Our favorite celebrities dish on their starring role as parents.
By Family Circle Contributors
The multitasking model, who recently launched the Heidi Klum Intimates lingerie line, reveals her secret passion and what she wears around the house (you'd be surprised).
7 Things You Might Not Have Known About Heidi
"I'm the opposite of a procrastinator. I can't stand leaving things till the last minute."
"My kids can always make me laugh by blaming their farts on our dogs. Poor Freddy, Max and Simba!"
"If I could have a different career, I'd be a chef. On the other hand, one of my favorite foods is refried spaghetti with ketchup."
"My best fashion tips for busy moms? Get rid of the baggy jogging pants. And get a good bra. If you feel supported and sexy under your clothes, you radiate more confidence."
"You'd think I'd need more alone time, being a mom of four (Leni, 10; Henry, 9; Johan, 8; and Lou, 5). But when I travel and am alone in a hotel room, it's way too quiet for me."
"My hidden talent is dancing. I've been doing it for 15 years -- jazz, ballet, tap, ballroom. I'll use any excuse to move to the music. "
"I'm not ashamed to admit I really, really like wearing a Snuggie."
Originally published in the April 2015 issue of Family Circle magazine.
The Scandal star spills some secrets about getting healthy and his love of Life (the cereal, that is).
6 Things You Might Not Have Known About Scott
"A few years ago I cleaned up my diet by cutting out red meat, dairy and caffeine, and lost 25 pounds. When I go to Starbucks -- it's a daily habit -- I get decaf. And I stopped drinking soda. Those 25 pounds have made a huge difference in how I look and feel."
"The one thing I can't resist is sugar -- cookies, chocolate and especially cereal. I can finish off a box of Life or Frosted Mini-Wheats if I'm not careful. I joke that anything I open is a single serving."
"I hit the gym three, four times a week for an hour -- any more than that and I get bored."
"Being fit means I have more energy for my kids (Malina, 5; Keller, 2; and Konrad, 3 months). On the other hand, my favorite mornings are those when they don't wake me before seven."
"I encourage my children to eat healthy and exercise, whether it's running around outside or jumping on the trampoline. But mostly I just want them to be happy."
Originally published in the March 2015 issue of Family Circle magazine.
The award-winning actor and Brooklyn Nine-Nine star cops to breaking the rules, a wicked sweet tooth and a secret (guy!) crush.
7 Things You Might Not Have Known About Andre
"How do I keep a straight face working with Andy Samberg? I let my mind go blank and get into a meditative state. Because the moment you actually picture what he's saying, you burst out laughing."
"My worst habit is hitting the snooze button. I set my clock early enough so that I can hit it twice or more and still get up on time."
"I cheat a little when I play basketball with my sons. They're 12, 17 and 22, and those guys can jump. Even so, I don't win very often."
"My favorite way to unwind is digging holes and moving plants around the yard, which I find oddly relaxing."
"If someone tries to eat my dessert, I act up like a little kid."
"I'm really good at making up songs based on what people say. Not necessarily a charming quality. In fact, it can get pretty annoying."
"I secretly wish I had a bromance with Fred Armisen. I'm a huge fan."
Originally published in the February 2015 issue of Family Circle magazine.
The actress, who plays the wicked Miss Hannigan in Annie, talks about her inner child, catching her zzz's and her favorite party trick (it involves a sword).
6 Things You Might Not Have Known About Cameron
"When I was young I wanted to be a zoologist and study animal behavior. That's basically what I do now, but with humans instead of lions and hippos."
"My favorite way to unwind is Transcendental Meditation. I practice for 20 minutes twice a day, and it helps keep me sane."
"Give me a night in over a night out any day. I love getting together with girlfriends at my house or theirs to cook, eat, dance and laugh."
"My secret talent? Chopping off the top of a champagne bottle with a sword. I learned how for a movie, and now it's my party trick."
"Being in my 40s is the best. I know myself better and make smarter choices. Life just gets easier as you wise up."
"I'm still a kid at heart. Really, I have the mentality -- and sense of humor -- of a 14-year-old boy."
Originally published in the January 2015 issue of Family Circle magazine.
The award-winning actress and singer (her new album, Holiday Wishes, is available now) talks about John Travolta's name flub, her celeb crushes and how she lets it go on the tennis court.
6 Things You Might Not Have Known About Idina
"If I weren't an actress or singer, I'd be a professional tennis player, because I have a kick-ass backhand."
"The most profound way Frozen has changed my life? My 5-year-old son, Walker, now thinks I'm cool. That's huge!"
"My biggest pinch-me moments this year were singing the national anthem at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game -- 2 feet away from Derek Jeter! -- and meeting Bono at the Oscars. I screamed like a little girl."
"John Travolta may call me Adele Dazeem, but my nickname from my family and friends is actually Dee."
"If I could have a beauty do-over, I'd take back all those times in the '80s that I teased my hair up very, very high and used Stiff Stuff hairspray. Not a good look!"
"I'm not ashamed to admit that I really, really like The Bachelor."
Originally published in the December 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.
The country star dishes about his bad habits, his secret skill and—ahem!—famous booty.
6 Things You Might Not Have Known About Luke
"When it comes to dogs, I'm a real softie. We have Mona, a French bulldog, and Pappy, a Lagotto Romagnolo. And yes, I cried while watching Marley & Me."
"I'm not afraid to admit I love Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend." It's the song that gave me Bieber fever."
"I hope my sons—Bo, 6, and Tate, 4—inherit my love of fishing, camping and the great outdoors, but not my passion for blackjack. That could get them into trouble!"
"My fans have set up Twitter accounts dedicated to my butt. I think it's flattering—and a good laugh."
"I'm a slob, but I can't help it. I throw my clothes on the floor, and my wife, Caroline, is always after me to pick them up. I'm getting better, though."
"My hidden talent is moonwalking. I can't do it as well as when I was a kid, but I'm still pretty good."
Originally published in the November 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.
The Shark Tank star and Dallas Mavericks owner dishes on his killer dance moves, daddy duties and his secret sweet tooth.
7 Things You Might Not Have Known About Mark
"I may be CFO at home, but my wife, Tiffany, is the CEO. I do whatever she wants because she has made my life a thousand times better. Getting her to marry me was the best deal I ever closed."
"Most people would be surprised to learn that I love acting. I auditioned for a role in Twister and actually got callbacks. If anyone has parts for me, just holler!"
"My worst habit? I really can't seem to stop biting my nails."
"I was once paid $25 an hour to teach disco dancing at a sorority house. If you want proof that I've still got it, come to any of my girls' daddy-daughter dances."
"I like to squirt whipped cream—low fat, that is—in my mouth, even though it makes Tiff roll her eyes at me.
"Being a good dad is far more difficult than being a good businessman. I can always recover from a failed deal, but there are no do-overs when it comes to my kids."
"I embarrass my kids—Alexis, 11; Alyssa, 8; and Jake, 5—when I sing. Nothing clears a room faster."
Originally published in the October 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.
The actor and dad of two, who stars in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, cracks wise on bromances, bulking up and early bedtime.
8 Things You Might Not Have Known About Will
"When I look at my high school photos I think, 'Why didn't you work out?' I never set foot in a gym till I was 24."
"My competitive side comes out when I'm playing Xbox's Call of Duty. Then I send trash- talking texts to friends after they've had a really bad game."
"The best thing about being an adult is eating ice cream for dinner. Every kid dreams of doing it, and now I can."
"I hope my two sons inherit my sense of direction. I always know which way is north."
"Don't ask me to do the 'chicken dance' from my days on Arrested Development. You can't take it out of context."
"Bromances are overrated. My dance card is pretty full, so I don't have room for one. And I don't want to make Jason Bateman jealous!"
"I squeal like a little girl when my hockey team—the Toronto Maple Leafs—wins. Unfortunately, I haven't had much to cheer about."
"Make fun of me all you want, but I like to go to bed by 9:30. It's taken a long time to admit I'm a morning person."
Originally published in the September 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.
The Fox & Friends cohost shoots baskets like a pro, lets her kids go Picasso on the walls, and never met a tortilla chip she didn't like.
8 Things You Might Not Have Known About Elisabeth
"My top beauty secret is concealer! It's right on my nightstand. I don't even turn off my alarm without applying it first."
"I throw out the house rules when it comes to the family art room, where Taylor, 6, his brother Isaiah, 4, and sister Grace, 9, can write on the walls and furniture. It's all about expressing yourself."
"My ultimate stress relievers are a nice run, a hug from my kids and good ol' prayer."
"No one knows, but I can shoot a mean 3-pointer in basketball. I beat my 6-year-old, Taylor, every time."
"I could spend all day on Pinterest. I pin a lot of food, home decor and party ideas. I love really awesome DIY projects."
"Being called a ballbuster is weird! I've heard worse, but I try to ignore both criticism and praise. Caring about either is a big trap."
"I'm secretly afraid of letting everyone down. How awful is that?"
"Even if it fell on the floor, I'd still eat chocolate. Leave me alone with a bag of tortilla chips and I'll devour them all."
Originally published in the August 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.
The Emmy-winning actress on her love of courtroom drama, canines and candy.
7 Things You Might Not Have Known About Debra
"I was already singing and dancing at 3. When my parents took me to see Annie on Broadway, it changed my life. I sat up in my seat, turned to them and said, 'I want to be up there. That's what I want to do!'"
"I'm crazy about Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, jewelry and dogs. I couldn't go a day without Henry, my Havanese, and Laila, a Coton de Tulear. They bring such joy to my life."
"My ultimate way to unwind is to take a nice, long bath."
"I believe in astrology. If I'm reading a magazine or newspaper—even if it's two months old—I have to read my horoscope. I'm definitely a Leo: strong-willed, fiercely loyal and passionate."
"The toughest thing about being a single mom is setting boundaries so that my professional life doesn't eat into personal time with my 10-year-old, Roman. Finding the right balance is hard."
"No bouquets for me—I'm allergic to flowers, even floral perfume. When I was filming The Wedding Date a new makeup artist was doused in the stuff, and my face turned so red and my eyes got so puffy we had to stop shooting for nearly three hours. I'm a spokesperson for Zyrtec because it's a lifesaver."
"I always wanted to be a lawyer. That was my plan B if I didn't go into acting. I'm fascinated by the judicial system, and in my downtime I watch live trials on TV. Real life is the best theater around."
Originally published in the June 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.
This mom of three has a pet chicken named Fluffy, is a Brady Bunch fanatic and takes an insane number of photographs. In other words, not your standard-issue best-selling author.
Q. The One & Only, your new novel, is about romance, friendship and Texas football. How did you come up with that premise?
A. I love the inherent drama in sports and wanted that to be the backdrop for a surprising love story—think Friday Night Lights meets When Harry Met Sally.
Q. Your heroines are passionate, funny and flawed. How would you describe yourself?
A. Driven and determined. Sensitive and sentimental. A loyal friend who is excellent at keeping secrets. I can get obsessive, whether it's taking photographs (over 10,000 of them last year, mostly of my children) or watching Brady Bunch reruns (I'm a trivia queen!). And I'm a perfectionist, but not about parenting. Mom guilt is a supreme waste of energy.
Q. You've pinned stars like George Clooney and Robert Downey Jr. on Pinterest. Are they muses for your male characters?
A. I seldom think about celebrities when I write, but I did have George Clooney in mind for The One & Only's Coach Carr. He's just perfect—if only he'd commit!
Q. You're hosting a dinner and can invite six famous people. Who would they be?
A. Hillary Clinton (for my mom), George W. Bush (for my father), Kate Middleton (for my sister), author Judy Blume (for me) and Bruce Springsteen (because he's the Boss.) After dinner, I'd go dancing and drinking with Tina Fey!
Q. How did you end up with a chicken named Fluffy?
A. Our first pet chicken, Polly, appeared in our backyard one day. After she was killed by a hawk, we got another one. Our family attempted a democratic process to name her, but my 6-year-old daughter, Harriet, insisted on Fluffy—a source of shame for my 10-year-old twins, Edward and George!
Originally published in the June 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.
A new movie, two TV shows, plus a regular gig on the smash hit Scandal—the adorable ditz from Friends has come a long way, but her 15-year-old, Julian, is not impressed.
Q. Julian must think it's pretty cool his mom is in the new Seth Rogen movie, Neighbors?
A. I think the words "cool" and "mom" are mutually exclusive. Everything I do embarrasses him. If I dance a step or two—even if it's just the two of us in the kitchen—he yells, "Stop! I can't even look at that."
Q. Are you and your husband, Michel, on the same page when it comes to parenting?
A. No, and that's good. Kids should know there are different points of view. I'm fine with Julian watching shows like Family Guy and The Walking Dead. Michel, on the other hand, thinks TV is brain poison.
Q. What advice would Fiona, the shrink you play on Web Therapy, share with you—via webcam, of course—about raising a teen?
A. "Having a child was your choice and your mistake—I mean, decision—so I want no part of it!"
Q. You produce the celebrity roots show Who Do You Think You Are? Was Julian interested in your family tree?
A. Not really. I don't know how much boys care about that kind of stuff. But women are information collectors. It's always us girls who are sitting around the table swapping family stories.
Q. Does being a mom influence what roles you will or won't take?
A. I've always had the rule, "I'm not taking my top off." I don't know if Julian could handle sharing that much of me with the rest of the world.
Originally published in the May 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.
The actress and mom of two (Honor, 5, and Haven, 2) admits to saying "Because I told you so!" more often than she would like. We can totally relate.
Q. What's your favorite way to spend time with your daughters?
A. We love getting crafty and upcycling found items. Honor helped me pick out knobs for a vintage dresser I refurbished for Haven's nursery. We also freshened up some flea-market picture frames with nontoxic paint and created a gallery wall of her artwork.
Q. Who's the tougher parent?
A. I'm the bad cop who enforces time-outs. My husband, Cash, is the good cop who tries to reason with the girls. They're strong-willed just like I was as a kid so it can be frustrating when they stick to their guns.
Q. Have you always been eco-conscious?
A. When I became a mom I learned that many so-called green shampoos, diapers and detergents still contained the toxic chemicals I wanted to avoid. I launched The Honest Company to make it easy for parents to buy children's gear and products that are safe, natural and effective.
Q. How do you manage to look fabulous all the time? Tell us your secret.
A. Know what looks best on your body. Invest in classic pieces and add fun accessories. Oh, and never leave the house without concealer and mascara!
Q. You've said that anyone who claims it's easy juggling motherhood and a career "is full of it."
A. Being supermom isn't a realistic standard. I rely on endless schedules and to-do lists not to mention Cash to manage the chaos of work and family life. It's impossible to do everything perfectly, but I've learned not to sweat the small stuff.
Originally published in the April 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.
This funny lady is serious when it comes to keeping her household running smoothly—just ask children Frances, 11, and Ulysses, 5.
Q. Are you like Sheila Shay, the perfectionist character you play on Suburgatory?
A. Yes. The kids are always busting me for being "so Sheila"—like when I immediately labeled the cords for their new Nintendo DS's so I'd know which charger belongs to who. I'm a label-making fanatic!
Q. We hear you've become quite the Twitter addict.
A. It's my creative outlet because no one in my family wants to hear my boring inner thoughts. Frances is always saying, "TMI, Mom," but that won't stop me.
Q. What's typical for family dinner?
A. "My husband, Charlie, and I are both on Weight Watchers, Frances is a vegetarian and Ulysses can't eat dairy. It's a brainteaser every day figuring out what to cook."
Q. How do you squeeze in alone time with Charlie?
A. At the gym. We take circuit training, boot camp or yoga classes together and pay Frances $5 an hour to babysit her brother. I don't know if that's, like, child endangerment, but it's working out really great!
Q. Any good tips for busy moms?
A. I buy 20 age-appropriate gifts at the start of the year—ten 11-year-old presents, like a four-pack of Judy Blume books, and ten 5-year-old presents, like a bunch of Stomp Rockets. Then I don't have to worry about shopping every time there's a birthday party.
Originally published in the February 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.
Whether playing pro basketball or parenting son Kiyan, 6, the Knicks superstar knows how to keep calm and carry on.
Q. You're one of the great all-time scorers and rebounders, but what's your number one skill as a dad?
A. Staying calm. Like any kid, Kiyan tries to get away with as much as he can, which includes dribbling inside the house. I'm pretty good at not overreacting.
Q. You also have a reputation for keeping your cool on the court. What's your secret?
A. I constantly remind myself there's too much at stake—lose your temper and you could lose the game. If someone gets under my skin and I blow it, I make sure to explain to Kiyan that it was wrong. He's going to hear about it anyway—and I hope he learns from my mistakes.
Q. When it comes to parenting, who's the stronger teammate, you or your wife?
A. Lala, definitely. She's with Kiyan more during the season, and she really covers for me. I seriously appreciate the partnership we have.
Q. How do you unwind?
A. Cooking relaxes me. Spaghetti Bolognese is my specialty. Kiyan thinks I'm good at it, but all he eats are hot dogs and Tater Tots!
Q. Why was it important to you to start the Carmelo Anthony Foundation?
A. My dad passed away when I was young, and growing up with my mom I was lucky if I got shoes, let alone toys. I want to give back and help disadvantaged kids realize they can accomplish their dreams by working hard. Meeting them and hearing how the foundation has changed their lives is a great experience.
Q. You're a six-time NBA All-Star with a sneaker named after you and a wax statue at Madame Tussauds. What's been the high point of your career?
A. Winning Olympic Gold in 2008 and 2012 was pretty amazing. I keep the medals in a safe, but take them out every now and then so I can relive the moments!
The America's Got Talent judge gets our "yes" vote for being a multitasking mom.
Q. You've got several TV gigs, design clothes and more. How do you manage that and be a hands-on mom to four kids?
A. If you do what you love, it never feels like hard work. I always involve myself in projects that mean something to me. My children and I have always been fans of America's Got Talent and love watching the show. And I love my collaboration with New Balance because I always found myself looking for workout wear that was fashionable and a bit more edgy. It was important for me to design a collection where women would feel confident and comfortable.
Q. What inspired you to start the Truly Scrumptious clothing and furniture line for Babies R Us?
A. It has always been a dream of mine to design a collection for kids, since I've gone through all those baby and toddler stages and learned what works and what doesn't. It's really fun because I'm able to add more color, sparkle and embellishments. I wanted my collection to be a one-stop shop for parents. Having a baby is such a special time and I wanted the nursery items to reflect that.
Q. Your oldest child, Leni, is almost a teen. Are you ready to deal with the attitude and eye-rolls and everything else? What's your game plan?
A. I have a very close relationship with all of my kids. The teenage years are filled with learning lessons and we'll take each one as they come.
Q. When she's big enough, are you going to share clothes with her?
A. We've already started this. I have definitely seen the girls running around in my high heels!
Written by Paula Chin
The Biggest Loser host and Days of Our Lives star says kids Ben, 8, and Megan, 4, are her secret weapons for staying fit.
Q. Do you have a parenting mantra?
A. "Set your kids up for success." For example, both of mine have to pack their backpacks and put them by the front door. That way they become more independent and self-reliant.
Q. Any surprising tricks you've learned over the years?
A. Growing up, I hated when my mom would say, "Why can't you be like your brother?" Now I realize that strategy works. I'll say, "Ben, what a great job you did making your bed. Fantastic!" Next thing you know, Megan's a copycat!
Q. You've talked about how important it is to instill good eating habits in children. Is there a common mistake parents make?
A. Not practicing what they preach. You can't give them vegetables while you have a side of fries. And there's no reason to insist they eat them all. I cook things Ben and Megan like—peas, broccoli, green beans—so that eating healthy isn't a punishment.
Q. What are your family's most Instagram-worthy moments?
A. Dinnertime. We almost always have music going—everything from Michael Jackson to Adam Levine and Imagine Dragons. Megan starts rocking her ballet, Ben shows off his hip-hop moves, and it turns into a dance party.
Q. How do you squeeze workouts into your schedule?
A. Peer pressure. I put on my gym clothes before going downstairs. My family sees me and expects me to work out, so I do. If I went from pajamas to jeans first thing, I'd never exercise.
Q. You have two jobs and your husband, Dave, is a highway patrol officer. When is there time for romance?
A. With us it's more about the little things. If I see a funny video I'll send him the link, or I'll text him an inside joke. He charges my phone and writes "hi" on the door when he's taking a shower. It really shows the love.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Originally published in the January 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.
When the CBS This Morning cohost gets quality time with twins Grace and Henry, 6, and daughter Riley, 5, there's one rule: No iPhone!
Q. Who has been the most fun to interview?
A. Shaquille O'Neal. He had us laughing the entire time, and then lifted each of us off the floor—even Charlie Rose, who's a pretty big guy himself!
Q. What advice do you have for women with working-mom guilt?
A. Delegate! I've struggled with the feeling that I have to do everything myself so that all is perfect. We're supposed to be CEOs at home, so we need to empower the people around us to help out, including our kids.
Q. Does that mean you put yours to work?
A. Oh, yeah! They make their beds, dress themselves, pack their school bags, set the table and clear their plates. Unfortunately, they're not old enough to mow the lawn.
Q. Any special family holiday traditions?
A. My husband, Geoff—who's a chef with six restaurants—prepares a big Christmas brunch buffet with kielbasa, smoked salmon and a waffle-making station. His latest obsession is bacon, so this year should be extra delicious.
Q. How do you rate yourself in the kitchen?
A. I make the cupcakes and sandwiches and a great tomato sauce. But Geoff's the family cook and I like it that way.
Q. You've admitted you're not above bribing your kids. Spill!
A. Ice cream is a huge motivator, and I tell them at dinner that they can't have any unless they finish their vegetables. Parenting experts tell you not to bribe, but it works!
Q. If you could be BFFs with any celeb, who would you choose?
A. Oh, definitely Bradley Cooper. He seems to be living the life. He was two years behind me at Georgetown University. My college girlfriends and I keep asking ourselves, "How did we miss him?"
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Originally published in the December 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.
The Super Bowl champ turned talk show host is at the top of his game. That includes being superdad to kids Tara-Tanita, 21; Michael Jr., 18; and twins Isabella and Sophia, 8.
Q. You've described yourself as shy, which is not at all how you come off. Please explain!
A. I'm reserved and nervous around strangers, and when I walk into a room I just want to blend in, not stand out. But put a TV camera on me, and I'll do anything.
Q. That's for sure. You've dressed up as Oprah and done a Magic Mike striptease on Live Michael. Where do you draw the line?
A. We had swimmer Ryan Lochte in a dunk tank, and the producers wanted me to wear a Speedo. I told them that was definitely not happening.
Q. When you and fiancee Nicole Murphy (Eddie Murphy's ex) get married, you'll have nine kids. It must be a challenge blending such big families.
A. You have to stick with it. At first it's hard to connect to the other person's kids, because they intuitively feel that liking you means they're cheating on their other parent. But show them you love them, and eventually they'll love you back.
Q. Are you a softy when it comes to Isabella and Sophia?
A. I hold my own. I'm mush when it's time to be mush. Okay, I'm mush. Whatever they want, we do. I take them shopping, to nail salons and the American Girl store. There's no shame in my game when it comes to my girls.
Q. Over the years, have Tara-Tanita's boyfriends been scared of you?
A. I do my best to intimidate. When I meet someone she's dating, I'm like, "This is my daughter, and if you don't take care of her, I will take care of you." Just to make sure the respect is there.
Q. Both Live and your other show, Fox NFL Sunday, have been rated number one in their respective categories. What will you conquer next?
A. I'd like to be the first athlete to make it to the moon!
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.
She's a regular on NBC's Hannibal, which is too scary for her sons to watch. But her turn as an affable witch in Room on the Broom, soon out on DVD, is totally kid-friendly.
Q. After playing so many serious roles, was it fun doing an animated film?
A. I've worked on a couple of animated pieces before, like The Simpsons. It's a whole other world. Lots of fun, but harder than you would imagine.
Q. Did you score cool points with your sons, who are 6 and 4, doing Room on the Broom?
A. I've read the book to them probably 10,000 times, which is one of the reasons I was interested in the voiceover role. But they don't know I did it. Actually, they don't really know what it is I do. I'd rather keep it from them as long as possible because I'd rather they like me not because of what I do for a living, but because of the mom I am.
Q. How do you deal with the challenges of having an 18-year-old daughter and the little guys? Must make your head spin sometimes.
A. I'm lucky because my girl is very grounded, self-aware and self-motivated. With the boys most of my day is reacting to what they throw at me—making messes, climbing and somersaults, broken bones. You do your best and the rest is just patience.
Q. What's your guilty pleasure?
A. I don't really have one! I've been thinking of downloading some of the TV series people are so obsessed with, but then my brain starts telling me I should be researching a new project or something productive. But I do hold regular game nights, when I invite friends over to play cards and guessing games. I make a main dish and they bring vegetables or salads.
Q. What are your Halloween plans?
A. So far I haven't made any costumes. All I know is that my youngest wants to dress up as Luke Skywalker, the same thing my daughter wanted when she was 5!
Written by Celia Shatzman.
Web Exclusive October 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.
Having three young boys is a handful for any parent. Add to that starring in a hit TV show and the result, says Modern Family's Julie Bowen, is total chaos.
Q. Your character, Claire, is a controlling, can-do mom. How do you rate yourself?
A. I give myself an A+ in inconsistency. The most important thing for kids is regularity and structure, and I really strive for it but always fall short of the mark. I think that's okay as long as I'm trying.
Q. What's the hardest part of raising kids?
A. Knowing that you can't stop them from getting hurt. My 6-year-old, Oliver, is deathly allergic to bee stings and all nuts, which we found out when he was 2. We read food labels, always have epinephrine and know what to do in case he experiences anaphylaxis. Now I'm making it my mission to spread word through the Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis campaign.
Q. You've taken some flak for saying that parents love and hate their kids at the same time. Any regrets?
A. No. There are times when you think, "I hope this moment never ends—it's magic!" Then it changes on a dime to "Oh God, get off me!" because suddenly someone's punching you. The reality of parenthood is that you have to appreciate it when things are good and know the bad stuff is going to pass.
Q. Any recent magic moments?
A. We were checking out tide pools the other weekend, looking at starfish and sea snails and oohing and aahing over algae.
Q. Where do you keep your two Emmys?
A. In my office at home. They should have been under lock and key because Oliver took a plastic golf club to them. Now one lady is holding the globe up with just one arm.
Q. Is your house always so, um, lively?
A. Yes, even when I'm not there! I was out of town recently and the boys made a video to say good night. They were doing the Happy Feet dance and shouting "I love you!" before it immediately disintegrated into shoving and weeping. That's our family in a nutshell: silly, high-energy and very tear-filled.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.
He won raves as a hunky M.D. on Private Practice and a hard-driving cop on Law & Order. But it's his role in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 that's getting him kudos from kids Sophia, 10, and Mateo, 7.
Q. It must be fun doing a comedy instead of a drama.
A. Oh yeah. Most of my work is too mature for my kids, but when the first Cloudy came out Sophia brought six friends to the premiere. That was one of the first times she gave me cool points.
Q. What's the last thing one of the kids did that cracked you up?
A. Mateo and I were looking for a baseball under a bush when a bee flew up my nose. He said, "That's disgusting," then added, "Probably more disgusting for the bee, though." Funny and observant. Tickled the hell out of me.
Q. You're part Peruvian and your wife, actress Talisa Soto, is Puerto Rican. Do you speak Spanish at home?
A. Sometimes, but mostly as a secret code when we're talking about the kids. We're hoping they'll want to learn the language so they can understand what we're saying behind their backs.
Q. Any other skills you want them to have?
A. For Talisa it's a cultural must that the kids know how to dance, so she's always playing Latin music and trying to get them into it. I must say, the girl can move!
Q. How do you juggle being a good husband and father?
A. A marriage has to be healthy for kids to thrive. Communication and a sense of humor always help. So does being openly affectionate. It's very likely someone somewhere in our house is being hugged and kissed at this very moment.
Q. How has being a dad changed your life?
A. When Sophia was born a friend of mine said, "She's going to break your heart every day." And it's been true, with both her and Mateo. Parenting is bittersweet, because just when you think you've figured things out they're nearly out the door.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Originally published in the September 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.
The perky Good Morning America lifestyle anchor is such an early riser she can't see kids Duff, 11, and Kate, 8, in the mornings. But she makes up for it by being Super Mom when she's home.
Q. You've said you're a night owl, so how on earth do you get up weekdays at 4 a.m.?
A. I try to go to bed when the kids turn in, no later than 9 p.m. If I don't, I really feel it. But you arrive at the studio and Reba McEntire's there, Jack Hanna has wild animals in the wings, Coldplay is warming up—and that's a typical day. It may be early, but the job is a ton of fun.
Q. Do you ever worry about how work cuts into family time?
A. The pressure to do everything right is intense, because you want your beautiful little babies to grow into wonderful adults. But I've realized I can't be the perfect mom. So I do what I can—like always making my kids breakfast on weekends or hanging out together for 45 minutes before bedtime, reading to them and talking about their day.
Q. And then you've got to squeeze in date nights with your husband.
A. You just have to prioritize, and we're pretty good about it. Even if we just go to the local dive bar and watch a game we have a great, great time. It's important to connect as adults and remember that we were here first.
Q. What's the best lesson you've taught your kids?
A. The one my mom taught me: do your best, and don't beat yourself up if you don't succeed. Kate and Duff aren't afraid to experiment and try different things, and I really love that about them.
Q. And they encourage you to do the same?
A. Up to a point. I've been told in no uncertain terms that I'm forbidden to dance or sing on TV. Sorry, kids, but I've gotta be me!
Q. What do you do for fun?
A. I'm totally addicted to garage sales. I go treasure hunting with Kate and always come back with new finds—lamps, mirrors, art, furniture. We have a two-car garage but can only fit one in there on a good day.
Q. Anyone you're dying to interview?
A. My cohost Josh Elliott got to talk with Channing Tatum, and I was very jealous because I am a huge fan of his work in Magic Mike. Wink, wink!
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
On TV the talk show host is totally over-the-top. At home she dials it down with her husband and 12-year-old...but only a little.
Q. You're famous for catchphrases like "How you doin'?" and "Oh no she didn't!" Any go-to sayings you use as a mom?
A. The standard ones, like "Do as I say, not as I do," and "I'm going to tell your father!" Kevin Jr. is a great kid, but threats do work when it comes to getting him to eat his vegetables.
Q. Does your son open up to you the way your TV guests do?
A. Absolutely. We talk about everything. He's getting into girls and tells me what happens at school and at parties and asks for advice. In the car, he's the first one to say, "Turn the radio off." That's when the conversations begin. That could all end any day. So I'm treasuring it for now.
Q. You've said your family often eats in the bedroom. What's up with that?
A. Growing up, I was never allowed to eat anywhere but the kitchen. So my rule is we can eat wherever as long as we're together. Yes, I do find food on the carpet and gravy stains on the pillows. But nothing beats the good times we had making that mess.
Q. Your husband, Kevin, is your manager and a producer on your show. How do you spend all that time together without driving each other crazy?
A. We've survived because I know how to take off my talk-show-host hat and be Wendy Hunter. Plus we do have separate lives and do our own thing.
Q. After your stint on Dancing with the Stars, do you and Kevin dance more?
A. Oh no. As everyone could see, I'm not very good. But being a New Jersey girl, wearing all those beads and sequins was a dream come true.
Q. Okay, we have to ask—what's with all the big wigs?
A. I'm a big girl, so the bigger the hair, the smaller my hips look! Actually, I wear them out of necessity. I was diagnosed with thyroid disease 15 years ago and my hair has gotten very thin. On the bright side, I don't envy anyone else's hair. If I want a certain look, all I have to do is buy it!
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Who's behind the cold, conniving matriarch on ABC's hit show Revenge? A down-to-earth mom...and cattle rustler!
Q. Everyone's hailing you—or rather, the evil socialite Victoria—as the new Queen of Mean.
A. People do get confused. They stare, do double takes and are genuinely startled when they see me. There's a lot of whispering, and sometimes they'll start shaking because they're so afraid. Not the kind of experience I had before, which was, "I really like your work. Can I take your picture?"
Q. So you're nothing alike?
A. Victoria is glamorous and always perfectly put together. Because of her, I feel the need to kick my style up a notch. I clean up nice for the red carpet, but I'm really more of a blue jeans and T-shirt kind of gal.
Q. Actually, we've heard you're a cowgirl at heart.
A. Yes! I've always loved riding horses. Right before our 16-year-old, May, was born, my husband [Private Practice actor Brian Benben] and I took a break from Hollywood and moved to a 400-acre cattle ranch in Texas. We were very hands-on, fixing fences and tending the herd.
Q. Wow. Can you ride a mechanical bull?
A. Never done it. Still, I'd like to think I could hold on for a respectable amount of time. I'm a bit of a daredevil. As a kid I used to jump off rooftops and ride on the top of a speeding car. But since becoming a mom, I've tried to be more careful.
Q. Can you describe your parenting style?
A. Atypical, at least when it comes to education. I dropped out of college, and I'm not pressuring May to go. Everyone needs to find her own path in life, and she's not sure if higher education is right for her. I'm okay with that.
Q. What do you hope to pass down to May?
A. It's important to me that she has a strong moral compass. Since 2008 I've visited Haiti several times a year with the organization Artists for Peace and Justice, helping to build schools and hospitals. It's incredible, fulfilling work, and I hope I'm setting a good example.
Q. Any maternal words of advice?
A. Follow your heart. That's worked for Brian and me for more than 30 years. Love is a wonderful thing, so embrace it.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
In addition to penning 20 novels, the bestselling author has also written plays with sons Kyle, 21, and Jake, 19, and a YA book with daughter Samantha, 17. Creativity seems to be a family trait.
Q. Your latest book, The Storyteller, is about a woman who befriends a man with a dark secret. Is it drawn from real life?
A. I try not to base my work on people I know. My characters just start talking to me and arrive almost fully formed in my head—so much so that I don't feel particularly creative once I start writing about them.
Q. You've mentioned it takes nine months to complete a book.
A. Talk about giving birth. Each time I'm done my husband gets balloons that say, "Congratulations on the New Baby!" But my biggest masterpieces are my children.
Q. So you consider yourself a successful mom?
A. Yes, because my kids are kind, confident and passionate. I was much older before I reached the same level of maturity and grace.
Q. Didn't they go through the terrible teens?
A. When Kyle turned 14 he got really snarky. One day I set an extra place at the dinner table and said, "This is for your attitude. When you leave the table, he can stay behind." It worked.
Q. The best part about your children growing up is...
A. Having a deep conversation and realizing you're talking not to a kid but to a young adult. And the fun, silly stuff, like when Jake beats me at Scrabble and lets everyone know on Facebook.
Q. What's your advice on getting kids to love reading?
A. Be a good role model. And let them choose what they want—comics, sports stats, Guinness World Records. It doesn't have to be Shakespeare!
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Just like his character, Adam, on NBC's Parenthood, the actor finds that being dad to real-life son Roman, 11, is a matter of trial and error.
Q. Parenthood has lots of die-hard fans. Why do you think they love the show?
A. People can relate to it because we portray parents when they're successful and when they fail, which we all do.
Q. So how do you blow it with Roman?
A. By yelling at him occasionally. Losing your patience and your temper isn't the most attractive thing, but as kids get older, you wind up raising your voice.
Q. Is it hard for him having to split his time between you and your ex-girlfriend?
A. We have different parenting styles, but we make it work by supporting each other and keeping his best interests at heart. I also try to sit down and explain things to Roman rather than ordering him around. Kids deserve that. It only takes a minute and makes a world of difference.
Q. You're currently dating Lauren Graham, who plays your sister on-screen. How do you relax off the set?
A. We're Scrabble addicts. In fact, I first invited her over to my place to play it 15 years ago—way before we started dating. We're very competitive. We play at home, on our iPhones and our iPads. I win more often, but don't tell her I said that.
Q. What's the one thing she'd most like to change about you?
A. My clothes. She tries to make me over on a daily basis. I'll start walking out of the house and she'll say, "What are you wearing? You have five different patterns going on there!"
Q. Tell us a personal secret.
A. I'm a science geek. I even have a T-shirt with a glow-in-the-dark chart of the periodic elements.
Q. Adam dances a lot on the show. How would he rate on Dancing With the Stars?
A. Pretty low! But I think viewers enjoy how bad I am, so I don't mind putting it out there and looking like a maniac
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
As mom to star quarterbacks Peyton and Eli, she's our First Lady of Football. No wonder she knows how to score a Super Bowl party touchdown.
Q. What's your go-to dish for the big game?
A. Since we live in New Orleans, it's all about jambalaya. I make a pot, serve it with a big salad and French bread, and I know I'm going to have some happy boys.
Q. Are you a nervous wreck when one of them is playing?
A. Yes. I have these little superstitious rituals that get me through. If I'm sitting in the stadium and Eli or Peyton scores, that becomes my lucky seat and I can't move from it until the game is over. They've played against each other twice, and that's extra hard. If I had it my way, they'd tie!
Q. Who's MVP in the kitchen?
A. Neither, which is my fault because I never taught them to cook. Peytie Pie and E—that's what I call them—love food, but they'd rather sit and chow down than whip something up themselves.
Q. In what ways do they make you proudest off the field?
A. When they give back, especially to children's charities. Peyton has a children's hospital named after him in Indianapolis, and Eli has raised money for the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson, Mississippi.
Q. Any advice for moms who don't love football?
A. The more you go to games, the more you'll want to watch them on TV. And the more you learn, the more you'll enjoy it. Just have fun!
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
He's the funny guy behind Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. But his jokes usually bomb with daughters Maude, 14, and Iris, 10.
Q. Were you always a comedian?
A. When I was in third grade, I'd draw guns on my underwear, then jump out in my briefs in the locker room and say I was Captain Underwear. Can't say it was that witty, but I was very committed to it.
Q. We imagine the wisecracks are nonstop at your house.
A. It's a close race, but I'd say Iris is the funniest. The other day she was listening to Maroon 5's "Payphone," and I said, "Nobody uses a pay phone these days." She said, "Unless you're in jail." You always appreciate a good line from a kid.
Q. And vice versa? Do they appreciate your comic genius?
A. Everybody thinks their dad's jokes are corny. I don't get a free pass on that. In fact, Iris said to me once, "Most of your stuff isn't funny at all. But I'm always surprised you make it work." I thought that was a pretty sophisticated way of attacking me.
Q. Iris and Maude are in your new movie, This Is 40, along with your wife, Leslie Mann. What's it like directing the kids?
A. Half my day is spent begging them to eat fruit and not M&M's. Otherwise they crash, cry and want to go home. Then there are days when the kids don't even realize we're shooting a movie. They just sit down, I roll film and they start arguing with each other about things like whether Iris is old enough to watch South Park. They'll go to war about that, and that's the scene.
Q. How do you explain all the cursing and sex in your films to them?
A. My kids do hold all the cursing against me. But I tell them the characters talk like that because it's ridiculous, and that's what makes it funny. Cursing makes you sound stupid! As for sex, writing The 40-Year-Old Virgin brought up all sorts of questions—including "What's a virgin?" It's very difficult to go years without answering that question, but Leslie and I found a way to do it.
Q. Who's the favorite parent?
A. Leslie. She starred in 17 Again with Zac Efron, so she had him call Maude at her birthday slumber party. All the girls went crazy. You can't top that.
Q. So your daughters' friends don't think you're cool?
A. No. I get zero respect. I always think at some point they'll realize I worked on Superbad. But that never happens. I'm just the goofy guy picking them up at volleyball.
Q. Maude has more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. Are you one?
A. Yes—that's how we know what's going on in her life!
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
The Community star has proudly passed down his snarky sense of humor to sons Eddie, 7, and Isaac, 4, whether wife Sarah likes it or not.
Q. You've won rave reviews as Jeff Winger. How do you play him so well?
A. Yes, people say I'm perfect as a misogynistic loner who wants to sleep with everyone, pushes people away emotionally and lies about college degrees. I'd like to think it's my acting skills, insanely good writing and a great cast.
Q. Do you have the Jeff Winger talking bobblehead?
A. I did, but the kids broke it. Isaac said, "Daddy, your head's not that big." I said, "Well, my ego is, son!"
Q. Stories about your boys are part of your stand-up act. What's the last thing one of them did that made it in?
A. Eddie recently lost his first tooth but swallowed it. I thought he'd be upset about having nothing to show the tooth fairy. But he was like, "Oh, come on, the tooth fairy knows. I don't need a receipt to redeem my prize." Pretty funny.
Q. Any worries that using the kids in your routines will mean lots of therapy for them later on?
A. I'm the only one who needs therapy—the physical kind. I love wrestling with them, but now they're getting too strong. The other week Isaac head-butted me in the nose, and Eddie hit me so hard I saw stars!
Q. Does humor help with parenting?
A. I think a lighthearted approach helps kids become more self-motivated instead of feeling resentful because you're always pushing them. But I'm bad at discipline because I crack up when they misbehave. I have to walk out of the room and laugh, then come back in and get serious.
Q. We've heard you also resort to bribes.
A. I used to ply them with sugar, but now they mostly want crackers and chips and ice cream—but only vanilla. I'm like, "Vanilla? Are you guys nuts?"
Q. Is having three males in the house ever too much for Sarah?
A. I've trained my sons to put the toilet seat down. Hopefully that has given her a little bit of solace.
Q. What's Christmas like at the McHales'?
A. The kids write letters to Santa, and we leave out milk and cookies. Sarah and I also make them open their stockings first while we're still in bed so we get an extra 15 minutes of sleep.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
The perky anchorwoman turned daytime-TV host, 55, dishes about work as well as life offscreen with daughters Ellie, 21, and Carrie, 16.
Q. Tell us about Katie, your new syndicated talk show.
A. I actually get to talk! I have more than three minutes to interview a fascinating person or explore important subjects. On Today, my most overused line was "We're almost out of time."
Q. We hear you work out a lot. How do you fit it in?
A. I do something efficient like spinning—45 minutes and you're done. Other than being a sweaty mess, you feel like a million bucks!
Q. Do your daughters play fashion police when you're dressing for a date?
A. The other night they put me in black pants and a one-shoulder blouse. What a role reversal, right? It's usually the mom giving advice on what to wear—like me saying, "That skirt is too short!"
Q. The mantra I keep repeating to my girls is...
A. Make good choices. But I'm confident in them—they're better, smarter and more mature than I am.
Q. Your advice for parents?
A. Kids have to develop their own sense of identity, and that often means rejecting yours. Ellie's outgrown the teenage angst period, but Carrie's mortified by the way I chew my food, laugh, even breathe. Don't take it personally. But I admit I sometimes do!
Q. Who is your favorite celeb interview of all time?
A. I really admire people who are extraordinarily talented but also generous in interviews, like Beyonce or George Clooney.
Q. Any personal secrets you can reveal?
A. I'm addicted to Scrabble and Words With Friends. I can play piano by ear. And I like hip-hop. Flo Rida, Pitbull and Drake are all on my iPod.
Q. What's been your proudest mom moment?
A. Ellie organized a cancer fundraiser at college and Carrie launched a benefit for the nonprofit Room to Read—in other words, when they're giving back.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
The irrepressible Today cohost, 59, gets chatty about her top job: being mom to son Cody, 22, and daughter Cassidy, 19.
Q. Tell us something shocking.
A. I am not an alcoholic, nor is Hoda! When we went on The Soup with glasses of wine in our hands acting all sloppy, that was a joke! When I did a keg stand on Leno, that was a joke! Drinking cocktails during our segments—we only take a sip or two—creates the illusion we're having a party.
Q. What do the kids come to you for?
A. Money is number one, followed by a hug and a laugh.
Q. Cassidy's off to college and Cody graduated. Got the empty nest blues?
A. I use to literally tear up at the idea. But I've raised them to fly, and they can't unless they leave home. I always say, "They don't have to live with me, but I hope they still like me!"
Q. What's the biggest mistake parents make?
A. Letting kids be selfish brats. That's why too many adults are grown-up children who still throw tantrums, have road rage and hurl profanities at each other. I'd rather not contribute to the problem, so I've tried to teach Cody and Cassidy the art of sharing and the true meaning of "please" and "thank you."
Q. TV family your brood resembles most?
A. We're a loving, dysfunctional hodgepodge—part Simpsons, Family Guy, Father Knows Best and The Donna Reed Show.
Q. SNL spoofs of you and Hoda: Funny or mean?
A. Everyone seems to enjoy them—let's leave it at that!
Q. Next showbiz project?
A. I'd like to write a film that Cody will direct and Cassidy will star in, plus compose an Oscar-winning song for the credits. Other than that, I've done it all—except porn. With no offers pending, that's not going to happen.
Q. Got a family tradition you'd like the kids to pass down?
A. We had a sunset alert at home where we stopped everything to watch it. After I'm gone, I hope my kids and their kids will keep watching the sun go down and think of me every time. I'm not a perfect mom, but my kids haven't been arrested, in rehab or kicked out of school, so I must be doing something right!
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
This jack-of-all-trades does live-action TV shows as well as big-screen movies and lends his voice to animation. That same versatility helps him raise kids Talon, 19; Alexandra, 18; Shane, 14; and Gabriel, 11.
Q. Your character, Jeff, on Rules of Engagement, is kind of a grump—are you?
A. All guys get crabby sometimes, but I'm not as calculating as Jeff. There was one episode I could relate to, though: Jeff has a little free time but doesn't want to tell his wife because he's worried she'll hold it over his head!
Q. You and your wife, Cathy, have been together 21 years. How did you meet?
A. We first saw each other at Saints Simon and Jude Catholic Church in Huntington Beach, California. I remember it like it was yesterday. The 5?p.m. Sunday mass was known as the scammers' mass, because all the young people would hang out in back to see who wanted to date.
Q. What is it about her that keeps you falling in love with her year after year?
A. She's all that! She's beautiful, an amazing mother and artist, she has a big heart, and she's incredibly intelligent. Sometimes I don't know if that's a good or bad thing, though. It's a bad thing when we're playing [the iPhone app] Scramble with Friends against each other. I have never beaten her—not once!
Q. You're often recognized for your voice rather than your appearance. Do you prepare differently for animated versus on-screen roles?
A. Not really. The biggest distinction is when you're doing animation, you can just go in and bang it out—there are no sets, no co-stars. With live action, there's a lot more hurry up and wait. You can be sitting around for hours with nothing to do.
Q. Are any of your kids following in your acting footsteps?
A. Gabriel, my youngest, seems to be headed in that direction. The older kids, however, have other plans: Talon is studying communication at California Lutheran University. Lexie just got accepted to Cal State Channel Islands and wants to go into nursing. Shane is going to be our pilot. He spends hours playing with flight simulators and flew his first real plane with an instructor when he was 12.
Q. Any family plans for the summer?
A. Every year we spend a month at the cabin we built on the Rogue River in Oregon, which is like our Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn paradise. It's remote and quiet—we just raft and go in our swimming hole.
Q. Since you've voiced characters in Disney animated hits like The Emperor's New Groove and Kim Possible, are you treated like a king when you go to Disneyland?
A. I wouldn't say that. But when I have to do promotional stuff, my whole family gets to come along and we stay at the Grand Californian Hotel and get a guided tour of the park, which means we don't have to stand in line for the rides. That's a nice perk!
Q. Do you head to the roller coasters first?
A. Some of the kids like them, but I'm into rides that have less thrills and more relaxation. On a hot day, I could sit on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride six times in a row, if they'd let me, because it's just so air-conditioned and relaxing. That's one of my all-time favorites.
Q. Is it true you named your black 1969 Dodge Charger, Angelina, after Angelina Jolie?
A. Yes, and our motor home's name is Pammy after Pamela Anderson. Cathy has made it clear she's sick of hearing about this. But men have been naming their cars after women for years. I tell her she should name her SUV after Brad Pitt—I wouldn't mind!
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Every day is Christmas for this jolly guy. Well, at least when he's onstage playing Santa in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. But his favorite job at home in New York City is picking out the perfect presents for son Blake, 19, and daughter Kate, 12.
Q. It's your 25th year as Santa at Radio City. How many times have your kids seen you as St. Nick?
A. Between the two of them, probably more than 100. But they didn't always know I was Santa. They thought I just shared a dressing room with him and helped with his acting and singing. Kate used to call me backstage and say, "Oh, hi, Dad. Is Santa there?"
Q. How did you land the gig?
A. While auditioning for the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, I was asked to do a Santa impression. At the time, Santa only made a brief appearance in the show, but eventually he became the emcee—and Scrooge was phased out.
Q. You must do well under pressure! Had you ever played Santa before?
A. No, but I found inspiration in my late Uncle Walter. When I was a kid growing up in Kentucky, he would put on a beard and a Santa hat and tap at the window. By the time my brother and I ran to see him, he'd be gone. We could have sworn we heard reindeer bells and hooves on the roof!
Q. Is it sometimes easier being Santa than Dad?
A. Sometimes? Try all the time! He gives me access that most parents don't have. In fact, friends ask me to talk to their kids as Santa when they're misbehaving or doing poorly in school. Kids listen to Santa.
Q. How did Blake and Kate react when they found out Santa doesn't exist after all?
A. Kate took it especially hard. She believed in Santa until someone at school told her he wasn't real. She fought back, saying, "Santa does exist—my dad works for him!" So when I finally told her the truth, she was pretty mad. But once I explained to her that the magic and spirit of Santa live in all of us, she embraced Christmas again.
Q. What are your family's holiday traditions?
A. When the kids were younger, we got up really early on Christmas to open presents and eat breakfast because I always had a show in the afternoon. But now we spend Christmas Eve together eating, talking and opening gifts. Then they spend Christmas Day with their mom. They also see Radio City Christmas Spectacular several times during the holidays, watching from just about everywhere: the seats, backstage and my dressing room.
Q. What gifts are always on kids' wish lists?
A. Little boys still ask for superheroes and little girls still want dolls. But as they get older, the most asked-for gift for both genders is video games and cell phones. Adults want cars.
Q. What do you do in the offseason?
A. I'm the Artistic Director of the Twilight Theatre Company, a not-for-profit theatre in Kentucky. I direct plays, teach acting and perform in film, theater and television if time permits.
Q. Has a celebrity kid ever come to you? What did he ask for?
A. Macaulay Culkin used to hang out in the dressing room with Laura Bell Bundy when she was in the show. Celebrity kids are just like other kids. They don't ask for anything unusual except to jump up and down on my sofa in the dressing room.
Q. What do you say to kids who tell you that you aren't the real Santa?
A. That has only happened once. I said, "If you don't believe in Santa, then Santa will not believe in you—and there will be no Christmas or toys at Christmas." He quickly became a believer.
Q. What if a kid asks for an unrealistic gift?
A. I try to explain that it's not possible to own something like a person or reindeer or elf. How would she like it, for example, if someone wanted her as a gift? I remind them that they can't get something that is not available to be given.
Q. When the holiday season ends, are you eager to put Santa to rest till next year?
A. Santa is always with me. I've been working with this character for so long that he is as much a part of me as I am of him. He's integral to my kids' lives, too. Blake called me from the University of Syracuse last year and told me he missed being at the theater with me.
Q. Does being an actor make you a better dad?
A. I think it makes me more fun. But Kate might say it makes me more goofy! Just the other day we were walking around the city and I was singing out loud. Kate said, "Dad, it's your job to embarrass me, isn't it?" And I told her, "Yes, yes it is."
Hugh Jackman's latest film, Real Steel, is set in the future, when robots have replaced humans in boxing. He talked to us about how his kids, Oscar, 11, and Ava, 6, influenced his decision to take on the role.
Q. Tell us about the father-son relationship in Real Steel.
A. Well it's about a guy who hasn't seen his kid in years and they have a complicated dynamic. So while I couldn't personally relate in that sense, I was working with a 10-year-old (newcomer Dakota Goyo) and I had my own 10-year-old. That was very real to me. There are also a few scenes in which my character apologizes for not being a great dad. It made me think that when I'm older I'll probably have a few things to say sorry about, even though I'm doing the best I can.
Q. How does your family impact the roles you choose?
A. When I read this script I thought, finally—a movie I can show my kids! I haven't let them see Wolverine because it would undermine any authority I have at home: "Please don't hit your brother or sister..." And then they see me slashing someone? Slightly problematic! Yet taking on this film was absolutely my kids' influence. Parents are always looking for movies they can watch with their kids without nodding off. And indeed, my son Oscar loved it. He was on set all the time. He asked me to read the script to him night after night instead of his usual Tintin comics.
Q. Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard was an advisor on the film. What did you learn from him?
A. He was a huge part of the experience and choreographed all of the fights with humans before they became robots through computer imaging. But the thing I remember most is how honest he was about what it's like for a boxer to really miss boxing. At the heart of the movie is someone who can no longer do what he loves to do. Sugar Ray taught me that even when you're the champion of the world it can be a lonely place.
Q. Sounds like he was a role model during filming. Who did you look up to when you were a teen?
A. I was pretty obsessed with rugby player Jean-Pierre Rives. A small guy on the field, he finished every game with blood on face. He was like a little terrier. I had to use the same ferocity and anger when playing rugby back then because I was so skinny.
Q. Did other kids tease you for that?
A. Oh yeah! I was called "Sticks" and "Worm." I also remember one particular phase when I got acne in the shape of a V right in middle of my forehead. Talk about bad timing—it was when the alien TV miniseries "V" was on! So my name was "V" for the duration of the show, actually, for the next year and a half. Even when my pimples went away I was still called "V."
Q. You're known for your philanthropic work. Which causes are you most passionate about right now?
A. Earlier this year we wrapped up a campaign for the Global Poverty Project where people pledged to "Live Below the Line" of extreme poverty (defined by the World Bank as $1.50 per day). And this fall I'm launching a business I've been working on for two years: Laughing Man Coffee & Tea. I'm a huge coffee drinker and so excited to develop a line of fair trade and organic products. All profits will help the growers' families and go to education causes around the world.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Comedy isn't just a career for this 47-year-old alum of Saturday Night Live. Her improv skills also come in handy at home in Los Angeles when she and her painter husband, Fritz Chesnut, try to get daughter Stella, 8, and son Nolan, 6, to behave.
Q. You've got a great sense of humor. Does parenting make you lose it?
A. I just try to laugh at the little things. Like, I'm always amazed by how long it takes two kids to get dressed and out the door. Every morning I say, "Come on! Let's go! Five minutes!" And they're still in their underwear. Or they say they're ready, but they're not wearing shoes. I feel like a drill sergeant in a military operation: "Get your bag! Get your lunch! Get in the car!"
Q. What kind of stunts did you pull as a kid?
A. When I was 12 my friend and I tried to sneak onto a plane from my hometown of Cleveland to New York City! My dad encouraged us—he was a wild guy, big on jokes.
Q. You didn't actually succeed...
A. We did! At that time you could walk right up to the airport gate without a ticket. We told the stewardess we had to say goodbye to our sister on the plane. I guess we looked innocent in our ballet leotards with our hair in buns!
Q. Sounds like your childhood inspired your children's book, Tilly the Trickster.
A. A bit, but it also evolved from a story I used to tell Stella and Nolan about a family who had 10 kids. Tilly plays little gags on everyone.
Q. How do you cope on days when you may feel like the worst mom in the world?
A. We all make mistakes and feel insecure. When I see a mom embarrassed because her kid is having a temper tantrum, I'm like, "Please! Do you think I've never gone through that?" Women tend to be too hard on themselves.
Q. You lost your mom when you were 4. Does that make motherhood more special to you?
A. It does. I cherish every moment with my kids, even mundane tasks. Being a mom is a profound experience for me. I only wish my parents could have met Stella and Nolan. But I'm sure they're watching over me—completely thrilled! Recently he told me not to come over to talk to him on the playground. He said, 'Wave at me.'"
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
When the 44-year-old sings, everyone stops and listens. The musician and actor wishes he'd get the same reception at home in Connecticut from daughters Georgia, 15; Kate, 14; and Charlotte, 9.
Q. When did you realize your passion for music?
A. Right away. I started playing the piano at age 3. From then on I wasn't interested in anything else—including my studies! I always knew I was meant to perform.
Q. You grew up in New Orleans. How did that impact your career?
A. It's impossible to live there without loving music. The city thrives on it. As a kid I spent my weekends playing with more experienced musicians—it's common for an older musician to take a young one under his wing.
Q. Do you miss your hometown? How often does your family visit?
A. I miss it every day, but we go back often. My girls have been there a million times to see my dad and their countless aunts and uncles. They're passionate about the city and are fans of jazz, crawfish and the Saints!
Q. Your new movie, Dolphin's Tale, is about a dolphin who loses her tail, then gets a prosthetic replacement. Did the kids come on set in Florida?
A. Charlotte actually has a couple of lines in the film. And yes, they all swam with the dolphin, Winter, and it was an incredible experience for them. They still talk about it.
Q. Your wife is former model Jill Goodacre. Was it love at first sight?
A. It was for me! I was in Los Angeles recording a CD and she was there for a modeling job. On February 24, 1990—yes, I remember the exact date—she walked by the hotel pool. She was the prettiest girl I'd ever seen so I jumped out of the water and introduced myself.
Q. Georgia and Kate are teenagers now. Which is the scarier thought: dating or driving?
A. Driving. At least on a date, there's only one other person to think about—as opposed to driving, where I have to worry about everyone else on the road!
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
While she may not be as over-the-top hilarious as the mom she plays on Modern Family, Sofia, 39, brings her own brand of humor to parenting son Manolo, 20.
Q. Your character Gloria is a very, um, enthusiastic mother. Are you anything like her?
A. There are too many similarities to count! We're both from Colombia and have strong accents that people can't always understand. We have sons from previous marriages—old souls who are wise beyond their years. The bottom line is we're Latin women and protective of our kids. We love them so much—but sometimes we drive them crazy!
Q. Like when people mistake you for being Manolo's girlfriend? You look young for having a 20-year-old.
A. Yes, he gets so mad! But there's nothing wrong with being attractive.
Q. Is that why you're launching a clothing line for Kmart this fall?
A. Exactly—I think women should feel good about themselves. My line has miniskirts, dresses, jeggings and a leopard bustier.
Q. Does Manolo ever ask you to tone down your sexiness?
A. He used to. Once he told me to "dress like a mom" when I was on my way to a teacher conference! And when his friends are around I make sure to wear T-shirts and jeans—nothing risque
Q. He just left for college to study film. Is it a happy milestone for you, or is it a little sad?
A. Both. Kids don't understand that it's a big deal for parents too. The hardest part is letting go and knowing I can't always be there to supervise. Texting is the next best thing. Even if he doesn't respond right away, I feel like we're still connected.
Q. You've said you support his dream of becoming a director—does that mean you let him cast you in home movies?
A. Yes, but he never gave me speaking parts! I was always the getaway driver or whatever he couldn't get anyone else to do. Believe it or not, my son has been bossing me around his entire life. I'm used to it!
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
On Grey's Anatomy he played a doctor whose good looks earned him the nickname McDreamy. At home, with wife Jillian, daughter Talula, 9, and twin sons Darby and Sullivan, 4, Patrick, 45, writes his own prescription for family happiness.
Q. You starred in films like Can't Buy Me Love in your 20s, then made an acting comeback in your 30s on TV's Will & Grace. Was fame different the second time around?
A. Totally. Back then I wasn't ready for such recognition; I would have short-circuited! But now it's a blast. Those interim years of struggle allowed me to appreciate success more fully. Luckily I have survived in the business for 25 years.
Q. And your new movie, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, just came out. Your boys must be excited!
A. They're a little young to see the film, but they love the cartoons. When I was considering the role I said, "I'll only do it if I'm given toys for the boys!" Just kidding. But I know one day they'll think it's cool that I got to be in an action movie.
Q. You play a race car driver and racing is one of your biggest passions off-screen. Is that why you took the gig?
A. Everything fell into place. I ran into [director] Michael Bay at a Ferrari event, and he told me about the character's vintage car collection. In fact, the photos of me in the film are from real races.
Q. Knowing you hit speeds up to 170?mph, does Jillian fear for your life?
A. Not at all. She's completely supportive because she understands that racing makes me happy and calms me down in a strange way.
Q. Have your kids exhibited any daredevil tendencies?
A. Oh yeah. Talula loves go-karts, and they all ride skateboards and scooters. They are so active—the older they become, the bigger our first-aid kit gets!
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
The world-renowned bestselling author has entertained millions of people with his storytelling. But at home in Palm Beach, Florida, he's just dad to son Jack, 13.
Q. Did you ever imagine your work would become so popular?
A. It's an unbelievable treat to bring joy to so many lives and give people much-needed relaxation at the end of the day. Best of all, it's amazing to turn kids onto books.
Q. Speaking of which, you've launched two amazing programs. ReadKiddoRead.com encourages reluctant readers to pick up a book for fun, while Book Dollars for Scholars awards incoming college freshmen with money to buy books.
A. They've both been so fulfilling. I've had hundreds of people say to me—some with tears in their eyes—"Thank you for getting my kids to read." That kind of response means a lot more to me than any bestseller list. Although, I must admit, I still like being on those lists.
Q. While you're most known for writing thrillers and mysteries for adults, you've also published four very successful middle-grade and young-adult series. The first book in your latest middle-grade trilogy, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, just hit bookstores.
A. I think my kids' books are better than my adult books in some ways. They're not only funny, but they also have important messages beneath the surface. For example, the Maximum Ride series (2007) is about kids getting together and taking responsibility for themselves and the people around them. The series Witch & Wizard (2009) emphasizes the gift of freedom in our society, something that many kids take for granted.
Q. Jack's now in seventh grade—did he inspire Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life?
A. Well, I think most kids his age have that strange attitude about school. He and his friends are in a period where things are sometimes really, really good, but often quite bad. Everything is an extreme.
Q. The main character Rafe deals with a school bully. Has Jack?
A. There were some mean kids a few years ago but he's past that now. I think kids have to stand up to others who try to push them around rather than run for help—unless they really need it. I remember being in third grade and a fifth grader was beating the heck out of me. At some point I just started throwing back punches. I didn't hurt him, but he was certainly surprised. He left me alone after that.
Q. Your wife Sue is also creative; she's an artist and photographer. Have the imaginative genes rubbed off on Jack?
A. He definitely has a huge imagination. I'm not sure if it's from watching us around the house or if it's in his blood, but he's always coming up with ideas. In general he's a curious kid who loves to learn about the world. When he was younger he had a globe that audibly "spoke" facts about countries when pressed. Jack knew every location and every body of water and could tell you 10 to 15 things about most cities in the world!
Q. So where are you off to this summer?
A. Jack hasn't planned it yet. But we're thinking of staying in the U.S. We've narrowed it down to San Francisco, Seattle or Alaska.
Q. How often are you and Sue able to get away for date nights?
A. Every Friday night we go out to dinner and see a movie—nothing fancy, but it's still special.
Q. What do you and Jack do together for boys' time?
A. Once a month we go to dinner, just the two of us. We also love golfing and seeing movies, mostly based on children's books or comic books. But I also like teaching him lessons through film. We saw Precious and Winter's Bone, which deal with serious issues. Before each showing we had a sit-down talk so Jack would know what to expect and I told him we could leave at any time if he wanted. But I think it's important to show him that there are people growing up in very different ways than him.
Q. Does Jack get a sneak peek of the books before they come out?
A. Absolutely. It's like having my own private focus group. He tells me what he thinks kids will like.
Q. Is he a fan?
A. He plays it down, but he really likes my Daniel X and Witch & Wizard books. One of my favorite memories is taking Jack and my wife Sue to the Children's Book Awards in New York City last year. I was nominated, and Jack said to me, "Don't take this the wrong way, Dad. I love your books but [Rick] Riordan [author of the Percy Jackson series] is going to win." When I won, Jack leaped out of his seat. He was so surprised and excited. Onstage accepting the award, I told the crowd about our conversation. Then I held up the trophy and said, "This is for you, Jack."
This 42-year-old is one half of the dynamic duo on TV crime drama Bones. Offscreen he's real-life partners with wife Jaime in teaching kids Jaden, 9, and Bella, 1, the importance of family.
Q. Father's Day is just around the corner. What's the best present you've ever received?
A. Bella's still too young, but Jaden has made me some incredible cards, and Jaime once gave me a DVD of family photos set to music.
Q. How do you help out with the kids, despite your TV-star hours?
A. I love bath time and putting the kids to bed. I'm never too tired to get up and make them breakfast, and I drop off Jaden at school every morning I'm not on the set. Even if I have only 10 or 20 minutes to spare, I'm spending them with my kids.
Q. What's one of their "firsts" you've missed because of work?
A. Four years ago Jaden learned to ride his bike on vacation with Jaime in Utah while I was working in L.A. But she took a video of it, and the next day I saw him do it in person. I wish I could be with the kids all the time. I call to say goodnight, no matter where I am.
Q. Tell us about some memorable moments you've spent with them.
A. It's the little things, like being in the pool or barbecuing together. I love taking Jaden to the Italian market to buy bread or riding bikes with him. As for Bella, I enjoy playing with her in the park, or just seeing her parade around in a new pair of shoes.
Q. What values do you and Jaime hope to instill?
A. We want the kids to learn to be there for each other as brother and sister. Love for family should be the biggest priority in their lives.
Q. Speaking of family, your 10-year anniversary with Jaime is coming up. While you two have had some public ups and downs, you say divorce is not an option.
A. We realized we have a special bond and that's the most important thing. We continue to move forward and have made Saturdays our official night to spend together, since it's tough to connect during the week. It's nice to have some time without the weight of the world on our shoulders.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
The 50-year-old chef believes in being as creative a parent as he is a cook. He and his wife, Susi, have a blast with sons Benno, 14, and Leo, 12, in and out of their New York City kitchen.
Q. How long have you been passionate about food?
A. Since birth! Everyone in my family cooked—my parents, aunts, uncles, even my cousins. We hunted our own meat, cured our own olives, pickled our own vegetables, made our own pasta. Our idea of a rainy-day activity was making 200 pounds of sausage! Cooking was always an expression of love.
Q. You partnered with Barilla on its Share the Table campaign [sharethetable.com], which encourages families to sit down together for meals. Why is that important?
A. Gathering around food to talk about the day's highs and lows helps my family stay connected. Since my schedule includes late nights, I cook and eat breakfast with my boys every morning and try to be home almost every night for dinner. Those are truly the best parts of my day.
Q. Does your family have a favorite meal?
A. There are several dishes we eat almost every week. One is some kind of pasta, whether we make it by hand or from a box. [See his recipe for Linguine Cacio e Pepe below.] Thursday is always fish taco night. And one night a week we order from [my restaurant] Otto. Each son orders the pizza named after him. The Benno is made with pesto and mozzarella, and the Leo is made with pork cheek, chickpeas, tomato, and cheese.
Q. Does Susi cook?
A. My wife makes my birthday cake every year: an orange sunshine cake with buttercream frosting and mandarin oranges. That's it. Otherwise, she leaves the cooking to me.
Q. And what do the Batalis like do together?
A. We're active and full of energy so I love playing sports with them. On weekends I take my boys to baseball practice, then go to a ball field for kickball or basketball, after which we stuff our faces.
Q. Are you a competitive family?
A. When it comes to video games, including Rock Band, I'm the third best in the family, after my sons. I can still beat them at golf, but not for much longer: Leo hit a 129-yard hole in one last summer and Benno can hit a ball 285 yards off the tee, which is 20 yards more than me! That's both embarrassing for me and delightful.
Q. You have a ton of famous friends. Who scores the most cool points with your kids?
A. Bono, Michael Stipe, and Jimmy Fallon. They've all been to our house for dinner. When Bono roughhouses with the boys in the hall and plays football, suddenly Dad's cool. Because let's face it, I'm a chef. I'm never going to be a rock star.
Mario Batali's Linguine Cacio e Pepe recipe, Serves 6
1 box Barilla linguine
3 tablespoons kosher salt (optional)
1/4 cup coarsely ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving freshly ground
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
1. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot and add 3 tablespoons kosher salt (optional).
2. Add pepper to a 12- to 14-inch saute pan and toast over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 20 seconds.
3. Add oil and butter and stir occasionally until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat.
4. Cook linguine al dente according to the package directions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
5. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to the oil and butter mixture, then add the linguine and stir. Toss over medium heat until the linguine is well coated.
6. Stir in the cheeses (add a splash or two more of the reserved pasta water if necessary to loosen the sauce) and serve immediately, with additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on the side.
In July 2009, Matt Damon co-founded Water.org with Gary White. Since its inception, they've brought clean water and sanitation to nearly 300,000 people. Here, the actor speaks about this worthy cause.
Q. How did you become interested in bringing access to clean water to people in developing countries?
A. One of the reasons was because of a day I spent with a 14-year-old girl in Zambia. I walked two miles with her to the closest water source, a well outside her village. I asked her if she wanted to stay in the village when she grew up, and her face exploded into a huge smile. The translator said to me, "...she says that she wants to move to big city, Lusaka, and that she wants to be a nurse." And it was clear to me at that moment that if this well were not there for her, she would never even be able to entertain the concept of planning for the future—she would have been trying to survive that day. This one well was giving hope to thousands of people in the surrounding area, and this hope translates into something concrete. That girl can now fulfill a dream to become a nurse, and can become an economic and social contributor to the Zambian economy.
Q. What is it like meeting people who don't have access to clean water?
A. It's both humbling and inspiring. Water is such a basic life necessity but so easy to take for granted. Here in the U.S. we simply turn the tap and it appears, hot or cold, and clean. But for so many people around the world, it's an almost unthinkable luxury to have clean water right at home. Over and over again, when I meet the people benefiting from Water.org's projects, I'm inspired by their stories of how they made this dream a reality.
All of Water.org's projects are demand-driven and community-led. This means that the communities approach our local partners and that the communities themselves are involved owners every step of the way. Ownership increases sustainability and ensures that solutions last in the long run. Not surprisingly, it's often the women leading the charge. They rally their communities to organize, to apply to our local partners, and oversee the project from start to finish. About ninety percent of the people taking out WaterCredit loans (small loans for water and sanitation) are women.
Q. What was your most rewarding moment with water.org?
A. One that stands out in my mind was last summer when I visited Water.org project sites in Tamil Nadu, India, with Gary White, Water.org's other co-founder. We visited a slum community where the new water taps at people's homes were being turned on that very day. As we walked along the dusty, narrow street, people's faces were beaming as they stood outside their homes, turning on their new water faucets. I was asked by a number of people to crack a coconut for good luck (an Indian tradition) as part of the celebration.
I knew that for each of these people, life had changed forever for the better—for them, their children, and their children's children. Knowing that I played even a small role in that transformation was rewarding beyond words.
Q. You have traveled all over the world for this; what is your most memorable trip?
A. I'll never forget my first visit with Gary to Tigray, in rural Ethiopia. I wish everyone had the opportunity to take a trip like that—I think we could solve the water crisis in a year! There are few places in the world where the water situation is so severe as in Tigray. Water.org's local partner, REST, took us to the community of Anahem, where hundreds of people were gathered around a hand-dug well. About 6,000 people share this one well. Some people were standing inside of the well, while others were throwing tin cans tied with ropes into the hole. The water they worked so hard to collect was a filthy brown color—clearly not safe to drink.
I spoke with a group of students in their school uniforms—they had made this four-hour water journey before school. As the kids held up the plastic bottles of brown water to show me what they'd have to drink at school, I knew that some of them would probably be sick before the day was over. Imagine being forced to give your child contaminated water and knowing that it will likely make her sick but having no alternative.
Another site we visited was near Adi Nefas, where women and children were digging in the sand by a stream for water. It's called sand ditching, and it's an attempt to get water that's at least slightly cleaner than the stream that's shared by animals.
Extreme scenes like these put our visit to a Water.org project site near Adi Nefas in perspective. I was fortunate to be visiting while a well was being drilled, when the community actually hit clean water. The entire community was celebrating with singing, dancing, and cheering. This source has since been capped and a hand-pump installed.
Nothing more fundamentally improves life in a community than access to clean water. Both the problem and solution continue to motivate me.
Environmentalist Laurie David, producer of the award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, has a new mission: Protecting that endangered ritual known as the family dinner.
Q. What converted you to the cause?
A. I was sitting in the kitchen with my two teen daughters one night, after my divorce [from Curb Your Enthusiasm's Larry David]. Dessert was long gone, but there we were, talking on and on about politics, school, mean girls. In my mind I floated above the table, looked down and thought, "OMG, I've actually done something right as a parent!" It was an epiphany.
Q. And a new tradition was born...
A. Reborn, actually. We had sit-down suppers when I was kid, but I barely remember one that didn't end with someone crying. I was determined to make it a sacred, stress-free time for my family and started doing that early on. When I got involved with global warming, it was the first thing to go, but we eventually got back on track. Even now Larry comes over about once a week.
I credit the ritual with keeping us connected through good times and bad. That's what all the experts say. I didn't know about the research until I started writing my book, The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time (Grand Central Life & Style). I was floored to learn that children who eat with their families are less likely to abuse drugs and more likely to get A's and B's, and have better relationships. It makes sense. If we don't sit at the table together, what else are we doing at the same time, other than sleeping?
Q. Any advice for working moms?
A. It's not about food, it's about bonding with your kids. Forget the roast and three sides—cook breakfast for dinner! Make extra so you'll have leftovers. Order in. At our house, if it's Sunday it must be Chinese takeout. And yes, we eat right out of the cartons.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Cookbook author and wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, Jessica, 39, serves her family a heaping portion of old-fashioned values mixed with fun and games. And her daughter, Sascha, 10, and sons, Julian, 7, and Shepherd, 5, eat it up.
Q. You're a terrific cook (and you've recently published a new collection of recipes, Double Delicious). Does Jerry help out in the kitchen?
A. Nah, he's not even a grill guy. But he distracts and entertains the kids while I'm cooking. He chases them around or plays catch—sometimes indoors, which makes me a little nervous! But it keeps them from constantly asking, "When's dinner?" So that makes him quite helpful.
Q. What's your best cooking tip for busy moms?
A. Most people don't have hours to stand over the stove or chop a bunch of ingredients, so planning ahead is key. I might prepare a baked ziti while the kids are in school, or maybe I'll make it the night before. Instead of being stuck in the kitchen when they get home, I can pop dinner in the oven and spend that time with my kids.
Q. Who lays down the law: you or Jerry?
A. I do. But for some reason if I say, "I'm telling Daddy what you did," or "Daddy won't be happy about this when he comes home," the kids are terrified. It's funny because he's the least frightening person on the planet.
Q. Does that mean he's a wacky dad?
A. He always makes up silly games for the kids to play, but he's also a very present and attentive father. And I love that he's so old-fashioned. We both grew up calling our friends' parents Mr. and Mrs. Such-and-Such, so we're always a little startled when a 7-year-old calls us by our first names!
Q. You and Jerry have been married for 12 years. What is one of the first things you noticed about him?
A. Well, I was immediately attracted to his mind, but I remain in awe of his humor, work ethic, and moral code. He is so good to the people around him—one of the most loyal friends you could ever meet.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Much like the harried mother she plays on Desperate Housewives, the outspoken actress doesn't sugarcoat anything, not even the ins and outs of being a wife to actor William H. Macy and mom to daughters Sophia, 10, and Georgia, 8.
Q. Sometimes your character Lynette seems on the verge of a breakdown! Can you relate?
A. She feels overwhelmed a lot, and so do I. Our days can seem like a series of mistakes, sprinkled with "Whoops!" and "I forgot." But we also get so much happiness from our kids. My greatest moments have been laughing with my daughters, watching them make discoveries, and witnessing their honesty.
Q. You're the youngest of eight children. How did that shape you as a mom?
A. I learned from the best—my mother was a saint. To honor her, both of my daughters have her name, Grace, as their middle name. My sisters helped raise me, too, so there was always someone looking out for me. I still turn to my siblings for advice.
Q. What's one way your life has changed since your girls have gotten older?
A. Oh my gosh—it's so much easier. I can take a shower! I can cook dinner! As any mom will tell you, when your kids are mature enough that you can say, "Put on your shoes!" and they actually do it, you jump for joy! You think, "Woo-hoo! My life is easy!"
Q. What's William like as a dad?
A. He has a kind and generous heart, and always sees the best in people. He also happens to be very good at setting limits, which is a plus because I'm not! My boundaries aren't known until after they've been crossed—when I say, "Nope! We don't do that." William has also given his great sense of humor and wonder to our girls.
Q. After being married for 13 years, do you still make time for date nights?
A. To be honest, date nights can make me feel pressured. I think to myself, "I hope I have something to say that's not about the girls!" But just taking a break to enjoy a nice meal lets us remember why we fell for each other.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
The hunky country superstar is used to crowds of adoring fans when he's onstage. But 52-year-old Alan also has his share of female admirers at home in Nashville: wife Denise, and daughters Mattie, 20; Ali, 17; and Dani, 13.
Q. In addition to Denise and your girls, the family Yorkie, Coco, is female. That's a lot of estrogen!
A. I grew up with four sisters so I've always been surrounded by women. I like to think it made me a sweet, attentive, caring, and open person...I feel terrible saying all these nice things about myself!
Q. We won't tell anyone. Do your daughters often ask you for advice since you're so approachable?
A. Not unless it's about driving! I guess that's a guy thing? They turn to their mom when it comes to questions about boys or friends. But if I want to talk to them about dating, I have no problem spelling it out.
Q. You must intimidate the boys who come to your house.
A. Well, I'm 6'4", and I don't say much. So I'd probably be scared of me too! But if they're nice kids, I'm easy to get along with.
Q. Who holds the reins when it comes to parenting?
A. I like to let the girls make their own mistakes now and then. But neither Denise nor I is the hovering type who has to know what the kids are doing every second of the day. They need to learn to be self-sufficient.
Q. Well, you must have done something right. Mattie, now a junior in college, was the high school valedictorian.
A. I think she came from the factory that way. All my girls are smart and well-rounded. They've traveled and met all sorts of people. I always say they did more in their first five years of life than I did in 30.
Q. Speaking of youth, you and Denise were high school sweethearts and have been married for 31 years. But you separated for six months, and she wrote a book about marriage: It's All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life. What made you stick it out?
A. We married when we were kids so we had to learn to get along as adults. We finally realized we didn't want to be apart.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
She plays cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Teddy Altman on Grey's Anatomy, but even off-screen Kim focuses on matters of the heart: her filmmaker-husband, Manuel Boyer, and sons, Luke, 8, and Leo, 3.
Q. Is it hard to keep two young and energetic boys entertained?
A. Actually I think it's necessary to let kids get bored once in a while—that's how they learn to be creative. Luke and Leo use their imaginations to make rocket ships or trains out of recycled materials like cardboard boxes.
Q. On that note, you're known for being eco-conscious. How else do you teach your kids about the environment?
A. Manuel and I talk about how each family is part of a bigger community and stress the importance of considering future generations. Even though it seems like a hard concept for kids, I think they can get it. Luke already chooses cloth towels instead of paper towels to clean up spills, for example. It's the little things that add up.
Q. Does he ever remind you to conserve?
A. Oh sure. He'll tell me to turn off the water while we're brushing our teeth. Ever since I helped a village in Africa get sustainable running water a few years ago, Luke has understood it's a precious commodity.
Q. What's one rule you never break as a parent?
A. We always have dinner together as a family—even when our schedules are totally hectic. I inherited that from my mom, who would come home from her ad agency job to eat with us before going back to work. She was single, doing it all by herself, but she was always there for my sister and me. My mother is definitely my hero.
Q. Tell us about one of your proudest days as a mom.
A. I once gave a speech about the importance of giving back, and Luke, who was only 4 at the time, went in his room and brought out five of his favorite toys. "Let's give these to the kids in Africa," he said. I love that we've shown our boys the significance of taking care of other people.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
She has 22 Grand Slam titles and three Olympic medals, but off the court 40-year-old tennis star Steffi Graf would rather score no points—just love from husband Andre Agassi, son Jaden, 8, and daughter Jaz, 6.
Q. With two tennis pros as parents, your kids must be growing up with rackets in their hands.
A. You'd think so, but no. Jazzy plays a little, and Jaden prefers baseball. We're an active family, though, always throwing around a ball or organizing a quick game of soccer in the backyard.
Q. What have you taught them about the importance of good sportsmanship?
A. We're in the middle of that lesson now with Jaden. He never showed a competitive spirit until recently, when his baseball team lost in the final round of a tournament. We explained that it's normal to feel upset, but he has to take it in stride, congratulate the winning team, and practice harder.
Q. Is it true that Family Circle holds a special place in your heart?
A. Absolutely. At 15, I played in the Family Circle Tennis Cup for the first time against legends I admired so much—like Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova—and I won the Cup! It was a real milestone for me. I got a standing ovation from the crowd, which helped me realize I could make it to the top.
Q. You and Andre grew up with demanding dads who were also your coaches. Does that affect your parenting style?
A. Our dads taught us the value of discipline, and we've instilled that in our kids. But we're not as strict. If they want ice cream, they get it!
Q. Do Jaden and Jaz share any traits with Mom or Dad?
A. They're creative and they love art and music, like we do. But Jazzy can stick with one thing for a longer period of time, like I can, whereas Jaden needs constant action, like Andre.
Q. What's your proudest Mom moment?
A. Jaden once hit his head on a table, and Jazzy immediately got a bag of ice and held it on his injury. It was sweet to see her show concern for him.
Q. You live in Andre's hometown of Las Vegas. What are some of your favorite things to do?
A. We hike at Red Rock Canyon or picnic with friends. In winter we go skiing at Mount Charleston, which is less than an hour away. I've actually grown to love Vegas. There are few cities in the world where a person can see Elton John and Paul McCartney live, watch a boxing match, and go to The Lion King in the same week.
Q. How do you teach the kids about your German culture?
A. I speak German, and they understand it, even if they're not fluent themselves. And every summer we visit my family in Germany. They love seeing their cousins and touring castles—that's their favorite part of the trip.
Q. How often do you and Andre sneak away for date nights?
A. We try to get to a bar or restaurant for a few hours of adult conversation once a week. We really are best friends. But we often find ourselves rushing to get back home before the kids go to bed so we can kiss them good night.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Country music singer Trisha Yearwood, 46, knows all about rhythm. But it took her a while to get in sync with being a wife to Garth Brooks and mom to his daughters, Taylor, 18; August, 16; and Allie, 14. Now, though, the quintet is humming along.
Q. You and Garth got married in 2005 after dating for five years. What was it like to inherit three daughters?
A. I was scared to death! I'd only taken care of my dog. I'd never even babysat, so I had no idea what to expect.
Q. Who's more strict—you or Garth?
A. He is. I think if I tried to be the stern parent we would have slipped into Cinderella mode—with me as the evil stepmother! But since I've known the girls for 10 years, I'm not afraid to speak up if they're doing something wrong.
Q. Has anything surprised you about raising teens?
A. It's tough to let them grow up when you want to protect them. I had a harder time than Garth watching Taylor turn 16 and drive off in her car. He's struck a good balance of shielding the girls while still trusting them.
Q. Tell us about when he proposed to you onstage.
A. I was shocked! Even though he's an over-the-top performer, he's usually private about his personal life. But even in front of 7,000 people, I couldn't see anyone else once he went down on one knee. It felt like an intimate moment.
Q. What's your favorite way to spend family time?
A. Eating dinner or cooking together. The kitchen is the heart of our home.
Q. You recently published Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood. Any dishes for busy moms?
A. Out of 125 recipes, more than half are quick and simple. With the girls' busy schedules, I can't spend all day in the kitchen.
Q. Does Garth keep his cool living with four women?
A. If he gets overwhelmed by the estrogen, he'll go do "cowboy stuff," like mending fences or bulldozing something!
Q. What's the key to a happy marriage?
A. Honesty. We tell each other what we're thinking—no matter what.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Catherine Bell, 42, deserves a medal for pulling double duty as a devoted mom on-screen on Lifetime's hit series Army Wives and off-screen to her 7-year-old daughter, Gemma (and a son who's due this month).
Q. How have real-life army wives reacted to your show?
A. We've gotten a great response. Women have told me it's helped them get through tough times when their husbands were deployed. To know that fans can relate and feel something because of my work is incredible.
Q. Does Gemma know her mom's a star?
A. I'm laughing because I just had lunch with Gemma in her school cafeteria, and I was surrounded by 6- and 7-year-olds asking me a hundred questions, like, "Are you famous?" "What's it like to be on a movie set?" "Gemma says you wear 2 pounds of makeup—is that true?" So my daughter definitely knows that not all moms act for a living. She and her friends love The Good Witch movies I've been in for the Hallmark Channel. But I explain that it's just another job—same as a mom who works at a bank or a restaurant.
Q. You relocated to Charleston, South Carolina, for the series. Is it true what they say about Southern hospitality?
A. Totally! It's wonderful here. We actually want to stay as long as possible, even after the show runs its course. It's so family-oriented, and everyone's sweet, polite, and respectful.
Q. Is Gemma a fan of soul food yet?
A. Oh, yeah. I actually just picked up some fried chicken for dinner. Charleston has what they call "low country" food that's really good, like crab cakes and shrimp and grits.
Q. Your husband, Adam, is a screenwriter who helps out at home a lot. How are his Mr. Mom skills?
A. Everything is a team effort with us. He gets Gemma ready for school in the mornings and takes her to gymnastics, swimming, and horseback riding. Even when she was a baby, he'd wake up for nighttime feedings so I could get enough sleep before a 5?a.m. call time. He's the best!
Q. How did your family upbringing differ from his?
A. My relatives are really expressive. The first time Adam had dinner at my grandma's house, my Persian uncles ran up and yelled, "Adam!" before kissing him on both cheeks. He was like, "Whoa! Why are these men kissing me?" At the dinner table my relatives talk with their mouths full and reach across the table to get what they want, whereas a meal at his parents' house is very quiet and polite: "Can you pass the peas, please? Thank you."
Q. Are you sharing your Persian culture with Gemma?
A. My mom and stepdad just moved to South Carolina to be closer to us, so they're teaching her to speak Farsi. My mom also cooks her kebabs over basmati rice.
Q. What makes you a proud mom?
A. If the school bully is treating someone unfairly, Gemma won't allow it. She gets in there and says, "Hey, that's not okay." When I see her taking care of people like that, I feel so good.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
Supermodel Christie Brinkley is also a busy philanthropist these days, but her biggest donations of time—and love—go to her kids Alexa Ray, 24; Jack, 14; and Sailor, 11.
Q. You've been on runways and magazine covers since you were 19, and you're also known for having been married to Billy Joel. What's your secret for maintaining a close bond with your ex?
A. Billy is Alexa's father, and he and I made a pledge long ago to put her first and always stay friends. He's a great listener and he's been there during the toughest times of my life. I'm so lucky to have him around!
Q. Is music still a big part of your family's routine?
A. Definitely. When Alexa is home we gather in our music room with her on piano and Jack on guitar (he also plays drums). Sailor sings with her beautiful voice. We'll dance for hours to Motown, the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, or Broadway tunes. That's one way to stay active.
Q. What about outdoors?
A. We're beach people—that's why we live on Long Island! In the summer we sail (that's how Sailor got her name), surf, kayak, and fish. In the winter we ski or snowboard. Even if the kids do their own thing on the mountain during the day, we all get together for dinner and a family sleigh ride at night.
Q. You have great style. What's your favorite fashion tip for busy moms?
A. When I'm short on time I go for something simple and classic like jeans and a button-down shirt, or an easy wrap dress, then focus on my hair. I'll polish my look by using hot rollers to give my straight locks extra body.
Q. Do your kids borrow things from your closet?
A. Yes—even Jack! He loves my hats, vests, and vintage cowboy belt buckles. The girls usually go for the scarves, jewelry, jeans, and shoes. I love how each one can wear the same item totally differently. Jack is my rocker, Alexa has an eclectic, artsy look, and Sailor has a natural elegance.
Q. Besides your eye for style, what else have you passed down to your kids?
A. I'm always preaching karma to instill a sense of responsibility. They've been raised to think every individual can make a difference in the world. In fact, it's a person's responsibility to do so.
Q. How have you shown them?
A. I took them to Rome for a Nobel Peace Summit. I like to think the subject matter sank in, but I have to admit they were most at peace with their mouths full of pasta! Kidding aside, Jack and Sailor do a lot of giving back themselves. They raise money to help environmental and children's charities by selling freshly roasted pumpkin seeds or vegetables from our garden.
Q. That must make you proud.
A. It does, but the biggest compliment is hearing from their teachers that they're leaders in kindness. Knowing my children will look around—and if someone's being excluded, will invite him into the circle...I get choked up just talking about it.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
A former Brat Packer who stars in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Molly Ringwald knows plenty about adolescent angst. But being mom to Mathilda, 6, and fraternal twins Adele and Roman, 1, is an entirely different role for the 42-year-old actress and author.
Q. How did Mathilda take the news that she was getting a baby brother and sister?
A. It was an adjustment for her after being an only child for so many years. To keep it positive, we turned the twins' births into a celebration for her too. Before they were born we planned a "big-sister party" so she would have something to look forward to. We invited friends to bring presents for Mathilda in honor of her becoming a big sister.
Q. It must be nice to have another pair of hands to help out with the twins.
A. She'll give them a bottle every once in a while, but her main job is to run around and make them laugh.
Q. What was the biggest challenge going from one kid to three?
A. The lack of sleep! My husband, Panio (a writer and book editor), and I used to get up when Mathilda did. Now when she comes into our room, we give her a timer set for 30 minutes and tell her to come back when it rings.
Q. Mathilda sounds like a handful.
A. She's very opinionated, so it's hard for her to hear that there's another way to do things. We work on that a lot. And apparently it's emphasized at school too. One day she came home and said, "I need to learn to be flexible." I thought to myself, "Where did she get that word?" It turns out her teacher told her that!
Q. What's your favorite moment of the day as a family?
A. Dinner is our special sharing time. We sit down and talk about the day's high and low, or what Mathilda calls "rose and thorn." We explain what went well and what was challenging.
Q. Does Mathilda remind you of yourself at her age?
A. Absolutely. She's creative and has a big imagination like I did. She also takes an art class, and she just played Tiger Lily in Peter Pan.
Q. And whom do Adele and Roman take after?
A. It's still early, but personality-wise, Roman is incredibly happy and smiley, while Adele is more watchful and stoic. And they both look a little like Mathilda, although they don't resemble each other at all!
Q. What was the hardest part about growing up in the public eye?
A. Feeling like I couldn't make a mistake without the world knowing about it. And it's important for people to slip up once in a while—that's how they grow.
Q. Was it cool being part of the Brat Pack?
A. That term came from a magazine article; it's not like we were in a special club! But it was exciting making original movies—and of course it was so inspiring to work with director John Hughes.
Q. In your book Getting the Pretty Back, you talk about motherhood, friendship, and fitness. What's the biggest lesson for readers?
A. That a woman who is confident can do anything! I want women to embrace their inner girls—when they were fearless—and pair that with the life experience that comes with adulthood. It truly is the best of both worlds.
Joan Cusack, 47, is braving a new frontier of her own by raising sons Dylan, 13, and Miles, 9, to be fearless when she's so shy.
Q. Unlike many people in the entertainment industry, you chose to stay in your hometown, Chicago. Why was that important to you?
A. As my kids would say, "Chicago is awesome!" It has rich culture and history, as well as some of the best museums, architecture, and restaurants in the world. Plus, it prevents our family life from revolving around TV and the movies. In L.A. it's easy to get caught up in what you look like or how much money you have, and those aren't values I want my kids to adopt.
Q. Illinois is known for its hockey fans. Were your boys born with pucks and sticks in their hands?
A. You betcha! My husband, Dick (an attorney), and I are always watching one of their games or taking them to see the Blackhawks play.
Q. What about when summer rolls around?
A. More sports. We'll check out the Cubs or the White Sox. And my kids love it when their uncle (actor John Cusack) comes to town to take them to a game. He's a huge sports fan too.
Q. So besides the love of the game—any game—what else have you tried to instill in the boys?
A. Characteristics like honesty, integrity, and compassion are important but I really want to foster each one's sense of self. I want them to be able to recognize a challenge and meet it head-on without fear.
Q. Are there any attributes that you're trying to pass down that were inspired by your own parents?
A. My dad was a very funny man—he's the one who taught me life would be awfully hard without humor! I'm sure his Irish wit in some way influenced my decision to become an actress. And my mom was politically active, so I try to educate Dylan and Miles about what's going on in the world.
Q. Which causes are particularly important to you?
A. I support Cookies for Kids' Cancer. My dad died of pancreatic cancer, so I hate to see anyone suffer through the pain of illness, let alone children. It was also a sensible fit since I do kids' films.
Q. It also sounds like a good way to teach compassion to your boys. But are there traits you don't want them to pick up from you?
A. I hope they're never as shy as I am—whether it's around new people, big groups, or in a job interview. I want them to be able to relax without getting nervous. I think acting has helped me come out of my shell, because when I play a character I can't be self-conscious.
Q. What's your best advice for other parents?
A. Don't live vicariously through your kids or try to shape them into who you wanted to be, like the popular kid or an athlete. Children should be given the opportunity to be themselves.
Q. Tell us the hardest part about being a mom.
A. Juggling parental responsibilities with those of being a wife and a career woman—while also being a member of school and church communities—is difficult. Every day I feel like I dropped the ball somewhere, but I've learned not to beat myself up over it because that won't help. I try to be a role model to my sons by showing them that no matter what kind of mistake a person makes, she can always get back up again and give it another shot.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez
The rapper-turned-actor is half of a dynamic duo on NCIS: Los Angeles and at home, where he and wife Simone present a united front to kids Najee, 21; Italia, 20; Samaria, 15; and Nina, 10.
Q. You're an actor, musician, author, and businessman—are your kids following in your footsteps?
A. We'll see. Italia, who is studying business in college, has a paid internship, but she also works for my music website Boomdizzle. Even with two paychecks, she knows the important thing is the education she's getting—not the cash. My son, Najee, is studying photography and art. Samaria is modeling and designing her own clothes. And Nina loves to play the piano and write songs.
Q. Kids grow up faster in Hollywood. Has that made you and Simone more protective?
A. I was raised in the music industry, so I already know the game. I'm not Mr. Innocent. But Simone and I don't want to be too strict and create a slingshot effect with our daughters where we're always trying to pull them back. Because as soon as we let go of the slingshot, they'll be sneaking out the window at 1?a.m.!
Q. I hear Nina plays basketball against Lily, daughter of your NCIS costar Chris O'Donnell. Is there a rivalry between your families?
A. Let's just say Chris witnessed Nina's fury on the court as she scored a barrage of points in her very first game. But I didn't gloat—okay, maybe a little.
Q. All kidding aside, you both have big families (you have four kids and he has five). Do you get a kick out of comparing dad stories on set?
A. I do. He'll tell me about taking one of his sons to a sports game, and I'll tell him how proud I was to see Samaria modeling in Teen Vogue or how Nina's pet lizard, Miles, became mine because I'm the one brave enough to feed him worms.
Q. What's the hardest part about being a dad?
A. Remaining open-minded. I try to stay confident in the values I've instilled in my kids so I can give them space.
Q. Tell us the most important thing you and Simone have learned from your kids.
A. Even when they don't seem like they're listening, they're watching—and it's surprising how much influence we have on them.
Written by Patty Adams Martinez