out himself.
P: What will he be?
EL: He’s gonna be a Depression-era child. [Cracking up] We were thinking of maybe a minion or something because he loves the minions from Despicable Me, but he picked out this crazy concoction of old used clothing. He put it all on and he LOVED it. He just looks like a little street kid from the 1930s.
Find your child’s Halloween costume at Shop Parents.
P: What is your favorite part about being a mom to Kahekili?
EL: Discovering the human being that is within him. I feel like parenting is such a wonderful unearthing. It’s like archaeology. It’s all in there already and it’s just a matter of what you uncover and what you dig up. You get to meet this human being and you go “Oh my gosh, that’s who you are. You’re your own person.” It’s so much fun.
Photographs: Evangeline Lilly / Sarah Dunn, courtesy of Warner Bros.
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Monday, October 27th, 2014
* Interview by Patty Adams Martinez
Today Shakira, superstar singer and mom to 21-month-old Milan (and with a baby on the way!), announced her partnership with Fisher-Price, driving the design of a new line of baby gear and toys sold on Amazon.com. Look for our exclusive interview with her in the December issue of Parents magazine, and in the meantime, here’s a bit of what she shared with us!
Q: You wanted to join forces with Fisher-Price after Milan loved the Kick & Play Piano Gym. Why do you think Milan was so captivated by it? How much of an influence was Milan in the new toys you are helping to launch?
I think the toy stimulated him on various levels—his kicking led to a concrete response from the toy, which really allowed him to understand cause and effect and how he himself could participate, while the toys overhead provided visual stimulation. Watching him play and learn was a huge eye-opener and of course, had a great influence when we were designing the new toys.
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Q: Music is obviously a huge part of your life. What are Milan’s favorite songs?
I’ve played him a bit of everything, from nursery rhymes to Green Day to Frank Sinatra. If he’s anything like his mother, he will have very eclectic tastes in music.
Q: Which is Milan picking up faster: Spanish or English?
I think I would have to say, if pressed to choose, that Spanish is his first language since I am the person he most spends time with and it’s my first language. He has an equal understanding of English, Spanish, and Catalan [which Milan’s dad, Gerard Piqué, speaks]. It’s quite astounding, really. But his first words, “mama” and “papa,” could work in any of the languages, so I’m really curious to see how his language skills develop in all three as he begins to form sentences and more complex thoughts.
Q: What do you consider your biggest mommy win?
I’d say the fact that Milan trusts me more than anyone is a win. I always explain everything to him, give him reasons for everything we do or don’t do, and always tell him the truth. I can see how it makes him feel safe with me, which makes me feel that I’m nailing at least part of the job.
Q: And your biggest mommy fail?
Getting my son to eat! He no longer eats pumpkin and certain fruits he used to love as a baby, and I don’t understand why!
Q: You’ve long been a proponent of early childhood education. Why is it so important to you, and how has it become even more important to you now that you have Milan?
It’s so important to me because of its importance in changing a person’s course in life really cannot be understated. Lots of people are born into less than ideal situations on a socioeconomic level. But those who have access to education gain the tools that help them to overcome their circumstances and become the chief of their own destiny. The return on investment for early education is limitless, because children’s potential is limitless. And after becoming a mother, I now realize how important it is to instill that knowledge not only in the children themselves but in their parents, because even before our kids enter school, we are their primary educators, and the more we stimulate them and interact with them, the more prepared they will be when they go off to school, and the more likely their chance of success later on in life.
Here, teachers explain to Parents why music is so important to kids.
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Babies, celebrities, GoodyBlog, Must Read
Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
Set your DVRs, ladies, because tonight is a 90210 reunion! Well, kind of. Jennie Garth and her longtime gal pal Tori Spelling are teaming up again in the new ABC Family series Mystery Girls, premiering tonight. Parents caught up with Jennie a few weeks ago and then met her at a special Mamarazzi screening event, hosted by The MOMS of SiriusXM fame. The actress and mother of three daughters, Luca, 17, Lola, 12, and Fiona, 8, opened up to us about raising her girls to be confident women, recovering from divorce, working her latest volunteer project, and filming her hilarious new sitcom.
P: Your girls are growing up so quickly. Is it tougher to be a parent to toddlers and preschoolers or tweens and teens?
JG: Oh my god I would have to say younger is tougher because they cannot articulate what they’re thinking or what they want or need so well. The language barrier is definitely a problem.
P: What traits of yours do you see in each of your daughters?
JG: All of my best ones [laugh]. I can definitely see qualities from myself as well as qualities of their dad. Good and bad from both of us. Luca today was listening to the same exact music that I was listening to at her age, which was The Cure. She didn’t listen to it today because of me, she listened to it totally on her own. So we have similar musical taste. She’s also beautiful. She has very similar body, dance, movement style. My middle one, Lola, is very organized and very much an organized thinker, a list-maker and she likes to have tasks and complete them—that’s how my brain works. My little Fiona, she’s very competitive. So when we play board games she likes to win, and she’s very quick-witted and those are definitely both qualities of mine. You definitely see yourself in them for good and for bad sometimes.
P: Is there a childlike thing that you get excited to relive through Fiona, since she’s your youngest?
JG: All of it. Easter egg coloring, and you know, she loves to play board games. Coloring. Coloring book coloring. I love just sitting and coloring. She loves any kind of game. Puzzles. We do all that. And reading with her. We still snuggle in bed together, where the other girls do their own thing at bedtime, you know. The book-reading at that time is one of my favorite times of the day.
P: Having three girls is no easy task, and you’re a single mom. Do you have any best piece of advice for women dealing with the same situation and transition?
JG: I have so much encouragement and wisdom to pass along to people. When I first was on my own, everything was so challenging. Everything was stressful. Everything was more than I could handle and I didn’t know if I was gonna be able to get through it on my own. I felt like I was swimming upstream all the time. And at some point it just changed. And all of a sudden, mornings are pleasant again. The morning rush isn’t stressful. It isn’t like “I can’t do this,” it’s like “Yeah, we got this guys.” Me and my girls will handle it and it will all be great. It rounded a corner for me and I think that that happens when it happens for everyone and nobody can force that, and it’s really hard to believe when you’re in it. Hold on to that faith and knowledge that it will get better.
From a kid’s perspective, it’s an ongoing condition. My kids are never going to not be sad that their parents aren’t together. And me acknowledging that and holding that really gently and tenderly is the best thing that I can do. I can’t change the situation unfortunately, but I can hold the fact that their feelings about it are always gonna be right there at the surface no matter how old they are.
P: It sounds like you are all so close. With such a busy career it can be tough to keep that “family unit” feeling going. Are there any routines to carve out family time?
JG: We do dinner every night together. It’s tough because my teenager’s got a full schedule. But it’s always family before friends and the girls respect that and they take that seriously, which is cool. I just keep it really tight. Family first.
Spice up your family dinner night:
P: You’re involved in a new campaign that starts July 24 “Get an A+ in Eye Care” to help other families. Tell me about your work with this cause.
JG: Well with the three girls, two of them are now in glasses. I wear glasses. Eye care is something that’s a part of our family. I see when we provide vision care for the kids that don’t have access to it what a difference it makes in their lives. It’s pretty profound. I love being a part of it and this campaign is a very simple one. For every “like” on the Eye Solutions Facebook page Alcon is donating a dollar and that money goes directly to free exams and eyeglasses to children in need. I’ve been there and I’ve helped kids get fitted for their very first glasses.
P: Is activism and volunteerism something you hope to cultivate in your girls?
JG: Absolutely. It’s something that’s been instilled in me since I was a little girl. It’s something I’m just naturally handing down to my girls. It’s not something I really thought about. You pay it forward, that’s just what you do in this lifetime.
P: Mystery Girls with your longtime friend and co-star Tori Spelling premieres tonight. Tell me about the show and how you help your girls create solid healthy friendships like the one you have with Tori.
JG: Tori’s and my friendship is a pretty unique situation because we were on  for ten years together. Not a lot of people get to experience what we did. So we have this crazy bond together and we are so blessed by that and able to carry that into our next job together. This is very a special love for each other. For my girls it’s just about teaching them their self-worth, first and foremost. Teaching them to love themselves and respect themselves and to gravitate toward other people who do the same and also to give them that same respect.
P: How did being a mom affect your decision to go back into the studio full time with Mystery Girls?
JG: For me it was location. It’s very close to my kids’ school and our house, where we shoot it. The hours of the day that we work, sitcom hours, are much less than any other show you can shoot, and we work three weeks on, one week off. So I can have a solid week with my kids. And also, our kids come to the set and it’s so close to their school that they just come right after school. If this was a show that shot in West Los Angeles or something, it would be a totally different decision to look at. When you have kids, for me, they come first and my job comes second. So I have to look at all those factors, location and traffic and drive time all that stuff.
P: Your character, Charlie, is a bit concerned about being perceived as a cool mom by her daughter. How concerned are you with being a cool mom?
JG: I try to be not cool. I’m the mom with the tattoos. My kids admire the fact that I am kind of edgy personally, and they actually try to keep me in line. But I try to be not cool because I don’t want to be their friend. I want to be their mother.
P: Your book Deep Thoughts From a Hollywood Blonde puts it right out there: don’t stereotype me. How do you help your girls be confident young women and defy stereotypes?
JG: I think just in my actions and them seeing me function, you know. I’m so independent and capable that they have no other way of seeing a woman. I set an example not by choice but because that’s how I have to live. It’s so easy to stereotype women. Even my 16-year-old daughter is cast in plays as the “pretty girl,” the cheerleader, and she does it beautifully and she does it with depth and a certain depth I wouldn’t think they were expecting, but I’m already cognizant of what’s happening with her. It’s something that we’ll be facing and working on and discussing I’m sure for the rest of all of their lives.
Mystery Girls premieres Wednesday, June 25 8:30/7:30c on ABC Family. Check your local listings.
Photograph: Courtesy of Jennie Garth
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Friday, March 14th, 2014
Finding time to work out can be tough for any mom, even supermodel Miranda Kerr, mom to 3-year-old Flynn. Just recently, the Australian beauty teamed up with brands like H&M and Wonderbra and squeezed in time to make this steamy commercial for Reebok’s new Skyscape collection, a line of sneakers inspired by (get this!) the same molded foam you find in bras. Parents caught up with the self-proclaimed yogi at the shoes’ launch party this week in New York City, and she had a lot to say on staying fit while raising a strapping toddler.
P: From a mom’s perspective, what appeals to you most about Reebok’s Skyscape shoes?
M: What I like is that they are just so lightweight, which makes them great to walk around the city and take my son to the park. Because I have to be in high heels a lot, it’s great for me to have a shoe that I feel really comfortable in and can also wear with jeans. They are really fashionable at the same time; I love all the colors, especially the pink! And the 3D foam technology makes them so cozy.
P: Being that you’re so into fitness, how does that influence the kinds of activities you do with Flynn?
M: Ever since he was a baby, he’s been there when I do Yoga and Pilates at home. Now he jumps on me when I’m trying to do Yoga and Pilates–that makes it more intense! And I do squats and lunges with him, especially when he was even younger. I’m always like, “Come on Flynn, do it!” I try to find fun ways to encourage him to be active. We go to the park together and run around, but then at home we turn the music on and we jump on the trampoline together. He loves it, and it’s very healthy for him. He also helps me make my smoothies. Just the other day he said, “Mommy, they’re full of antioxidants.” He’s like a little sponge soaking up everything I say!
P: What else do you do together?
M: I love reading stories to him. He still likes Goodnight Moon and The Jungle Book. When he was really little he used to love Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? I actually took him to the opera at Lincoln Center, and we got a couple of books there we’ve been reading as well. And I let him draw in the books, so it’s more fun. It’s a really good way for him to express his creativity. I like it when he draws in a book because it’s like a good little memory as well for me when he grows up.
P: For busy moms, what advice do you have for fitting exercise more into their routine?
M: Do things that make it fun and be as active as you can be. Take just 15 to 20 minutes to turn the music on and dance around with your child or go chase him around in the park. Give yourself that time and don’t feel like it’s not enough. Every little bit helps. Even little exercises if you’re in the car on your way to work or traveling on a train or airplane, you can flex and tone different parts of your muscles, like your legs and calves, just by clenching them. I feel like when you’re a parent you’re multitasking a lot, so this is a good way to work out your body in between.
For all you brand-new moms out there, here are some tips for post-pregnancy exercise!
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celebrities, GoodyBlog, Health & Safety
Thursday, March 13th, 2014
Cold and flu season is almost behind us. Though your days of runny noses and coughs may soon be over, another illness is proving to be a more serious hazard for young ones. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns America is experiencing one of the largest outbreaks of reported pertussis cases in 50 years. That’s an even bigger deal for infants who are much more susceptible to the disease; they can’t get vaccinated until 2 months of age.
As mom to 4-year-old Charlotte and 17-month old Rocky, actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, 36, was blown away when she learned how easily the disease can spread. Because newborns can’t get vaccinated right away, it’s still a must for adults who plan to be around an infant; the vaccine you got as a child has likely worn off. Parents caught up with the Sounds of Pertussis campaign ambassador to get her take on the disease as well as her tips for raising a healthy and active family.
P: What makes you so passionate about this health issue?
S: Once you become a parent, your main job is to protect your children in any way possible. When I first had Charlotte, whooping cough was something most of my friends thought had been eradicated. People aren’t aware that 80 percent of the time when you link back to how an infant gets the disease, it comes from a family member or direct caregiver. That’s the scariest thought. Our job is to protect them, and if it’s something as simple as getting a vaccination, that’s something everyone needs to know.
P: What can moms say to convince family and friends to get vaccinated?
S: It’s about making the information understandable. The way I liken it is if someone has a cold usually they will try to stay away from your baby so he doesn’t get sick. So why would you potentially expose a child to something that’s even more fatal, like pertussis? When you put it in those simple terms, how can anyone who loves a child say no? When the information is coming from someone you trust, it’s a very easy decision.
P: It can be stressful when your kids don’t feel well. How do you handle Charlotte or Rocky getting sick?
S: There’s no question that the very first time your child gets that stuffy nose and cold, it completely freaks you out. You have so much guilt because you can’t explain it to them. I think sometimes first-time parents have this thing of, “I don’t want to bother the doctor and be that annoying parent.” But if you have a question, you need to ask it. As you have more children and become an experienced parent, you sort of get to the point with the colds where you’re like, “If it’s not severe, you’re going to school.”
P: You’re a very active person. How do you encourage your kids to keep fit as well?
S: The beauty of children is that everything is interesting to them. The more you involve them in whatever activity it is you’re doing, they just love to be part of your life. I let my daughter go walking with me and our dog Bella outside. And there’s still so many fun activities you can do for children exercise-wise in inclement weather. My daughter practices Yoga and Jiu-Jitsu. It’s about taking the time to listen to your child and find what interests her. Whatever those things are that appeal to children and get their minds flowing, that can help keep them healthy and active.
P: How do you motivate Charlotte and Rocky to eat healthy?
S: Including children in the actual preparation of food is a big thing. We started Charlotte in cooking classes at about 3, and seeing what goes into it gave her a new appreciation for vegetables. Whether you’re growing produce in your backyard or taking a trip to your local farmer’s market, seeing those different aspects can get children excited to eat better. And anything you can do to give a young child ownership and help him feel independent, that’s what you ultimately want. Even if it’s as simple as letting Rocky sprinkle cheese on eggs or a pizza. You just see his face light up.
P: What else can moms do to teach their children the importance of good health?
S: It ultimately comes down to explaining at a young age what healthy living means, teaching a child what germs are and how easily they are transmitted or how to wash his hands correctly. Those very simple things can really stop the spread, not just for your own family but for your friends and everyone else your child comes into contact with.
Whether you’ve had the vaccine or not, visit the campaign’s Breathing Room Facebook app to help spread the word about pertussis. There, you can create a virtual room for your Baby and invite family and friends to join you in the fight for protection. Every little step counts!
In the meantime, watch this short video to learn what whooping cough sounds like.
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celebrities, GoodyBlog, Health & Safety, Your Child
Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
As a singer-songwriter, Jewel is a big fan of stretching those creative muscles and loves to encourage her 2-year-old son, Kase, through music and crafts. It’s no wonder that she was eager to teach kids the Clean Up song at last week’s Swiffer Sweep & Trap event in New York City. Parents chatted with the mommy maestro about getting messy, impromptu songwriting, and raising her toddler.
P: What is your favorite messy activity to do with Kase?
J: We’re just getting into crafts. Valentine’s Day was the first time that we really started crafting. The glitter sticks and the glitter went everywhere. But it’s nice. I want him to feel like he can make a mess and not be the kind of mom that’s saying “no no no no no.” You know? Let him get dirty and I’ll bring a change of clothes.
P: Is he a helper when you clean up?
J: I’m trying to teach him that whenever we play, part of playing is also cleaning up. It’s not to be perfect, it’s just engaging in the process and building a habit and building an expectation of a habit. I won’t nitpick. That just takes all the joy out of cleaning, if that makes any sense. I just want it to be part of the ritual. I make it fun; I sing a song and we move on.
P: It sounds like Kase is into music already. How do you hope to foster that love for music in him?
You know I don’t care if he ever becomes a musician or a songwriter or not, but I like what engaging in creativity does for a person’s development and for their confidence. We do little things. If we go hiking I carry him on my back in a little backpack and I’ll go, “Make up a song about what you’re seeing.” And he’ll go [singing] “Trees….Rocks….Bird poop.” I love it!
P: Your upbringing was quite unconventional. How does that influence how you raise Kase?
J: It makes me think a lot about being spoiled. I think that for me struggling, learning I had to do things on my own, having responsibilities, understanding what responsibilities were—that are age appropriate—was really good. I think it robs your child of confidence when you don’t let them struggle and learn how to do something on their own. It’s hard as a parent to resist fixing that little thing for them or helping them solve that puzzle. You have this weird urge to “Oh that goes right here,” and I constantly remind myself to not intervene, and let him struggle, and let him figure it out.
Find great activities for you and your child with our Activity Finder.
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Monday, January 13th, 2014
2013 Photography by Robert W Gilliard of Eppicmoments.com
To gear up for the bi-annual Olympic festivities, Parents checked in with Olympic gold medalist, World Ski Champion, and mother-of-four Picabo Street. Juggling her work with the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and her four sons (Eli, 10, Treyjan, 9, Dax, 4, and Roen, 2) is no easy task, but nothing gets this gal motivated like the games!
P: Do you watch every Olympics with your kids?
PS: Absolutely. In Torino [Italy, 2006] I was there, and in Vancouver [Canada, 2010] I was there with two of my children. This year unfortunately I won’t have my kids with me, but I will be there with FOX Broadcasting and the U.S. Olympic Committee and Ski Team. I am infected with the Olympic bug and will be a huge fan forever.
P: Do your kids have Olympic fever, too?
PS: They definitely get it, especially the older two who are 10 and 9. They started to ask some big questions about it: where certain countries are and what sports come out of them. We go online and they can send a well-wish to the athletes or donate money or buy mittens that will benefit the team through the U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor programs. Through Citi Every Step, my 10-year-old voted on my initiative [promoting injury prevention and awareness for Olympic skiiers and snowboarders]. You see all the Olympians that are in the Citi program and then the kids feel really close to it. They know athletes by name and sport, so when we watch the Olympics we’re into it. They’re just counting down to the Opening Ceremonies in February.
P: Is skiing their favorite winter Olympics sport?
PS: Trey likes the bobsled, the skeleton, the luge, all of those gliding sports. Trey and Eli love the skiing because they can relate. Three out of the four do ski. The youngest was only 2 last year when we were in Park City in March. I think that hockey is probably also a favorite.
P: What do you say to moms who might think that skiing is too dangerous for their kids?
PS: Get yourself out of the way and don’t put yourself in your kids’ shoes and automatically assume that their strengths and weaknesses are yours. That’s one of the most difficult things that parents have to do is to get themselves out of the way of their child. They are their own person and they are capable of potentially more than you are. If they’re gung-ho, make sure you or somebody with experience can guide them along the way so they are safe while doing it. Skiing is a great family vacation, I know it’s expensive but it’s like no other family vacation. It’s such a safe place to let your kids be free.
P: Are there safety precautions that you take with your boys as they ski?
PS: First and foremost is to wear a helmet, dressing them for success. I made sure they knew how to stop. We taught them speed control and how to make quality turns before we took them over to the chair lift. The next thing was teaching them etiquette of the resort, and that’s something we still work on. Eli, my oldest, was relentless. His persistence was very inspiring.
P: How do you ensure that your kids enjoy sports while still taking it seriously?
PS: You gauge off of them. You can tell what kind of motivation they need; whether they like tough love (like I did) or if they need a softer, more praising touch. From personal experience, competing at that level, we were all willing to do more than the next gal or guy in order to get it done and win. We didn’t have to be told. It was just something that we do. I grew up with “good better best never never rest til my good is better and my better is best.” I have to actually be careful not to step on my kids toes too much with who I am and what I’m about and what I expect of myself. I try to let them be them.
P: Do you ever worry that they might put pressure on themselves because you have accomplished so much?
PS: Of course, you worry about everything as a parent. I don’t really believe that I or anyone else has that much control, or any for that matter, over what our children like, what they’re interested in, and what they want to become. I can tell you my mom played 26 instruments all self-taught, I can barely hold a tune and cannot play a single one. All of my kids are musical, go figure. Why wasn’t I a musician? I’m just going to encourage my kids to follow their dreams and aspirations and do what they love. If it happens to be Olympic bound, here we go. If not, I’m fine with that, too. With four of them, my odds are good that we could be at the Olympics again.
P: How do you keep your boys effectively bundled in the cold weather?
PS: Layers. Layers. Layers. I dress the boys in layers and make them easily accessible so they can go to the bathroom while they’re up there and feel comfortable. Eli is alright with wool against his skin, but it itches Trey, so we go with silk or a polypropylene for him. Roen is the same as Eli. I like wool, polypropylene, cashmere and then fleece and then the outer layer is the key. It needs to have two components in it. It needs to have down and it needs to have a windbreak. With those two in the outer layer, you really don’t have to bulk them up too much inside. It keeps them from having a stiff-armed snowman feel all day. If it’s really cold you can change their temperature by what you put on their hands and head. Go gloves or mittens depending on the temperature. You can also just wear a helmet, or you can do a light little beanie super thin up underneath the helmet and cover the ears. If it’s super cold, you can put a neck gator on with a face mask and bundle all the way up. Make sure you’ve got sunscreen, sunglasses or goggles and water. Lots of H20. You have to watch the water intake. That’s key.
P: Your kids all have such unique names. How did you choose them?
PS: Treyjan I named after the Roman emperor. On his father’s side he’s the third Newt [Trey is a nickname for "the third"] and his dad and I just really thought it was a cool name. Eli is biblical, my husband chose it that way. Dax is a little French town and it was a kid in my class growing up and I wanted an ‘x’ in his name and I landed on him. I wanted his initials to be early in the alphabet, too, so I landed on Dax and my husband, John, agreed. Roen’s was tough. Dax and Eli’s names were early in the alphabet, I wanted Roen’s name to start with something close to Trey so I bounced around the S’s and the R’s. We finally landed on Roen. John said without the w. And I said R-O-E-N and he said love it.
Check out our Baby Names app to help you find names just as fitting as the ones Picabo and John chose for their kids.
P: Eli, your oldest, is your stepson and your husband, John, is Trey’s stepfather. What is your advice for parents merging two families?
PS: Definitely unconditional love. We also have to get over ourselves and really see our kids for who they are. I had to really get to know Eli and then earn his trust. Also, the best thing for someone who you’re new to and who is new to you is to be predictable and consistent. The more consistent you are the more stable your relationship is, the stronger it gets. Honestly, Eli and I have worked really hard to have a really strong bond and we can talk about everything and anything. It’s rock solid. As far as Trey and Eli went, merging them, that was tough. I wanted to protect Trey from the way Eli is because Eli is dominant, a real alpha, and he’s boisterous. Trey is sensitive; he’s harmonious. Eli would kind of beat up on Trey and I would get protective. When I talked to some of my expert resources, they told me ,“Eli is gonna toughen Trey up and Trey is gonna soften Eli and they’re gonna land somewhere in the middle and it’s gonna be a beautiful thing so unless they’re really going at it let them work it out.” It got easier when Dax showed up because he was a true brother to both of them.
P: Do you have plans for another?
PS: No ma’am. We gave up on having a girl with Roen. It is a lot to handle, but it’s an even sports team because there are six of us.
P: What is your best advice for other moms who travel a lot and might spend a lot of time away from their kids, as you do with your speaking engagements and your activism work?
PS: Take care of yourself and try not to beat yourself up too much for being gone and being someone who contributes to the family, and who pursues their dreams at the same time. Easier said than done. I leave notes when I go. I make sure to call and participate at the really important times during the day. I try to Facetime and Skype with them, so I can really see them and get a feel for them as much as possible. One of my goals is to talk to my kids and my husband first thing in the morning every day. The bottom line is to be honest with them about where I’m going, what I’m doing and why so that they understand. What’s tough is when I say “bye-bye” and then Dax says “But Dad, you’re staying with us right?” And I just think oooooooh. I’m picky about what I leave home for these days and my kids know I’m leaving for important things. They know all about the work that I do with the US Olympic Committee and with the sponsors and specifically now with Citi to make a positive difference in the next generation of Olympians’ lives. That’s what I am proud to go be a part of these days.
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Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
By Jessica Simpson
I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I dreamed about it and planned it since I was a little girl! The day I found out I was pregnant with my daughter Maxwell was one of the best moments of my life. Having Maxwell and now my son Ace changed my perspective completely. Suddenly, I am responsible for these little lives and want all the happiness in the world for them.
My pregnancy with Maxwell, specifically because she is a girl, made me realize that I wouldn’t be able to protect her from everything I had been through as a woman. I wonder each day how I can shield her not only from the critics in the world, but from the criticism we all dole out to ourselves. My pregnancies (especially my first with Maxwell) were well documented and my struggles with my weight and body image have played out in front of the world. As hard as that has been, the hardest part is to realize that with all the hurtful and harsh criticism from others, I have been the hardest on myself.
Raising Maxwell makes me realize that I don’t want her to see me beat myself up for things like food choices or numbers on a scale. I don’t want her to learn anything like that from me. Those things don’t determine who we are and instead make us feel terrible about ourselves. I want to teach her to value herself, listen to herself and tune out the world. I want her to know her value, rather than spending her energy fighting negative voices from within. I want to teach her to figure out what is truly right for her rather than worrying about what anyone else thinks.
Becoming a mom has helped me realize I’m actually proud of myself for a lot of the things I have done in my life. Having my kids has made me feel so much more at peace with myself. I see how loving and kind we can be to our children, while never noticing all the things we have done well ourselves.
I am happy that Maxwell and Ace will have each other to rely on in the magical way that only siblings can! I feel very complete with the two of them in my life and as they grow up I hope they remember these few things from me:
- Build a great support system. A strong family and wonderful friends keep me headed in the right direction every day!
- Learn to accept compliments as graciously as you give them. Don’t dismiss them – soak up the positivity and give it back as often as you can!
- Find a partner who really supports and listens to you in the good times and the bad.
- Be original. The world will try to fit you into a mold, but carve your own path.
For more from Jessica and a daily dose of all things mom, subscribe to and download the app for MomFeeds, a new digital magazine from Weight Watchers available for free exclusively on Flipboard.
Image: Jessica Simpson and Ace via Twitter
Plus: Are you ready for another child? Take our quiz to find out! Or see which celebrities have given birth or are expecting this year.
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