We listen to a lot of children’s music here, but one recent CD particularly stuck out to us: a rap album by Flipping Out star (and expectant mom) Jenni Pulos. So naturally, we were very excited when Jenni stopped by the office last week to give us the scoop on her music and her pregnancy.
As it turns out, Jenni started working on her album, Old School Kids Beats, four years ago—way before she became pregnant. But its release last week is conveniently timed just a few months before her July due date. And the album has already staked a spot on the iTunes bestseller charts for children’s music, so it looks like all that hard work is paying off. “Watch out Spongebob, I’m coming after you!” Jenni declared with a laugh.
Old School Kids Beats tackles everything from potty training to bullying, the latter being particularly important to Jenni. “’Bullies Aren’t Cool’ is especially close to my heart,” Jenni said. “It’s a true story saying we should support one another.” While many of the themes are targeted towards toddlers, Jenni believes parents will dig the album too. In fact, one of her major inspirations was Pixar, because of the way they create entertainment that kids and adults can enjoy equally. “I thought, let’s get popular music and fresh beats and mix that with timeless messages,” she said.
Making the album ended up being a family affair for Jenni, as her 19-year-old nephew wrote “Cell Phone 411” and her husband wrote (and sings!) the chorus to “The Doctor Says.” Even better, 10 percent of the proceeds from the album will go to several of Jenni’s favorite charities, including the American Cancer Society and Opportunity Village.
Jenni’s devoted fans can also look forward to catching an inside glimpse at her pregnancy on the new season of Flipping Out, which is filming now. You can also catch her on Interior Therapy, which returns to Bravo this summer.
Finding wholesome, quality television that your big kids will enjoy can be a tricky business. That’s why we’re excited to hear that all three seasons of the hit Teen Nick series H20: Just Add Waterwere released on DVD this week. The show—which originally aired in Australia several years ago but has now gained a worldwide audience—focuses on three teenage girls who find their lives changed forever when they become mermaids with magical powers. The best part? H20 is often commended for its strong female characters and positive messages for kids.
I recently spoke with Phoebe Tonkin, one of the stars of the show (she plays Cleo, in the center of the photo). Here’s what she had to say about her work and what it’s like to be a role model for girls:
H20 was your first television job. What was that like?
It was incredibly exciting. I hadn’t ever acted professionally before, and it was a big change from drama class at high school. But I was lucky that Cariba [Heine, on the right], Claire [Holt, left] and I were all in the same boat, so we all learned over the course of the series together.
The show is praised for its positive messages for girls. Was that important to you?
Of course. Throughout the show, the main priority for these girls was their loyalty to each other. The message that stayed consistent during H20 was that friendship is very important, despite the magical elements. That was the biggest underlying theme.
What message would you like young girls to take away from the show?
That leaning on your friends, especially as you are growing up and going through changes, will make everything a lot easier, and a lot more fun!
You finished the show quite a few years ago now, but it’s coming out now on DVD in the US, and it’s been gaining a following here over the last few years. Is that strange for you?
It is! Its so flattering when I hear a young girl with an American accent come up to me on the street and express how much she loves H20. It was always a big goal for us when we were filming to get it into the US, so it’s really amazing that it has been so well received here.
Is there anything else you think parents or kids should know about H20?
The three characters that we play are very real, and even though they are put in the extreme situation of becoming magical mermaids, their issues are very real: boys, school and growing up. And there is always a valuable lesson to be learned at the end of each episode.
We recently had the chance to talk with Lashinda Demus, Olympic hurdler and mother of five-year-old twins, Duaine and Dontay, about balancing life as a star-athlete and mom. Here, the 29-year-old track star shares her struggle with pregnancy and her experience adjusting expectations in order to fulfill her dream to become a legendary competitor and parent.
Do you think that in today’s society there is pressure for women to establish their career first and then have family, rather than the other way around?
I think that [we put pressure] on ourselves. The more vocal women are, the more we want to attain and do [we think], “Well I just need to get straight first.” And I think, “What happens to having a union and you guys working together?” Some women think when you become a mom or married, you automatically fit into this box of what a wife and a mother are supposed to be. I fell into that, too. I would find myself not dressing up, not going anywhere, and just making sure [my boys] look good. I didn’t care how I looked. I had to snap out of that.
Your biography refers to your pregnancy as unplanned. What was the original plan?
I always wanted kids, but my plan from the beginning was to compete until 2012, which would have me making three Olympic teams. I made ’04 my junior year in college, and then I hoped to make ’08 and then ’12. Then, I’d be 29 and start having a family. My husband and I were together for four or five years before I got pregnant in 2007. It wasn’t planned at all and I don’t think I was ready to have kids and that’s why I went into my little depression. I find that I’m more attached and more hands-on now because I constantly think about how I didn’t even want to be pregnant and that sets me straight. Now I’ve made my twins a part of my dreams.
Once your life started to take this different course, did you consider becoming a non-working mom?
I did not. I would get discouraged because I knew my body went through a drastic change and I thought “I don’t know how I’m going to get back to being number one in the world athletically, after having two human beings in my body.” I’m actually one of those women that won’t mind being the stay-at-home-mom. That’s one of the things that I think I’ll like to do. But at that point, I knew I was gonna get back at it.
You said your goal was to go through 2012.
I’m going to go to 2016. Once you’ve run as long as I have—I’ve been running since I was five years old—you want to make sure you finish the book. I want four things out of my track career and that’s an American record—which I have—a world championship title—which I have—Olympic gold and a world record. Almost had that gold this year, so I have two more on the bucket list.
Do you see that in your boys, that thirst to be the best?
I see not a will to be the best, but I see them wanting to please me, and that’s scary. That’s why I kind of keep them away from track…for a while. I don’t want them to think they have to stand up to what I’ve done. To me, that’s a lot of pressure. I want them to be passionate about something, but not passionate about pleasing me or outdoing me.
How is it being the mom of twins?
I always wanted twins that had that “I feel what you feel” thing, and they really have that. They’re best friends. My family is a family full of fraternal twins: My great-grandmother had four sets and they’re all fraternal.
That’s quite the legacy. In past interviews you mentioned that your legacy is what you want to leave your boys. Other than the markers, what message do you want your legacy to send them?
The message of greatness—not just in athletics, in whatever you’re passionate about. Since I was a little kid, something was put in me that I’m the best at this. I want them to just exude greatness. I’m going to have grandkids one day so I want them to have an example of “she was a woman, a mother, an athlete and she still, she put her best on the line all the time.”
How can you keep your family healthy—and what’s it going to cost? In September, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, visited Parents to talk about the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, which went into effect in March 2010. As more features and benefits of the law roll out—including eight new preventive services for women that will be covered in plans that renew on or after August 1, 2012—it’s more crucial than ever that families understand what they’re entitled to. We put out a call on Facebook asking exactly what you wanted to know, and your questions helped shape our conversation with Secretary Sebelius.
Parents: Which parts of the Affordable Care Act most directly affect women and families? Kathleen Sebelius: In September 2010, preventive services started to be offered without co-pays. This was a way to encourage things like immunizations, folic acid supplements, and mammograms, because we know that preventing a problem [or detecting one early] is cheaper and healthier than treating a problem.
Then, in August 2012, we rolled out a series of benefits aimed specifically at women. They affect your health at every stage of your life, with HIV screening, contraception, and the assurance that your plan will include maternity benefits such as pre- and post-natal care. This includes free gestational diabetes screenings and breastfeeding supplies and support. If you are not in a grandfathered health plan (a plan already in place when the Affordable Care Act was enacted that has not been changed in certain ways) you will receive these benefits without co-pays.
Too many women have been faced with a policy that doesn’t cover maternity care. If, God forbid, something goes wrong along the way—they end up with an emergency C-section, or they have a baby who has complications and is in the NICU—it could mean bankruptcy. Beginning in 2014, most plans will be required to cover maternity care and millions of women will have peace of mind.
[Editors’ note: For more information on grandfathered plans, visit healthcare.gov]
Under the ACA, will families who already have insurance need to get new coverage?
If you like your insurance, you don’t have to do anything. Your coverage is not going to go away. But starting in 2014, if you’re shopping for coverage on your own, or you’re a small-business owner who can’t find affordable coverage for yourself or your employees, you’re going to have some additional choices. Insurance companies are going to operate under different rules for changing premiums and dealing with preexisting conditions. Each state will have what’s called an Affordable Insurance Healthcare Exchange that will accept applications, provide eligibility determinations for health benefits coverage, and provide a way to purchase health benefit coverage online. [Editors’ note: Consumers can log on, see what they’re eligible for, and compare plans.]
Earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled on the provision of the ACA that requires people to pay a penalty for not having health insurance; they found that it was constitutional and upheld the law. But it seems clear that if President Obama is not re-elected, the ACA will be vulnerable again. What’s the reality?
The President is committed to full implementation of the act. The other candidates [Romney and Ryan] say they want to repeal. How successful that could be, what that would look like, I really have no idea. We’re just looking ahead, assuming that the law will be fully implemented. [Editors’ note: We asked Robert Field, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H., professor of health management and policy, School of Public Health, at Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University, what it would take to overthrow the law, and how likely that is. “An out-and-out repeal seems unlikely,” says Dr. Field. “In order for that to happen, both houses of Congress would have to pass the legislation and the President would have to sign it.” Even if Governor Romney wins the election and Republicans take control of Congress, they’d be up against many passionate consumers who support parts of the law as well as lobbyists from drug companies, hospitals, and insurance companies who would fight to keep the new customers they’ve gained under the ACA. However, even if the law were not fully overturned, it might not remain intact the way it’s currently written. A Romney administration could do a lot to impede the full implementation. “Some of the parts of the law are discretionary, and Romney could decide to defund or under-fund them,” says Dr. Field. And though the ACA requires preventive care services to be provided without deductibles or co-pays, a Romney administration could redefine preventive care to exclude more controversial elements, such as contraception.]
What else is ahead that families should know about?
Right now, a lot of women can be charged up to 50 percent more for exactly the same coverage that a man has—even if that coverage doesn’t include maternity care—because the practice of “gender rating” is legal until 2014. But after that, insurers will not be able to charge women more for their health coverage.
Also, starting in 2014, no one can be denied coverage because they have a pre-existing condition. For women, a pre-existing condition could mean you’re a breast cancer survivor, you’re a victim of domestic violence, or you’ve had a Cesarean section in the past. Right now, insurance companies can refuse to insure you or refuse to pay for any kind of complication that may arise in the future from those circumstances. But those rules will change across the board. What I like to say is, “Being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition.”
People will also have more flexibility when it comes to leaving their jobs. I know women who work only for the insurance. They may hate their job, but they or a family member have a health condition, and they say, “I can’t leave.” Those choices will be a thing of the past. You will be reassured that, no matter the circumstance, whether you have a pre-existing condition, have difficulty paying for health insurance, or lose or change jobs, the law will help you get access to affordable coverage.
This brings us to a reader named Kristin Lupo, who asks, “Will the law help cover expenses such as groups or therapies for kids with autism or other developmental delays?”
Certainly there are some specific screenings for autism recommended by experts for children at a very young age that will be covered without any co-pay or co-insurance [in non-grandfathered plans]. The right services will be determined by the family and their health care provider, but the provisions in the Affordable Care Act will remove financial barriers for recommended services in behavioral health. And a young adult [a child under age 19] who has an autism diagnosis can’t be locked out of the market, and can stay on a parent’s plan until 26—as can any young adult without his or her own coverage—and will be able to fully participate in the insurance market, which isn’t an option now.
How will the act affect reimbursement for members of the military?
It doesn’t. TRICARE is the federal government’s program that covers the military and their families. The ACA affects private insurance plans, so TRICARE is not impacted in this.
This question from our reader Stephanie Dixon may sum up how many moms feel: “It seems like even people who think that the ACA is a good idea are very scared of how it’ll affect their family’s budget. Most of us, regardless of our political bent, are struggling. How will it help the average working-class citizen?”
We know that it’s far less expensive for a family and for employers to pay for preventive care than to pay the costs when people get sick. Families currently have co-pays, and pay out of pocket every time they get flu shots and every time they get their kids immunized. Under ACA that ceases to exist. Also—and a lot of people don’t know this—people who have insurance are paying for people who come into the emergency room and have no insurance at all. When an individual is uninsured and cannot afford to pay for care, the cost of that care is absorbed and passed on in the form of higher premiums to those who are in a position to pay, which drives medical costs up across the board. So having everybody with some coverage actually lowers the costs for everyone. In the two and a half years since the law has been passed, we are seeing the slowest rise in health costs that we have had in the last 30 years.
Is there anything else you’d like to get across?
We want to encourage people to use their preventive health services throughout the year. For example, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We know that if breast cancer is detected early, the survival rate is close to 100 percent; the survival rate for late detection is closer to 23 percent. Between private insurance and Medicare, there’s no co-pay—there really are no financial barriers anymore. So get screened. [Editors’ note: For more information about breast cancer screening, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, visit womenshealth.gov]
How does your role as a mother and new grandmother [to 13-week-old grandson] inform the work you do with healthcare?
A lot of things that were statistics on a page are now very meaningful to me. I watched my son and daughter-in-law plan for a baby, want to conceive a baby, have the experience of going to prenatal care, think about birthing, and use lactation-support services. Watching all of this up close and personal at every step along the way, I thought about how many parents would not have had that coverage if the ACA had not been passed and signed into law. We had gone to the Institute of Medicine and asked doctors, researchers, and experts to look at health plans and tell us what the gaps were for women’s services. A lot of health plans had no maternity coverage; a lot of women don’t even think about that until they get pregnant, and then it’s too late, so they’re doing it 100 percent out of pocket, or don’t get screened for gestational diabetes, or have to pay for infants’ immunizations. Now, 47 million women will have access to preventive services without out-of-pocket costs. That’s a huge deal.
For more about the ACA, including a timeline of what’s changing and when, visit healthcare.gov.
Editors’ note: This conversation was edited for space.
Mom-to-be Vanessa Lachey is feeling excited about welcoming her first child – a boy – with husband Nick Lachey “at any minute.” The Former Miss Teen USA is partnering with ShoeDazzle for their Celebrity Shoe Design Program for Charity, where all profits from the sale of her military-inspired bootie named Monroe will benefit the charity Operation Shower.
Vanessa opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about nearing the end of her pregnancy and feeling “anxious,” although prepared. She says her third trimester, “has been more of an emotional and mental training time,” and shares her struggles about taking a maternity leave.
CBS: Tell us about partnering with ShoeDazzle for their Celebrity Shoe Design Program for Charity and your military-inspired bootie named Monroe.
VL: I had the opportunity to combine two things I love: fashion and charity. ShoeDazzle asked me to help them design a shoe for the Fall, and 100% of the proceeds would go to a charity of my choice. I love Fall fashion, and immediately got excited about a bootie. I designed a military-inspired bootie and named it Monroe after Marilyn Monroe. She was an icon who always showed her love and support of the troops, so I thought it was fitting.
Being a new mom soon, and having grown up in the military, I chose Operation Shower as my charity to receive all the proceeds from the shoe’s sales. I love the idea of providing for military moms and families, and giving them the love and support they need while their spouses are away and unable to help provide for such an amazing important time in a family’s life.
CBS: How are you feeling at the end of your pregnancy?
VL: I’m feeling good, mostly anxious. Once you get down to the last couple of weeks, you are constantly on edge because it could happen at any minute. We have done all our preparation, so now it’s the waiting game.
CBS: How have you been keeping in shape during your pregnancy? Do you have a postpartum workout plan in the works?
VL: I worked out during the first two trimesters in moderation (it’s important for expecting women to monitor their heart rate 130/140 BPM). It’s not about losing weight or getting buff, it’s about health. I felt better when I got moving and active.
My last trimester has been more of an emotional and mental training time for me. I am reading a lot, learning a lot, and taking more time to talk about all sorts of things with my husband. Just about our lives changing, our parenting methods, and how much we are going to love this new little person in our family.
I am excited to get back into a program after baby. It’s amazing to see all of the things your body is capable of and how it changes.
CBS: Are you planning to take a maternity leave when the baby arrives? Or do you want to get back to work right away?
VL: I have struggled with this because I am an active person who constantly needs a creative outlet. I hear from so many people about not losing yourself to your baby, but I personally feel that this is our time to be a new family.
That being said, I don’t think the newborn phase should be the only time to be here for my baby. I think the beauty of being a woman is that you CAN juggle both. Each family is different, and I intend on finding the perfect balance between creatively having a project and also being the best mom I can be. After all, he’s going to need me now until the end of time.
The job of Mommy doesn’t ever end. It is one of the hardest jobs on this planet, but also one of the most rewarding. I look forward to taking on that role and living that chapter. It’s almost here! So for me, I can’t wait to take this time and enjoy this process and new life. The holidays with my boys sounds so perfect to me. Then, it’s all about finding ‘our’ balance.
Celebrity Baby Scoop is one of the most popular blogs on the topic and the foremost provider of everything celebrity-baby, featuring baby fashion, baby names, baby trends and up-to-the-minute celebrity baby gossip and pics. Get all the latest news, updates, and photos about Hollywood’s most beloved celebrity moms, dads and their babies. Who’s the latest Tinseltown baby? Who’s due next and who just announced a pregnancy? It’s all on Celebrity Baby Scoop.
When you think of celebrity vacations, exotic resorts and spas may come to mind. But our celeb correspondent Nancy O’Dell found out that many famous parents like to have a low-key summer with the kids. Some of their favorite getaway spots may even be in your neck of the woods. Check out the celebs and their destinations of choice by clicking here for the full story from the July issue of Parents. And don’t forget to catch Nancy weeknights on Entertainment Tonight–or chat with her directly at facebook.com/nancyodellspage.
Crafting’s gone cool. Think beyond twee crocheted potholders and macramé plant hangers. Spurred on by Etsy and Pinterest, the new crop of crafters can seemingly make anything. And now they’ll be put to the test: DIY folks do battle in “Craft Wars,” premiering on TLC on Tuesday, June 26. Each week, three contestants will go scissor-to-scissor in creative challenges, and one will win $10,000. We chatted with host (and mom of 3!) Tori Spelling about the new show, and her advice for crafting with kids—especially her little artists, 5-year-old son Liam and daughters Stella and Hattie (ages 4 and 8 months).
Parents: Why this show, and why now? Do you think that crafting is trending?
Tori Spelling: I’ve been an avid crafter my whole life, but the whole crafting movement has definitely changed. It went from hobby to DIY home when the economy went down. People started to figure out how to redecorate their home or make a fashion statement by crafting everything yourself. It brought a lot of people with many different interests together to create. Creation is passion!
Parents:Are there any craft blogs on your bookmarks list?
Parents: What kinds of craft projects do you make with your kids?
TS: We craft weekly as a family. We sit at my kids’ small craft table for hours creating cards, tags, presents, and jewelry, and we paint pottery and canvases. We get glitter everywhere and laugh through the whole thing. So fun!
Parents: How do you store or display your kids’ artwork or craft projects? Any fun alternatives to tacking them up on the fridge?
TS: They each get their own clear art storage box. Then I show off their work in mismatched lacquered frames and make a picture wall of their art projects mixed in with great black-and-white family photos. I also decoupaged a bunch of their artwork on top of a table. Every time we use it, we see their amazing creations.
Parents: Do you have a go-to crafting tool?
TS: Mini glue gun. And twine. I use twine on everything!
Parents: What are some easy craft supplies parents should keep stocked? Is there anything you think that parents should avoid?
TS: We love colored paper, stamps, ink pads, markers, glitter, and jeweled embellishments like stones, rhinestones, and grommets. Glue is messy. Try glue dots, instead!
Parents: Any advice for containing kiddie-craft messes?
TS: Do crafts on layered newspapers. When you’re finished, fold the newspapers and toss them away. Easy clean up!
Parents: Will contestants be crafting any kid-oriented projects on “Craft Wars?”
TS: Yes! They’ll make stuffed-animal pillows and playhouses made out of school supplies.
Parents: What other challenges can we look forward to this season?
TS: A birdhouse from a junk drawer and jewelry made from the wires inside a boom box!
I recently had the chance to talk with Jamie Lee Curtis, mother, actress, children’s book author, and spokesperson for Activia yogurt. We spoke about her continued support and endorsement of Activia (which has lasted for almost four years), her challenging and rewarding moments as a parent, and her advice for couples who are interested in the adoption process. Check it out below!
How did you become involved with Activia?
After the More magazine article in which I did the proverbial “show the real Jamie,” the Activia team wanted to work with somebody who had gravitas in telling the truth about something people didn’t like to discuss. When they came to me, it seemed like a good idea, and very soon after I was parodied on Saturday Night Live, which is the ultimate form of flattery. Then, for the first time, everywhere I went people came up to me and talked to me about digestive health. They thanked me and gave me big thumbs-up. They sang the Ac-ti-vi-aaa! song. That made an impression on me.
What did you hear from women about how Activia has changed or affected their lives?
I’ve heard some very personal stories, which I’m not going to relay here, but ultimately what people have said is that a digestive health issue was in their life until Activia came along. They credited Activia and its probiotic nature with helping them. When you feel better, everybody is better. And then you can go off and tackle the rest of life. Now Activia is launching a whole new element to it. Everybody is gaga over Greek and French yogurt, and they want it creamy or more tart or crunchy, so the company has come out with all these varieties.
In addition to inspiring adults to maintain good health, you’ve written a lot of great children’s books. What message do you hope kids take away from your books?
What I really hope is that they understand I get it. That’s all I care about with anything I do — that people relate to me, and I to them. Self-esteem is complicated and big words are scary to use, but moods and feelings don’t have to be so frightening. I’m not a prophet. I’m not a teacher. I have no degrees. My degree is from the University of Life. I hope a child understands that I’ve navigated childhood, I’ve raised two kids, and I understand kids very, very well.
What are some lessons that your kids have taught you?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my children is to look in the mirror at myself, not at them. I’ve realized that everything I’ve done has had an impact on them. We have to understand that they are like little paparazzi. They take our picture when we don’t want them to and then they show it to us in their behavior. I have to watch myself. If I eat well, if I treat myself well, if I don’t self-flagellate and say “I’m a fat pig” in front of my daughter, she’s not going to grow up looking in a mirror thinking “I’m a fat pig,“ because she heard me say it.
What are some meaningful ways you spend time with your family?
Well, that’s a challenge. We’re a disparate group of people coming together to make a family. It’s easy to watch a movie, but that’s not really being together; that’s just watching something. We’re struggling through it like everybody else — how to find things that everyone wants to do. Games have always been a fun way to bring people together and we do that. We’re like every other family, where I’m trying to unplug and connect, but it’s hard.
Can you touch upon some of the more challenging aspects of parenting?
The challenging part of parenting for me is to make sure that an individual person is an individual and not some sort of cookie-cutter version of me. At the same time, I want to make sure that I impart my sense of the world as an adult. So it’s tricky to try to create an authentic person with his own mind about things but also inculcate him with the things that are important to me.
And the most rewarding aspects of parenting?
The most rewarding aspect of parenting is seeing my children be authentic. The most rewarding thing for me is to see them do anything that they’re proud of.
We have a lot of readers who either want to adopt children or are in the process of adopting. Based on your experiences with adoption, do you have any advice for them? Or are there things you wish you knew when you went through the process of adopting your children?
Adoption is a very complicated road filled with incredibly emotional and challenging aspects. At its core, adoption is about loss. It’s one that needs a lot of good support for everybody, so that everyone is clear about the feelings that are being stirred up for everyone. Birthdays, for instance, are very hard for adopted children. For everyone else it’s a celebration of the moment of birth, but for adopted children, it’s the remembrance of a birth family that they don’t have. So it’s complicated terrain but still a beautiful way to make a family. You have to just be really open to all sides of it.