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When we caught up with Jordana Brewster, fresh on the heels of filming season three of Dallas and getting ready to shoot The Fast & The Furious 7, she was as grounded as we’d heard (no makeup! in public!). Not that she doesn’t work for it, “I’m very passionate about constantly working on myself, whether it be through therapy, meditation or self help books.” The mother of eight-month-old Julian – who grew up in Panama City, Brazil and NYC and now lives in Santa Monica – has an adorable practice with her two best friends: “We email each other a gratitude list at the end of the day. Every day. Shifting your perspective is so important!”

Toys Schmoys

Take things you already have around the house — a rock, pine cone, paper towel tube — and put them in a bowl or basket for your baby to play with. They love the different textures and once they tire of one, they move on to the next. You don’t even need traditional toys. Next up is edible paint, but he’s not old enough yet. I love The Imagination Tree website for this kind of thing!

Clothes Make The Baby

I’m obsessed with Petit Bateau and Nununu baby clothes, especially Nununu’s pants. Some days Julian’s style is very hipster/skater, and others I dress him like Prince George: a little gentleman.

Be Present

There’s no such thing as multitasking as a mom – if you’re answering emails, you aren’t giving the baby the attention he needs. I’m trying to be more mindful and setting aside time to devote myself to work so I can give him my full attention when I am with him. It’s a work in progress. I meditate twice a day to resist the urge!

Lifesaving Baby Products

For the first 6 months, the Nuna Leaf saved me. I loved that it’s not motorized, Julian found it so soothing and I had my hands free for a short while. Now he wants to be held at all times, but it was great while it lasted. Also the Baby Shusher is a genius invention. At first it felt really lazy, but all that shushing is exhausting! There’s also an app, which I used after I dropped and broke the actual shusher. Oh, and buy the NoseFrida. It’s so convenient and surprisingly addictive.

Skip It

Diaper bags are overrated. I just throw a Bambo diaper, Naty wipes, one toy and a sippy cup in my purse.

Insider Tricks

Find a pediatrician that answers emails or texts. It gives me so much peace of mind to be able to get timely answers without having to take the baby to the doctor. Also, I constantly start email chains with my mom friends about any question I have and they always ease my worries and have good advice.

Truth

I thought I would be this zen earth mama, but I am more paranoid about things than I used to be. People say that once you become a mom you’ll know exactly what to do, but that isn’t necessarily true. I find myself more anxious than before.

A Bag of Tricks

I was shooting Dallas in Texas and traveled back and forth 10 times with Julian. The trick is to give a bottle on the way up and down and to have a bag of tricks. You’re basically an entertainer for the whole plane ride, so pull one toy out at a time and let him play with it until he gets bored. You have to switch up what’s in the bag every trip too.

Hey, Jules

My husband and I had differing opinions on names but out of the blue one day, he said I love the name Jules. And I loved it too. And there we had it.

#Momfail

One day, Julian ate a leaf and then puked it up shortly thereafter. That’s when I realized I have to have my eyes on him at all times.

Gabrielle Blair

• Here’s Gabrielle Blair by the numbers:
• 1 award-winning blog (Design Mom)
• 1 new NYT Bestseller (Design Mom: How To Live With Kids)
• 1 wonderful husband of 20 (!) years
• 8 hours of sleep (nearly) every night
• 6 kids. Yep, 6.

Sound like enough? They also just moved 5,000-something miles to Oakland… from France. Mon Dieu.

And yet, she still found time to speak to us in what seemed, from our end of the call, a quiet room where she could focus entirely on our conversation. A soothing, well-decorated office, perhaps, with closed doors and a light breeze?

Ha! Halfway through our call, she excused herself for a moment and then returned to apologize – she had been in the car with her husband, daughter, son, and his friend, and had now set up shop in a parking garage. What the what?! We were floored. And seriously impressed to see that in addition to talking the work/life balance talk, she can walk it. Truly walk it, up and down the corridors of a parking garage.

That’s not all we learned from Gabrielle – she also shared loads of wisdom about the different routes we can all take to raising great kids, how she works things out with her husband (who she always speaks the world of and exclusively calls “Ben Blair” as if he is a movie star she has a crush on), but also how modern parenting has failed us… and what employers need to do about it.

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So gather up all your parenting questions and anxieties (yes, even the ones about if French parents do it better), and get ready to feel a wash of calm, confidence, and togetherness that only Gabrielle Blair can inspire.

Parenting Is Just Like…

I went to a talk by Stephen Covey, who wrote The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, and he talked about pilots who will fly a plane and be off-course the entire time. Their job is just to keep redirecting the plane until they finally get there. I feel like that’s what we’re going through as parents. We have the same end goal: We want to raise happy, healthy humans that are productive citizens. And we are going to mess up every day, but we’re going to course correct as we go.

So You Want Another Kid…

The number of kids you have is so personal. I’m certainly the first to say that oh, this is not for everyone. I am very aware of that. Both my husband and I are from big families, so it feels like no big deal at all when it’s what you’re used to. Now, if you know you want another kid but are scared: Yes, that second child is hard. And number three just about puts you over the edge, especially depending on how close they are in age. But I feel like I could do a series of “It Gets Better” for young parents because it’s tough, but then all of a sudden, the older one is in preschool, then kindergarten, and life changes dramatically. So maybe you wait so your kids have a four year gap.

The Importance Of A Village

It used to be that we raised children with other adults around – aunts, uncles, grandparents, whatever, and now we do this in isolation. Modern parenting has really failed us on this. I remember for me, it kicked in when I had 2 kids: I was losing my temper and another adult came to the door to drop off a toy, and I could see what I was about to say through her eyes… I realized I’m getting mad at nothing because I have no perspective. Yes, it’s great to have other adults around so you can do practical things like go to the doctor, but you’re also a more reasonable human being when there’s another adult around. If you can make that work, it’s awesome. I remember designing a logo for someone early in my career in exchange for childcare. And in the beginning, we had a friend who came to do an internship near us stay in our house and help with the family. If your mom or sister or friend comes for just two hours a week, that is going to help.

How To Adore Your Husband

Ben Blair and I have been married a long time – next month is our 20th anniversary, so we’re old married people by now. But I had this realization about 5 years in when I truly realized he couldn’t read my mind. If I’m having a bad day and need support and can communicate that to him, it’s going to be a much better situation. There used to be a part of me that wanted him to know, but then I realized that when I asked him Hey, can you tell me some nice things about myself? I’m having a rough day and he did it… it felt just as good as if he’d thought of it on his own. I can’t pretend that will work for everybody, but it’s worth figuring out if it works for you. Another thing? I remember hearing someone complain about her husband at a dinner party, and I thought I don’t ever want to do that. So if I have a complaint, I talk to him about it, no one else. In fact, I try really hard to say nice things about him as often as I can, and it really helps the relationship.

How To ‘Have It All’

If employers can figure out one thing, it should be flexibility – that’s everything. It would solve a lot of problems for working parents. If you have a sick kid and don’t have flexibility, that’s a nightmare. I got lucky – though I don’t know if other people see it that way – in that I was very pregnant at my college graduation, and my oldest was born a week later. So I’ve always known a professional life with kids. I never had to make a transition to being a working parent, which I think would be hard. And it was very experimental right from the beginning – we’ve always aimed for flexibility, so we can both work and have as much family time as possible. There were years when each of us was at a full-time office job, but we always knew that was temporary. Plus, since we’ve both had those office jobs and both had times where we were home more, it’s helped make us more compassionate. If I could give each couple the chance to walk in each other’s shoes for a while, to live each other’s pressures, I think it would be a great help.

About Those French Parents…

I read all the books and yes, it makes it seem like the French have nailed it. And I do think they have when it comes to some of the things parents worry about – yes, their kids will eat more than chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. I love my French adult friends, but they don’t seem any more capable or balanced than my American adult friends, and the end results seem to be pretty similar. I don’t know many adults that are particularly picky eaters, and to me, this is confirmation that there are a lot of roads to a happy and successful adulthood.

The Truth About Kids And TV

There is no greater divide in the parenting world than the gulf that separates those who let their kids boob tube and those who forbid it. But after a new study found that watching Sesame Street led to improved early educational outcomes for children, it’s fair to say that more than a few anti-TV’ers changed their tune… as those who live by it felt pretty smug.

But like most things, the truth lies in moderation. We asked Polly Conway, the television editor at Common Sense Media – an unbiased organization that helps kids (and their parents) thrive in a world driven by media and technology – to help us get to the bottom of the television debate. Here’s the lowdown.

1

There is such a thing as too much TV.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 2 spend no more than one or two hours per day watching screens of any kind. However, every family has different needs: Create a schedule that works for your family, with the understanding that you will probably go through periods of high and low media use.

2

Sesame Street is awesome, but it’s not preschool.

It is a terrific show that’s long been praised for its educational content, positive messages, and wide range of role models. So it’s not surprising that Sesame Street can certainly be a part of a well-rounded preschool learning experience.

3

Blame it on Elmo.

Elmo speaks directly to kids, on their level. He has a lot of the same questions as toddlers, so his curiosity about the world mirrors their own. Plus, his voice (which drives you and every other parent bananas!) and speech patterns mimic “motherese” (baby talk), which feels safe and familiar to little kids.

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4

TV is a learning tool.

Research shows that selective, high-quality screentime can actually help preschoolers learn shapes, letters and numbers, and even sharing and cooperation, but the benefits depend on what and when they’re watching and how much of it.

5

TV viewing is a family activity.

It’s best to watch alongside your kids and engage them with questions and discussion about what they’re seeing. That way you’ll add depth to their experience.

6

You know your kid is watching too many screens if…

it interferes with or replaces time spent with you. Also you don’t want it to to get in the way of your kiddo’s real-life physical exploration and curiosity. Be honest and ask yourself how you are using the screens in your house. If your answer is, as a babysitter, it’s time to reevaluate.

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Clangers, Sprout

Sprout’s latest original show tells sweet stories about a family of mice-like creatures living on their own tiny planet. Narrated by William Shatner (seriously), it’s a fun, whole-family watch featuring compassionate characters who work together to solve problems.

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Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, PBS

This delightful series is a well-rounded choice for little kids who are learning how to deal with emotions. Parents with fond memories of Mister Rogers will enjoy revisiting his messages with a new generation of characters.

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Lily’s Driftwood Bay, Sprout

Lily explores her cute paper-cut world, enjoys adventures with friends, and has a particularly sweet relationship with her single-parent father. This darling series is, paradoxically, a great way to impress upon young kids the joy of simple, screen-free playtime.

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Super Wings, Sprout

A delightful show with good strong messages about teamwork and diversity – kids learn about landmarks, language, and customs of the world as Jett the plane makes new friends.

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Peg + Cat, PBS

Peg’s “freakouts” will be familiar to kids who feel frustrated, but they’ll see her work through problems with the help of her buddy Cat. A great introduction to early math concepts through catchy songs.

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Blaze and the Monster Machines, Nickelodeon

A great vehicle for young truck lovers to start learning STEM concepts and critical thinking. Both male and female characters share their knowledge and work together to solve problems.

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Creative Galaxy, Amazon Prime

Visually appealing and packed with great messages about relationships and caring for others packed into simple art history lessons, this fun series is sure to inspire your preschooler’s own creativity.

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Doc McStuffins, Disney Junior

Doc encourages independence and a can-do attitude in preschoolers. The fact that the show centers on an African-American family whose parents take on reversed gender roles (mom at work, dad at home) reflects well on diversity, and Doc’s kid-friendly health tips are good reminders about basic personal hygiene.

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Wallykazam, Nickelodeon

Wallykazam! craftily disguises solid lessons in basic literacy skills as delightful stories about an endearing young troll and his forest friends. Preschoolers will love the abounding silliness in Wally’s adventures, and parents will love the incorporation of essential reading skills.

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Tumble Leaf, Amazon Prime

Vibrant animation and colorful characters draw preschoolers to this gently-paced series, where sweet animal characters make exciting discoveries that teach simple science concepts. Positive examples of problem solving and other pre-reading skills like rhyming and shape recognition are woven into the stories as well.

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Dinosaur Train, PBS

An intro to basic scientific principles and several real dino species, each story exposes kids to science terms like “hypothesis” and “herbivore,” illustrating their meanings in kid-friendly ways; even kids who aren’t dino-crazy will enjoy Buddy’s adventures.

19 Things No One Tells You About Having A Newborn

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It’s totally normal to catch yourself standing, with no baby in your arms, yet still swaying side to side (and maybe whispering shhh).

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You’ll make up horrible, ridiculous songs revolving around your baby’s name. (I’m just gonna Nate Nate Nate Nate, Nate it off, Nate it off.)

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You’ll have trouble remembering if a conversation took place an hour ago, a week ago… or, frankly, ever.

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You might pee in a public restroom with the door open because you can’t close it behind your stroller, and like hell you’re going to leave that baby unattended.

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It’s totally normal to forge friendships in your own head with Savannah, Hoda, Kathie Lee, Ellen, and in a weak moment… Steve Harvey. When else in your life are you home to watch all this $h*t?!

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Time no longer has any bearing on what you drink. Coffee at 5pm? Necessary. Wine at Noon? Why not?

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You will wax nostalgic for events that happened 1 month ago.

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Your phone will have ZERO storage space because every baby photo you take has 26 outtakes and you can’t delete them. Even the blurry ones. (Look! she’s SMILING!)

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If you have a boy, he will get boners and play with his penis (yep, that young).

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There will be moments you won’t give a f*#k what you’re wearing in public (hi, leaving the house in slippers… and, hey, at least they’re black pajama pants.)

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You will turn off a TV show because it’s waaay too violent and disturbing because come on that character is someone’s child!

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You’ll be absolutely PANICKED someone has stolen your baby… that “someone” may even be your husband.

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You will sit on an airplane with a naked baby because SURPRISE! she pooped through all her clothes (yup, even the back-up outfit).

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You’ll ask really lovely waiters, shopgirls, and baristas if they babysit.

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You will arrive at an event on the wrong day and wrong time (and no, the invitation was not wrong).

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You will sob uncontrollably because it feels like you made a terrible irreversible decision and are not cut out for parenting. (That’s totally not true, btw!)

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You will consider reading a magazine on the hot, smelly subway blissful “alone time”.

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You will develop an OCD habit just to make. life. easier. (So I ate the same sandwich every day for 3 months, no big.)

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Cry when you see school age kids getting off the bus because you realize they are not always going to be tiny babies.