Q and A: Jordana Beatty and Megan McDonald of Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer

It’s a likely scenario: most third graders are probably anticipating on having an exciting, adventure-filled summer.  (I can’t think of anyone who actually plans on having a boring summer…)  With kids counting down the minutes to summer vacation, the Judy Moody movie based on the popular Judy Moody book series by Megan McDonald has an empowering and creative get-out-there and enjoy yourself message that’s relevant for both kids and adults.

In Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, the disheveled red-headed, tomboyish title character is determined to have the best summer ever, and even challenges her besties to a thrill point race.  Amid her own expectations and a little brother named Stink (Parris Mosteller,) Judy’s summer adventures are both epic and outrageous, with a little help from Aunt Opal (Heather Graham) and a pal named Frank (Preston Bailey.)

I had the chance to chat with Jordana Beatty, the 12-year old Australian actress who plays the lead, and Megan McDonald, the author/screenwriter of the Judy Moody books and movie.  I love the premise behind this movie, almost as much as I appreciate seeing a tomboy tween lead.  In my candid Q & A with the effervescent and articulate Jordana, she revealed her most memorable scenes and her own crazy summer adventures.  Likened to the Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume of this generation, Megan McDonald shares her inspiration for her characters and how she enjoys spending her own summer days, which just so happens to be my ideal summer.

Beyond the puke scene and how much fun she had filming, find out what Jordana Beatty wants kids to take away from Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, which is out today.

THE Mom of Moms: Q and A with Marion Ross

She’s played feisty grandmas, cartoon grandmas and not-so-perfect matriarchs, but many of us know Marion Ross best as the perfectly-coiffed Mrs. C., Richie and Joanie Cunningham’s Mom from Happy Days.  Back before the internet and too many electronic devices, there were tv shows like Happy Days that celebrated the perfectly imperfect nuclear family of a different era.  She may have tangoed with the Fonz and disciplined Richie and Joanie, but Mrs. Cunningham will forever be THE mom of moms.

Tonight, The Hub will be playing the best of Mrs. C, a Happy Days marathon in honor of Mother’s Day. Marion Ross took the time to chat with me about her iconic role as Mrs. Cunningham and shared wise words for single moms, working moms and new moms.  And you guessed it:  Marion was just as effervescent as Mrs. C.

NKT: Hi, Marion!  So, what do you think the kids are saying about the upcoming Happy Days marathon?

MR: I think the new generation isn’t too familiar with Happy Days, but when I tell the young kids that I’m Sponge Bob Square Pants’ grandma, they’re all a-twitter.  And then they show me their Sponge Bob underwear!

NKT: How did your role on Happy Days influence your own experience offscreen as a mother?

MR: It was very handy for me because I would practice at work and play “house” with Richie and Joanie, and my own children at home were about 3 years younger.  So, my kids wouldn’t have had their “situations” yet, and I could study it a bit, which help me a lot.  I was always a step ahead of my kids.  I always loved how the writers treated the crises on the show.  I was a single mother, divorced, so I’m sure I would’ve been more nervous and panicky, but the writers always treated it as a journey—as a very ordinary thing.  The first time Richie drinks, it wasn’t the end of the world;  these are natural things that happen along the line.  The first kiss, all of that; it helped me prepare for what was next with my own kids.

Obviously, Moms of this generation are different from a few decades ago, but mother’s intuition is timeless.  What piece of advice would you offer to new moms?

MR: For new moms I have to tell them to “not miss this.”  Don’t miss THIS; everyone gets so busy with careers and chores, it’s easy to forget to take it all in.  The young years go by so fast, it’s so important to take time to really enjoy time with your kids or you’re going to miss it.  First things first:  somebody said that to me, way back when I was fretting about my career.  I think that’s why a show like Happy Days is so treasured because, in a way, many of us would like to get some of those simpler times back.

NKT: Do you have any wisdom that you’d like to share with working moms? How did you balance it all?

MR: I think I did a good job balancing it all.  I was single, but I was able to balance it all because I didn’t have a personal life.  I had work, but going to work was fun because I got to play “house.”  And first of all, I didn’t know how to have a personal life.  And when you don’t know how to do it, you just don’t have it.  And once the work got successful, I had so much paperwork and trivia.  Someone said to me, “What’s your reward now?’ Now you get to work harder than ever.” That’s when I thought, I don’t have enough help.  So when you find the extra money and can afford it, I’d recommend getting help.  It can be too much for one person to handle.  And then I got an assistant who became my everything;  my husband, my helper…
When I had littler children, I didn’t have a dishwasher or a dryer; I had to cart everything to the corner to get it all done.  Nowadays, we have everything.

NKT: What are some your takeaways from your role on Happy Days?  Any memorable scenes/episodes that still resonate?

MR: One of my favorites was when I danced the Tango with the Fonz.  Another one was where I tried to revitalize my marriage and bellydanced for Howard.  The writers never asked you if you could do these things, they just wrote them and we did it.  It was always so fun and interesting.

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Interview with Seth McMahill: Pokemon Black Version and White Version

Pokemon Black Version and Pokemon White Version, both released earlier this month, have reported record sales as well as positive reviews.  PCMag.com reported:

According to publisher Nintendo, both versions have sold over 1 million units since their March 6 launch. The record was previously held by “Pokemon Diamond” and “Pokemon Pearl,” which came out in 2007 with a combined sales total of 780,000 units in one day.

And the gaming blog Joystiq said the latest additions to the Pokemon lineup:

represent the very best that the franchise has to offer: An endearing cast of monsters and trainers, addictive collection mechanics, a 40-plus hour single-player campaign and a bevy of bolstered multiplayer functions.

And though I’ve yet to check them out firsthand, I did, however, have a chance to chat with Pokemon expert, Seth McMahill.  See what McMahill has to say about the latest Pokemon titles.

Q and A: Sarah Ball, Chuggington Writer and Director

Over the weekend, the kid and I did all kinds of fun stuff that were NKT-related. Among the fun events on our agenda, we went to a Chuggington screening and storytime at the Scholastic Soho store.


Along with other Chuggington fans, we had the chance to view a fan favorite, “The Chugger Championship” and preview a never-before-seen episode, “Snowstruck Wilson.” The sneak preview of “Snowstruck Wilson” involved a curious trainee straying, after being told to stay close. Having lost my own curious and adventurous kid the other week at a store, “Snowstruck Wilson” hit pretty close to home.

In addition to the screenings, Sarah Ball, Writer/Director of Chuggington, gave a brief introduction before the episodes. After the screening, the kids all enjoyed a little bit of coloring and crafts, which made for a fun afternoon.


As we’ve been reporting, Chuggington has a whole slew of new licensed products coming our way, which includes a series of Scholastic books (reviews are forthcoming.)

It’s always a pleasure to share the latest and greatest about one of our favorite properties, but it’s even cooler to be able to speak to the brains behind such a beloved show. Check out my brief Q&A with Sarah Ball who told us a little bit about the ideas behind the episodes and the new characters, Hoot and Toot.

Check it

Season two of Chuggington debuts on February 14 on the new Disney Jr.  If you’re on Twitter, join me and other Chuggington fans tonight at 9 p.m. as we celebrate the upcoming Season Two premiere. Follow @Chuggington, and #Chuggington.  And of course, my twitter handle is @jenrab.

Finally, let’s give @Chuggington a shout out for the Shorty Awards. Chuggington is currently in 8th place 7th place and needs to get to 6th to get to the finals.   To nominate Chuggington, just tweet why you think the property deserves a Shorty Award. Easy enough!

Holly Robinson Peete: Tips on Enjoying an Allergy-Friendly Super Bowl Party

For thousands of families, food allergies are a reality that involves carefully reading labels before consumption, as well as educating and communicating with family, friends and schools.

Food allergy awareness requires even more diligence when it comes to parties, such as Super Bowl Sunday.  Pot lucks and buffet-type spreads could be a trip to the ER just waiting to happen if food allergies aren’t communicated.  Raising awareness, even if the allergy isn’t in your own family, is the first line of defense for avoiding adverse reactions.

Holly Robinson Peete, one of the co-hosts of CBS’ The Talk and wife of former NFL player Rodney Peete, is well versed in food allergies.  Mom of four, Holly hopes to help raise awareness and educate other parents about food allergies; each of her kids has some form of allergy, and she’s had her fair share of scary moments.

On Super Bowl Sunday, an occasion that boasts the most food consumption behind Thanksgiving, the reality of food allergies is heightened. Because of her experience with food allergies, Holly spoke with some fellow bloggers and me, on how to enjoy an allergy-friendly Super Bowl party.

Families can enjoy a fun Super Bowl party even if allergies are a concern.  Some of Holly’s tips for having an allergy-friendly Super Bowl party include:

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Holly Robinson Peete to Host Webinar on Food Allergies

Because allergies run rampant in our family, this topic has been on my radar well before I became a parent.  Once I became a mom, introducing food to the kid with the possibility of food allergies became an even bigger reality.  Aside from real-life experience by helping my younger brother cope with being “allergic to the world,” my husband and I researched to educate ourselves for the uncertainty of having a child with food sensitivities.

Amidst all the gatherings this time of year, it’s the parties and family events that can be a cause of concern for allergic reactions.  After being so cautious with anything new that the three year old has eaten, over Christmas, he had an allergic reaction after having some cashews.  Of course, the reaction happened the evening of the post-Christmas blizzard and weather conditions would have complicated everything.  Thankfully, the kid is at an age where he can verbally communicate with us now, and immediately told us that his tongue was itchy—a telltale sign of an allergic reaction, and something that I always remember my brother describing after eating various things he was allergic to, when we were kids.

Always reluctant to let the kid have nuts in anything, for some reason, I thought he would have been ok trying cashews for the first time that night.  I thought he was in the clear with any nut allergies, but I was wrong.

The kid’s hives, swollen lips and an itchy tongue was enough to remind us that not all foods are safe for our allergy-prone kid.  Thankfully, we had Children’s Benadryl onhand to remedy the situation and that it didn’t require a trip to the ER.  We learned from this terrifying situation and are grateful it didn’t transpire differently.

Because of our family’s allergies and my interest in sharing this sort of information to other parents, I will be logging into a video webinar on the topic tomorrow.

Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest eating day of the year after Thanksgiving. Since severe allergic reactions to food send 90,000 people to the emergency room annually, TV personality Holly Robinson Peete of CBS’s The Talk (who is married to former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete) will be hosting an online video webinar about handling food allergy dangers at gatherings like Super Bowl parties. Nine out of 10 people say they will be attending one this year, according to a recent Nielsen survey.  Since Holly’s four children all have some kind of food allergy, she has plenty of expertise in this topic.

After the webinar, I’ll be one of a few bloggers who will ask Holly questions pertaining to allergies and her experience.  It’s always interesting to hear other parents shed light on issues that hit so close to home.  I’ll of course share Holly’s insight after the interview, but I’d also like to invite you to watch the online webinar.

Allergy Friendly Superbowl Webinar with Holly Robinson Peete

When: Tuesday, Feb. 1, at 5 p.m. ET (2 p.m. PT)

Where: Click this link
to get to the webinar, where you will be able to watch Holly via live video feed: http://agencyroad.na4.acrobat.com/allergyfriendlysuperbowl/

Full disclosure: I am being compensated for my participation in this webinar and Q&A via TheMotherhood. The webinar is being sponsored by Dey Pharma L.P.  As always all opinions on NKT are my own.

Gabbing with Gabba

Slowly but surely, I’m owning up to the freelance writer part of my bio—at least I’m trying.  Besides NKT, I’ve been writing, interviewing and pitching stories every chance I get.  If we’re friends on Facebook or Twitter, you may have seen my work appearing in a few places, with New York Family as a recent example.  I’m super excited about an upcoming article that’s slated to appear in a few weeks on a major parenting website.

Much of my work on NKT has provided for a myriad of cool opportunities, which includes interviewing kid-centric personalities and celebrities.  My latest interview was with Christian Jacobs, the co-creator of Yo Gabba Gabba and frontman of The Aquabats.  Jacobs dished about his favorite NYC spots and quelled my curiosity about Foofa’s inspiration.  (Do any of you guys remember The Barbapapas?)

As originally seen on NewYorkFamily.com:

Gabbing With Gabba

Christian Jacobs, co-creator of the wildly popular and music-centric kid’s show, Yo Gabba Gabba, is also one of the guys behind the masked rock band, The Aquabats. The Aquabats recently released the three-song digital EP, Radio Down! which features guest vocals from hip hop legend Biz Markie. Comprised of MC Bat Commander (vocals), Crash McLarson (bass), Jimmy The Robot (keyboards / saxophone), Ricky Fitness (drums), Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk (guitar), The Aquabats have been entertaining audiences—young and old—for 16 years with their witty and eclectic sets.

Christian Jacobs aka MC Bat Commander dishes about their costumes, “Pool Party,” and his favorite NYC spots to bring the kids.

Click after the jump for the complete Q&A.

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Q and A with John Lithgow: Succinct, not Soporific

His theatrical and entertainment career spans four decades, through Broadway, Hollywood and back, garnering countless accolades, including a Tony, Oscar nominations, Golden Globes, some Emmys and four Grammys.

He has the capacity to make families laugh with eccentric roles like those from Harry and the Hendersons and Third Rock From the Sun, yet he can disturbingly induce the fear in his latest role as a murderer in Dexter and just as easily write seven endearing children’s books.

With all that, it’s safe to say this living legend transcends the “triple” requirements of being a triple threat.

And among those accomplishments, for the second year, Emmy-award winner John Lithgow will act as host for Turner Classic Movies (TCM)’s Essentials Jr., a summer movie showcase which highlights a lineup of iconic family-friendly films.  Set to run each Sunday throughout the summer, TCM’s Essentials Jr. includes films such as Old Yeller, To Kill a Mockingbird, Swiss Family Robinson, among others.

The other week, as part of his media rounds promoting TCM’s Essentials Jr., I had the chance to sit in on a short conference call to speak to Lithgow.

His voice resonated a little more than I expected it would.  And the phrasing of his speech was just as succinct as you’d imagine. In our short interview with the actor, author, singer, songwriter and performer, find out which films made an impact on him, what character he thought was brilliantly portrayed as a midwestern hick and why he thinks ‘soporific‘ is so fantastic.

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Parenting: Suggestions on Behavior Turnarounds

I’ve had a few parenting qualms over the past few weeks, including a  confrontation with a crazy “Park Parent,” whom I wanted to pluck in the forehead.  So, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to turn to the experts.

Parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba gives advice on enjoying messy activities with your kids. Photo credit: All Laundry

I’m obviously no expert, but as a writer who covers topics related to parenting and as a mom who is genuinely interested on how to get a better grasp on my parenting decisions, I’m quite excited to be interviewing one of my favorite child experts tomorrow.

After learning about Dr. Michele Borba on Twitter and a talk show, I had the chance to meet and mingle with the Today Show contributor, author and speaker, at the All detergent event last week—and she’s just as inspiring in person.

After meeting the kid for just a few minutes, Dr. Borba sweetly observed that my two-year old, who was chasing a balloon for most of the day, (like most children) has a fascination with balls and will more than likely have a penchant for sports as he grows older.  I told her that my baseball-loving husband would be excited to hear about her prediction.

No matter how awesome your kid’s gear might be, parenting transcends all of our material possessions.  We all might have different views on how to parent, but sometimes it’s helpful to hear some practical wisdom from the experts.

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Q and A: Lindsey Jacobellis, Snowboard Cross Olympian

The dust, or rather, the snow may be settling now that the Olympics are over.  And while a handful of Olympians are making the rounds touting their medals, one Olympian is speaking about what she’s learned.

When Lindsey Jacobellis is mentioned, some people may remember her as the snowboarder from the 2006 Olympics who fell on her second to last jump when attempting a method grab, scoring a silver instead of the expected gold.  But, trust me, there’s more to know about Jacobellis.  Much more.

Armed with even more fervor for the 2010 Winter Olympics, unfortunately, Jacobellis left Vancouver without medaling in the Women’s Snowboard Cross.  This Olympics might not have been the “redemption” that many were anticipating, but “Lucky Lindsey” is holding her head up high.  Why shouldn’t she?

Afterall, at just 24, Lindsey is one of the most well known, not to mention, one of the most decorated female athletes in her sport.  In addition to the silver she earned at the ’06 Olympics, she has a gold from the ’09 Winter X Games to show for success.

On not medaling in Vancouver: “It’s definitely not the end of the world for me.  It’s unfortunate that the rest of the world only sees this race and the one four years ago. I guess I don’t have a great track record with the general public,” Jacobellis was quoted in the LA Times.

You win some, you lose some, kids.  And between us, it’s time to dispel the negativity.  It’s true, we don’t always get what we want—hey wait, isn’t that what we teach our kids?

And yes, that includes winning Olympic gold.

I had the the unique opportunity to speak candidly with Lindsey the other week, where we discussed what’s next, her influences and what she thought about those snowboarding pants.





source: Getty Images

NKT: I know they’re apples and oranges, but can you compare and describe your experience in the X Games to that of the Olympics?


LJ: In the X Games, my family was able to be up close, which wasn’t really the case for the Olympics.  When I’m competing, I’m in such a zone anyway, it’s hard to tell the difference.


NKT:  As one of the most recognized names in snowboarding whom do you consider as a role model in your sport?

LJ: I’d have to say Shaun Palmer.  I grew up admiring him since he paved the way for snowboarders, so it was such an honor to be on the same team.


NKT:  After your second appearance, what is your biggest takeaway from this experience.

LJ: I approach all competition the same, so I try hard to not to walk away upset, even if the outcome isn’t how I wanted.  I don’t give up easily, so I’ll take this experience and will grow from it.


NKT: I write typically for kid-centric sites, including my own, and it’s a well known fact that many tweens and teens look up to you.  What would your advice/insight be for your most impressionable fans about not giving up?

LJ: If you’re in love with something and it makes you happy, pursue it, even if you don’t always get the outcome that you want.  Do something you want!  I continue to snowboard because I love it.  How I do at a competition doesn’t define me; it’s how much I love the sport itself.  It’s not so much as about winning.  To me, it’s all about pursuing my passion and absorbing it all.


NKT: I asked many of my Facebook friends to chime in on questions, and everyone wants to know about the pants the snowboarders wore during the Olympics.  You care to share your thoughts on them?  The pants the snowboarders wore during the Olympics were by the popular snowboarding brand, Burton.  In case you’re not familiar, the pants looked like distressed jeans, but were made of Gore-Tex.  The overall look offset the preppiness of the plaid jackets.

LJ: When I first saw the design, I was a bit surprised.  And then when I saw them in person, I thought they were awesome.  It looked like we were racing in jeans, when really we weren’t; they’re really cool snowboarding pants, though.  I thought they reflected the vibe and culture of snowboarding.

NKT:  You might not have had a storybook ending to your second Olympic appearance.  In light of that, can you think of a storybook or cartoon character that you can associate your experiences with?

Lindsey saved this question for last because she paused to ask her mom, whom she said would have a better recollection.  I thought this was so endearing and indicative of how close she is with her family!

LJ: I’d have to say that I can relate to Dr. Seuss.  His characters are all quirky, the stories are funky, yet so deep.  I love how in many stories, they endure trials and tribulation and have a great message.  There’s a Dr. Seuss story that I loved about a yakk, it was all about moving on!


NKT:  What’s next for you?

LJ: I’m off to Colorado, then to Europe for the World Cup Tour and then Vermont.  I’ll stay busy with traveling, snowboarding and catching up with friends and family!


NKT:  And because you’re the DayQuil/NyQuil spokesperson, other than those remedies, what are your go-to remedies when you’re feeling under the weather.

LJ:  I love going the natural route, so I tend to turn to the Neti-Pot when my sinuses are acting up.  But other than that, I’m all about NyQuil.


The Olympics might be over, but keep an eye out for Lindsey.  Expect her to blaze more trails, figuratively and literally, in the years to come!

Full Disclosure:  I served as a brand ambassador for Vicks in the fall when I covered World Pneumonia Day, thus I have an ongoing relationship with P&G.  I happily interviewed Lindsey Jacobellis, a P&G spokesperson, for coverage on NKT.  I was not compensated in any way.