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!