Hi Kellie. I was speaking with Virginia Ladd today. She gave me you website info. Wow - you have incredible energy and joy that radiates from every word that you post. I have been in the process of starting a new foundation "Victoria's Gift". She has her own Facebook page. The foundation is generating funds for AARDA, here in New York. We are having our first event (5k family fun/run) on 11/6. The irony is, that your friend Melissa Joan Hart is from our hometown. Please visit Victoria's page. Let me know what you think. And if you have any fundraising tips, I would gladly welcome them. I too have Lupus, and my sister does as well. Victoria was 9, and had 9 separate diseases and 3 acquired. She passed away on Aug. 30th 2010. There's a story here. There's a piece of the puzzle that lies in that story. Look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for sharing. I hope the run was a huge success!
Kellie, I love the amazing work you’ve done as an actress. Like your acting, your blog and your commitment to your family are nothing short of stellar. I read your last few posts, and just had to comment on the one on having a little mimic. I can totally relate as my 18 year old was an early talker. That being related, what she said was something I was unaware she had ever heard. At just over six months, plain as day, came the phrase, “aw, sh*t”! I turned and looked at my mom and my sister to verify what I heard. It was a while before she began to express her self with more typical expressions and she didn’t repeat that one. She however was just over a year when she uttered her first complete sentence - “Don’t comb me!” She was also very found of “Read me, Mommy, please!” She could usually stretch bedtime stories to hours. I cannot say enough about reading to your child. Oh, and the comb reference, she had a wild tangle of strawberry blond curls, with the emphasis on tangles. Your caveat of watching what we say is best said the way our pastor words it: “More is caught than taught”.
My husband and I have just finished watching the original Christy series over the past few nights. You were superb and totally believable as Christy! I first read the novel, Christy, forty years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. I loved it. Can you guess what I named my baby girl? That's right. Christy.
Was the series actually filmed in East Tennessee? (I'm from Memphis). We also watched the follow-up sequels and were SAD not to see you (or David, Fairlight, Alice, etc.!) there! I'm sure you've heard this before!
I just discovered your blog and am thoroughly enjoyed reading back posts!
"Christy" was such an amazing show to work on. I’m happy to hear that it meant a lot to you. We filmed the show in a place called Townsend, about 40 minutes from Knoxville (if my memory serves me right). I hear that the sets are still there if you’d ever want to go see them!
I’ve been a bit stuck on what to write about lately. My guess is that I’ve shifted gears, from Mommyville to Actresstown. Back to learning my lines, getting my hair did and my face put on. Not much time to philosophize, write recipes or engage in much mom conversation. But being on location away from my family certainly gives me tons of time to reflect on what I’m grateful for and what I miss most.
It’s really interesting to me how having a child and a family puts my life, and thereby my work into perspective. I’ve been acting for 27 years. I’ve loved (most) every minute of it and have actually sometimes thrown myself so completely into my work that I didn’t know who I was without it. Fantastic for my acting, not always so good for my sanity. For example, when a series I worked on for 4 years, “Life Goes On,” was cancelled, I seriously thought my life was over. I didn’t seem to know where my character, Becca, ended and Kellie began. If you could see my journal entries from that time, they would totally scare you. I was quite the emotional 17 year-old actress.
I’m stereotyping here, but actors can be highly emotional, wild, impulsive, crazy, you know, off-their-rockers kind of people, which frequently make them so compelling to watch. Their rollercoaster lives can make them as fascinating to watch on TMZ as they are on screen. While I’ve had brief moments of personal craziness, my life has always been pretty balanced and um… super normal. I used to worry about that: will it make me a less interesting actor? Maybe, but right now I’m grateful for balance, security, and simplicity.
My job is great. I love it and am grateful to have the opportunity to come into people’s homes on the television to make them laugh or cry (hopefully I don’t make you cry too often). But at the end of the day it is a job, not my reason for existing or the key to my happiness. My husband and daughter and our family are the most important part of my life. Nothing Actressville has to offer, can compare to the feeling I get when I watch my daughter dance, dig in the dirt, or laugh.
I'm really happy that I'm following you on Twitter and found your blog here on Tumblr. I'm a HUGE 'ER' fan and just wanted to say that your character Lucy, by far had the most impact on me of any character on the show's 15 year run.
Q: What was one of your favourite episodes (or scenes) to shoot during your time on 'ER'?
I'm glad that I can read your work and catch up with one of my favourite actresses! Love your blogs. Keep them coming!
Congrats on your beautiful family!
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Wow, thank you! ER was an amazing show. I was honored to be part of it.
My favorite episode to film was my first episode, “Day for Knight.” It was such a discovery, being on that set. Lucy’s first day in the ER was my first day too.
Hi Kellie, finally a way to contact you, I am a huge fan of Mystery Woman TV show, I just love it!!! I have 3 DVDs: Snapshot, Mystery Weekend and Sing me a murder, and I wonder where can I buy the remaining titles of the chapters of this TV show.
I live in Chihuahua, Chih., Mexico, and my parents live in Ojinaga, a border city with Texas, and I got the DVDs from ebay, and I have try to find those but I can not find it.
Probably this question it is not related with this blog (my husband and I are working on become a mom, so hopefully soon I will ask you something related), Congratulations for the beautiful family that you have and for all the success in your career, with Best Regards Karina Gurrea
Thank you, Karina. Glad you like the blog and “Mystery Woman.” I’m not sure how many of the MW episodes were released on DVD. Amazon is probably to best place to look for them.
There is a spider that lives in our backyard on our rose bushes. Every morning as Maggie and I eat our breakfast, we watch the spider sleeping in its intricate web, evidence from its breakfast in our full view. This spider has lived in the same spot for months—it’s like a pet at this point. I commented one morning on “his” beautiful web and was swiftly and curtly corrected by my daughter: “Her web, Mama. That spider is a girl and her name is Amelia.”
Amelia the Spider, alright.
Lately my three year old turns everything into a girl. Grasshoppers, stuffed bears, other people’s babies… Yep, all girls, despite their actual boyness.
I actually remember this phase. In kindergarten my little (girl) friends and I used to put on lip gloss and run around the playground at recess, kicking boys. Why we needed lip gloss for this is still a mystery to me. But where does this “girls against boys” or “girls are better than boys” or (the one I hear most frequently lately) “it’s just us girls” come from?
I certainly haven’t forced pink tulle and magic wands on my daughter, nor have I begged her to join the football team. Her room decor? Not princesses but ladybugs… some ladybugs with spots, some without… boy and girl ladybugs! (Uh, that whole spot thing, actually a total coincidence.) I guess my point is that I just want to encourage my kid to grow up balanced.
So, really, I’ve ended up nowhere on this query. Now is when I turn to you, dear reader, why are little girls so obsessed with girl power?
Today I’m speaking at the United Nations on autoimmune disease. Why, yes, you are correct, I am just an actress—but I have much to contribute to the discussion of autoimmunity.
In July 1998, I lost my sister, Heather, to lupus. It came out of nowhere (or so we thought) and was undiagnosed to the point that Heather had no more fight left. Everyday since then has been a struggle to reconcile what happened to my sister. There’s no easy answer, and there are a ton of tears.
I haven’t had to tell the story of what happened to my sister for a few years now, and it surprises me how raw my emotions seem today. Like a bruise, when you press it, it hurts. I’ve been the spokesperson for AARDA (American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association) for over 10 years, a position I’m proud to have. But my job is basically public awareness: telling people who have never heard of autoimmune diseases what they are and why we need to pay attention to them. This, of course, consists of me telling my family’s very private story, and in the end, it is a bittersweet burden.
My sister would hate to have me talking about her to news outlets, and, yes, even to the United Nations. But for those of you out there who have never heard of lupus, scleroderma or Crohn’s diease, I know she won’t mind. If my family had known about lupus and its symptoms, we might have Heather with us today.
I have another reason for working with AARDA: my three year old daughter, Maggie. If my sister’s experience can teach me anything, it’s to be on the lookout for these autoimmune diseases because they are a major women’s health issue. As many as 50 million Americans have autoimmune diseases, and 75% of those are women. And autoimmune diseases tend to cluster in families, which is a loose way of saying they’re genetic. It’s not one gene that gets passed down but several genes that increase risk of developing an autoimmune disease. My husband and I are not alarmists when it comes to Maggie’s health, but we are very attentive observers.
My “Mama Mojo” blog is much about the physical and emotional health of kids. Now you know why this is so important to me.
If you want to learn more, please visit AARDA.org.
My daughter was innocently watching the very tame television show “Curious George” when she suddenly ran into the kitchen trembling. I thought that HBO had suddenly taken over my Tivo and that Maggie had just seen the last five minutes of “Saw.” But no, it was just Curious George. In a cave. With the wind whistling. Yep, that was it. But it was enough to send my three year old into a panic.
From the day Maggie was able to express fear (at least what I was able to decipher as fear), I’ve attempted successfully and sometimes not-even-close-to-successfully to help her understand her fear. Sometimes that means me attempting to articulate her fear. These range from: “you seem frightened” to “you didn’t expect that,” and (my fave) “that was surprising.”
Now before you laugh at me, hear me out.
My fear is that I will get her fear wrong. The last thing I want to do is interpret what frightens her—to put an incorrect label on it. So, I choose relatively generic phrases and hope that she will process the situation for herself, with me right there to comfort her and see her through. We talk about it when she’s ready and then later, sometimes in a few hours or even a few days we revisit the situation. As she grows she will understand her feelings for herself, without me.
And Curious George, it you ever scare my kid again…it’s gonna be very, uh, surprising for you, little monkey!
When I got pregnant, I made a conscious decision not to freak out about what was about to happen to my body, mind and life. Let things happen as they will, I told myself, having a baby is mysterious and magical.
But, I’ve been an actress for most of my life, so the thought of putting on about 30 extra pounds for the whole world to see felt more terrifying than magical. Then there was the challenge of trying to remember things like my lines on set, where I parked my car, and (oh, yeah) my own name. Apparently it’s a fact that your brain shrinks during pregnancy. That’s right…scientifically proven!
Needless to say, during pregnancy and since having a child, I’ve really struggled to feel like my old self. I used to be more ambitious, drive faster, stay up later. I used to have razor sharp focus and could devour the New York Times Sunday crossword in a few hours flat. Before becoming a mother my world was well-ordered and relatively chaos-free.
My new family, us three, has shifted my life in dramatic, chaotic and beautiful ways. I work very hard to invite this new dramatically beautiful chaos into my life with grace. Some days I’m graceful, some days…not so much.
But here’s what I’ve learned: I’m cool like that. And so are you.
Just the word pizza conjures up all kinds of yummy thoughts. Even bad pizza is good pizza. This, that I am about to share with you, is heavenly pizza. I had a serious carb hangover the next morning because I ate too dang much of it. My daughter devoured it and has already asked me to make it again.
Here’s the reason it’s so good: fresh dough. That’s right, fresh dough… fo’shizzle. Don’t be scared, you can totally do it. Make it the night before and let it rise in the refrigerator or just give yourself a bit of time before the meal. This pizza cooks right on the grill, so you don’t even need to have a fancy pizza stone (or even be Italian).
Pizza is a very hands-on, kid-friendly meal to make, so get your little ones involved. Maggie helped me every step of the way with this recipe and adored rolling out the dough (see Figures 1-3). I’m going to do my best not to make this too many times a week, although it is very tempting…
Grilled Pizza with Pesto and Mozzarella dough recipe from The New School of Cooking
Dough: 1 ¾ teaspoons active dry yeast pinch of sugar 1 1/3 cups warm water (should be between 100-110 degrees F) ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the crust about 3 ¾ cups all purpose flour (use ap flour or 00 flour) 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- mix yeast, water and sugar into a large bowl, allow to stand for 5 minutes until foamy (this means the yeast is happy)
- stir in olive oil
- mix the flour, 1 cup at a time, into yeast mixture; add salt; stir until you can stir no more and must knead (the dough should be only slightly sticky)
- turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until pliable yet slightly firm, about 8 minutes (after that time the dough should spring back when you poke your finger into it)
- place dough into a lightly oiled large mixing bowl (make sure a light layer of oil covers your dough to keep a crust from forming) and cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap; let it rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes to an hour
- after dough has risen, place on a lightly floured surface and divide into two or more parts; roll into balls; cover with a towel and let rest for another 20 minutes
Pesto: make the pesto recipe from my blog “Pesto Chango”
Assembly: 2 balls of fresh mozzarella, cut into ¼ inch slices ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- heat your grill to medium; brush with olive oil
- roll out dough to about a ¼ inch thick and place onto the heated grill; cook until slightly browned on one side then flip over using tongs
- add pesto and cheeses and cook until crust is golden
The tomato harvest picture reminds me of sitting in the front yard on the slab of concrete that was once a garage, with a salt shaker swiped from the kitchen in one hand, baby tomatoes from my father's tomato plants in the other. My mother would always discover this when she realized the salt shaker was missing. I always had scabs on my knees from falling down or off my bike and the grass smelled wonderful and like forever, and the sky was a blue that doesn't exist anymore. Thank you for reminded me of that.
Not so much a question as a comment. You are my first person to follow on tumblr. I'm going to sound like a crazy fan-girl when I say this, but I have been a fan of your acting since I first saw you in 'Life Goes On' and it's so amazing to find your blog. I am hopefully going to become a mother in the next couple years and I hope my own daughter is as amazing and beautiful as your Maggie and that I am as awesome of a mom as you are. I look forward to reading your blog more! Take care!
Thank you for your thoughts and for taking the time to write. I love that you watched LGO and read the blog. It means a lot to me!
I have previously mentioned that my daughter has a thing for kalamata olives. Maggie mostly just eats them straight out of the jar but occasionally likes them in pasta or on a sandwich. Recently I made some olive tapenade for a dinner party, and she got to it before my guests did. Let’s just say I had to run out at the last minute for some store-bought tapenade to go with the toasted baguette slices because Maggie ate the homemade version by the spoonful.
I’m not complaining, just sharing. And here I will share the delovely recipe that I adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Voluptuous Vegan. It’s less vegan now that it has parmesan cheese, but really, don’t you find that parmesan cheese just completes you?
1 cup pitted kalamata olives 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained 1 garlic clove, sliced lengthwise 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil ½ teaspoon grated orange zest 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
- - place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until mostly smooth (I like to leave my tapenade slightly chunky)
Last night I made my favorite pesto for Maggie and her little friend Jack, while the adults had restaurant-bought pizza. Not only did the kids polish off their penne with pesto, but they each asked for two more helpings. And on top of that, the adults found the pizza a bit bland and switched over to devouring the pesto along with the kiddos. So if that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.
This recipe is from The Angelica Home Kitchen and calls for walnuts instead of pine nuts and adds parsley to the mix. Last night I didn’t have quite enough parsley so I threw in some mint from the garden, which I think was the reason for the feeding frenzy.
1 ½ cups walnuts 2 cups fresh basil leaves 1 ½ cups fresh parsley ½ cup fresh mint 2 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice ½ cup extra virgin olive oil 1 ½ cups pure olive oil salt and pepper to taste
- toast walnuts on a cookie sheet for 8 minutes at 350 degrees; set aside in a strainer to cool; once cool rub the walnuts against the sides of the strainer to remove the walnuts’ bitter skin - in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse the walnuts to a course meal - then add basil, parsley, mint, garlic, and lemon juice and process - with motor running drizzle in olive oils and process until smooth - season with salt and pepper
My husband grew up in Montana. A pretty wild place if you ask a Southern California girl like me. He could ride a horse before he could walk, skied downhill by age three, camped in all kinds of densely wooded areas with all kinds of big animals nearby, and helped countless calves be born. My family on the other hand never camped, we cruised (my dad loves all-you-can-eat buffets and the open sea) and I wasn’t allowed to ski or horseback ride (I started acting as a child and broken arms don’t get you many jobs). Don’t get me wrong, my family did a lot of cool things, it was just more on the tame side and less on the you-could-see-a-bear side.
So now that we have a child of our own, my husband and I have to negotiate how and when to introduce her to all the things that make being a kid fun. But, I’m learning that it can be difficult to keep up with your child’s rapid development. Just recently I couldn’t believe that Maggie was completely over her water wings (a.k.a. floaties) and ready to try swimming on her own (with an adult nearby, of course). It seems like it’s all happening so fast!
On this last vacation to Montana, we were hit with a barrage of potentially fun yet possibly dangerous activities that three year-old Maggie could do. For example, it seemed like the right time to get her up on a horse while her dad led her around in little circles in the yard. My imagination instantly got to work on all the possible dangers, but before I got too far down that road, Maggie was up on the horse, holding on tightly to the saddlehorn and grinning wider than I’ve ever seen her grin before. She was up on that horse for about 30 minutes and when she got down she had such a sense of accomplishment and pride. And interestingly, the next day she learned to swim completely on her own. A coincidence? I don’t think so.
Along with her new little swagger Maggie started saying that she was “a Montana cowgirl now, just like daddy.” Maybe not exactly the rugged image my husband was looking for but I suppose it’s the thought that counts.
I got my first dog when I was 5 years old. And, come to think of it, there’s not been a moment since then that I’ve been without some kind of pet. My first dog was a lovable mutt named Curly Joe. He came from our next door neighbors’ indiscriminate shelty, and we loved him dearly.
Not that I knew it at the time, but Curly Joe taught me a ton about life. He was my little charge. I had to feed him, make sure he went out to do his business, and, of course, fill his stocking on Christmas Eve. I did all these things from the time I was five until he went to doggie heaven 18 years later (that’s right, 18 years!). And, yes, I take great pride in the fact that I reared a dog well beyond his projected life expectancy.
I want my daughter to experience the same with the canine and feline parts of our family. Our dog and cat were living at our house long before Maggie came along. The chocolate lab embraced her immediately (isn’t that what they do?), but the cat, not so much. So, Maggie has worked hard to win her way into our cat’s heart. This includes (exclusively) feeding her and not petting her … at all.
Each morning Maggie runs to the kitchen to scoop our pets’ food into their bowls—the exact amount of food, no more, no less. Maggie even placed their photographs near their bowls so nobody gets confused (because the lab likes to eat the cat’s food, every chance she gets). This is Maggie’s job, her chore—every day. She is learning to be responsible for someone other than herself and is inadvertently learning about empathy. We’ve now moved on to having Maggie help wash and brush the dog. What’s next, washing the cat? Probably not.
I came across your blog by chance and am dropping a line just to convey how much I loved your blog- not only is it informative and helpful (especially the recipes and your insights), but it is so well written that it was a delight going through your posts.
Okay, this is going to sound very random, but I go to an art college, I'm majoring in graphic design, minoring in photography so I just can't help it!
Just wondering what camera model you use for the photos you post? The detail is stunning! (Oh, and Maggie is too cute)
Thank you for reading the blog. I’m obsessed with photography. Love it! The digital camera I’ve been using is a Nikon D70s. Good luck with your studies!
If I Were Stranded on a Desert Island and Could Have Only One Kind of Hummus
It would be this version from The Angelica Home Kitchen. I’ve substituted canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans) because are you really going to soak and cook your own beans? I thought not.
3 cups canned chickpeas (liquid reserved) 1/2 cup tahini 2/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice 2 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise 1 teaspoon ground cumin 3/4 teaspoon salt pinch cayenne 3/4 cup water or reserved chickpea liquid
- combine all ingredients in a food processor fitted with a steel blade - with the processor running gradually add the water or reserved cooking liquid just until the hummus is creamy (or to desired consistency) - adjust seasoning and garnish with chopped parsley and tomatoes
Then these muffins are for you. (OK, I’ll stop rhyming.)
This blueberry muffin recipe came from Stonyfield Farm, and my friend Elena and I adapted it to make it more kid-appropriate. Fresh blueberries are relatively inexpensive right now, so it’s a perfect time to make this for your family’s next breakfast.
Fresh Blueberry Muffins 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 1 cup whole wheat flour 2 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon cinnamon ½ teaspoon salt 1 cup plain yogurt 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 egg, lightly beaten ½ cup applesauce ¼ cup agave (natural sweetener) 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup fresh blueberries
- Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a muffin pan or fill pan with muffin cups.
- Sift the flours, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
- In another bowl, combine the yogurt and the baking soda.
- In a third bowl, stir together the egg, applesauce, agave and vanilla.
- Add the flour mixture and yogurt mixture alternately to the egg mixture and mix.
- Gently fold in the blueberries.
- Use an ice cream scoop to spoon the batter into the muffin pan and bake for 25 minutes.
My daughter has officially entered the independent phase. Now that she’s “Maggie 3.5,” she’s got her own ideas, ways of doing things and the willfulness to make it happen. With everything from getting dressed in the morning to what she eats at mealtime, Maggie is ready to flex her recently discovered muscles of autonomy. “I do it meself,” has become the top Olde English phrase spoken in our house these days.
As a mom, I find this new phase gratifying—finally after years of laying the groundwork, my little birdie is trying out her wings—yet terrifying—my little birdie could take a nose dive right out of the nest and end up with a broken arm…er, wing! If I could just keep her swaddled in blankets and safely tucked in my arms for the rest of her life, I’d do it in a second. Does that make me sound crazy? A little? Whew, I’m glad you understand too.
So in order for Maggie’s new-found power to avoid becoming one long power struggle, I’ve decided to give her some space (just a little). She has a few places in our house and backyard that are pretty much her turf. For at least an hour a day she goes into her bedroom to play quietly or not-so-quietly by herself. From this she’s developed a huge interest in pretend play and self-reliance. And then there’s the treehouse. It’s not an actual treehouse but the little hut at the top of her swingset that has become her official home away from home.
It’s not easy, but if you give your kids space little bits at a time, they’ll reward you later by letting you visit their treehouse anytime you want.
Lately Maggie has been waking up at 5:45 on the dot, singing “Let It Be.” No matter how late I’ve been up the night before, no matter how much I could use another hour’s sleep, there’s my little girl belting, diva-style to Paul, John, George and Ringo. I generally throw the pillow over my head, hoping she’ll fall back to sleep. I holler at her, “It’s too early to be up.” She usually stops singing just long enough to respond: “But, mama, the sun’s up.” Yep, that’s my little farmer… up with the sun.
Really, kids wake up in the morning happy just to be alive. It’s that simple. They can’t wait to see what adventures each new day will bring. And by adventures I mean, brushing their teeth, feeding the dog, and working in the garden—all the things we, grown-ups, look at as chores. Kids have a natural ability to stay completely in the moment, to make the ordinary extraordinary.
I doubt that balancing your checkbook or washing dishes will be things you look forward to, but maybe our kids’ appreciation of even the most mundane tasks, will remind us to stay present.
In the words of that fab British foursome (and Maggie): Let it be.
All kids like to emulate their parents. Not that my daughter is a “mini-me,” oh no, she is every bit her own person. But I have noticed that when I wear a skirt she wants to wear a skirt and when I put on lip gloss, (Yep, she’s only 3 and it’s started already.) she tries to paint herself up. She has also become a little parrot, expertly spouting some of my over-used phrases: “What’s up? “Sling it!” (Recently added to Urban Dictionary by me.) “Sure, I LOVE it when you cut me off!” The latter phrase of course uttered while driving. The parroting of your words is generally the precursor to the child emulating your behavior, most importantly how you deal with other people. Even if your child hasn’t started talking, rest assured that they are diligently recording your utterances and behavior in that rapidly expanding mind of theirs. And when they finally do start using words, you certainly don’t want their first ones to be “up yours, buddy.” I’m not suggesting that you totally censor yourself when around your kid, I’m merely encouraging you to install a filter in your head and maybe take a hard look at how you interact with others. Do you lose your temper at the barista when she messes up your caramel macchiato? Are you polite when telling a solicitor not to call you during dinner? Do you use racial slurs, however innocent you may think they seem? Your child hears, sees and senses everything. And since we, as parents, are their first window to the world, we need to take that immense responsibility seriously. It’s up to us to raise the next generation as caring, compassionate, responsible humans.
When I was 8 months pregnant, a wacky woman who worked at the place where I bought food for my dog and cat told me that my future daughter was going to be just like Mother Theresa. No, I hadn’t told her that I was having a girl. Like I said, she was wacky and, for no reason at all, seemed to know way too much about me and my fetus. She also asserted that my daughter would “bring home strays.” Dog, cats … people? I wondered. Sadly, she didn’t specify.
I didn’t think much of this until my daughter was about 10 months old and discovered the plush Gandhi doll perched on top of my shelf. Yes, I do own a plush Gandhi doll complete with cool circular glasses and removable sandals, doesn’t everybody? From that day forward Maggie started packing Plush Gandhi around with her wherever she went. Thinking back on the aforementioned wacky lady, this freaked me out.
Actually, it freaked me out but also made me immensely proud—my daughter didn’t reach for Minnie Mouse up on the top shelf, she reached for Gandhi. My kid’s deep! I think that she initially dug Plush Gandhi’s cool circular glasses and removable sandals, but here I saw a teaching opportunity:
Me: “Maggie, that’s Gandhi.” Maggie: (with faux recognition) “Ohh.” Me: “He was a great man who taught the world a lot of important lessons.” Maggie: (throwing Plush Gandhi in the air) “Wheee-ee!”
So … maybe she’s not just like Mother Theresa.
Obviously a 10 month old is not going to comprehend the enormity of a Gandhi and what he meant to this world. The cool thing is that, when Maggie discovered the Gandhi doll on the top of my shelf, the seed was planted. Now that Maggie’s 3 years old, I can start to tell her about who Gandhi was and why he’s important to us. She’s already interested in him—already loves him—so it’s not much of a stretch to get her to want to learn about his lessons of peace.
So maybe she’ll bring home a few strays (hopefully they will be dogs or cats). And, wacky as it is, if peace, acceptance, non-violence, and love, are all I can teach my kid, I’ll be pretty happy with that.
I’m not a big fan of gifts for semi-made-up holidays. As a daughter, I find it stressful to find that perfect thing to buy each May to show my mother how much she means to me. The stress comes from knowing that there is no single object that can adequately express my gratitude for all that my mother’s done for me, there’s no doodad that can show her how much I admire her strength and warmth, and there is no bauble (although, for my mom, a diamond might do the trick) that can telegraph how precious her unconditional love is to me. Let’s just put it this way, I’m not gonna find this sort of thing at Macy’s.
Today, on this Mother’s Day, I received three gifts from my daughter that actually made me happy that this semi-made-up holiday exists. First was a little homemade “doll” whose face was a picture of my daughter. At school, Maggie had made the doll’s clothes, wrapped it herself, and signed the card with a little “m.” The second gift was a ceramic dog that she had painted with the help of my mom. And finally, she and my husband brought home a flat of flowers for us to plant. While I love the gesture, (and of course Maggie will never know this) I’m not crazy about petunias.
So this is what I’ve learned from that: a homemade gift, a little piece of your creative soul, and a meaningful gesture are the best candidates for this Fiesta de Madre. Don’t spend a lot of money, just make sure you start planning it more than an hour in advance.
Alright, this one’s for you, Mama (or Daddy): Tonight I’ll keep it brief. It’s just about a cup of tea for the end of a long week. When I was working in Montreal and feeling a bit run-down, a very wise assistant director named Carl, gave me a cup of this magical concoction. Trust me, it makes you feel like a new person. Carl’s Magical Tea2 lemons, cut in half1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped2 teaspoons honey16 ounces filtered water - place all ingredients in a teapot (squeeze the lemon before placing in pot)- bring water to almost a boil- pour water into teapot and let steep for at least 10 minutes If you’re super adventurous, Carl and I recommend eating the fresh ginger after you’ve enjoyed the tea. It’ll cure what ails ya!
I grew up in a pretty traditional middleclass family of four. A dog, dinner at 6, bills, you know, school carpool. The Martin family was what you might call conventional, but not in a completely negative way. We could express our point of view… up to a point. My parents allowed us to have pierced ears (lobes only), never a pieced eyebrow or (God-forbid) a pierced nose! And no one in my family EVER had a tattoo, not even a dolphin on the ankle.
Now I have a family of my own. We’re not as conventional as the Martins. My husband and I definitely allow more freedom of expression at our house. Maggie, who’s three years old, usually chooses her own outfits and frequently looks (as my father so aptly puts it) “like a flag looking for a nation.” But I thought I had a few years before things like tattoos and piercings came up. Uh, apparently, not the case…
A few nights ago, my husband and I were sitting with Maggie having dinner at a restaurant. A guy covered in brightly colored tattoos sat at the table next to us. Maggie watched him awhile utterly fascinated. Finally she leaned over to him and said: “I like your pretty pictures.” I saw the guy’s heart just melt.
And just yesterday while in the car, Maggie noticed a motorcycle in the lane next to us. She earnestly asked me: “Mom, if I practice really hard, can I drive a motorcycle someday?” Really?!
In my hysterical mind, teenagedom’s not even on the horizon, and Maggie’s already telling me that she’s going to run away on a Harley with a guy sporting plenty of ink.
In my rational mind, she thinks it’s really cool to have pictures drawn on your skin (that don’t come off when you take a bath!) and to go really fast with the wind whipping in your hair. Hey, come to think of it, I like those things too. Maybe they aren’t so scary or even so unconventional. But… motorcycles are still a bad idea.
Lately “no” has become the most uttered word around our house. If Google were measuring, they would rate it as trending “spicy.” I’m not proud of this. I hate “no.” I don’t like being told “no” in any situation, so my guess is that Maggie doesn’t like it much either.
How can “no” magically disappear from your parental vocabulary even when you’re dealing with a spectacularly willful three year old? Easy, just say “yes.”
When a situation arises that you would like to put a stop to or if your child wants something they shouldn’t have, just say what you see—your interpretation of your child’s feelings or what seems to be happening—then guide them to an alternative or give them a reason why something can’t happen. Beginning with “yes” gives you a better opportunity to get a positive outcome from a negative situation.
Try it, it’s easy: - “Yes, I know you want chocolate cake for breakfast, but let’s try some eggs and toast.” - “Yes, you do love to give the cat very big hugs. Show me how gentle your next hug can be.” - “Yes, you feel very strongly about this Hello Kitty sweater. Unfortunately, Mommy’s credit card won’t let me purchase it today.”
See, doesn’t that feel better? You can accomplish the same goal without that pesky two- letter word.
And, the all-powerful “No” can now be saved for moments when it really matters.
Dinner: Maggie: “Mama, can I be a doctor when I get big?” Me: (grinning proudly) “Of course. You can be anything you want to be.” Maggie: “A doctor for turtles?” Me: “Yep.” Maggie: “Can I be an astronaut too? And can I go to space… today?”
Do you remember when all of this felt possible? Think for a moment about how you used to dream when you were a kid. Without filters. Big reckless dreams. And why on Earth couldn’t they happen… today?
I miss my ability to believe completely in my own ability. If just for a day, I wish I could have an ounce of the unbridled ambition I had when I was Maggie’s age.
My childhood ego was pretty darn healthy, if I do say so myself. Let’s just be honest, I thought I was the BOMB. According to me I was hilarious, smart, cute and super energetic. And armed with these attributes, I dreamed big. Like my daughter, I wanted to be an astronaut, but then there was that whole not-being-so-good-at-math-or-science thing. I also wanted to be a detective, just like Nancy Drew. Maybe an undercover homicide detective! My dad told me that the only way he’d allow me to be a cop was on television. Television. That sounded good. So, I decided that I would be an actress, and I actually followed through with it. Luckily you don’t second-guess yourself when you’re 7 years old.
Maybe my parents would have preferred that I become a doctor (even for turtles) rather than an actor, but they always encouraged me to follow my heart. And even though my boundless self-confidence started waning about the time I hit teenagedom, I’m grateful for the supportive foundation I had as a kid. I hope I can give Maggie that same support and preserve her ability to believe completely in her own ability for a long as possible.
I was away from home shooting a show in Montreal for 5 weeks. It was a pretty grueling schedule but there was always time for my daily Skype call with my daughter, Maggie. She and my husband came to visit halfway through, but it was still a pretty long separation. So, as you can imagine, I was counting the days until I could be home with my family, in our own house, just us, together.
Well, let me tell ya, my homecoming wasn’t all hearts and flowers.
If you have a cat you will know that when you come home from a trip they generally ignore you for about two days. They give you the evil eye for awhile and refuse to purr, no matter how much attention you give them. After being away, I’ve discovered that Maggie might be part cat.
The first day I got home she ignored me. The common refrains were: “No, Daddy holds my hand,” or “Grammy helps me put on my shoes.” Ok, I get it, she adjusted to life without Mama. How fortunate am I to have a kid who’s comfortable with Daddy or Grammy doing things that her mom, er… used to do?
Then she started calling me by my first name instead of “Mama.” I suddenly became “Kellie” or the more recent incarnation: “Kels.” Really?! I go work my tail off to make life better for my family and I’ve suddenly lost the hard-won title of Mama and am now off-handedly referred to by the name I wouldn’t let kids in grade school call me?! Calm down, Kels, she’s only three, and she’s had a tough month.
The final phase of my homecoming was the discovery of Maggie’s new and improved temper tantrum. Man, if I thought those emotional outbursts were powerful before, she’s sure honed those talents over the last 5 weeks. An impressive display of mind-piercing screeching, hearty foot-stomping and a bottom lip that pouts like never before. As it turns out, both Maggie and I were brushing up on our dramatic performances. My performance will appear on NBC, hers thankfully has stayed limited to daily engagements at our house.
It took me a few days to get my Mama Mojo back but it finally happened. After some solid one-on-one time running around in the backyard, coloring, singing and being silly, Maggie relaxed and trusted that I was home to stay. We finally stopped dancing around our feelings and just (yep, I’m gonna be corny!) danced.
At least once a day someone asks me when I’m having another a baby. It’s terribly personal—kind of like having a total stranger put their hand on your belly when you’re pregnant. For me the question is intense and loaded with emotion—something I only discuss with my husband and close family.
I know it’s not this way for everyone. Some women I know have their future family planned out long before they meet their mate. Many women are happy to tell you that they will have four kids… all girls, and by george, it happens. Amazing!
Being a mom to Maggie, I feel like I’m climbing Everest. She’s three now, so I’ve just reached base camp. Whew. I’d kind of like to stick around for awhile and acclimate, maybe even enjoy. But no, my doctor says: “Your biological clock is ticking. What are your reproductive plans, o’ woman over 30?” “But Doctor,” I say, “I’m not sure where the childbearing adventure is taking me. Ease up, dude!”
Even in our overly planned out, technologically advanced world, there is still room for a bit of magic. Having a baby for the first time or the second or the third is a miracle. Let the decision to have a baby be one of logic with a little fancy sprinkled in. After all, you can’t race your biological clock and climb Everest if you’re stressed out.
I have never been away from my daughter more than four days. Now as I head away from balmy Los Angeles to frigid Montreal, I am reminded of why. I feel like I’m missing my right arm. I say right arm because I do most things with my right hand, the left being there for, well aesthetic balance mostly, I suppose. Even as excited as I am to start a new job in a startlingly beautiful city, the thought of being without my right arm—my Maggie—makes my stomach hurt. I’m sure my husband’s stomach is tied in knots as well, but for completely different reasons. He’s got a cheeky, energetic three year old to feed, keep safe and reason with.
Not every kid has two parents, but I do understand why it is considered the ideal situation. Actually, forget two parents, it really does take a village to raise a child. Maggie’s got some serious Daddy-bonding time coming up, and they’re both excited about it, but still, we’ve called in reinforcements. Grammie is in route to take up temporary residence, Poppy is slotted for weekends, and Grandma, who lives two minutes away, is always on-call.
Knowing that our support system is firmly in place for my time away makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief. It won’t make me miss my right arm any less, but it comforts me to know that Maggie will be surrounded by as much love as I can give her. Hopefully, with the exception of fewer brushed teeth and some mismatched outfits, she’ll be none the worse for wear.
Leaving my daughter even to get my hair cut can be pretty dramatic. While most people can take me or leave me, to Maggie, I am the coolest person on the planet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be worshipped, but man, it can feel a bit oppressive at times. As much as I hate seeing her cry, Mama’s gotta get her hair did and Mama’s gotta work.
It would be so easy to just sneak out while Maggie’s contentedly playing in the backyard with Dad. Easy in the short run, not so good in the long run. Saying goodbye to your child is essential to making them feel safe and secure. If you are upfront with them about where you are going and when you will be back, they will learn to trust you.
Start it early, like when they’re a few months old, and by the time they’re three they will just blow you a kiss and happily send you on your way. Well, most of the time… .
It seems that every kids menu in America features chicken nuggets. We all know what chicken is but I thought it might be interesting to ponder the term nugget for a moment. Webster’s defines nugget as: ”a solid lump.” Hummm… not what I’m dying to eat for dinner. How about you?
Unfortunately at most restaurants there is too little actual chicken but a whole lot of solid lumpiness… er, nugget. Now let’s ponder for a moment an alternative: chicken tender. Wow, that sounds much more appetizing. Let’s go one step further: Chicken tenders with Parmesan cheese. Now you’re talking!
Chicken Tenders with Parmesan Cheese 8 chicken tenders or 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 8 strips 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1/2 cup bread crumbs 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided - Preheat oven to 450 degrees. - Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil. - Combine cheese and bread crumbs on a shallow dinner plate. Roll chicken in cheese/bread crumb mixture, making sure all sides are coated. - Place chicken in a baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon olive oil. - Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
I’ve been a actor for a very long time. And one of the most important aspects of my job is to support the other actors with whom I am working. That means no matter how strangely an actor decides to deliver their line of dialogue or how intensely they react, I just need to work with it. My acting teacher described it as “Yes, and… ” Whatever is thrown at you in a scene, you keep going and build on it. That’s part of the excitement of being an actor, you never know where a scene will take you.
Raising my daughter is shockingly similar. Except with Maggie, she is more committed to her intention than any actor I’ve ever worked with, and her highs and lows are infused with more drama than any diva I’ve run across. As her mom (or her costar, if you will) I am constantly being tested on how supportive I can be in a various array of situations (or scenes). My task is to respond with, “Yes, and… ” Let me give you an example:
Maggie: “I’m making cookies.” Me: ”That’s nice sweetie. What kind?” Maggie: ”It’s called sugar brown mixed with playdough cook.”
Just because I’ve never heard of sugar brown mixed with playdough cook cookies, who am I to say that they don’t exist? If I am to be a supportive member of this scene my response should sound something like:
Me: ”Yes, and I bet those sugar brown mixed with playdough cook cookies taste as good as they sound.”
As parents we can spend so much time correcting our children that we often forget to enjoy the amazing yet bizarre things that come out of their mouths. Let their imaginations run a little wild. Just think of where we’d be if Shakespeare’s mama told him that his iambic pentameter hullabaloo was just a bunch of nonsense?
My husband is not the guy who surprises me with flowers and candy on Valentine’s Day. He’s from Montana, and he’s very practical. He won’t buy cut flowers because: “They just end up dying.” And he’s never bought me candy because: ”You’re an actress, you won’t eat it anyway.” Little does he know that sometimes we actresses do eat candy. And like it. A lot.
Actually, my husband does really sweet (albeit practical) things on Valentine’s Day. One year he planted me a little rose garden. Ten years later I’ve had hundreds of roses from that Valentine’s Day. Sweet, thoughtful and super economical.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to tell someone that you love them. I think this message is especially important for kids. Instead of buying them cheesy stuffed animals or crummy mylar balloons, how about taking them for a horseback ride or to the local carousel? Or give them a homemade coupon for a fishing trip with Dad? Be creative but keep it simple. Thoughtfulness and time spent together are far more valuable than trinkets.
I’ve been reading to my daughter since she was in my belly. Most nights before going to sleep, my husband and I would read one Dr. Seuss story to the “little bean” as we called our unborn child. I’m sure I heard somewhere that your kid will come out smarter the earlier you read to them. Or maybe I just really wanted an excuse to break out the classics I remember hearing as a child. Green Eggs and Ham! C’mon you know you love reading it all by yourself!
Now that Maggie is 3, she has most of her favorite books memorized to the point where she’ll correct me if I miss a word. She usually has a stack eight books thick for me to read to her before bed. There’s a chance she’s just trying to delay the inevitable sleep, but I choose to think that she’s just developed an intense love for books. You can spoil your kids in a lot of ways, but there really is no limit to how much you can read to them.
One word of advice: make sure your child’s shelf is stocked with books that not only they love but that you love as well, because, trust me, you and those books will be spending a lot of time together. Thankfully Maggie has latched on to a great series of books by Kate DiCamillo about a pig named Mercy Watson, who has an affinity for toast with a great deal of butter. The books are about 50 pages long (big print with pictures, don’t worry!) and are as entertaining and engaging for me as they are for Maggie. In fact, I’m pretty disappointed if I don’t get my daily Mercy Watson fix. I mean… she’s a really cool pig!
My daughter’s school doesn’t allow the kids to wear recognizable characters on their clothes. According to the school handbook, they find that it distracts from the learning process. This looked like a potentially HUGE problem for us. It’s rare that Maggie isn’t wearing something emblazoned with Hello Kitty. What can I say, she’s a fan.
I thought that this rule seemed a bit cruel and unusual until we were out having dinner recently. Maggie noticed a sweatshirt that the little girl at the next table was wearing. The Disney Princesses. Yep, all of them. Belle, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and (the juggernaut) Cinderella. Needless to say, there was no eating for Maggie. She couldn’t take her eyes off that sweatshirt.
I now understand the reasoning behind the “no characters at school” rule. When kids are preschool age, it’s darn near impossible for them to focus at all, much less when Thomas the Train is grinning at them from their best friend’s lunchbox. Kids should be exposed to new, unexpected and fascinating ideas and concepts at school. Featured characters in the classroom may include Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington and Emily Dickinson (Okay, so maybe a tad advanced for preschool, but…)
It’s fine to let them be fans of all things Disney, Dora and otherwise, as long as it doesn’t define them. They need to be without characters enough of the time so that they can develop their own… er, character.
I was very grumpy yesterday. Grumpy enough that Maggie at one point grabbed my hand and very sweetly told me: ”It’s okay, Mama. Take a deep breath. (Maggie inhales) And out (Maggie exhales).”
Startled by her insight and astute advice, I obeyed her instructions. Inhale. Exhale. Wow, I do feel better. How did a 3 year old know how to do that? Oh, right, I tell her to take a deep breath all the time. She just gave me a taste of my own medicine.
In this example I sound like a great mom, but trust me, frequently I’m unpleasantly surprised by the words my little parrot throws back at me. I forget sometimes that she’s a sponge—that not only does she pick up on the slight nuances of my mood, she hears and internalizes every word I say. That means she hears when I yell at the dog or when I’m rude to the telemarketer who calls during dinner. If it’s okay for Mama to do it, it must be okay for Maggie to do it.
For me, having a kid has been a supreme wake up call. It’s really made me look at how I treat others, even those I’m not fond of (I’m not speaking of my dog, I really do love her, she just makes me mad sometimes!). It’s reminded me of all those virtues we’re supposed to hold dear. And, I guess it’s never too late to learn.
We’re supposed to be in Hawaii today but because Maggie’s been visiting Sickville instead, we stayed home. Traveling with a 3 year old is hard enough, much less a sick 3 year old. So, we’re home, and I’m trying not to be grumpy about it.
On vacation, Hawaii or elsewhere, I really enjoy a good margarita (on the rocks with salt, if you’re wondering). Since it’s not quite noon here, I think I’ll make another of my vacation favorites: guacamole. It’ll make me feel like I’m somewhere tropical, if just for a few moments. Plus, Maggie eats it by the spoonful, sick or well.
Guacamole 2 ripe avocados ¼ cup onion, finely chopped 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped the juice of 1 lemon 1 small, ripe tomato, seeded 1 garlic clove, minced 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil salt and pepper - in a medium-sized bowl, smash the avocados with a fork; add all other ingredients; season to taste with salt and pepper
Here’s the final ingredient to make you really feel like you’re on vacation:
For my baby shower, I registered for a bunch of big, plastic, battery-operated toys. Isn’t that what every post-millennium, cutting-edge, über-baby needs? Things like their very own IPod Touch that can operate animated yet educational games? Talking board books and blinking, bouncy exersaucers? Otherwise how will my kid keep up in this electronic, digital, battery-operated world?
The truth is, your baby can be über without any of that cutting-edge stuff. Your child has actually been hard-wired with something much more amazing: an imagination.
Today Maggie built a “snowman” inside our house using her old highchair and my Ugg boots. She used her jacket and hat to “keep him warm” and plastic spoons for the eyes “to help the snowman see his wife.” Kids will naturally turn ordinary objects into playthings if you give them the space.
Instead of stocking your playroom with flashy, tripped-out toys, invest in a set of wooden blocks; go through your closet to find some “dress-up” clothes; have crayons and paper readily available; and keep you child’s shelf stocked with great books.
Trust me, you won’t miss for a second the blinking, bouncy post-millennium noise.