After Lucy had Ethel, but before Will had Grace, Blossom had Six. It was a tale of two teenage girls who were polar opposites (one wise beyond her years and tending toward quirky, awesome geekdom, and the other a boy-crazy little imp, who was prone to loquacious, annoying surges of dialogue) but whose undeniable chemistry endeared them to one another… and to millions of television viewers across the globe.
Yes, I was one half of a duo that has indelibly marked the sitcom best friend circuit for all of eternity. Blossom and Six have been immortalized in the history books (or at least on Wikipedia) as floppy hat-wearers, wacky clothing trendsetters, and deliverers of weekly adolescent angst, peppered with punchlines. We brought five years worth of “very special episodes” to your Monday night lineup, witnessed the spread of the “Whoa!” epidemic, and tackled pivotal issues such as single parenting and substance abuse. We arguably offered up the idea that looking like a runway model doesn’t have to be a prerequisite for girls who star on TV shows, and that maybe, just maybe, roles intended to represent the average high school girl shouldn’t be played by thirty-year olds (I’m talking to YOU, former 90210-ers!). Saturday Night Live parodied our friendship in skits, and they cracked jokes about us on sitcom giants like Seinfeld. All the while, Blossom and Six were masterfully executing mischievous schemes like dumping bubble bath into hotel hot tubs, and sneaking off to scandalous make-out parties. There were run-ins with various celebrity guests like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, several of The Golden Girls, Little Richard, and even Alf. Yes, I said Alf. Didn’t we have the life?
Now, I won’t lie; most of my Blossom days are a blur at this point. Twenty years (twenty years! Does that make you feel old, or what?) has caused me to shove a lot of my memories into a cluttered mental file cabinet, and I cannot seem to locate the key. What I DO recall quite vividly, however, is my time spent with Mayim Bialik. If I’m being completely candid, though we played the epitome of onscreen best friends, I can’t swear we were always on the same page off-camera. Sure, we both endured bouts of acne, worried about getting our homework done, and had silly crushes on boys who would never love us back, but our similarities hit a brick wall once we got past most of the typical teenage trials and tribulations. Put it this way– Mayim was behind the scenes solving New York Times crossword puzzles in permanent ink, while I was busy doing far more serious things… you know, like chewing bubble gum and bopping around to Boyz II Men. (That’s not to suggest I was entirely shallow, but my interest in indulging my cerebral side only slightly surpassed my desire to streak naked through my high school auditorium screaming, ”My chest is flatter than a three-day old 7-UP!”) Don’t get me wrong– Mayim and I got along swimmingly, and I respected her more than she’ll ever know (that part hasn’t changed); we just had contrasting interests. Those distinctions made for some fantastic storylines for our characters, but didn’t necessarily serve us equally well on a personal level. Which, I suppose, is one of the many reasons why I cherish the fact that Mayim and I still talk, almost two decades after our show has ended. The truth is, and this surprised me as much as is might surprise you, Mayim and I are probably closer now than we ever were back in the day. And while the foundation of our rapport is certainly steeped in our Blossom history together, I can honestly say I owe the strength of our present friendship to breastfeeding.
You read that right; I said breastfeeding. Mayim and I are bosom buddies, so to speak.
Though we have kept in touch on and off over the years, motherhood has truly offered Mayim and I some sturdy common ground, pioneered by our mutual advocacy for breastfeeding. In honor of breastfeeding month (which was actually August, if we’re being honest, but who’s counting?) the two of us were inspired to interview one another regarding some of our favorite topics: namely, Blossom, babies, and boobs… and not necessarily in that order. Since we both have our respective parenting blogs, we thought you might appreciate some insight into our friendship and our motherhood adventures. And who knows, maybe it will satisfy some of your 90’s nostalgia at the same time. So, go throw on an old Ace of Base cassette (if you’re willing to admit you own one), and read on!
PS. You can find my interview with Mayim here, and Mayim’s side of it (not to mention, additional photos) on her wonderful blog on Kveller.com!
I know people have been asking for a Blossom and Six reunion for years, so here it is! (Though perhaps in a slightly different capacity than some might have expected.) In honor of National Breastfeeding Month, you and I decided to come together to discuss an area of parenting where we truly see eye to eye…
Jenna: First and foremost, we spent our formative years dishing about cute guest stars, wearing floppy hats in front of a studio audience, and watching each other go through various awkward phases (including getting boobs in the first place). Did you ever imagine, in your wildest dreams, several decades later would give way to discussions about raising children and breastfeeding?
Mayim: Ha! No way! When we were teenagers, I didn’t think much at all about life after being an awkward teenager… I had no clue what our lives would look like. When the show ended and we all kind of scattered, I really wanted to leave behind so much of my “show biz” life and just try to be a normal nerd, as opposed to a show biz nerd. We never formally “lost touch” but it’s been so cool to reconnect as adults with so many shared interests, largely because we are both moms. I have friends I have known forever who don’t have kids, and I have friends I have known for a short period of time who do have kids; and sometimes, you just connect simply because you are moms with certain people, right? It’s important to have so many kinds of relationships, but it’s especially neat that we knew each other as teenagers and now we get to know each other as moms. And I’m so proud of you, of course, for everything you do and talk about regarding being a mom.
Jenna: Thank you! The feeling is entirely mutual. In fact– you are an outspoken advocate of breastfeeding, as well as a Certified Lactation Educator Counselor. Most people don’t know this, but you’ve also become my go-to guru on all things breastfeeding related! How did placing such an importance on breastfeeding come about for you? Did you always feel strongly about it? What made you decide to take that next step and get certified?
Mayim: The reason I did it is simple: I struggled horribly with breastfeeding both of my sons. “Atypical nipples” (we’ll leave it at that…!), babies with receded chins, babies with mouths smaller proportionally than my nipple (that’s the last nipple reference, I promise), thrush, mastitis, nursing blisters, high needs babies who nursed every 2-3 hours all day and night for years (not exaggerating); name the breastfeeding problem and I have had it. I was in so much pain physically and emotionally, getting through the first months of breastfeeding, that I could not leave the house for weeks. Going to La Leche League meetings was great, but I needed someone to see me in my home to help me with positioning and minimizing damage to my breasts. There were La Leche League leaders and lactation consultants who did this for me, and I felt the only way to thank them– besides continuing to nurse until my sons were done– was to give that back. So I took a course through UC San Diego Extension and I got certified. It was a wonderful class and I have consulted at least a dozen women since then. I often consult by phone, and many breastfeeding problems can be resolved with some basic education, positioning shifts, and the love and support from another mom. I love giving back this way and the moms and dads and babies I get pictures of, who benefitted from my experience, are all the thanks I need!
Jenna: Well, I can tell you your consultations have certainly helped me! They have provided me with unparalleled encouragement, and I’m incredibly grateful to you. Generally speaking, I tend to be more of an extrovert than you. That said, my breastfeeding journey began with many an ungraceful (and unsuccessful) attempt to hide it. I’ve certainly gotten better about it (hence our photos of encouragement which accompany this post!), but I was even worried about breastfeeding in the back seat of my car– which has tinted windows– for a while, because there are so many stories of women getting kicked out of restaurants and being publicly shamed. So many people are intent on making breastfeeding out to be a foul and ugly practice. Meanwhile, you’ve been photographed nursing your son on a New York subway– go you! Tell me your secret to ignoring the obnoxious and angry stares of fellow passengers. Is our right to breastfeed in public protected regardless of where we are? More importantly, why the hell is everyone so uptight about something so natural?
Mayim: It’s so funny; I am a very modest person, but there is nothing sexual about breastfeeding. I absolutely wouldn’t let my bare breasts hang out on the subway, but as a last resort to calming my toddler, I absolutely tucked him under my shirt and breastfed him on that subway; it was the kindest thing to do for all involved! I always breastfed with a thin blanket draped around any exposed skin, and I was self-conscious about that for sure; I didn’t want people staring at my body since, even though it’s not sexual, breastfeeding does involve breasts possibly being exposed! I see women with those “hooter hiders” and I think a lot of that is because we think we should be covering up. My babies would not have liked any fabric over them at all, and I think it would have decreased the eye contact and ability for them to look around, which is a normal part of breastfeeding. Of course, if women want to use those, that’s fine, but it should not be because we “should” use them. Breastfeeding in public is as normal as bottle feeding, if not MORE normal, since it’s what our bodies are supposed to do for the benefit of baby and mom. I think less people will stare if it’s less of a novelty. When I see moms breastfeeding in public, I give them a gentle smile to let them know I think they are awesome. When people did that for me, it always felt so good.
Jenna: What do you typically find to be the most common misconception, regarding breastfeeding? Similarly, what are the most egregious breastfeeding myths?
Mayim: Wow, there are so many. One is that some women “can’t” breastfeed. A very small percentage (less than 1%) of women have a genetic inability to produce “enough” milk. Women who are told they are not making enough are usually not getting the right support and education. Establishing a milk supply takes about 3 months, during which you should put the baby to the breast as much as baby wants to, including at night and with no “substitutes” for your milk or breast. Avoiding any artificial baby milk, pacifiers, and simply letting baby nurse for milk and to satisfy the normal sucking need; all of this helps establish a milk supply for the first 3 months. After that, maintaining a milk supply is not difficult, but without proper information, education, resources, and support, many women think they don’t have enough and can’t make enough. Every single woman deserves the right information to learn how the breast makes milk, how to increase baby’s demand to increase supply, and how to keep the milk supply up.
Another myth is that breastfeeding is the same as using artificial baby milk (formula). There is no substitute of artificial milk that mimics the properties of breastmilk. Of course, not every woman chooses to breastfeed, and there is no way I would ever tell anyone what to do with their body, but it is not correct for formula companies or doctors to say there is no difference between human breastmilk and artificial baby milk. I was told this when my first son was in the NICU, and it was outrageously untrue; of course there is a difference! In addition, the human species is not designed to digest cow’s milk, and many babies end up with diarrhea or constipation from bad reactions to cow’s milk in formula. It’s because it’s hard for their little bodies!
A third myth is that babies need formula in the first days of life as colostrum is gradually replaced by ‘full’ breastmilk. It is normal for babies to be born hungry and to lose a little bit of weight. It is expected, and not generally a medical problem requiring the use of formula. I am not a medical doctor, and I am not giving medical advice, but a lactation consultant and a skilled La Leche League leader can help you assess your newborn along with a pediatrician. Babies put to the breast after birth are designed to regain their weight safely and without stress by ingesting the critical colostrum our bodies produce before the full supply comes in, typically at 3-4 days post birth. Newborns do want to be at the breast a lot in the early days, but that does not mean you don’t have enough milk; it means baby is helping your body establish that milk supply the way babies have done for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. Babies can thrive and survive on mother’s milk; it’s what they were made to do!
Finally– breastmilk, and breastmilk alone, is all your baby needs for at least the first 6 months of life. Babies do not need to eat solid food before then and, nutritionally, babies can breastfeed a full year with no other food, water, or supplements, and thrive. I exclusively breastfed my sons past one year (with nothing else), and with the help of a pediatric nutritionist, I was able to not stress about it as they learned to eat solids closer to 18 months. It may not be for everyone, but exclusively breastfeeding is the appropriate nutrition, natural immunology, and a wonderful source of everything babies need. The Academy of Pediatrics agrees, and although it’s fun to try and feed a baby [solids], they generally don’t suppress the gag reflex until closer to 9 months to 1 year. They don’t “need” food, for sure, before 6 months, and can definitely be fine without it beyond a year.
Jenna: What crucial piece of information do you hope every woman has before considering the notion of breastfeeding, or before her baby latches on for the first time?
Mayim: Babies are born to be breastfed. Our bodies are made to do that. With the right education, support, and resources, breastfeeding can happen and can be a tremendously beautiful and wonderful style of living and parenting for as short or long as you choose to do it. The rewards are infinitely, indescribably fantastic. But you need to have help in place so you can reach out immediately if you struggle at all. One day of poor positioning can take weeks to recover from, so having immediate help in place before you give birth is so important. Attend a free La Leche League meeting when you are pregnant. See other moms breastfeeding, and hear their mother-to-mother support. Not all breastfeeding people are “hippies” like most people assume. They are all different kinds of moms: working moms, at home moms, and moms of all colors, sizes, and backgrounds.
Jenna: I’ve reached out to you with random (and sometimes bizarre) questions such as, “Why is my daughter more interested in my left breast instead of my right?” So we can all commiserate, what is the strangest question you’ve ever received regarding breastfeeding?
Mayim: Ha, so funny. I have never considered ranking the strange questions! Um…I think the “nursing strike” questions are the hardest and sometimes the most mysterious. Sometimes babies can get ‘spooked’ during breastfeeding, often by accident. One mom got startled and screamed in shock while breastfeeding, and baby got so scared that she refused the breast for weeks… These kinds of things can be resolved, but it is hard to know how exactly to ‘seduce’ baby back to the breast. These are challenging questions for sure, but not as fun as explaining breast preference I guess…
Jenna: Breastfeeding really seems to have taken more of a backseat to formula in the last few decades, despite the current movement of openly discussing it and raising awareness. When I was a baby, it seemed most mothers breastfed without considering other options. My own mother, for example, would never even have thought to give us formula. I cannot quote worldwide statistics, but I’m a bit baffled by the number of women I know who have chosen formula over nursing, or quit after only a couple of months. I want to make it clear that I don’t resent or judge them in the least, as it’s their prerogative. But I can’t say I totally understand it either. (As a side note, people also tend to be terribly surprised when I tell them I’m still breastfeeding my daughter at 17 months old.) What do you think the formula-driven trend stems from? Is it our society’s selfish need to have everything done simpler, quicker and more effortlessly? Is it vanity? An onslaught of fanatical formula lobbyists? I jest, but you get the idea!
Mayim: This is a very controversial topic, especially in the age of “me” which I think dominates a lot of Western culture. Meaning, I meet a lot of women who don’t believe that their child should change their life much at all; they still want to have the life they did before…To some of these women, breastfeeding is too much of a change to their body, and schedule, and lifestyle, and I can totally see women saying that. Breastfeeding is, indeed, giving over your body for however long you choose to, and it does “tie you” to your baby to a large extent. Sure, you can pump, but for many women pumping gets so tedious that they don’t want to keep it up, and this eventually leads to weaning.
Some of it might be vanity, but I don’t know that I can speak to that. The rise in C-sections is, I think, often based on scheduling and also not wanting stretch marks in those last weeks, since we hear of many celebrities having ‘early’ C-sections for this reason. A recent study has shown that there may be undesirable side effects to these early C-sections, by the way.
Jenna: I hear you. As a matter of fact, I worried about that greatly when I had my C-section. Vanity just wasn’t part of the equation for me, and I was desperately hoping for a natural birth. It turned out that Gray was in the Breech position, however, and I’d lost so much amniotic fluid that there was just no way to turn her around without risking her wellbeing. Ultimately, I just wanted a healthy baby. Whatever preconceived birth plan I’d had in mind suddenly had to take a backseat! Although I wound up with no choice but to have a C-section (at least according to my trusted ob-gyn and the high-risk specialist I had to see), it took some time for me to reconcile the change in delivery method. For that reason, it frustrates me to hear of folks who are eager to schedule an early C-section without medical cause, just because it suits their timeline.
So… Now that we’ve bared our parenting souls (and our breasts) to everyone, how about a handful of non boob-oriented questions? I imagine there are some folks out there who are ready to hear about the other facets of your life! Aside from your obvious success as an actress, you are a member of (and used to be a spokesperson for) the Holistic Moms Network, and have become widely acknowledged as a proponent and practitioner of Attachment Parenting. In fact, you even wrote a book on it.
Jenna (cont.): This method has drawn a lot of attention from the media and, while you certainly don’t need my defense, I’ve found that people often –albeit oddly– ask me to defend you simply based on our association. If I’m being asked to do so, I can’t fathom what you’re up against! (For the record, I’m a firm believer that your parenting style isn’t something that needs to be defended. I admire your dedication, even if not all of your convictions are in line with my own, and I wish others could find it in their hearts to do the same.) People can be horribly nasty when they feel your choices differ from theirs, are unconventional, or make them uncomfortable. What do you feel people most commonly misunderstand about you? Has it been a struggle to keep your children from witnessing/hearing any of it?
Mayim: I’m sorry people are always looking for some sound bite…! I appreciate your support personally and publicly, but I guess I was willing to take a hit on behalf of all of the non-famous amazing moms and dads I know who parent this way simply because it’s natural to do so, it works for them and their family, and their kids are thriving and content and happy to be alive. The media is so interested in making an “issue” and judging people like me, but I simply do what I feel is best based on my neuroscience education, my talking to other moms, and seeking support and love from people who accept me like I am. My kids are sweet, securely attached, loving, gentle, curious, and they sleep through the night without nursing. I think we are doing fine!
Jenna: Amen. I think you are too! As if you don’t have enough to keep you busy, you pen a weekly blog on Kveller.com. Though I’m not Jewish, I find your posts to be witty, raw, and personal in a way that spans every religion and parenting style, including my own. In the past, you have mentioned that being vulnerable isn’t an easy feat for you, which makes me even more appreciative of how open and exposed you allow your blog posts to be. You seem to wear your heart on your sleeve, broaching subjects such as your recent divorce. You began one article with, “I wonder when parenting/my life will stop feeling like something to survive.” The face of divorce is often ugly and mean. It impresses me that you and your ex have managed to push beyond the pain so you can come together for the sake of your children. How is the co-parenting adventure and “survival” going? What advice would you give for others who are trying to work through the same scenario?
Mayim: I actually credit Attachment Parenting with helping Mike and me navigate divorce the way we have. Our kids’ welfare is of the utmost importance to us both, as it was in all of our decisions. Our sons, through our parenting style, have tremendous emotional capacity to communicate and feel; they are not afraid of feelings, and they expect the world to give them only love and support because that’s what they were immersed in. They feel safe with us and with the world, and that was a huge goal in our early years of parenting them: to let them feel safe and be allowed to experience everything in a safe way.
Divorce sucks, but we have consistently put our kids’ needs first, with literally no exceptions. I respect Mike so much and he is the best Dad my kids could ever ask for. I hope he thinks I am the best Mom too!
Jenna: On a completely different subject– My Chiropractor (who is mildly obsessed with your show) would kill me if I didn’t at least ask one question regarding The Big Bang Theory. This certainly won’t be an earth-shattering question on my part, but what is the most enjoyable aspect of playing the socially awkward Amy Farrah Fowler?
Mayim: Ha, tell your chiropractor thank you! I like that anything can come out of Amy’s mouth; she really says what she is thinking. I also love how she acts so “hot” for Sheldon, but when it comes down to it, he still makes her feel so shy and nervous to take things to the next level. In that way, she is a complicated and “deep” character, which I am happy to bring to this sweet sitcom.
Jenna: Speaking of sitcoms… We played best friends for five years, and I know people are just itching for us to reminisce. What was your favorite part of being on Blossom? (I think mine was our disgusting gum ritual before every episode taping… Just prior to being introduced to the live audience, we would all stick a gob of nastiness on the stairwell leading down to the Russo family living room.)
Mayim: I think doing the “Rockumentary” episode, where we spoofed Madonna’s “Truth or Dare,” was my favorite two weeks ever. We filmed it like a little movie, and we had all these improvised scenes; we got to dance and dress up in all those fun costumes. I loved those weeks so much. We had cool cameos from Neil Patrick Harris, and (then) president of NBC, Warren Littlefield, and Tori Spelling, and David Cassidy; it was so much fun!
I also loved that you and I took tap dance classes together at lunch for years in that upstairs room above our stage. You were as fast a tapper as you were a talker and I really enjoyed all of those years together on our lunch breaks! We also used to sing “Wilson Phillips” songs since you are such a skilled soprano (right?) and I am a manly tenor who loves to harmonize…we had such good times amidst all the craziness of becoming famous people as teenagers!
Also, you and Joey were much “cooler” than I was, and I was into Elvis Costello, and I didn’t shave my legs, and I was this feminist weirdo, and you guys knew all these pop culture references, and I always felt so weird. Even though we were all equals in many ways, I felt like I was the weird kid in high school around you two, which I was! I had a huge crush on Michael Stoyanov, and Joey used to always tease me about that. Such memories!
Jenna: There’s such a strange and wonderful juxtaposition between how we related to one another during childhood, versus how we relate to one another now, isn’t there? Though, in an ironic turn, I always felt like I was the black sheep! I was younger than you and Joey, and not technically considered a regular cast member until the second season of the series, so I always thought of myself as the outsider. I thought you and Joey had this great brother/sister relationship going on, and I was the third wheel. It’s amazing what screwed-up notions adolescent insecurities put in our heads. That said, I had a colossal crush on Joey (I think it must have been his awesome hair), so I guess you and I were both battling our unrequited-crush demons! I hate that we weren’t as close as we could have been back then, but hindsight is 20/20, huh? It’s unbelievably neat that we’ve managed to bridge the gap and bond so many years later, over something as beautiful as breastfeeding. I truly respect you as a fellow mom, and I’m proud of you: your success, your parenting, and our friendship. Thank you for letting me interview you for my blog, and thank you for returning the favor on yours! (Click here for my interview with Mayim on Kveller.com)
I hope this little “blast from the past catch-up session” has been as fun for you as it was for Mayim and me. That is, of course, if we didn’t scare you off with our talk of ancient crushes and breastfeeding woes! With any luck, we’ve resurrected some fond memories of your Monday night TV watching; maybe you’re even whistling the good ol’ “My Opinionation” theme song as you read this. At the very least, I hope we’ve satisfied your hankering for a Blossom and Six reunion. Needless to say, the memory of that friendship lives on in my 90’s-loving heart… and perhaps in yours as well.
Until next time… Peace, Love, & Dirty Diapers,
Jenna von Oy
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In the past, I’ve generally reserved my “Mommy Musings” posts for interviews with fellow celebrity moms… you know, moms that have starred in our guilty pleasure TV shows from the 90’s, or graced the cover of the magazines we scour when we visit our hair stylist. But the term “celebrity” should honestly be applied to every mom out there who’s simultaneously juggling a career and her family-life. I know plenty of women who deserve that title more than the models and actresses on my radar. Perhaps the fame-factor isn’t applicable, but the estimable distinction is there nonetheless. After all, the term “celebrity” is synonymous with the words “VIP” and “superstar,” right? And Lord knows it doesn’t take an actor to embody those designations. So this week I’m highlighting a stay-at-home mom who is undoubtedly a celebrity in my book… my dear friend, Katie.
This past May, when my daughter had her first birthday party, Katie brought her children over to share in the celebratory festivities with us. Later in the evening, when Gray opened her packages, I was floored to see the stunning outfit Katie and her children had gifted Gray. I was even more floored when it dawned on me that Katie had made the two-piece outfit herself! Now, if you’ve read this blog in the past, you’re most likely aware of my huge affinity for homemade goods. There’s just nothing that expresses love quite like something handcrafted. Whether baked, drawn, molded, or glued, I’m a sucker for anything unique and heartfelt. In this case, it was clear that every stitch had been sewn with love and patience, every fabric chosen with care and attention to detail. I was immediately enamored. Moreover, I couldn’t stop trying to conjure up ways to help Katie get her designs out to the masses, as they are just too cute to keep quiet!
As many of you are stay-at-home moms who passionately pursue your hobbies or careers while changing diapers and cleaning pureed carrots off your floors, I thought you’d appreciate an interview from a fellow creative spirit… enjoy!
An Interview with Katiedid Creations Owner, Katie Palmissano:
JENNA: What prompted you to begin sewing, and to turn it into a home-based business?
KATIE: I have always been creative. As a child, I can remember countless hours spent coloring, cutting, pasting, playing instruments, etc. As I grew into an adult, I sadly lost a lot of that desire and my outlet was mainly through my career, doing marketing for a record label. My first child, a son, was born and I became a stay-at-home mom. Memories of my own mom sewing clothes for me came flooding back (I remember an especially adorable bunny costume complete with pink yarn tail that I adored. See below for a photo!). I started feeling a desire to be able to create something through sewing but it wasn’t until my second child, a daughter, was born that I started getting serious about it. Perhaps it was a calling from all things pink and “ruffly,” but I knew now was the time. I found a pattern that I loved, and my mother-in-law walked me through my first attempt at making a dress, and I just kept making them. I started to show friends the reversible dress and ruffled diaper cover and I received such wonderful feedback that I decided to try my hand at selling them. Katiedid Creations was born!
JENNA: How do you balance finding the time to be creative while simultaneously juggling your two children?
KATIE: Finding time with two busy kids is certainly not easy. I take advantage of the time when they take long naps, and in the evenings after they are in bed. After I complete an outfit, I take a few days off from sewing to have some quality time in the evenings with my husband or catch up on other housework.
JENNA: What inspires your creative process?
KATIE: My initial and main inspiration was seeing my daughter in something that I had created for her. It gave me a sense of accomplishment, as well as pride, that I once again had an outlet and hobby that was just for me. Even though I know I make a huge contribution to the household being a stay-at-home mom, I also enjoy that I can now contribute financially (even if it’s just some extra money for going out for ice cream!). As a mom, it’s so easy to have my life revolve solely around my children and their interests. Although I’m making children’s clothing, it’s all about what I want to create! I love the fabric selection process and matching up complimentary patterns and colors. It’s highly gratifying to know that a baby girl was wearing one of my creations at her first birthday party or that a toddler will be wearing a Katiedid Creation when she takes her first trip to Walt Disney World.
JENNA: What advice would you have for a fellow mom out there, who dreams of beginning a business at home?
KATIE: My advice would be to make sure it is something that you truly want to spend your time on. Free time is a precious commodity, so use it wisely! My husband also supported my endeavor right off the bat, which was also encouraging. Start small so you don’t get overwhelmed, and if it starts feeling like a chore, stop!
JENNA: Where can folks buy your pieces?
KATIE: The best place to find me and see more photos of my Creations is on Facebook at:
https://www.facebook.com/KatiedidCreationsClothing. I can also be contacted at KatiedidCreationsClothing@gmail.com
The reversible dress and ruffled diaper cover is available from size newborn up to 18-24 months for $38. The ruffled diaper cover alone is available for $20 (perfect for newborn photo shoots or to go underneath a favorite dress). Very soon I will be offering larger toddler and girls sizes, as well as new designs. Fabric choices and ready-to-ship dresses for sale are available on the Facebook page but I can also customize a dress to suit any occasion (sports teams, favorite characters, colors, animals, etc).
Thanks so much to Katie for the interview and fabulous photos!
Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,
Jenna von Oy
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Since I debuted The Cradle Chronicles in August of last year, it has proven to be a fantastic communication tool. Aside from allowing me a much-needed creative outlet, and serving as a journal that my daughter can enjoy reading years from now, blogging has given me a unique opportunity to reconnect with friends I haven’t seen in a while. It has become a forum where I can interview some of my celebrity peers, and relate to them on a brand new level… motherhood! These ladies never cease to amaze me with their ability to juggle work, marriage, and children. Not to mention, they somehow pull it off with style and finesse. I imagine I can say the same about many of you who are reading this as well. It’s downright impressive! Since I am still fairly new to parenting, I am greatly inspired by those of you who have been in the throes of motherhood for years already. I know many of you hit the daily grind with aplomb: getting your kids off to school, tackling hours at the office, then coming home to whip up dinner and assist with homework. And you do so with poise and grace, which is incredibly laudable in my book! This brings me to…
I’ve known Melissa Joan Hart for decades, and talk about style and finesse; she has it in spades! She is the epitome of a mom who maintains everything flawlessly. (She might not agree with that assessment, but that’s how I perceive it and I’m sticking to it!) As a bit of background, Melissa and I are both byproducts of an East Coast upbringing. We met at auditions in New York City during the 80’s, and we’ve always been supportive of one another in our endeavors. We were part of a fairly elite group of child actors who worked consistently back then, which I believe formed an intangible link between us. It seemed there was a much smaller circle of us in those days and, for the most part, everyone knew everyone. I was friendly with most of the girls I lost roles to, which I happened to find reassuring. If I didn’t get a part I was aching for, there was satisfaction in knowing someone I respected had gotten it instead. That camaraderie instilled a very deep-rooted sense of community for me, and I’ve been incredibly happy to witness some of those folks continue their success. Melissa is, without question, one of the chief examples. While we’ve lost touch on and off over the years, I’m always delighted to catch up with her; her positive energy is infectious. We’ve run into each other on many occasions, even randomly spotting one another at a museum in Venice, Italy. We also experienced a Middle East adventure together quite a few years ago, while participating in a USO Tour. That trip may have fused our bond above all else. That said, though those experiences were a window into Melissa’s life, they occurred during our pre-mommy days. It’s neat to reflect on the evolution we’ve both gone through since then, and I’m excited to have some insight into how she handles it all.
I have the utmost respect for Melissa’s career path, as she has carved a niche for herself. In advance of the interview, I suppose I could lay her resume out for you, pointing to her notable roles on Clarissa Explains It All, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and her newest endeavor, Melissa & Joey. But I think her career speaks for itself. Instead, I’d like to focus on a role I find equally notable: that of wife and mother. Melissa successfully tackles show business while simultaneously nurturing her husband and children… Now that’s a true success story! I’ll let her interview tell you the rest.
JENNA: You and I have both been acting since we were very young. I’m always thrilled, and perhaps a bit relieved, to see one of my peers make a smooth transition from “child star” into adult actor, without the drama generally associated with it. Not to mention, I have the utmost respect for your simultaneous shift into devoted spouse and parent! (You are working with my former Blossom costar, Joey Lawrence, and I’m happy to say the same can be said for him.) What helped you through those difficult adolescent years? What got you beyond the hurdles, without succumbing to the stereotype?
MELISSA: I think it’s impossible to point out one thing that helped me keep my head on during those strange years. Being a teen is tough enough without the added pressure of a full time job, in front of a very judgmental world. But if I have to give credit to one thing it would be my mommy. She taught me to be careful with myself and others. I’ve always felt a sense of responsibility for my family and my career, and I think that was another helpful trait.
JENNA: As a child actor starring in a television series, you had to juggle school, a social life, and work. As an adult, you have a marriage and motherhood to contend with. Was/is one significantly harder than the other?
MELISSA:I found school to be extremely difficult while working. Sabrina was a breeze compared to Clarissa (probably because I wasn’t traveling from my family in New York to my work in Orlando), mainly because I didn’t have to run to the school trailer between scenes. The combination of school and work made for a ton of memorization and brainwork. Most teens don’t want to deal with that when they could be worrying about make-out sessions and prom dates. Now on Melissa and Joey, it is very difficult to balance my young boys with a hectic work schedule. Once again, it involves traveling across the country. But I have the perspective now to know this show won’t last forever. I need to make sacrifices to carve out time for my family, and I can’t do everything I want, or sometimes need to do, for my career. My kids will grow up and I don’t want to miss that. Hopefully work will be there when they are grown.
JENNA: With your husband‘s success in the music industry, and your accomplished TV & film career, your boys are surrounded by artistic influence. If my memory serves me correctly, most of your siblings are involved in the entertainment industry as well. Would you encourage your children to get into show business? What would your advice be for them?
MELISSA: I am definitely going to push them to find other interests, while also encouraging the arts. Mason recently tasted a bit of the Hollywood bug when, in our church’s Christmas pageant, he had a solo in We Three Kings. He was glowing in the praise he received from the congregation afterwards. While I was incredibly proud of him, I got a little fearful when he started to get that creepy smile after his umpteenth compliment. I’m pushing for architect or hockey player these days for mason and Brady. They can act after college if they still want.
JENNA: You recently had your third son, Tucker. I imagine you’re quite the busy bee these days since you are also starring in, and producing, Melissa & Joey. How do you balance everything so gracefully?
MELISSA: My iCal on my iPhone keeps me organized, but I also have to pick a priority everyday. Right now my main job is feeding and bonding with Tucker, and making sure the other boys don’t feel neglected. At the end of November, most of my priorities outside of the boys were getting back into a workout routine and finishing the manuscript of my memoir Melissa Explains it All. January will be spending time with our East Coast friends and making plans to move the family back to LA for the rest of the school year, to work on season 3 of Melissa and Joey. But some days, the priority is Mason’s hockey game. Some days it’s working on Brady’s school activity, and some days it’s going to the movies with Mark. Some days it’s a press day in NYC for a project I’m working on. It’s really a different day every day. It’s never a boring day in our household.
JENNA: How difficult was it to work around your pregnancy, from a storyline standpoint? Similarly, most folks don’t realize the amount of energy it takes to be funny for hours on end… Were there days when you were too nauseous or exhausted to be “on?”
MELISSA: I was so blessed to have 2012 off from our show to be pregnant. I was expecting to work from January until May, but ended up not having to shoot, so I could just enjoy my boys and my East Coast life, and not have to hide anything for work. I let it all hang out.
JENNA: You are the oldest child in a large family. Did that incite early parenting desires? Did you always anticipate having a big family? And on that same note, is your family still growing? (Don’t you just love when people ask if you want more kids when you’ve JUST given birth to the last one?
MELISSA: Yes, it’s always hilarious when people immediately ask what comes next after a giant milestone. Wedding night question is, “When will you get pregnant?” and it doesn’t stop until you’re 45, I think. I’m the oldest of 8 kids, and I always wanted a big family, but honestly didn’t know if I could possibly ask for a solid marriage and healthy kids on top of the wonderful career I’ve been blessed with. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world!
JENNA: I read that Dancing with the Stars helped you to lose the baby weight after your second pregnancy. Since most women don’t have a built-in outlet such as that one available, what can you recommend for your fellow working moms?
MELISSA: I actually lost the weight when I had the pressure of being on the cover of People magazine in a bikini earlier that year. But dancing helped, for sure. Moms need to remember it is 75% what you eat, and only a quarter working out, to lose or maintain weight. The most effective and simple way to lose weight is to slowly and realistically start making changes in your diet so that you make a lifestyle change and don’t crash diet. That way, you don’t have to starve yourself or suffer the yoyo. My favorite way to change things up is to find a delicious protein shake for breakfast and add some fiber to it. When I do that for dinner a few nights a week too, I really see a difference.
JENNA: You are currently writing your memoir, Melissa Explains It All. What sort of sneak preview can you give us? Is it namely about your childhood and career experiences, or can we also expect some stories from your adventures in motherhood?
MELISSA: It’s stories from my life: everything from my childhood audition scene to my embarrassing mommy-tales. It’s about the people that impacted my life in positive ways, like Calista Flockhart, and in massive ways like my mother. It helps answer the question I get everyday, “How did you end up so normal?”
JENNA: You and your mom partnered up to form your company, Hartbreak films. I’ve always admired your initiative and acute business acumen. I also appreciate your ability to create your own work. How long ago did you start the company, what encouraged you to do so, and how do you choose the projects to pursue?
MELISSA: We started Hartbreak in 1994, when we realized I was only being offered roles that my mom found inappropriate for my Clarissa audience. Together, we produced Sabrina and Melissa and Joey, as well as numerous TV movies and a feature film in 2010 called Nine Dead. We’ve had a lot of fun and success being in control of our own projects.
JENNA: You recently moved to Connecticut with your family. Since I grew up there, I’m very partial to it! That said, what made you and your husband decide to move across the country from the town you are currently filming in? I suspect there’s some element of culture shock, given the spectrum of life in Los Angeles vs. life in Connecticut. How is everyone settling in?
MELISSA: Mark is from Alabama and I’m from Long Island, but have lived all over the place, so I adapt easily to any place. We wanted a place to raise our boys with great schools and a ”community feel,” and we have found that in Connecticut. Even with the recent unimaginable tragedy in your hometown of Newtown, the schools remain the safest and some of the best in the country. We have made incredible friends and have amazing neighbors. We wouldn’t trade it for anything!
JENNA: With three boys, I can only imagine the woeful tales of testosterone in your household! Would you mind sharing a favorite funny anecdote or two, so we can commiserate?
MELISSA: The older boys love to point out that I am the only girl in the house. They are fascinated with their private parts these days, and I have to constantly remind them to get their hands out of their pants in public and at home. I don’t remember my mom ever yelling, “Get your hands out of your pants.” I constantly ask them if they have to pee, or if they are just checking to see that it’s still there. They usually answer that they are just checking.
JENNA: What is the most important thing being a mom has taught you?
MELISSA: Time is precious.
A huge thanks to Melissa for taking time out of her busy schedule to catch up with an old friend. You are a class act, and I admire you!
Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,
Jenna von Oy
PS. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter! And if you haven’t yet checked out last week’s post, ”Laughter Is The Best Medicine,” scroll down and read about my zany doctor’s visit!
Years ago (in 1996, to be precise), I had the pleasure of costarring in a movie of the week with Candace Cameron Bure, called She Cried No. I’d met Candace many times before, but that was my first opportunity to really get to know her– to delve into her psyche. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Lest you think I was playing Freud in my spare time, I’ll admit there was really only some casual observance on my part. I was in my first year of college then, so I may have had a slight preoccupation with my industrious lifestyle as self-absorbed University coed. It didn’t leave much time for pondering the existence of others. That said, while I was busy pouring over French textbooks, attending film school lectures, and playing social butterfly at fraternity parties, I recall being fascinated by the fact that Candace was already married and preparing to start a family. I found it sort of mind-boggling that she was so adult, while I was content being a fixture in an immature college dormitory. We were running on two very different tracks, and I viewed that with a sense of wonderment. Consequently, I suppose it comes as no surprise that I’m still in awe of Candace sixteen years later. While I’ve respected her roles in TV and film for years, I’ve appreciated her role as wife and mother for almost as long. I’ve met Candace’s parents, as well as all of her siblings, and I am equally impressed by each of them. I can vouch for the fact that, without exception, they are humble, thoughtful, honorable and generous people. They are also a wonderfully close-knit family, which is clearly reflected in the way Candace and Val raise their own children.
It wouldn’t surprise me if your first thought when looking at Candace’s photo is, “Oh yeah, that’s DJ Tanner, from the show Full House!” While that’s a true assessment, her career has extended far beyond the mark she made on the popular family sitcom of her childhood, and I hope you’ll allow her to graduate beyond the accompanying “child star” stereotype. At 36, Candace is an accomplished actress, producer, author and inspirational speaker. That isn’t, however, to suggest those facets of her professional life define her. She is also a wife (to retired hockey-player, Valeri Bure), a mother to three children (Natasha, Lev and Maksim), and a passionate follower of her faith. I admire this woman’s subtle moxie– In a town where faith and family aren’t always placed in advance of career agendas (and priorities often include which class of car one drives or how much money one spends on their wardrobe), Candace and her family are a beautiful exception to the rule.
I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview Candace via email recently. I inquired about her career, yes, but especially about motherhood. Any advice shared by a fellow mom (with far more experience than I currently have, might I add…), is a blessing! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did… Here’s Candace, in her own words.
JENNA: You recently reminded me that you have a daughter in high school. I am amazed by this because, although we are roughly the same age, I have more than a decade to go before I’m at that stage of the game! That said, I am already a bit apprehensive about how the teenage years will alter my relationship with my daughter. Have you found this to be the case? What challenges, if any, do you foresee high school bringing about for you and your fourteen year-old daughter, Natasha?
CANDACE: Every stage will alter your relationship, to some degree, with your child. Yes, high school is a different ball game than even middle school. And it is certainly a far cry from the elementary, toddler and baby years. They all present their challenges, as well as their blessings. I’m not always the one she runs to anymore when she cries from being emotionally hurt by friends, or the first one she wants to talk to when she’s thinking about boys. As a mom, it can hurt for a moment. But then you realize the task you’ve been given– to raise them to be independent people while holding onto the values and virtues you’ve tried to instill in them over the years. It becomes less about you (as a mommy) and more about the call to raise them the best you can. Does that make sense?
JENNA: It does! I realize you were probably tutored on the set, as I was, but how different do you feel the high school atmosphere is now, relative to what we experienced at Natasha’s age?
CANDACE: I was tutored on set for most of my life, but did attend public junior high. I also attended a private high school for a few hours each morning before work, so I understand it from a “normal” perspective too. Social media has definitely changed kids’ experiences growing up. The same issues like bullying, body image, boyfriends/girlfriends/sex, cliques etc. are still around, but the way in which they are handled is radically different. With the Internet in the palms of their hands, access to the social world is readily available to give them approval, opinions and critique. Instead of going to mom and dad, or a mentor, kids today are quick to post their problems to the world, for advice and counsel, with the swipe of a button. I also find it unsettling that in every thing they do, they feel the need to show and tell the world. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE social media, and think there is a healthy way to utilize it’s benefits, but I also believe it gives our kids one more thing to obsess over when they should be more concerned about community, grades, personal friendships and family.
JENNA: You have a husband, three children, a television show, a book and an online magazine… Not to mention, I would bet that’s only a partial list! I’m certain there are many women who wonder: How do you manage to juggle your career and family life so successfully?
CANDACE: The operative word in your question is juggle! LOL. It’s definitely a balancing act, and sometimes things fall down and crash. As much as I’d love to boast about doing it well all of the time, all too often I have to step back, take a look, and re-prioritize. Here’s my life model: God first, then family (husband, then children- if your marriage isn’t working, life with your kids will be that much harder!) and then work/friendships/and rest of life. It’s so easy for me to get consumed with the 3rd category on that list because I really enjoy it. Although I work hard, I’m blessed to pursue things I’m passionate about. With that said, I’m thankful for a husband who understands that, and helps me keep it all in check, as we co-labor to balance our lives and family together.
JENNA: Since we all need time to refuel and rejuvenate, an equally important question might be: What do you do for “Mommy Me-time?”
CANDACE: Bible study and prayer is my FAVORITE thing for refueling- something I try to do every single day. I love reading my bible, challenging myself to understand the scriptures in an applicable way to my life, and being filled up with God’s precious words. I also love getting a mani/pedi and going shopping by myself! The combination of all those things is, like, the perfect get-away day. Mommy-Me day!!
JENNA: You have an online magazine, www.Roomag.com, which encompasses matters of motherhood, eating well, faith, and more. You also have a New York Times Bestselling book, titled “Reshaping It All.” What prompted your blogging and writing journey? Was it driven by craving an outlet for creativity or by your walk in faith?
CANDACE: Writing was definitely prompted by my walk in faith. I would never have considered myself a writer (it’s not my natural talent)– just a storyteller, a woman who loves to talk and wants to share! I decided to open up about my journey with food, and the role faith played in it, by writing Reshaping It All. I started “Roo” as another outlet for women to come together and trade secrets. It’s a watering hole, for ladies in all facets of life, to share what helps them be the best mom, wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister and woman they can be.
JENNA: What a wonderful motherhood oasis! Your television series, Make It Or Break It, which aired on the ABC Family channel, came to an end this year. As art often imitates life, do you choose roles solely based on their intrinsic family values? If so, has that made for a difficult time finding roles in a town that isn’t known for being terribly family-oriented?
CANDACE: I do give substantial consideration to choosing my roles based on the family values they hold. I want to work on projects my children can watch, and where families won’t be worried about being uncomfortable because it’s too provocative. I’ve always been about family values– starting with one of America’s most family friendly shows, Full House. It certainly planted a seed. Along with my upbringing, it’s one that has stayed with me (now as a mom) in my career. It is definitely more challenging to find roles that fit my standards but, with cable television, there are some wonderful options and networks. I’m also working diligently on creating and producing my own family friendly movies and shows. I believe there is a strong audience that, like me, want it too.
JENNA: Since both you and Kirk have had successful acting careers, a passion for being in front of the camera obviously runs in your family. Would you encourage or allow your own children to get into the industry?
CANDACE: Yes. I would allow my kids to pursue a career in the industry, if that’s what they wanted. I had a great experience and truly enjoyed every minute- that’s why I’m still in it! I think I know the ins and outs of the dangers, and I am confident I could steer my kids clear of those pitfalls we see some child actors getting into. So far, my boys have no interest in the entertainment business and, while my daughter likes to sing and act and has given it a shot, she’s more into working on school plays and singing in church. And I’m perfectly OK with that!
JENNA: In your book, Reshaping It All, you reveal your past struggles with bulimia. I have the utmost respect for your decision to come forward with this vulnerable part of your history. What made you decide to share this aspect of your life?
CANDACE: Thank you. I never intended to share that secret with the world, until I starting writing my book. With my focus on food, fitness, and faith (topics I constantly talked to women about because they were asking me my secret to staying in shape after kids), I would share to an extent, but not fully uncover my darkest and conquered secret. It was shameful for me, and something I didn’t want to open up about, since that demon had been slayed and was gone. But I realized in the writing process, that without fully divulging my battle, the solution didn’t covey its power to the fullest. After gentle coaxing from my writing partner, I decided to lay it all on the line. And I’m glad I did.
JENNA: What words of wisdom can you offer mothers who, as you do, have children approaching that age where body image tends to be so harshly criticized?
CANDACE: We, as mothers, are the best (or worst) examples to our kids. If they see us complaining, pulling and tugging all the time at our clothes, and saying words under our breath like, “I’m so fat!” -even when we don’t really mean it- it sets a standard and a trap for them to walk into; it’s a model to follow. If we have a positive and healthy outlook on inner and outer beauty, it helps them form a self-assured and confident outlook on their bodies. What’s most important in our family is to teach our kids, daily, the importance and benefits of eating well and exercising regularly. All three of my children have different body types, and they have to eat differently. Teaching them “why” they need to eat the way they do makes all the difference. These are tools they’ll use for the rest of their lives. But above all, we reassure them that their worth and value will never change depending upon a number on the scale.
JENNA: More than ever before, bullying is being spotlighted in the media. However, that isn’t to suggest it hasn’t been around since we were kids. Was that something you dealt with? If so, what helped you to move beyond it?
CANDACE: I was bullied in junior high school for being on T.V. I was made fun of, pushed, knocked down, and had obscene words written on my locker multiple times. One time, my gym locker was covered in gum and shaving cream. I cried many times. It hurt. I would tell my parents, who always offered wisdom, comfort and security. And, thankfully, during those years my older sister went to the same school and was my go-to person to stick up for me. She also enlisted her friends to make sure I was covered if the going got rough, and some days it did. My parents always told me that these times would eventually pass, and they did. But I always knew where to go to for support if I needed it- to them, my school counselors, my sisters, and my trusted friends.
JENNA: On a lighter note… You’ve raised three children. Consequently, I imagine you have a collection of colorful stories. Would you mind sharing a few of your favorite funny anecdotes from their childhood?
CANDACE: One of my favorite stories, which I share in Reshaping It All, is when my youngest son, Maks, was about 6 years old. He LOVES to eat, and after seconds or thirds for dinner, and about 2 or 3 pieces of whole fruit for dessert, he went upstairs to get ready for bed. While he was getting his PJ’s on, standing in his underwear, he urgently said to me, “Mom, I think we have a problem!” “What?!” I frantically said. And while he pushed out his big round belly and tapped on it, he said, “I think I’m pregnant!” Awwww- it was SO cute! I laughed so hard and, of course, explained to him that he was in no way about to birth me a child. I, of course, went on to explain that just because food tastes really good, it doesn’t mean we have to go hog wild! Good teaching moment.
A huge ‘’thank you’’ to Candace, for taking the time to answer my probing questions! I encourage you all to check out her online magazine, www.roomag.com, Facebook page, and to learn more about Candace on her website, www.candacecameronbure.net. You can also follow her on Twitter!
Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,
Jenna von Oy
PS. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter too!