It's that time of year! Your kids are probably super pumped about all of the cool back-to-school gear, but you might be feeling overwhelmed. That's why we asked designer and Target lifestyle expert Camila Alves for her best advice. As mom to Levi, 7, Vida, 5, and Livingston, 2, Camila knows things can get crazy, so she reveals how to get through (and enjoy!) this time. And don't miss the dish on how she and hubby Matthew McConaughey are raising bicultural children, plus their best memory from this summer vacation.
P: Having three kids, how do you handle back-to-school all at once?
CA: I have a 2- a 5- and a 7-year-old. They're on different routines, different personalities. It's definitely a challenge. One thing that I think is very helpful: Two weeks before school starts, start getting your kids slowly back into a routine. All of a sudden my kids are sleeping in to 9, 10, I'm like "Whoa, when did this happen?" Slowly getting to bed at a certain time, waking up at a certain time, having quiet time in the middle of the day when they can do writing or drawing or reading, so when the first days of school comes it's not a big surprise for them. Getting back to school or started in school for a first time is really overwhelming—at least it was for me.
P: Is your littlest going school for the first time?
CA: My little guy is going to preschool, but my daughter is starting kindergarten. The vaccination forms, the outfits, the materials, the carpool, it's so much that goes into it. As a mom, give yourself a break because most likely you're going to forget something and you're going to be late for something and it's ok. They're gonna be ok. If your child sees you stressing out and being overwhelmed with it then they're experience is going to be the same. So just have fun with it. And, whatever you can prep the night before do it.
P: Are you big on packing lunches at the beginning of the week?
CA: I always have in the freezer two or three meals. People sometimes think freezing stuff is bad. If you cook the food fresh, put it in the freezer the right way, and defrost it the right way it's the best because you're locking in all the ingredients. In case I have a crazy day, or I'm too tired to do it, I can always go in the freezer. I have a bag of rice, a bag of beans, I'll do a meat sauce, some protein. Warm it up and you have a meal. At the same time I make dinner I'm prepping their lunches for the next day so that by the time we sit down their lunch boxes are done.
P: Do you ever get overwhelmed by the school supply list?
CA: I do it all in one trip. I go to Target I get everything at once. People think I'm crazy because I have three kids, so I'm walking out with a HUGE cart. I get home. I separate them. Done.
P: You recently got your official US passport. Congrats!
CA: Thank you! I had my green card for a long time. I decided to get my American passport, but I still have my Brazilian passport.
P: How do you incorporate your Brazilian culture into raising your kids? Do they feel a sense of heritage?
CA: I do a lot of things for them to have love for Brazil. I love in the morning the ride from home to school I play Brazilian music. When it's time to watch cartoons, I push them to watch Brazilian cartoons because then they're trying to act like those characters. And the food. My kids looooove Brazilian food. They're so excited about it. You know when you to Brazilian steakhouses they hold the meat and they cut it up? My son [Levi] does that all the time. We try to speak Portuguese as much as we can. My mom used to live with me, and it was easier because she and I were speaking Portuguese the whole time. Now that she doesn't anymore I have to make a conscious decision. It's just a lot little things.
P: What's the best parenting advice you ever received?
CA: That it goes fast. I remember when I was pregnant I heard that 10,000 times to the point that I was like, "Oh, I'm so over it. Enough already." And then became a parent and I'm like, "You know what? They were right." Another thing, too, is a lot of times our kids are stronger and smarter than we can ever imagine. A lot of parents sometimes don't give the kids the credit.
P: In terms of time going by quickly, what's the favorite memory you all made this summer?
CA: This summer we were in Thailand. Matthew was working there so when he goes to work we all go. It was a challenge for me because my workday would start at 9pm and go all night, but for the kids it was an experience. We bathed the elephants in the river. We went kayaking in caves. Rock climbing. We got to go to Cambodia and to the orphanages and schools—that's my nicest memory I have.
Ruthie Fierberg is an editorial assistant at Parents. Though she does not have children of her own, she's practically been raising kids since her first babysitting job at age 11. She is also our resident theater aficionado and has interviewed over 40 celeb parents. Follow her on Twitter @RuthiesATrain.