Becoming a new mom is one of the most special times of our lives and we want to help celebrate all new moms this Mother’s Day. Here are a few of our NAPPA Award-winning picks. For more gift inspiration, visit nappaawards.com
“Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out your own inner voice.” – Steve Jobs
The prolonged school lockdowns that started in early spring 2020 disrupted children’s routines, including normal school days and activities. It quickly blocked their access to the basic supports that schools provide, including the face-to-face contact with teachers and friends — a base fundamental to a child’s development. Being away from the classroom has not only contributed to reduced student performance, it has stretched the limit of children’s social and emotional well-being.
At Stratford School, we understand that social and emotional learning is paramount to student development and academic success, and the pandemic emphasized the need to elevate its importance. So we reached out to some of our Stratford principals, teachers and parents to find out what activities or programs they implemented during the pandemic that made an impact on students’ daily lives and social and emotional learning, and here’s what they had to say!
Read, Read, Read
Keira Pride – Head Librarian
Stratford School took its on campus/in-class book clubs online! Since we couldn’t hold library visits in person, Stratford librarians scheduled weekly book club sessions for students, Preschool – 5th Grade. Each week, hundreds of students would “zoom in” for an age-appropriate story followed by an in depth, and often very lively, book discussion. These weekly meetings not only created a community of literature-loving students, Stratford’s virtual book club created a safe place for students to share and connect socially with their peers. Ample time was included before and after each weekly story time so students could share whatever was on their mind — introducing their pets and siblings, to sharing their favorite food or excitement over losing a tooth – and some even presented artwork or school projects to the group. Students loved spending time connecting with their friends and sharing many laughs.
Create Friendship Circles
Mary Kiely – Lower School Director, Washington Park Campus
Stratford Washington Park held online and in-person Friendship Circles with students and the Lower School Director. These circles centered around the book Friendship and Other Weapons. Each week, we took time to create engaging activities and discussions around friendships and how to treat people. We discussed feelings and perspective, talking with peers in order to find ways to navigate difficult friendships, as well as being proactive in building strong foundations for friendships through discussion, games, writing and scenarios with role play.
Create An Emotional Bond
Annissa Mason Doumitt – Parent, Altadena Campus
When the first-grade children transferred to in-person learning from online, the teacher encouraged everyone to bring their favorite stuffed animal to school to sit in the bin by their desk. As this was a new landscape for children, wearing masks, socially distanced and unable to touch or hug after a long year of being separated, Mrs. Rains wanted the children to have something tangible they could hug when they wanted to hug their teacher or friend, were missing home or just needed some physical comfort. This was a wonderful way to transition to the classroom and recognize the isolation and wide range of emotions the children were feeling after all of this time.
Encourage Peer Relationships
Jennifer Garrone – Director Lower School, Crestmoor Canyon Campus
Throughout the 2020-21 school year, our school community had a ‘show must go on’ mentality and continued to host all events students would usually experience in a traditional school year, just this time — virtually! Connection with one another was definitely something that we adapted for our Stratford Online Academy students, and we found it important for students to have these opportunities to converse with one another. Aside from the usual morning meetings during the year, we hosted lunchtime socials for students that were led by online teachers or school leaders and provided students with an outlet for unstructured time. We also continued with our monthly spirit day assemblies, spirit weeks of free dress and campus-wide events, such as a virtual fall festival and spring picnic. Students truly enjoyed the events, because each of our events provided a sense of normalcy and something for our students to look forward to — it redefined and reimagined our school community.
Who’s Behind the Mask
Rachel Altreuter – Elementary Principal, San Francisco Campus
When we returned to in-person instruction after months of distance learning on Zoom, some of the kids were nervous about recognizing their teachers with a mask on. We created a bulletin board in front of the school called “Who’s Behind the Mask?” that showcased side-by-side photos of the teachers wearing a mask and without wearing a mask so that the children were sure to recognize their teacher!
We also hosted Friday lunchtime socials that allowed the kids learning online to connect with their in-person peers. Students were invited to join a video call hosted by our lunch staff where kids would play games together, tell jokes and riddles, and just hang out and socialize. We had some “regulars” who would come every time just to check in and say hello to their favorite lunch teachers!
Developing Emotional Intelligence
It can be challenging for students of any age to understand what they are feeling and learn to channel those feelings in ways that help them become better people and better learners. The key is developing emotional intelligence: knowing what emotions are, how they work and how to use them and manage them for social interaction and learning. Students also need to gain the capacity to recognize other people’s emotions, to discriminate among the different feelings and to label them appropriately.
As we return to school, not only will children continue to build foundational skills that will pave the way for academic success, they will also reignite social-emotional skills like kindness, sharing and self-awareness that will contribute to their overall success in life. If you are interested in learning more about Stratford School, or scheduling a personalized tour, visit us online at www.stratfordschools.com.
Anyone who has experienced life with a newborn knows how hard those first few months can be, especially if you don’t have family or friends nearby. I remember feeling lost in a fog during those early days. Desperate for community and answers, I turned to the web, but that proved even more overwhelming. At a certain point, I decided to stop googling. Instead, I relied on the advice I received from my mom and friends. And yet, even with this support, I felt like I could have used a “village.” My mom lives far away and my friends who were also experiencing early motherhood had left L.A.
The Village, a community of support for new moms founded by three women during the pandemic, understands just how overwhelming new motherhood can be for some parents. Co-founders Christy Tabit Evans, Amira Samuel and Sarah Croce have made it their mission to support moms in need with practical resources such as meal kits, diapers and laundry services in addition to funds for birthing classes, doula services, babysitters and more. Christy is an Ob/Gyn and mom, Amira is a mom and former attorney supporting women pursuing justice, and Sarah is a birth doula working toward her masters in Nurse Midwifery.
During the pandemic The Village hosted two virtual fundraisers, which allowed them to provide five grants to moms in need. Their first in-person event kicks off later this month with the inaugural annual Stroller Stride on Sept. 26. The fundraising event will feature a 2.6 km walk along the beach in Santa Monica. A reception with refreshments from Primo Passo Coffee and Pressed Juicery, and a raffle with prizes like a 60-minute massage, $100 floral arrangement, a stroller and more, will follow the walk. L.A. Parent is a proud sponsor of the event, along with The Pump Station in Santa Monica. Through this event and future in-person fundraising events, The Village hopes to raise enough funds for all birthing people applying for support.
Stroller Stride will take place Sept. 26, starting at Bay St. in Santa Monica and ending at the North Beach Playground. For more events from The Village check out their events page.
For many of our kids school is either starting this week or will start in the next couple of weeks and we want to provide some inspiration as you continue your back-to-school shopping. We’re excited that our friends at NAPPA Awards put together this wonderful guide filled with award-winning supplies, books, apps, learning tools and toys and games that mix fun and learning.
Fill through the pages and you’ll find adorable lunch boxes and labels to keep everything organized, math games, colorful STEM learning tools, educational apps and books covering topics such as race and inclusion, the stories of inspiring women and better ways to talk about feelings.
Every product included in this guide has been tested and evaluated. NAPPA Awards is one of the longest running award programs in the industry. It has been celebrating the best in family products for more than 31 years.
Click HERE to see the Back-the-School Guide
For more award-winning products visit nappaawards.com
It’s not summer without a great playlist to listen to. Here is a curated list of some of the best, uplifting albums and music to bring joy to kids all summer long.
For more product reviews visit nappaawards.com
Summertime is a busy time, filled with lots of activities. These products will allow the adventures to keep going, while making sure that your kids stay safe and clean.
For more product reviews visit nappaawards.com
The kids might be home from school all summer, but mom still needs time for some pampering. These products are a great way to unwind and be ready for a great day ahead.
For more product reviews visit nappaawards.com
Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology
An inspiring collection of original essays by bestselling authors organized around the theme of five things moms don’t have time to do: eat, read, work out, breathe and have sex. This unique collection speaks to moms everywhere. $24.99, zibbyowens.com
The Parent’s Hoodie
A sweatshirt for three stages: pregnancy, to carry baby and post-baby stage. This unique hoodie can also be worn by dad as a baby carrier and hoodie. No insert needed, it features an integrated and adjustable extension with invisible zip and wrap-over. $99, love-radius.com
Clea Bamboo Long Sleeve Classic Pajama Set
This unbelievably soft set is made of premium bamboo fabric and can be worn from pregnancy through breastfeeding and beyond.$69.99, kindredbravely.com
Buggie Huggie Shopping Cart Tray
Take the stress out of grocery store trips with this highchair tray for your shopping cart. With safety features built in, it comes with an optional phone holder accessory to secure your phone for your child’s favorite shows and apps. $39.95, ages 1-4, buggiehuggie.com
Piper Recliner and Swivel Glider
Sleek, stylish and comfortable, this glider features smooth and gentle 360-degree swivel motion and forward and backward gliding. Free of chemical flame retardants and GreenGuard Gold Certified. $329, davincibaby.com
Bug Bite Thing
In just three easy steps, enjoy the outdoors more with this innovative, chemical-free product that alleviates the itching, stinging and swelling caused by insect bites and stings. $9.95, bugbitething.com
Milkmakers Bath Tea & Foot Soak
Made with just four natural ingredients, these pregnancy-safe bath sachets help relax tired muscles and moisturize dry skin. Calming botanicals such as French lavender and chamomile mingle with rolled oats and pure Epsom salts.$10.00, munchkin.com
For more product reviews visit nappaawards.com
Wake up to the color of spring – and hope
By Elena Epstein
There is something so restorative about spring. Every new flower bud, every new bloom sparks a deep sense of renewal and hope within us. Nature is where I find peace, where I go to pause, to breath, to reflect, to just be.
Last spring, the pandemic shut down all of our spectacular gardens. But this year we can once again experience some of L.A.’s most spectacular must-see blooms on display now.
Per COVID-19 guidelines, masks and physical distancing are currently required, and tickets must be reserved in advance. Check individual websites for the most up-to-date information.
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens
Show-stoppers: The “Pink Cloud” cherry trees are planted in the Japanese Garden, near the entrance to the Zen Courtyard. Early March is the best time to take a walk along the path under the delicate pink blossoms. And later in the month, don’t miss the wisteria, popping with purple blossoms in several locations, including the Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden. You’ll find the most dramatic display is a massive vine of Wisteria floribunda (“Macrobotrys”) covering a long faux bois trellis overlooking the historic Japanese Garden.
Tickets and info: huntington.org
Show-stoppers: More than 30,000 tulip bulbs that are planted each year in the Promenade area will produce a breathtaking assortment of tulips in different colors and varieties. The theme for March will is “Birds & Nests.” Art displays throughout the gardens and in the Center Circle will celebrate both. And the popular “Tomatomania!” will be back this year from March 26-28 with a COVID-19 safe format, but still full of tomato and pepper seedlings.
Tickets and info: descansogardens.org.
L.A. County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
Show-stoppers: Trumpet trees producing brilliant hot-pink blooms provide a spectacular canopy display. As you stroll these grounds, you’ll most likely also see the added flare of color from the resident peacocks. During your visit, don’t miss the orange poppies in the Crescent Farm, where a variety of drought tolerant plants, shrubs and orchard trees are planted.
Tickets and info: arboretum.org
By Elena Epstein
One of the best ways to maintain a healthy immune system is to focus on eating foods packed with the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
“There is no magic immune-boosting pill or food, but a well-balanced eating plan that includes a variety of nutritious foods from all of the food groups will help give your body the nutrients it needs to support your immune system,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Wesley McWhorter, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
McWhorter recommends the following nutrients to help support a healthy immune system:
- Beta carotene is found in plant foods, such as sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, mango, broccoli and tomatoes.
- Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, bell peppers, and strawberries or foods fortified with vitamin C, such as some breakfast cereals.
- Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, eggs and milk and 100 percent juices fortified with vitamin D.
- Zinc tends to be better absorbed from animal sources such as beef and seafood, but also is in plant-based sources such as beans, nuts and seeds.
- Probiotics are “good” bacteria that promote health. They can be found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt and in fermented foods such as kimchi.
- Protein is found in animal sources such as seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs and plant-based sources such as beans and peas, soy products, nuts and seeds.
By Elena Epstein
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is encouraging everyone to embrace their individuality and add a healthy twist to foods you already love.
March is National Nutrition Month and a great time to put a a healthy spin on our daily eating habits.
“We are all unique with different bodies, goals, backgrounds and tastes, so it only makes sense that our food choices will reflect that individuality,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Roxana Ehsani, a national spokesperson for the Academy in Las Vegas, Nev. “It’s possible for anyone to incorporate the foods you love into a healthy lifestyle.”
Ehsani recommends tips to reimagine traditional dishes:
- Cook with dried spices and herbs instead of salt to add flavor to your dishes
- Try different grains such as wild rice, whole-grain farro and whole-grain barley to reap the benefits of whole grains
- Go meatless: Serve up beans or lentils for a heart healthful plant-based protein
- Cook with vegetable oils instead of solid fats such as butter when cooking to limit saturated fat
- Eat 100-percent whole-wheat bread instead of white bread for more dietary fiber
- To decrease extra calories from fat, bake, grill, roast or steam your food instead of frying
- Sprinkle chia or ground flax seeds on cereal, salad or toast to increase consumption of omega-3 fatty acids
- For flavor, add lime, grapefruit or pineapple slices to glasses of water
- Cook grains in a low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock for flavor
- To add variety, enjoy vegetables in different forms — raw, steamed, roasted, grilled or sauteed.
“Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and the remaining quarters of your plate with whole grains and protein foods, such as lean meat, skinless poultry, seafood or beans,” Ehsani says. “With each meal, eat calcium-rich foods and drinks such as fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.”
As of March 1, visitors can pick up an entry pass at the park gate or use an Annual Pass.
Note – some restrictions are still in place and some services are not available. Please also see the FAQ page for more information about visiting the park HERE
The Fresno Yosemite International Airport also annouced that beginning April 25, Southwest Airlines will offer daily, non-stop flights from Las Vegas and Denver. The improved access to Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks is welcome news for fans of the region.
Upcoming events include the Yosemite Renaissance, which was founded 36 years ago to “motivate artists to develop diverse interpretations of Yosemite and its varied landscapes.” This annual art exhibition will open at the Yosemite Gateway Art Center in Oakhurst and run from March 19 through May 30, 2021. These powerful works will travel to Kings Art Center, Carnegie Arts Center, and onward to the Yosemite Museum in October. For more information on Yosemite Renaissance click HERE.
For more information on Yosemite and Madera County, click HERE.
By Elena Epstein
Catherine McCord, co-founder of One Potato and the founder of the popular Weelicious brand and mom of three has made it her mission to create easy yet tasty meal options for families. Author of three cookbooks, including “Smoothie Project,” she says she likes crafting Mexican-inspired recipes because many of them are vegetarian (or easily can be adapted to be vegetarian) and are always packed with flavor.
With this recipe, families can feel good about eating the whole pan, she says, since it’s packed with veggies!
Vegetarian Sheet Pan Nachos
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2½ cups milk
2 cups Mexican cheese or a mix of Monterrey jack, mozzarella and cheddar
1 teaspoon nacho, taco or fajita seasoning
1 16-ounce bag tortilla chips
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 bell pepper, diced
1 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1 tomato, seeded and diced
½ cup sour cream
1 cup guacamole, or 1 ripe avocado, cut into chunks
1 lime, cut into wedges
Pickled onions (recipe below)
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan on low to medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until it thickens, creating a roux, about 1-2 minutes. Add about ½-cup milk, whisking continuously until milk is absorbed, and then add remaining milk. Continue cooking and stirring until bubbles start to appear.
Add cheese and taco seasoning to the roux and stir until mixture is melted and combined. Place the chips on a ½-sheet pan. Top chips with the nacho cheese mixture followed by beans, bell pepper, corn, tomatoes and guacamole, pickled onions and lime. You can also top with optional ingredients.
Here are the 5 P’s of perfect home updates as we ring in a new season
By Margot Black
If there’s one thing Angelenos have in common in the early 2020s, it’s spending more time than we ever thought possible in our home environments. Due to the monotony of the local lockdowns, you may find yourself looking around your home and no longer feeling inspired or even satisfied. With spring just around the corner, there’s no better time to update your living space and fall in love with your home all over again.
Refreshing our at-home surroundings to make it feel new or different can positively influence our mental health by boosting productivity and cultivating a calmer environment.
To get your spring to-do list organized so you can tackle your home refresh, follow the 5 P’s—purge, paint, plant, purchase and present – and you’ll feel like spring has sprung.
Transforming a room that you’re all too used to into a space that feels new will be impossible unless you purge first. Getting rid of things you don’t love and that you’re not using will make it so much easier to organize your space. “You don’t need to buy anything to begin organizing your home since everything you need to do the job is already there,” counsels Laura Ellis, a certified professional organizer and owner of Organized by Ellis.“Post-it notes, markers and garbage bags can help you label and sort where things can go.”
Ellis recommends jumpstarting the process by purging a small space first. “Clearing off counters in the kitchen and bathroom are often areas you can make big, quick progress with a high visual impact,” she says. “You’ll have a feeling of accomplishment and be motivated to continue.”
To make the larger tasks with emotional charges connected to grief, loss and past parts of life more manageable, Ellis suggests going easy on yourself and taking it one step at a time. “That sort of Oprah update where everything changes in 24 hours in your home isn’t real or achievable for most people,” she admits. “However, with small, consistent clearing efforts over a consistent time period, you’ll get the clean, organized, space you desire.”
If the paint color you once adored now seems drab or outdated, it’s time to make a huge color leap. A fresh coat of paint will always give you great bang for your decorating buck. But how do you ease the stress over choosing the wrong color? “Don’t paint samples directly on to your walls,” advises Jana Rosenblatt, an interior designer who offers two-hour color consultations for $250. “It can be costly and hard to cover them once you select the perfect shade, and if you do too much, it can change the texture of your wall.”
Instead, Rosenblatt suggests using a disposable brush to paint two to three coats of sample-sized paint on four or more pieces of white printer paper to save money and enable you to experiment a little bit more. “Be sure to use the same sheen you intend to put on the walls, and then put them around the room and check them out during both day and night,” she adds. Ideally, you should clear everything out of the room first, and the paint job will go more quickly.
Houseplants are a great way to bring spring inside and out. Even if you go to Trader Joes to buy some orchids, it will immediately brighten up your space. But what if you don’t have a green thumb? Start your indoor plant collection with harder-to-kill plants such as a jade and a fern and then aim to add one plant to all your rooms.
And as for refreshing any outdoor area, Garden Designer Susan Taylor Fisher of Paradise Gardens Landscape Design has the simplest advice: “The most important person to be happy with your garden is you. Get rid of anything you don’t like and replace it with something you love. ”
After you have purged, painted and planted, you’ll want to purchase new items, if desired. And to feel more confident about your purchases, you can always use an online interior design service like Modsy, where there are easy packages and design experts to help you pick what you want. Consider purchasing a fresh bedspread with flowers or leaves on it to bring the spring imagery indoors. Or you can purchase items to help combat clutter. “I recommend a new shelf in your bathroom, or storage baskets that are stylish yet functional and can be elegantly hidden,” advises Karina Lameraner, creative stylist at Modsy.
Lastly, remove some old items that you might not be using and make new use of them. All homes have a few great spots to feature for displaying decorative items, and rearranging these pieces will undoubtedly give your home a fresh feel for the season.
For a home office desk refresh, just add a few folders in a seasonal accent color, fill a funny cup with pens and pencils, and hang a piece of wall art with a bright, cheerful vibe. You can also change up photos in the entryway or change out heavier winter linens for lighter coverlets. Try “shopping” the rest of your home to find worthy candidates, and by rotating a few items in and a few items out, you can easily re-present your own things with some new spring zing.
Following these few steps will bring a spring back into your step—whether you’re stuck at home or not.
Margot Black is a storyteller with more than 15 years of experience, an L.A.-based traveler, wife and mom.
By Elena Epstein
Jamie Price and Julie Campistrom have created an app to bring us stressed-out parents some relief. These Santa Monica moms co-founded MyLife meditation app to offer simple tips for mindful parenting, as well as programs for the whole family and even educators.
In the app’s “Mindful Parent/Mindful Child” program, users participate in activities that guide them through a variety of exercises to remain present and grounded, including purposeful breathwork and tips to navigate power struggles within your family.
Price, mom to a toddler girl, first started MyLife to create more mindfulness curriculum for inner-city teens, and the app still offers an exclusive program for schools. Campistrom, who has a 10-year-old son, balances remote school, running the company and is a big believer in squeezing in tiny bits of mindfulness into her family’s day.
Here, they share a few reasons why starting a family mindfulness practice is essential.
What’s one thing you wish parents knew about the power of meditation and mindfulness?
Campistrom: I wish parents knew that taking just a few minutes a day for yourself to practice mindfulness (self-care is something parents always put last on the list of to-dos) can really have a transformative effect on your perspective and your ability to be a more patient/present parent. Sometimes we become fatalistic and think change is out of reach, but it’s incredible what 10 to 15 minutes for yourself — to give your mind a break —can do.
Price: I totally agree with Julie on this one. With just a few minutes a day of checking in, I am in a much better position to truly connect with my child. I become aware of what I am bringing, mentally and emotionally, to our interaction, and more easily recognize when I need to take a second to calm or ground myself. Then I can be more intentional about how I relate to my child. There is a closeness and trust that comes from spending time and giving my daughter my full focus.
What does mindfulness look like in your own personal life?
Campistrom: I try to do it every morning for 10 to 15 minutes. I will either do a check in with the MyLife app and select one of the recommended tracks, or pick some of my favorite activities like “Relax, Ground & Clear” or “Counting Breaths.” But right now, I’m using our Mindful Parent/Mindful Child journey and loving it. My two favorite activities from it so far are “Feeling like a Super Hero” and “Letting Go without Giving Up.”
Price: I used to have time for a formal meditation practice every morning. But that went out the window with the birth of my daughter. She is much younger than Julie’s son and far less independent. At this point, my personal practice is more relaxed. I will grab 5 – 10 minutes whenever I can throughout the day. My favorite thing to do is to step outside and breathe deeply, taking in the natural world through all of my senses. Stopping to get quiet and just listen to the sounds around me is also really helpful.
What is the hardest part of being a parent?
Price: How vulnerable it makes you. How any hurt your child feels translates immediately to your own hurt, and how you have to fight the urge to make everything OK for them, because ultimately you’re there to help them figure it out, rather than figuring it out for them.
Campistrom: Ditto! And not just when they are hurt. I have to resist the urge to jump in for her all the time, as opposed to allowing her the time and space to explore and problem solve for herself.
What is the best part of being a parent?
Price: Seriously, the snuggles. That’s the best. And the unabashed joy. She reminds me to feel delight and appreciation for the simplest things all the time.
Campistrom: The wonders and surprises of how your child evolves, how their personality affirms itself. I am always amazed at how my son’s evolution is always a few steps ahead of where I think it is. And the unconditional love your child brings out in you as a parent.
Favorite quote or mantra?
Price: “Love no matter what.” No matter what is happening, if she is acting out or having a meltdown, I try to be loving vs. reactive. I can be loving and firm at the same time. I have to work on this all the time!
Campistrom: “What’s the worst that can happen?” It has helped me take risks and embrace change. Visualizing the failure is a way to put specifics against the fear you have of it.
What is one reason why L.A. parents should focus on mindfulness?
Campistrom: We are fortunate in L.A. to live in a city full of nature, yet I feel we still sometimes lose sight of that nature, because of the “big city” effect. Staying present, connected with nature, and being able to step away from the hustle and bustle through those mindful moments is really important.
Price: I think Julie is pointing to a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the good things we have available to us, whatever they may be. It’s easy to take things for granted. I know I am much happier, and a much better example for my child, when I slow down and take in the good things with appreciation.
When there are no work deadlines and no school, where will we find you and your family?
Campistrom: Climbing in Joshua Tree or at the beach.
Price: At the beach, for sure.
For more on MyLife meditation app, visit my.life.
By Cassandra Lane
Angela Lewis has been widely praised for bringing the complex “Aunt Louie” character to life on FX’s hit crime drama “Snowfall,” created by the late legendary filmmaker John Singleton. The drama series explores the complex dynamics of the crack cocaine epidemic in 1980s Los Angeles.
In this spotlight, we learn how Lewis, a Detroit native now living in L.A., balances her acting career with parenting her toddler daughter, Brooklyn.
You play a complex character on ‘Snowfall.’ What has that experience been like, and how do you prepare for the role?
It is every actor’s expectation and dream to play complex characters. If a character is not layered, we do everything we possibly can to create more layers. So, I’m thrilled that Louie is complicated! It’s both scary and satisfying to have to navigate the complex waters of her psyche. I prepare by thoroughly understanding the scene, the episode, the stakes within both, and Louie’s personal stakes. I play around with how she feels about things, and what would happen if things didn’t go the way she plans. I just do my best to get my imagination running on all cylinders.
Tell us about your move to L.A. to pursue your acting career while having a young baby.
Well, everything in divine, perfect order! I got married, and my husband [actor J. Mallory Cree] was adamant about moving to L.A., and I was curious. So, we made the move a part of the wedding plan. We moved in 2014. Snowfall came in 2016, and the baby came in 2019. Other than the move, I hadn’t planned anything. I set my intentions and dreamed, and lived life according to those dreams, but the timing was more perfect than I ever could have planned.
Your family nurtured your creative talents from a young age. How did this help you pursue your dreams professionally?
Having had my family nurture my talents from a young age has allowed me to feel deeply supported, and that is huge. Actors get told “no” so much that if you don’t have built-in support and/or self-confidence, the business can do real damage to your self-esteem. Having my family have my back this whole time has been life-saving.
What is your daughter like, and how would you describe your and your husband’s parenting style?
My daughter is amazing! She blows me away every single day. She’s a communicator. She’s been very clear with her needs and wants. She’s not fully talking yet, but If she’s whining too much, and I ask her to use her words, she will immediately find a way to be very clear with what she’s trying to convey.
My husband and I really resonate with the whole brain child/no drama discipline approach, mixed in with some Montessori play/learning. I’m really wanting my daughter to be an independent thinker, fully aware of self and her connection to the earth and humanity. We want to nurture her creativity and what innately pours out of her.
Our job is to illuminate her options and help her to stay out of harm’s way as best we can. We love her deeply and want to honor and respect her autonomy. While she still wants to hold hands, I will bask gluttonously in her affection. When she’s ready to let go, I will cry my tears, open my arms (and my eyes…Mama is always watching) and believe with everything I got that she will always find her way back to me.
How insights did you gain on your journey into motherhood?
There is what I had planned for my birth, and what actually happened. I had planned a sacred and serene natural water birth at a birthing center to welcome my baby girl to the world. She, instead, opted for action and adventure at the hospital! I want all expectant moms (especially those who are Black and Brown) to know that they have more options than they think, and that the key is education and access to resources. Get a doula. Your doula can help ask questions you maybe hadn’t thought of. Your doula can help advocate for you, especially in the hospital system. There are resources out there. Whatever you want, whatever you need, whatever you’re dreaming up, look more into it.
I wish I knew that birth is the wild wild west. You can plan all you want, and you absolutely should, but at the end of the day, your baby will come how they want to come into the world.
I want everyone to know that expectant moms who are Black and Brown, and their babies, are dying in their birthing rooms and in postpartum. It doesn’t have to be this way. Black and Brown expectant moms are unheard and their lives are undervalued. Join me in making sure these moms have access to education, advocacy and resources. Black Lives Matter.
By Jeanne Huybrechts, Chief Academic Officer, Stratford School
“Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is making the mix work.” – Andres Tapic
We live in an increasingly diverse world where our children encounter people of varying races, cultures and abilities. As parents, teaching our children about diversity and inclusion is paramount as we focus on raising tolerant, accepting, and empathetic children.
How do you guide your child to grow to be a diverse, inclusive, and compassionate individual? Here are three ways where you, as a parent, can teach your child to have a positive attitude and approach.
1. Be a Role Model. Parents have so much influence on their children’s view of the world and ways of thinking, especially in matters related to how they treat other people and how they make decisions. Parents should message to children at an early age that diversity is not just a nice-to-have, feel-good goal but is a smart goal. Multiple studies of group dynamics in schools and in business have demonstrated the business value of assembling teams composed of people who have different perspectives, different ways of looking at problems and different life experiences to contribute to the collective intelligence of the group. Groups that are more diverse make smarter decisions than homogenous groups. There are deep and long-lasting benefits that inclusion policies and practices can bring to team dynamics, to organizations and to interactions among children in the classroom and on the playground.
2. Explain Differences, Don’t Ignore Them. When developing curriculum and programming related to diversity and inclusion, my three go-to resources are Facing History and Ourselves, the Teaching Tolerance organization, and Common Sense Media. Facing History uses lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate, and they do this by creating rich and rigorous histories of past injustices, of discrimination based on sex, religion, national origin and race – injustices fueled by unaddressed nationalism, racism and prejudice. Included in every lesson package are prompts and exercises that lead to reflection on the sustained damage produced by the injustices. Facing History has many resources for parents seeking to reinforce the values of acceptance and inclusion within diverse communities – the value of getting to know people different from ourselves.
Along these lines, my favorite resource for parents (and teachers) is Beyond the Golden Rule, published by Teaching Tolerance. The 50-page book is free and downloadable. It features advice and resources for parents of toddlers, teenagers and all ages in between. From the Teaching Tolerance website: “Whether you are the parent of a 3-year-old who is curious about why a friend’s skin is brown, the parent of a 9-year-old who has been called a slur because of his religion, or the parent of a 15-year-old who snubs those outside of her social clique at school, this book is designed to help you teach your children to honor the differences in themselves and in others — and to reject prejudice and intolerance.”
3. Use Children’s Books to Explore Differences. Finally, Common Sense Media maintains a wonderful list of books that promote diversity and inclusion for children of all ages – again, toddlers to teens. Among my favorites are A Snowy Day and Last Stop on Market Street, both read aloud books; New Kid, a marvelous graphic novel; Maniac Magee; Stella by Starlight; Wishtree; and American Born Chinese. What these books have in common is that they promote values of diversity and inclusion in memorable stories about interesting characters — stories that show rather than tell, thus grounding abstract concepts like inclusion in examples of real people having authentic experiences and processing genuine feelings.
It’s tempting to try to be completely politically correct when talking about diversity and inclusion, as children are naturally curious about the world around them. When we help children understand these differences, they’ll be one step closer to respecting and celebrating the differences in all people, cultures and experiences and how those differences ultimately can bring the joy of living into our world.
Stratford School has three locations in Los Angeles County with a focus on infusing a strong liberal arts curriculum with STEAM inspired learning. For more information visit stratfordschools.com
While every day is a great day to show your love and appreciation for your kids, Valentine’s Day gives all of us a wonderful opportunity to express our feelings — and nothing says love more than kindness. With the help of our friends at NAPPA Awards, we are celebrating kindness and positivity all year long by showcasing books, music and other great products that will bring joy and connection to your family and remind us that we need to be kind to ourselves, to each other, to our community and to our world.
Best for Mom
Let’s start with all the moms who always put everyone else first. We know this past year has not been easy, parenting through a pandemic, that’s why we love KindNotes. These beautiful jars of 31 handcrafted messages, enclosed in mini decorative envelopes, combine the charm of handwritten notes with positive affirmations perfect for a little pick-me up. Comes in a variety of designs and themes and can be customized. Starting at $34.95, kindnotes.com
And we think every mom deserves some quiet time to reflect and recharge. MamaZen Mindful Parenting App provides the perfect space to relieve stress, fatigue and anxiety using a combination of meditation, hypnotherapy and mindfulness . The 150 brief audio sessions (5-15 min) cover common topics among moms. 30-day free trial, then $14.99/month, mamazen.com
Share Kindness Through Music
We know you’re going to love these recent NAPPA Award winners as much as we do. Music is such a wonderful source of well-being and the messages of kindness in these songs are universal and great for all ages.
Make it Happen!
Cheery, charming and energetic songs celebrate the simple joys of life, while also delivering positive messages of empowerment, courage and strength. Packed with lyrical wisdom centering on creating meaningful relationships and experiences. $9.99, staceypeasley.com
Thank You, Mister Rogers – Music & Memories
A heartfelt tribute album featuring classic songs performed by award winning artists. Highlights include the spirited Latin rhythms on Jaci Velasquez’s playful take of “You Can Never Go Down The Drain,” Jon Secada’s Spanish interpretation of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” and actress/singer Rita Wilson, whose husband Tom Hanks wonderfully portrayed Fred Rogers in the movie, provides a tender rendition of “Sometimes People Are Good.” $10.95, thankyoumisterrogers.com
A Mind of Your Own
Featuring Nashville-based songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, a Brooklyn-based, fiddle-playing child psychiatrist and an array of acclaimed Americana performers in a captivating and upbeat debut album filled with songs and skits touching on a variety of topics—making new friends, coping with failure, learning a new language, dealing with emotions and bullying. Invites listeners to think deeply on feelings and emotions that come with growing up, while focusing on resilience. $14.98, folkways.si.edu
Words to Inspire
Find a cozy nook and start reading together. Beautiful illustrations and words will inspire you to be in awe of nature and all the creatures around us. There is so much to be thankful for if we just take a look around and really notice.
Good Morning, Good Morning
The lyrical wordplay encourages children to explore their surroundings and notice the subtle sensations within their bodies, all while helping them develop their daily mindfulness practice. Written and illustrated by women of color and featuring diverse characters. $12, ages birth-4, bounlesblooms.com
The Mighty River
Celebrates the community we share through nature and the diverse animals and plants that call the river home. Includes beautiful illustrations, a wide array of information, ideas on how to protect our waterways and space to draw and describe river animals and scenes. $15, ages 2-8, years, beautifulworldbooks.com
A curated collection of children’s stories celebrating the timeless power of kindness to make the world a gentler, safer and even more loving place by author and highly-respected folklorist, Margaret Read MacDonald. $16.95, ages 6-10, augusthouse.com
The Book of Cultures
A 120-page picture book for young readers to discover the world, embrace its diversity and go on adventures near and far, all from the comfort of their home. Featuring 30 stories with buddies from different countries, followed by a 2-page activity snapshot on each culture. $35, ages 4-9, worldwidebuddies.com
To teach our kids about their big feelings is a true gift. Sit together, talk and use these creative and colorful cards to enhance your child’s social emotional learning.
The Little Yogi Deck: Simple Yoga Practices to Help Kids Move Through Big Emotions
A colorful card deck featuring 48 simple yoga and mindfulness practices to help kids work through big emotions on and off the mat. Eight color-coded categories include anger, worry, excitement, sadness, joy, jealousy, shame and peace. Includes a practice booklet. $19.95, ages 5+, Shambhala.com
Mindful Moments: Guided Exercises and Mantras for Kids
Easy-to-follow guided exercises blending mindfulness meditation and empowering affirmations to build emotional intelligence and encourage kids to tap into the present moment and their unique strengths. Includes mindful tips booklet. $30, ages 2+, boundlessblooms.world
It is through play that kids learn about life. Give them a world filled with imagination, kindness, love and generosity.
Poppy the Kindness Unicorn & Pawley Bear
Join Poppy and Pawley on their journey filled with friendship, kindness, and lots of fun as they spread kindness through Sharewood Forest. $34.99, ages 3+, plushible.com
Care Bears: Love-A-Lot Bear
A group of huggable BFFs living that sweet caring life. Perfect for unlimited bear hugs and ready for you to take on your adventures of sharing and caring. Comes with a collectible Care Coin to spark on conversation and action on everyday acts of kindness. $14.99, ages 4+, Walmart.com
Sharewood Forest Friends
Enter a magical world filled with friendship and sharing. Each friend comes with an adorable outfit, pajama set and reusable packaging that unfolds into a unique playscape, where kindness grows as large as the mighty oak and spreads like wildflowers. $34.99, ages 2-4, sharewoodfriends.com
For more product reviews visit nappaawards.com
Built on Michelle Winner’s ‘Social Thinking’ concept, the mom-run Santa Monica business touts social awareness.
by Elena Epstein
Priest has a Master’s degree in clinical psychology and several years of experience working with families. She attended conferences on “Social Thinking,” a concept pioneered by speech language pathologist Michelle Winner, and shared her interest in the approach with Tabachnick, who then completed mentorship and clinical internship training with Winner at the Center for Social Thinking in San Jose.
“Kelly and I kept talking about all these ideas we had and we realized that together we could do so much more,” recalls Tabachnick. They launched Social Foundations in 2006 in a small space in Culver City, which they outgrew in the first five months. They outgrew their second office in Santa Monica eight months later.
Now operating from locations in Santa Monica and Sherman Oaks, Tabachnick and Priest – along with three therapists and one assistant – have a growing practice focused on providing kids with practical tools to better understand social cues, interact in groups and develop friendships. Some of their students are on the autism spectrum, others have learning differences and some have no specific diagnosis, but face many social challenges.
“Social learning is about building insight and awareness of yourself and of others around you,” says Priest. “A lot of the kids we see are not even aware that their behavior is affecting other people’s feelings.”
Through interactive play and group projects the students begin to better understand collaboration and consideration for others’ perspectives. By using specific words and phrases such as “because” or “let’s try this” to explain their thinking and actions, they become better advocates for themselves.
Priest and Tabachnick get great satisfaction when their students receive an invitation to a party or a sleepover. “It’s so rewarding when parents tell us their kids are finally making real friends,” says Priest.
“Our goal is for our students to have typical childhood experiences … go on camping trips, be in a play, join a sports team,” adds Tabachnick.
Elena Epstein is L.A. Parent’s Director of Content.