You probably know her best as Claire Dunphy, the lovable matriarch to Luke, Alex, and Haley (and sometimes Phil!) on Modern Family. But off-screen Julie Bowen has her hands full, too. She’s a mom to three kids, 7-year-old Oliver and 5-year-old twins John and Gus. So around the holiday season, things can definitely get a little hectic. Parents caught up with the Emmy-winning actress to talk about the awesome charity collab she’s working on with Baby2Baby and Tiny Prints holiday cards—as well as Santa and some of her favorite holiday memories and traditions.
Parents: Baby2Baby and Tiny Prints have collaborated to create holiday cards that let people give back. Why did you get involved with Baby2Baby, and what about its mission was most important to you?
Julie Bowen: I got involved with Baby2Baby right after the birth of my first son. There was a writers’ strike going on, and I had a lot of time to focus on my new baby (thrilling!) and the astounding amount of baby gear accumulating in our house (horrifying!). When I discovered there was an organization that wanted to redistribute this seemingly endless trove, it was a no-brainer! I jumped at the chance to help out.
JB: I am really loving the gold foil stripes (both vertical and diagonal!) on the Tiny Prints collection [pictured below]. I think they are super-chic and still festive. This year, I think we’re going with the old school “Happy Holidays” one. It’s got the rustic vibe and feels low-key.
Parents: Do you always send out cards around the holidays? And if so, are you a “family portrait session” kind of family, or a “family-selfie” kind of family?
JB: We do always send out cards. I have a full—and embarrassing—collection of my own family’s Christmas cards from my childhood. Let’s just say my hair went through a “stringy” stage…
As for my own kids, I try to make the photo casual or funny. I love a beautiful family shot, but honestly, we are lucky to get them all in one picture! I like the card options with different windows; Sometimes you have to use a few pics to get the whole family!
Parents: What are some of your family’s favorite holiday traditions?
JB: My family growing up was old-school. We read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve and left sugar cookies and carrots for Santa and the reindeer. I still have the same knitted Christmas stocking that I had as a kid! I’m in the process right now of making my boys’ their own stockings, but my knitting skills are rusty.
Parents: Your boys are getting a little bit older now, Oliver is 7, and John and Gus are 5. Have you had to answer any tough questions about Santa yet?
JB: Part of being a kid is believing in the impossible, so I try to strike a balance between practicality and magic. I don’t want to rob my boys of “Santa excitement,” but I also don’t want to shove it down their throats. Oliver recently said, “Mom, there’s no way one guy can get all those presents everywhere on one night.” I just agreed with him and said, “Yeah. That’s always struck me as fishy, too, but it seems to work out every year. There’s definitely SOMETHING going on, but I’ve never figured it out…” The boys are determined to sleep by the fireplace this year and get a video of Santa. Thank god my husband has a great sense of humor and will definitely “help” them get the footage they want.
Parents: Do you have any holiday traditions with the Modern Family cast?
JB: We give the crew a gift every year, and that is usually our big focus. They work longer and harder for far fewer rewards than the cast receives, so we really sweat the gift decision and its execution. As for the cast, I tried to institute a “Secret Santa” wherein each cast member only bought a gift for one other cast member, but it would never work. Nolan and his mom make amazing ornaments for everyone every year no matter what. Nobody wants to miss out on that!
Parents: Between all of the typical holiday chaos—sending out holiday cards, getting presents, spending time with family—holidays can get stressful! How do you keep it all together?
JB: I have no idea! I have started telling myself over and over that Christmas morning is messy and chaotic, and that’s part of the fun for the kids. I need to live with the boxes and the wrapping paper everywhere for a while and just stay focused on happy kids on a sugar high…
August is certainly the month for celebrating family! In case you missed it, Sisters Day took place on August 3, while August 11 and 12 mark Son and Daughter Day and Middle Child Day, respectively.
Middle children are often thought to be the neglected ones in the family, but that hasn’t stopped our favorite on-screen kiddos from showing their spunk. After all, what would Modern Family be without brainiac Alex? Can you imagine The Middle (which actually refers to the Midwest, not birth order!) without overeager Sue? Going back a decade (or two!), how much did you love Even Stevens‘ Ren and Full House‘s Stephanie?
Real-life middles have been pretty accomplished–think Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Princess Diana, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Personality-wise, middle children are thought to be people-pleasers, somewhat rebellious, peacemakers, and social creatures. Quite the mix of traits!
Are you a middle child or the parent of one? Do you or your child exhibit any of the traits mentioned? Here’s what a few of our Parents editors have to say about their middle child role!
“I’m a middle child, a girl between two brothers. When I was really little I hated it because the two of them were the best of friends and they would always pick on me. As a teen and an adult, however, I love that I’m neither first nor last. I’ve always had my older brother there to pave the way for me. He taught me from his experiences, yet I still had the opportunity to teach my younger brother from mine.” –Alexandra Johnston, assistant photo editor
“I’m a middle child (and also the only girl). My older brother was hyperactive and my younger one was the mellowest kid ever. My parents were so busy ‘handling’ one and being grateful for the other that I was able to fly under their radar—and consequently got away with a lot!” –Alexa Barre, copy editor
A few days after her Emmy win, I had a chance to chat with actress Julie Bowen but, following a quick congratulations, asked her to switch gears from an exciting moment in her life, to one that was downright scary. When Bowen’s oldest son, Oliver, was a toddler, his face and neck swelled up after eating a bit of peanut butter, and he began having trouble breathing. He was rushed to the emergency room. “My husband and I thought we knew a lot about children and food allergies,” says Bowen. But after his allergic reaction, “we realized how little we knew. That wasn’t even his first exposure to peanuts.” Luckily, Oliver, who is also allergic to bee stings, recovered quickly, but for Bowen, it was a wake-up call.
Now she’s taking part in the Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis initiative, which aims to increase awareness of and preparedness for allergic reactions in school. Bowen says that, in a way, it was helpful that Oliver had such a strong reaction: “We knew right away to take him to the emergency room.” But sometimes symptoms can be more subtle. Your child may experience dizziness, headaches, chest pain, trouble breathing, an itchy throat, nausea, or a rash, among other things.
The best way to cut down on the risk is to avoid allergic triggers, but of course, accidents can happen. So what can you do? First, know the most common causes of anaphylaxis: cow’s milk, eggs, nuts, fish, soybeans, and wheat, as well as non-food triggers such as insect stings, certain medications, and latex. Children who are younger than 3, have a family member with allergies or asthma, or other predisposition are more likely to develop allergies. If your child has one, find out if his school has a prevention and treatment policy, and meet with the school nurse to discuss an action plan in case of anaphylaxis. Even young children can look out for themselves, as well.
“Oliver is his own best advocate,” says Bowen, of her now 5 year old. “He never puts anything he’s never had before in his mouth without asking, and he always asks a grown-up to read him the ingredients label.” When I seemed impressed by his proactive attitude, Bowen told me that, for younger kids, having an allergy can make them feel cool and special. As they get older, they may start to feel like an outsider. That’s why Bowen makes sure her son understands his allergies are just another characteristic, like having red hair or blue eyes. She tells Oliver, “You can’t eat nuts and, if you get stung by a bee, you need to get immediate attention,” then moves on. “I don’t want it to define him, but I do want it to be part of his everyday awareness.”
Today, Oliver keeps a prescription epinephrine auto-injector with him wherever he goes, and Bowen makes sure that, if he’s not with her or her husband, somebody knows how to use it. Aside from that, she says, “We really encourage Oliver to do the things kids love, like taking part in recess and play dates.” (Or perhaps attending awards shows with his mom?) And with a few precautions, there’s no reason he can’t!
This week’s “Modern Family” episode is still generating buzz for “showing” 2-year-old Lily saying her first curse word. A few weeks ago, we asked our readers on Facebook, “Has a ‘bad word’ ever slipped from your little one’s mouth? What did you do?” The question generated 381 responses — and parents had a lot to say!
Some admitted they laughed the first time, others pretended not to notice, and still others admitted to yelling at their kids or “popping” them on the mouth. Some showed restraint by calmly explaining the curse was “a bad word,” “a naughty word,” or a “grown-up word” never to be used again while a few started a “cuss bank” or “cursing jar” to accrue money every time their kid said a bad word. Read some of our favorite responses below, and then take our poll to share what you did!
I usually ask them, “Oh yeah? Now, can you say hospital? How about catapillar?” until they forget they said [the curse word]. A rise is a reward to these little monsters! – Heather Marie
We just sat them down and talked about it, how certain words are for adults only and some are not acceptable in our house. We talked about how they might hear them on TV, in a video game, from friends or other adults, and if they’re not sure they can come ask us about it. Generally if they don’t hear us say it, then they shouldn’t say it. – Sarah Crane C.
My daughter was 1 and kept dropping her toy. I heard, “Aw dammit.” I thought to myself, there’s no way she said that! Then she repeated it over and over. I laughed but not where she could see. I couldn’t do much other than ignore her. - Alicia W.
At New Year’s dinner, my son yelled “motherf–ker” at my mother in law! I was mortified and sternly told him “No, those aren’t nice words.” Hubby and mother-in-law laughed, so now he won’t stop. - Cristina T.
I will never forget when my daughter was 12-18 months old she would say “coffee” and it would come out “f%$Kee.” Needless to say, going out to breakfast was always interesting because you would hope and pray that the word” coffee” did not come out of her mouth as the waitress poured us a cup! - Faith Alsup D.
My daughter came to me and said, “I just wanted to tell you I said a bad word when I twisted my ankle and I’m really sorry and Iwon’t say it ever again.” I just told her she was right that it wasn’t a word she should say and that I was disappointed that she said it, but I was still proud she came and told me. - Danna C.
When my daughter was 3 and my son was 6, we were driving somewhere. My daughter called my son a “b–ch.” He yelled to say she called him the “b” word. She said, “I didn’t call you the ‘b’ word! I called you a b–ch!” I had the worse time trying to disipline her without laughing. – Michelle M.
The little girl that we have custody of said the funniest thing, at 18 months old. I asked her what was in her diaper and her reply was “Sh-t”! - Casey W.
We were driving up a big snowy hill in town. Daddy said, “I wish they would use sand instead of this f–king salt all the time.” Our oldest piped up a few minutes later and said, “Hey Dad, look at all these f–king cars all over the place!” We looked at each other and tried not to laugh. We told him not to say that, and that Daddy shouldn’t either and he would sit in “time out” later. My son never said it again. I guess the thought that even Daddy’s have to sit in “time out” when he said bad words was enough. – Larinna C.
There is no such thing as a “bad” word…only words used badly. I give my son free license to say anything as long as he is not hurtful with his speech. As soon as I did that, the novelty of cursing wore off, and he calls out other people who curse. – Ash C.
If I slip every now and again, my 4-year-old daughter says, “Mom, don’t say that word because I might repeat it,” that puts me in check! She knows what not to say. She will question me about a word if she’s curious. She asks, “Mom, can I say, What the heck? Is that okay?” It’s cute! – Bethany Noelle M.
I tell my daughter, who loves being a “princess” that princesses don’t say words like that. – Sheri G.
This contest has now ended. Congratulations to our winner, Heather D. of Beavercreek, OR!
As promised, we’re unveiling five of the Fab 15 toys selected by Kmart Toys and Rico Rodriguez of “Modern Family”! We’ve collaborated with Kmart Toys to present one grand prize winner with a bundle that includes the five toys below:
(1) Simon Flash ($29.99) (1) I Am T Pain Mic ($39.99) (1) Lalaloopsy Treehouse ($39.99) (1) Redekai Championship Battle Tin ($29.99) (1) WWE Crashdown Arena ($42.99)
These five toys (total retail value of $182.95) will certainly bring a smile to any child’s face for the holiday season.
To enter, share your favorite holiday memory in our Comments section below between Mon. December 5 to Fri. December 9. One grand prize winner will be selected randomly to win the bundle of five toys. Come back to this post again after Mon. December 12 to find out the winner. Read the full contest rules here.
Are you a fan of “Modern Family”? Rico Rodigruez, who plays Manny on the show, has partnered with Kmart Toys (as their Fun Ambassador) to introduce the Fab 15 — 15 of this holiday season’s best toys. We’ve collaborated with Kmart Toys to give away five of these toys, to one grand prize winner, next week.
Watch the video below of Rico introducing the Fab 15 – and make sure to come back to Goodyblog on Monday, December 5 as we unveil the five toys!