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Here’s an idea. Make it easy on yourselves and skip the usual flowers, cards, chocolates and lunch this Mother’s Day. Instead, pick the perfect present from the list of ideas below. Carefully curated by moms for moms, we’ve got what she really wants. Scroll down for the goods (and a laugh or two).

1. Private bathroom breaks all day long.

No one is allowed in the potty when mom is going. Even if she’s in there for a long, long time. No cheating by yelling through the door to ask what she’s doing in there. That’s just bad manners, and your mother taught you better than that. Anyway, it’s Mother’s Day, so she doesn’t have to answer.

photo: iStock

2. A full day of clothing compliance.

Mom picks the outfit, the children wear it. No questions asked. No temper tantrums. No complaints about itchy sweaters, tight sleeves, uncomfortable waistbands, hating jeans/dresses/socks/boots/fill-in-the-blank. The kids just wear the clothes with a smile. Ahhh…a gal can dream, right?!

photo: iStock

3. Every child grooms him or herself all day.

Imagine a 24-hour period of time where mommy doesn’t have to help blow noses, wipe one tush, or brush one head of hair. It could happen!

photo: iStock

4. A one-day pass from cleaning the house (Yes, that includes the kitchen.).

She will not be making beds, picking up clothes off of the floor, and no, honey, she doesn’t think it would be a great idea to have your whole family over for a Mother’s Day brunch unless you’re planning to cook and clean up the whole thing by yourself. OK? Love ya!!

5. 24-hour remote control.

Say so long to Paw Patrol and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. Mama’s playing couch commando today, and she’s headed over to BRAVO to see her friends the Real Housewives. Back-to-back hours of catty bickering between grown women. Sounds marvelous!

6. An entire afternoon of silence.

There will be no arguing, fighting, bickering, nagging or whining for one whole afternoon (we'd settle for one hour...or even five minutes!). The only noise will be the sound of mom sipping her wine while watching Netflix on the device of her choice, turning pages of an actual book, or taking a long, uninterrupted nap.

photo: iStock

7. To hear two simple words.

Thank. You. That's it. Letting mom know she's appreciated goes a long, long way. Psst! A hug makes it feel even more special.

 

— Gabby Cullen & Jo Aaron

Feature image: iStock

 

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Elephant ears. Carnival rides. Prize-winning pigs. Ice cream cones the size of your head. Yep, it’s state and county fair time. We dug up the most family-friendly fairs happening in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan so you can plan a road trip to remember. Some of these aren’t scheduled until August, but we wanted to give you a running start on planning your blue ribbon adventure.

ionia-free-fairphoto: courtesy of Ionia State Fair

Ionia Free Fair – Ionia, Michigan
This free fair has a little bit of everything — circus acts, a wild animal exhibit, tractor pulls, monster trucks, and a classic car show. That’s not to mention the fantastic Kids Day on Tuesday, July 17, featuring a giveaway where your kid could be the lucky winner of a bike, face painting, balloon animals and special guests. Feeling especially adventurous? Bring your tent for a family campout.

Held July 12-21
Admission: Prices vary by activity, check website for details
317 Dexter St.
Ionia, Michigan
616-527-1310
Online: ioniafreefair.com

DuPage County Fair – Wheaton, Illinois
The DuPage County Fair has been around for more than 6 decades, but it’s only getting better with age. After all, what other fair offers community service projects like the Pillowcase Challenge, at which fair-goers can donate pillowcases that have been sewn from colorful fabrics to be donated to chemo patients? There’s also plenty to see and do, including live music, a rodeo, demolition derbies and so much more.

Held July 25-29, 8 a.m.-11 p.m.
Admission: $10/adults, $4/ages 3-12, free for ages 2 & under
2015 Manchester Rd.
Wheaton
630-668-6636
Online: dupagecountyfair.org

county-fair-generalphoto: wlashbrook via Flickr

Ozaukee County Fair – Cedarburg, Wisconsin
Make a break for America’s Dairyland, which features one of the last free fairs in the Midwest. While there’s no gate entrance fee, they charge for some things like rides, shows and food, so bring cash. You’ll have a blast meeting animals at the petting zoo, going for a whirl on thrill rides, listening to live music, watching the demolition derby, monster trucks and tractor pull, playing bingo and seeing magic shows. There’s even a cute PowerWheels Demolition Derby for kids on August 5. Oh, did we mention the chainsaw carving demos? If you have the energy, stay until dusk on August 1, for a spectacular fireworks display.

Held August 1-5
Hours: Wed., noon-midnight; Thurs.-Sat., 8 a.m.-midnight; Sun., 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Admission: Free; varying fees for special events
W67 N866 Washington Ave.
Cedarburg, Wisconsin
262-375-6185
Online: ozaukeecountyfair.com

Wisconsin State Fair – West Allis
Two words: cream puffs. Our neighbors up north host an annual state fair that’s not to be missed and the sweet treats are always a highlight. Once you’ve indulged, check out Spincity (home base for rides and attractions for kids of all ages), the historic exposition center and livestock competitions. Go on special savings days like Kohl’s Family Value Day on Monday, August 6, when adults are only $5 and kids are free. Pair that with the Kohl’s Activity Zone where kids can enjoy the Building Blocks Program that provides developmental services and equipment for children of all abilities, and the Wild Theater that has conservation-based shows in collaboration with the Zoological Society of Milwaukee.

Held August 2-12
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 8 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 8 a.m.-midnight; Final Sun., 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Admission: $14/adults; $8/ages 6-11 & Military/Veterans with ID; free for ages 5 & under
640 S. 84th St.
West Allis, Wisconsin
1-800-884-FAIR
Online: wistatefair.com

lake-county-fairphoto: Jerry Lipski / courtesy of Lake County Fair

Lake County Fair – Crown Point, Indiana
Originally, this fair was all about agricultural bragging rights — a who’s-who of the biggest and best in giant veggies and strong horses. These days, while the Lake County Fair still celebrates many of those achievements, fortunately for parents, there are also family-friendly carnival rides, pie and hot-dog eating contests, a petting zoo, pig races, a milking parlor, a fishing pond, fireworks, musical entertainment and so much more. Pepsi Family Day is Tuesday, August 8, when they will host special events.

Held August 3-12, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Admission: $5/adults; $2/ages 9-12; free for ages 8 & under; Parking $5; Admission & parking is free before 3 p.m. on Mon.-Thurs.
889 S. Court St.
Crown Point, Indiana
219-663-3617
Online: lake-county-fair.com

Illinois State Fair – Springfield
This fair would make the former POTUS proud. We love this shindig for its theme days, including Horse Racing Day on August 11, when the first of six days of harness racing at the fair’s one-mile dirt track kicks off; Kids Day on August 12, which will feature special programming aimed at educating and entertaining kids; and Family Day on August 20 when admission is only $3 per person. You’ll also love the concerts on the free stage, the Kids Korner (open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily) and free activities like face painting and a tiny tots play area. Did we mention the diaper changing/nursing area? Oh, and cow milking. It’s a state fair, after all.  Come hungry so you can indulge in Ethnic Village, where the cuisines of 15 different nationalities are represented.

Held August 9-19, 7 a.m.-midnight
Admission: $10/adults; free for 12 & under; $5 for parking; check the schedule for special discount days
801 E. Sangamon Ave.
Springfield, Illinois
217-782-6661
Online: illinois.gov

What is your favorite state or county fair? Let us know in the Comments!

— Maria Chambers & Jo Aaron

11 Wacky March Holidays & How to Celebrate Them

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March is not just about leprechauns and clovers. Sure, St. Patrick’s Day is tons of fun, but you can also celebrate lesser-known holidays. They range from the delicious (National Pancake Day) to the wacky (Dr. Seuss Day). Scroll through to find out about March’s hidden holidays and how to fete them in Chicago with your family.

photo: Kristi Veale via Flickr

Pig Day — March 1
Honor oinkers everywhere by teaching your kids the importance of saving and investing with the City of Chicago’s Money Savvy Pig. The City Treasurer’s office makes it possible for you to download printable activities or even purchase a segmented piggy bank that teaches kids how to split their money into saving, spending, donating, and investing compartments.

Go online to chicagocitytreasurer.com for more info.

National Craft Month
You might be arty all year ’round, but March is your excuse to really amp it up. Get crafty with the folks at Easel Art Studio, which has classes for kids as young as 12 months. Or, drop by a parent/child Open Art non-class where you can try out the best of what Easel has to offer.

Easel Art Studio, 1911 N. Milwaukee Ave., Bucktown (773-360-1720 or easelartstudio.com).

 

photo: US Army via flickr

Dr. Seuss Day — March 2
In honor of the man who created literary gems like Hop on Pop, The Cat in the Hat and too many more to mention, Barnes and Noble Clybourn is hosting a Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! celebration complete with storytime, games and activities to honor this beloved author’s birthday and his contributions to children’s literacy.

Mar. 2, 6:30 p.m.; Barnes and Noble, 1441 West Webster Ave., Lincoln Park (773-871-3610 or stores.barnesandnoble.com)

photo: Sugar Factory

National Pancake Day — March 4
Finally, a week of excuses to eat pancakes! IHOP is giving away free pancakes on Tuesday, February 27 and will also be raising money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Shriners Hospital for Children and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as part of the celebration. For local flavor, check out our story on Pancake Spots That Need to Rule Your Breakfast World.

Chicago’s Birthday — March 4
LEGOLAND® Discovery is chocked full of Windy City landmarks in their MINILAND Chicago, making it a great stop on Chicago’s 181st birthday. Take a trip to the ‘burbs to check out the mini O’Hare airport and Soldier Field, as well as a whole room of recognizable architectural favorites.

LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago, 601 N. Martingale Rd., Schaumburg (847-592-9700 or chicago.legolanddiscoverycenter.com)

photo: via pixabay.com

National Cereal Day — March 7
Today’s all about celebrating cereal, and we think 19th-century food inventors Will and John Kellogg and Charles William Post would suggest breakfast at Glenn’s Diner if they could. That’s because the North Center restaurant offers more than 25 varieties of cold cereal which are displayed on the wall for customers to hem and haw over. With options like Apple Jacks, Raisin Bran, Cinnamon Toast Crunch (or “CTC” to real cereal lovers), making a choice sure isn’t easy!

Glenn’s Diner, 1820 W. Montrose St., North Center (773-506-1720 or glennsdiner.com)

National Peanut Cluster Day — March 8
An excuse to eat chocolate! Yes! This is also the perfect time to support your local candy shops or find a new favorite by reading our story Sweet! Cool Candy Shops You Might Not Know.

National Day of Unplugging — March 9 & 10 (sundown-sundown)
Cut the cord from your tech and enjoy hands-on fun with your kids. Our pick? The Museum of Science and Industry’s temporary Brick by Brick exhibit running through April 1. This is a must-visit for LEGO lovers in your family, with more than a dozen large-scale LEGO structures and hands-on building opportunities.

Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., Hyde Park (773-684-1414 or msichicago.org).

photo: Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Learn About Butterflies Day — March 14
Here’s a holiday to bug out about. Celebrate with a trip to the one of Chicago’s hidden gems right in the heart of Lincoln Park, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Journey inside the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven to get up-close with more than 75 species of exotic butterflies from the Southern hemisphere. The 2,700-square-foot greenhouse is home to 1,000 butterflies.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Dr., Lincoln Park (773-755-5100 or naturemuseum.org)

French Language Day — March 20
Oh, la, la, it’s French Language Day pour tout le monde! Don’t speak French? Your kids will after taking classes at The Alliance Française de Chicago. Each fun foreign language class is taught by native speakers for children ages 1-12 years old and split by age and language skill level. Check the website for program schedules.

The Alliance Française de Chicago, 810 N. Dearborn St., Near North Side (312-337-1070 or af-chicago.org)

photo: courtesy of JeremyMcWilliams via flickr

Take a Walk in the Park Day — March 30
There are tons of places to go for a stroll, starting with The Morton Arboretum’s 1,700 acres that are blanketed with walking paths. If the weather isn’t cooperating, get your green fix at Lincoln Park Conservatory during its free annual Spring Flower Show, held through May 13. At least you’ll be able to experience all of the gorgeous colors of spring indoors even if it hasn’t quite bloomed in the park.

Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 43, Lisle (630-968-0074 or mortonarb.org); Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N. Stockton Dr., Lincoln Park (312-742-7736 or lincolnparkconservancy.org). 

 Which of these holidays will you celebrate? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Maria Chambers & Jo Aaron

10 Hidden Gems of the North Shore

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Chicago’s North Shore has a tremendous amount of things for families to see and explore, including several newer hidden gems. From a trendy toddler boutique in Highland Park, to a to-die-for bakery in Highwood, to a rockin’ coffeehouse-slash-music school in Wilmette and Glenview, there’s something special waiting to be discovered. Read on for the scoop.

toddler photo: Toddler

Toddler
After endless begging from customers, owners Vicki Kriser and Kay Schwartz have finally opened Toddler a few doors down from their baby store, Babydreams. Now North Shore boys and girls can pick up their duds where Babydreams leaves off with clothing sizes from 2T all the way up to 8 years old. Toddler carries everything from unique cotton girls’ Frozen tie-dyed shirts and adorable boys’ Blackhawks long-sleeve tees, to monogrammed gifts, books, toys and accessories.

458 Central Ave.
Highland Park
847-432-4704
Online: toddlerhp.com           

Backyard Grill
The BYG (Backyard Grill) might be best known for authentic gyros, but this place is so much more than delicious Greek food. With a menu of kid-friendly foods, from burgers to wraps to hot dogs, you might want to go online and pick out your meal before you actually get to the restaurant so you don’t spend your time being “that” customer when you go to order. Unless you think you can decide between Italian, backyard BBQ, salads, and all the rest on the spot. And they also have a kids’ menu and offer take-away Family Packs, complete with utensils and plates, for folks who could use a night off in the kitchen. 

1825 2nd St.
Highland Park
847-681-8400
Online: eatbyg.com

 bent-fork  photo: Bent Fork Bakery

Bent Fork Bakery
This all-butter bakery makes their goodies fresh daily, so ditch your diet because their cookies, bars, pies, candies, cakes and more will make all your sweet dreams come true. While they don’t claim to be totally allergy-free, they do offer some gluten-free treats and even have a few vegan options on the menu for animal-friendly folks. Need a birthday cake? Ask for a custom-designed cake in the flavor of your choice, but make sure to place your order 2-3 days in advance. Trust us, each bite will be worth the wait.

335 Waukegan Ave.
Highwood
847-926-4438
Online: thebentfork.com

Rock House
Rock House is one part coffee house and one part music school. Instead of jetting off to run errands during the kids’ music lessons, stick around for a cup of joe (or an adult beverage, if you have a designated driver) and some live music on the Rock House stage. Or shake things up a bit, and join in the fun — all while your kids rock out with one of the Rock House programs like Rock ‘N’ Roll Summer Camp, Intro to Music (starting at age 5), or private lessons, release your inner musician with their Soccer Mom to Rocker Mom class.

1150 Central Ave.
Wilmette
847-256-7625
&
1742 Glenview Rd.
Glenview
224-616-3062
Online: therockhouseinc.com

sing-out

photo: Sing Out!

Sing Out! Music Together Family Music Class
Join Michaela Marchi as she leads parents and children, ages newborn thru 5, in a super entertaining and completely international music class. During each session, kids will learn about different sounds, melodies and languages while engaging in playful activities. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself making music with your kids at home — that’s kind of the point of this parent ed. class, but you’d never expect learning to be this much fun! Classes are currently held at Gather and Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston, and Reach Yoga in Glencoe. Spring session runs from April 14-June 7. Call 888-701-6475 for more information and to register.

Gather
602 Davis St.
Evanston

Noyes Cultural Arts Center
927 Noyes St.
Evanston

Reach Yoga
688 Vernon Ave.
Glencoe

Online: singoutchicago.com

Jelli Goods
Need adorable personalized apparel, accessories, and gifts with a lot of heart(s), peace signs, or any other designs on your stuff? Look no further than custom clothing boutique Jelli Goods in Deerfield. Refreshingly unique and nothing less than totally creative, Jelli Goods can produce whatever you’re looking for — from summer camp sweatshirts, to customized backpacks with your kid’s name on it, to adorable Mr. Emoji tees. Bring in your own ideas or flip through their books of artwork for a little art-spiration.

829 Waukegan Rd.
Deerfield
847-948-8722
Online: jelligoods.com        

rocket-fizz

photo: Rocket Fizz

Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shops
Bring the kids to Rocket Fizz in the Glen and watch them tear through the place like, well, kids in a candy shop! With more than 500 different kinds of sodas and over 5,000 types of candy, Rocket Fizz is more than your average sweet shop. We’re talking about unique sodas that taste like peanut butter and jelly, ranch, s’mores and bubble gum. And with retro and hard-to-find candies that’ll take you back to your childhood, your kids won’t be the only ones who can’t wait to return!

1859 Tower Dr.
Glenview
224-661-3142
Online: rocketfizz.com           

North Shore Center For The Performing Arts
The Youtheater is a North Shore staple for K5’ers-12th graders, so if you haven’t brought the kids to one of their performances, run, don’t walk to a box office near you! With kid-friendly, captivating productions like The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley (April 14, 2015) and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (May 14, 2015), you won’t mind if the typical North Shore weather keeps your family indoors throughout the spring months.

9501 Skokie Blvd.
Skokie
847-673-6300
Online: northshorecenter.org

reach-yoga

photo: Reach Yoga

Reach Yoga
Find your kids’ happy place at Reach Yoga in Glencoe where children 4 to 14-years-old can take fun-filled classes that encourage self-esteem, improve concentration, promote physical health and help build a positive body image. With twisty, bendy, fun-filled programs like Little Yogis, Tween Yoga, and Itty Bitty Yogis, kids will most definitely be a little more zen after each session … can we get an OM-en?!

688 Vernon Ave.
Glencoe
847-786-4211
Online: reachyogaglencoe.com

Hot Ground Gym Northbrook
Instead of making kids to drop and give them 20, at Hot Ground Gym’s Junior Boots program, kids ages 6-14 are inspired through positive encouragement. Kids take part in fun and physically engaging “missions” that include activities like rope climbing, tire jumps, crawling, wall climbing, or monkey bars. Looking for a new North Shore birthday party hotspot? Celebrate with an action-packed, 90-minute American Ninja Warrior-style birthday party that includes up to 35 kids. Hot Ground Gym parties start at $250.

1938 Raymond Dr.
Northbrook
847-897-6688
Online: hotgroundgym.com

Do you have any North Shore secrets to share? Spill them in the Comments!

— Jo Aaron

2015 Baby Name Predictions (According to Us!)

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Class of 2032, if you are wondering why there are so many Elsas running around, it’s because there was this really popular Disney movie called Frozen that came out the year you popped out. It was all the rage.

happy-baby-2

photo: amrufm via flickr

The year before parents became all about the Ice Queen, according to BabyCenter, another princess ruled atop the list, with Sophia coming in as the #1 name for girls and Jackson for boys. However, as we look ahead to popular baby names for 2015, Nameberry has crunched some numbers to figure out Hotness Quotients (HQ) for up and comers, so parents can choose a suitable moniker for their impending bundle of joy. Click here for their list.

Or, take a few ideas from us. If you’re not sure what to call your junior mister or miss, why not try one of these …

The Cute Guy Name
Wouldn’t mind if your little guy was a lady’s man? Choose a leading man moniker like Sawyer from Lost, Silas from Weeds, or Emmett from The Lego Movie. Hey! Emmett saved everyone from Lord Business and got the girl in the end. We think he’s pretty special.

happy-baby-3

photo: Donnie Ray Jones via flickr

The Disney Name
Thanks to the incredible success of Disney’s Frozen, as we mentioned, anyone named Elsa in 2014 has probably advanced from an army crawl to a walk, but the name remains popular, like her fellow princess Sleeping Beauty, aka: Aurora, thanks to the movie Maleficent.

The Classics Name
For book club fans — even if you just go for the wine — classic names like Juliet from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or Eliza (as in Doolittle) from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion are literary hits. Need a boy name? Finn, one of the most popular Irish boys’ names for the last decade, comes from the pages of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. 

happy-baby-4

photo: Harald Groven via flickr

The Old Timey Name
BabyCenter says that last year, naming children after grandparents was popular and apparently the trend is sticking with old fashion names like Cora, Eleanor, and Ezra still hot, hot, hot on the scene.

The Hipster Name
If you’re hoping your baby will come out wearing Warby Parker specs (ironically, of course), a fedora and a onesie with a handlebar mustache on it, names like Declan, Jasper and August might be right up your muddled-cocktail alley.

What do YOU think? What names will be hot in 2015? Tell us in the Comments!

— Jo Aaron

Product Inventions We Want to See in 2015

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baby-general

We came up with over-the-top baby product inventions that are totally faux, but we think they stand a chance at hitting store shelves. Think the Binky Headgear sounds ridiculous? If tee pees for pee pees can sell, we say, why not? Check out our phony baby inventions and tell us if you think they’re business proposal-worthy or just plain busted.

The Mommy-n-Me Sleep Mask
What it does: Matching mom-n-baby silky sleep masks are for little divas who can’t stand to sleep in anything but complete darkness. Just like mommy, the Queen Diva.
Why we want it: The mini version of mommy’s anything is so darn cute and it can actually get baby to fall asleep? Jackpot!

mommy-me-mask

photo:MissMinx and sima dimitric via flickr

Doctor Sticker
What it does:
Like a stick-on thermometer, Doctor Sticker can be slapped on your kid to diagnose basic illnesses. Can’t get in to see your pediatrician? Doctor Sticker can be used anywhere, anytime when baby seems sick.
Why we want it:
Within a few minutes, text pops up on the dotted line that may read something like, “It’s just a cold,” “Oh, no, stomach flu,” or “There’s nothing wrong. This must be your first child.”

The Baby Formula Keurig-Thing-a-Ma-Jig
What it does: For those who go the formula route but can’t stand the smell of it, try the Baby Formula Keurig-Thing-a-Ma-Jig. Brew fresh formula in seconds in different flavors so your whole kitchen will smell like vanilla, instead of stinking like, well, uh, formula.
Why we want it: Because formula smells pretty nasty but baby has to eat!

vanilla-baby-bottle

photo: Ginny and Stephen Cummings via flickr

 

Binky Headgear
What it does: Baby’s binky is strapped right into his mouth using a headgear-like contraption. Sure, it might give your junior high flashbacks that you’ve been trying to forget since you were 12, but at least you won’t have to pick a binky up off of the floor every 20 seconds.
Why we want it: Because picking up baby’s binky off of the floor every 20 seconds is eating away at our sanity.

Baby Changer Va-poo-rizer
What it does: This baby changer is more than just a changing table — it also has a built-in vaporizer that sucks up the stank. So the next time baby makes a mess …you know, one of those that requires a three-diaper change … the changer will make it smell like it never happened.
Why we want it: Because some diaper changes are so stinky, we actually need to move out of the house.

SONY DSC

photo: Jesse! S? and Quinn Dombrowski via flickr

Baby Walker Floor Polisher
What it does: Teaches baby how to walk and shines your floors like the top of the Chrysler Builder while you lazily watch both from the couch.
Why we want it: The soft microfiber pads on the bottom of your baby’s walker polish up your floors with every step she takes, so you won’t know if you’re prouder about the walking or her actually doing chores around the house!

What do you think? Love them or leave them? Let us know in the Comments below!

— Jo Aaron

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When it comes to scary stories, you might not think of child-at-heart and The Muppets star Jason Segel. However, Segel and New York Times bestselling author Kirsten Miller paired up to pen a fun, yet freaky, middle-grade novel called Nightmares! The story, which is the first of a trilogy, is about a boy and his friends who must face their fears in order to save their town. We chatted with Segel in an exclusive interview to hear about the book (a lot of it is based on his own childhood night terrors!) and also found out what the holidays are like with his family, what the eight-year-old Jason would think about his life now, and how Jimmy Fallon helped him figure out why he has nightmares about witches eating his toes.

JasonSegelAuthorPhoto_CreditMichaelMuller_LoRes

RT: Why did you decide to write a middle-grade book trilogy?

I think [8 to 12 years old] is a really interesting age because you’re still really open to receiving lessons and feel like the people who are talking to you aren’t condescending you. That’s one of the things that I think Pixar is really good at. If you think of the opening of Up! It’s pretty intense and they’re treating kids like they’re capable. So I wanted to write a book for that age group that planted this little seed of an idea that there’s still magic out there. That’s what happened for me because everything that I do — the odds were stacked against me becoming an actor or a writer — but somewhere early on, I got these messages that anything is possible. Willy Wonka makes you feel like you can find the golden ticket. Goonies, the movie, made me feel like I could find buried treasure, you know? And those messages literally stuck with me.

"Nightmares!" by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller 

RT: Was there someone in your life who encouraged that “anything’s possible” idea?

Both of my parents are really supportive in anything we want to do that makes us happy, but I have to say that my mom in particular was really big on presenting me with these special little nuggets, like The Muppet Show. She taped all of the episodes and showed them to me when I was old enough to understand what was going on. She showed me Harold and Maude when I was really young. She is a comedy dork like me (laughs). It was really, really cool. It stuck with me. I’ve been really drawn to that Edward Gorey-Tim Burton aesthetic and I think it’s a result of my mom.

RT: Do any of your childhood fears show up in Nightmares!?

I had these really weird terrible nightmares about witches eating my toes, which I write in the book. I think we actually figured out on [The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon] the potential reason. When you’re a baby, grownups stand over you and tell you they’re going to eat your toes, and put your feet in their mouths and stuff like that. I think it’s more traumatizing than grownups realize!

 

RT: What books did you read as a child have stuck with you as an adult?

James and the Giant Peach really stuck with me. The original Winnie the Pooh really stuck with me. I read it again as an adult and it moved me just as much. There was this video game that came out when I was a kid, called Myst. You basically just walked around in this beautifully created world and found puzzles that you were supposed to solve. The game came with this book and I carried it around like the Bible. It felt magical to me. Honestly, there’s this big digital book movement, and it’s amazing to read books from your iPad, but I wanted a book as an object that a kid can hold, and carry around with them that you can give as a gift, that’s a tangible thing. That really influenced me. 

RT: What do you think the eight-year-old Jason would think of 2014 Jason’s life?

Oh wow! I think the thing that I’d be most in awe of was that I’m somebody who met Kermit. I think that would have blown my mind more than anything. That I had shook the man’s hand. It’s like shaking Sinatra’s hand to a kid. 

RT: What’s your most embarrassing childhood moment?

This is easy. It still haunts me today. I was a very obedient child and I did what my parents told me. Disneyland was my favorite place on earth and my favorite place in particular in Disneyland was the magic shop on the corner of Main Street. I could spend hours in there because there was this guy who demonstrated tricks. So at the end of one of our trips, I was probably around 11 years old, I asked if I could go to the magic shop and my parents said, “Sure, but whatever you do, don’t leave the magic shop. We have to go across the street.” So I was in there, and they were taking such a long time, and I started having to really, really, um, need to use the restroom, and all that kept going through my mind was that they said, “Don’t leave the magic shop, don’t leave the magic shop.” So I waited, and I waited, and I waited, until finally I had to walk to the corner of the magic shop and pretend I was looking at something and I wet my pants. I was totally embarrassed. I was standing there beet red, and then my parents came and got me and we walked to the car and I started crying. We had to pull over at a Kmart and my parents got me a new pair of jeans. I did learn from that that it was okay to go to the bathroom. But I was always a rule follower. 

RT: Do you have any family holiday traditions from when you were young that you still do today?

My mom is really, really big on decorating the house. She’s like me. She goes full-out theme-style, so come Halloween, it becomes a haunted house; come Christmas, it becomes a Winter Wonderland. And she still does it to this day. I have an older brother and a younger sister and we’re all grown, but there’s something that makes me feel warm and at home that when we go home for the holidays, it’s like going to a haunted house or Santa’s Village! She goes for it.

RT: You seem like such a kid at heart, so we think you’d make such a fun dad. Do you think you’d like to have children someday and what type of parent would you like to be?

That’s a great question. I would love to have children someday if I’m lucky enough for that to happen. [As far as] the kind of parent I would be, I would do the same thing for my child that my parents did for me, which was instill this idea that you are capable of doing anything. And not to be afraid to try. That it’s okay to fail, or whatever society perceives as failure. It’s sort of irrelevant. The whole excitement of life is trying stuff. The thing that they really instilled in me was that the most important thing is to be nice to everybody. I know it’s trite but as I’ve gotten older and been able to really wrap my head around what that means [and] it’s really served me well. You have a choice about where you place your values and anything you try to place your value in that’s sort of external like being the most successful, or having the most money, or being the smartest — is never going to be enough. But if you place your value in being good to your friends and family and strangers and trying to make the world a slightly better place, you’ll feel good when you fall asleep. And that’s what we’re all shooting for, right?

RT: What’s scarier, witches or babysitting for two kids by yourself for 24 hours?

Ah, man! I think witches are scarier. I can handle [babysitting for] 24 hours. That is one thing I know. I can do 24 hours because for 24 hours, I can probably get away with being a contemporary. Where I get into trouble is where I have to stretch into me being the adult. But I think I can get away with 24 hours of me being the buddy.

RT: We heard you became an ordained minister. Is this your fallback profession?

(Laughs) I like weird stuff. You know, life presents you these opportunities, so I’m not really afraid. So anyway, I walked out of my house one day and on all of the lamp posts on my street somebody had posted all of these fliers that said, “Jason Segel, will you officiate our wedding?” They were literally on every lamppost on my street. I checked on the day that they were getting married and I wasn’t available. I was shooting something. So I called The Tonight Show and asked them if they would let me marry a couple on their TV show and they said sure, so I called the couple on the phone and I said, “I got your fliers and I’m sorry but I’m not available on the day of your wedding.” And they were like, “Yeah, we know, it was a long shot.” [I said,] “But if you want, I’ll marry you on The Tonight Show in one week, and we’ll fly your family out and they can be there,” and they were flabbergasted. So I got ordained and married them on The Tonight Show. It was really, really fun.

— Interview by Jo Aaron

Thanks, Jason, for talking with us! What about you, readers … do YOU have a question for Jason? Let us know in the Comments.

Also, you can pick up Jason’s new book, Nightmares!, online at amazon.com.

15 Minutes With Funny Mom Anna Faris

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Anna Faris plays a hilarious mom on CBS’s sitcom Mom, and she’s getting some real-world experience at home. Two years ago, Faris landed the role of a lifetime when she and her husband, Guardians of the Galaxy actor Chris Pratt, welcomed their first child, son Jack. Since then, they’ve learned a thing or two about parenthood, like how to raise a well-behaved child in Hollywood, the importance of keeping it clean (we’re talking about germs here), and what mommy move gets Jack to giggle. In an exclusive interview with Red Tricycle, Faris tells us how she juggles motherhood and her busy career, and spills what she would do with her handsome husband if they had one weekend all to themselves sans tot.

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Anna Faris of the CBS series Mom for the CBS Television Network. Photo: Robert Ascroft/CBS © 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

RT: What was the first thing you did when you found out you were pregnant?

Well, I called my parents. I got pregnant at 35. They were waiting, as they like to remind us, for a very, very, long, long time, so I didn’t think I could handle keeping that secret for three months. They were going to see a play, and they started to cry and it was really, really amazing. I did think instantly that I had to start making kale juice. But I think the first thing that crosses your mind is that everything that you’ve been doing for the last six weeks, or however long it takes, is like, “Oh my gosh, oh boy, what have I been doing?” My doctor was like, “Don’t worry, my second daughter should have been named Margarita.”

RT: What’s on your son’s menu? Is he a mac-n-cheese kid or does he share your interesting palate?

We have a lot of interesting food in this house because my husband hunts and he, being a little bit philosophical about it … insists on eating everything he kills — and Jack is really good [about eating.] But at the same time, he’s like all toddler, I get so worried, I’m like, “You ate one blueberry for dinner?” I think that all parents go through that, the toddler-not-eating thing and I think that I have definitely been feeling like, okay he’s eating chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese and maybe that’s okay. [Overall], I would give him a C+ for eating.

RT: Are you an “always prepared mom” or a “figure it out” mom?

I feel like I’m the worst combination, which is never prepared but always anxious about it. I have some friends who are never prepared but they’re never anxious about it and things just work out and it’s just fine. And then I have friends who are totally prepared and not anxious about it because they are totally prepared. Then I’m just sort of like, “Oh did we get the thing? We forgot the sippy cup again! Where are the wipes? Nobody put more wipes in the diaper bag?” But I feel like even with all my anxiety, between being resourceful and the kindness of strangers, things tend to just be fine.

RT: How do you feel about germs? Sanitize everything or dirt can’t hurt?

I’m a little bit of a dirt-can’t-hurt. My mom is constantly sanitizing. My mom, who because they still live in Seattle but they spend a lot of time in Los Angeles because they think they have a baby, [says] a line from my show Mom, [she] calls my baby her do-over baby, so there’s that. [Her] favorite thing to say is that the menu is second dirtiest item in a restaurant, so after we order food, we have to go through this embarrassing process where the whole family has to hand sanitize and it’s a little mortifying. But honestly Jack is really healthy and he doesn’t get sick very frequently, so maybe there’s something to it.

Corned Beef and Handcuffs

RT: What is one thing nobody told you about parenthood?

It was just my brother and myself, [and] I was the youngest, but I didn’t have a lot of experience with kids. I wasn’t really drawn to them like some of my friends. So I feel especially underprepared to be a parent, but I feel like having had to focus on my career for so long and making it such a priority in my life because it’s so cutthroat, it’s so amazing to have something else in my life that reprioritizes everything. You start to appreciate the small things. Today I was thinking about how I can’t wait till Jack gets old enough so I can take him for a long hike with me, so I can annoy him (laughs). It requires so much generosity that I’ve never really had to give before. It shifts everything in your life. 

I guess that what everybody says is true, all the things you hear and kind of dismiss because you can’t really relate … things like, you’ll never love anything more, things like, it’s really frustrating, things like, you’ll never really sleep, there’s never any time, it’s totally life changing, nothing will ever be spontaneous, it’s so incredible to watch something grow that you created. Everything that everybody ever said about being a mom is true. It’s so complicated, and life changing and incredible.

RT: What’s your funniest parenting memory/story?

Jack does this adorable thing. He likes interacting with strangers and he’s very friendly. He’ll go up to anybody and shake their hand and say, “Nice to meet you,” after which my mom will pull out the hand sanitizer. We were on a plane to Hawaii and he just walked up and down the whole plane for at least an hour and a half saying, “nice to meet you, nice to meet you, nice to meet you, nice to meet you.” I just thought it was adorable and charming. I’m sure there were some people who were annoyed, but it’s hard to resist a two-year-old who wears glasses.

RT: A trustworthy Mary Poppins drops in for the weekend, what do you and Chris do?

Oh, what would we do? I think we would like, I mean, maybe it sounds a little cliché, but we would check into a nice hotel and sleep! Um, yeah. I’d love to give her a list of chores too.

Leather Cribs and Medieval Rack

RT: Everyone thinks that both you and Chris are hilarious but who is the “strict” parent between the two of you?

You know Chris is a little more strict than I am for sure. We both were raised with pretty strict parents but I think Chris wants to make sure that Jack is well-mannered and nice to other kids and a good boy. We try to stress that a lot. We try to do a lot of positive reinforcement. We like to tell him how proud we are of him. Even from a very, very young age, he embraced the idea of, “Mommy and daddy are proud of me.”

RT: What’s your go-to move that can always get Jack to giggle?

Well, you know, he’s funny. If I laugh really hard, he will laugh really hard. He’ll imitate me. He does sort of a thing where we don’t actually tickle, but I’ll reach out to him, like a tickle monster, and his whole body kind of tenses up. His eyes get really big and he just starts to squeal and I just think that the anticipation thing is adorable. He likes to kind of make other people laugh. He’s a pleaser like that. He’s exactly like his parents.

Thanks, Anna, for chatting with us!

— Interview by Jo Aaron
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What about you, readers? What do YOU want to ask Anna? Let us know in the Comments … and tune in to Mom on Thursdays at 8:30 EST on CBS!

 

additional photo credits: middle photo – “Corned Beef and Handcuffs” – Bonnie (Allison Janney, left) and Christy (Anna Faris, right) share a laugh after Bonnie gets home from her date, on MOM, Monday, Dec. 2 (9:30-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Darren Michaels/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2013 WBEI. All rights reserved. bottom photo: “Leather Cribs and Medieval Rack” – Christy (Anna Faris) and Bonnie come clean about secrets they’ve been keeping from each other, on MOM, Monday, Jan. 20 (9:30-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2013 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

7 Famous Moms With Baby-Booming Businesses

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Some celebrity mom-run companies are as exciting as this year’s biggest blockbuster movie. Proving that moms really can do it all, check out some of our favorite hard working A-listers who bring home the bacon, change diapers and always look amazing on the red carpet.

Jessica Alba
The Honest Company
Along with her leading-lady lifestyle, the stunning Sin City: A Dame to Kill For star and mom of two daughters, Honor (6) and Haven (3), also runs an eco-friendly product line called The Honest Company, and is a New York Times best-selling author. Her book, The Honest Life, that hit shelves in 2013, highlights her family’s non-toxic lifestyle.

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photo: The Honest Company

Soleil Moon Frye
Moonfrye, The Little Seed, P.S. XO
Punky Brewster (aka: Soleil Moon Frye) is all grown up, and these days she’s mom to daughters Poet (9) and Jagger (6) and son Lyric (8 months). The California mom turned parenting into a creative empire that includes an online children’s clothing store, The Little Seed; a family photo app called Moonfrye; and P.S. XO, a company that sells party decoration kits. Henry and Brandon would be so proud!

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photo: Soleil Moon Frye by Nan Palmero via flickr

 

Jessica Simpson
Jessica Simpson Collection for Girls
She’s a little bit country and a whole lot of gazillionaire. Thanks to The Jessica Simpson Collection that includes Jessica Simpson Girls, a clothing and shoe line for girls (co-creative directed by sister Ashley Simpson), the mom of two has hit the fashion jackpot. Jessica has given the public plenty to giggle about with some of her silly comments (chicken of the sea, anyone?), but the bombshell-turned-businesswoman is the one laughing all the way to the bank.

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photo: Jessica Simpson by John VanderHaagen via fickr

 

Heidi Klum
Truly Scrumptious
If you wonder how supermom Heidi does what she does and looks how she looks, you’re not alone. The woman is a model, TV host, actress, designer, artist, producer and businesswoman extraordinaire. And she has four kids. When she’s not hosting Project Runway or judging AGT, she’s designing her adorable Truly Scrumptious children’s clothing and goods collection for Toys R Us. We’re not typically the jealous type, but if Heidi didn’t seem so down to earth, we’d have to hate her for being so successful and gosh-darn beautiful at the same time.

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photo: Heidi Klum by Christopher MacSurak via flickr

Melissa Joan Hart
King of Harts
Frustrated with the clothing options for her three boys, Melissa and Joey star Melissa Joan Hart and her husband Mark Wilkerson decided to take matters into their own hands. That’s how clothing line King of Harts was born. The boys’ clothing collection is meant to be cool, casual and functional — three things that the parents felt their sons’ clothing lacked. They have plans to add a girls’ collection and other products down the line. Wonder if that means they’ll be adding a little Sabrina to their brood?

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photo: King of Harts

Julianne Moore
Freckleface Strawberry books and apps
Sure, some moms are content with just having their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but Julianne enjoys a more well-rounded resume. So along with her Emmy and Golden Globes awards and Oscar nominations, the mother of two is also a New York Times Best Selling author thanks to her Freckleface Strawberry book. She’s also turned the popular Freckleface Strawberry (Julianne’s childhood nickname) character into mobile apps for kids that can be purchased on iTunes.

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photo: Cindy Ord / Stringer via Getty Images 

Madonna
Material Girl Clothing Line
Madonna and daughter Lola did a little family bonding when they launched their clothing company, Material Girl, in 2010. Always the trendsetter and never a follower, the mother/daughter duo design a collection of apparel, shoes, handbags, accessories, body and intimate apparel exclusively for Macy’s in the U.S. that embodies the twosome’s fearlessness and makes a bold, creative statement … just like Madonna and Lola themselves.

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photo: Madonna by David Shankbone via flickr

Did we miss one of your favorite celebrities that owns a kid-focused business? Let us know in the Comments!

— Jo Aaron

Make-It & Take-It Party Favors (For $5 or Less!)

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Got too much birthday party dollar-store giveaway junk in your toy trunk? Try one of our make-it and take-it party favors that only cost about $5 or less. Imagine planning a party activity that will keep kids busy and take care of your “what to giveaway” woos all in one.

Candy Airplanes
Your kiddo’s party will really take off with these awesome edible airplanes. As easy to put together as they are to eat, your party passengers will be on cloud nine when they find out that these winged beauties are made entirely out of candy. Just make sure they don’t eat all of the plane parts before departure. Check out Armelle Blog for these tremendous candy airplane party favor instructions.

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photo:  Armelle Blog

Handmade Bubbles
Want to outshine the birthday bash you threw last year? Throw bubbles in the mix and you’ll be a shoo-in for party planner of the century! Don’t go for boring generic store-bought bubbles, though. Instead follow the DIY steps on Honestly to make super-duper homemade bubbles and wands, complete with recycled baby food jars as containers, and get set for customized party fun! To get popping, click here.

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photo: Honestly

LEGO Pencil Holder
Looking for the perfect arts-n-crafts activity to entertain LEGO enthusiasts? Everything will be awesome when your guests create their very own LEGO pencil holder. All you need are recycled baby food jars, paint and Sharpies to make Brazilian crafter and illustrator Estéfi Machado’s craftastic project. Start building your face case with a step-by-step guide here at Handmade Charlotte.

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photo: Handmade Charlotte

Magic (Straw) Flute
A party without music just isn’t a party at all! Let your musical party people create a magic flute out of drinking straws — it’s easy, fun and really creative. Basing the craft on the story The Magic Flute, the blog Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational shares simple steps to making these cute flutes. While you’re at it, why not read the story? It has an evil queen, powerful sorcerer and magic, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get the kids hooked from the first page until it’s time for cake!

Playing the Flute

photo: Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational

Balloon Bracelets
When life gives you lemons (or in this case a cheap twisty balloon kit with balloons that pop and break every five seconds) make balloon bracelets! At least that’s what blogger Michelle Paige suggests, and her balloon bracelets are easy to make and adorable to boot. These birthday accessories are everything we’re looking for in a party giveaway — colorful, fashionable and fabulously frugal. Let the accessorizing begin by clicking here.

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photo: Michelle Paige

 

Need more ways to rock that party? Click here for more party favor ideas. 

— Jo Aaron