She’s the founder and president of The Mother Company, which produces the award winning “Ruby’s Studio” line of products and shows for kids, specializing in social and emotional learning. It’s also a great advice site for moms of young kids, using some of the country’s foremost experts to answer the questions we all face as parents. And, on top of trying to redefining children’s entertainment, Abbie is the mother of a 7 year old daughter and 10 month old son.
What’s the weeknight routine? We have a bit of an unconventional home situation. A few years ago, my husband and I sold our home to move into the house I grew up in (my dad is 92 and needed caring for) so family dinners are nightly. Usually it is my husband, sometimes my mother who cooks. And when we entertain, I cook. Especially with a baby in the home I feel so lucky to have this living situation. Dinners are quality time that the kids and I get to spend with my dad. He and the baby just make faces at each other and have a real bond. It is a big house so filling it with kid sounds and good food have been helpful in keeping him happy and well. When I was little, my grandpa lived with us till he was 94 and he and I were very close. It was so important to show my kids that family comes first.
How do you feel about screen time? I’m a big believer in moderation. But I’m really careful about what shows my daughter watches. It’s hard to find quality shows that are easy on the ears, eyes, and messaging. One of the reasons I created “Ruby’s Studio” series (on DVD and Download) was because I was a working mama who depended on a little screen time when my daughter woke up at 5am or when I got home from work. There were plenty of shows teaching numbers and letters but nothing to teach her how to be a good person. I wanted a modern version of Mister Rogers. I needed a hero in the media who would help her talk about what she was feeling, show her how to be a good friend, help her stay safe and make smart choices. And I wanted the show to be visually beautiful, gently paced and easy on the ears – with real people – not just animation. So we reached out to other moms who also needed the same for their kids, we formed The Mother Company, partnered with some amazing experts, and produced what is now an award winning series. Our first in the series, Ruby’s Studio: The Feelings Show helps young children understand, appropriately express and move through their emotions. We were inspired by “Free to be You and Me”, so Mel Brooks voices a segment about frustration and Elizabeth Mitchell sings about happiness and I’m excited that the show is starting to reach a generation of kids who find it fun and helpful. You can watch the trailer here and let us know what you think! (Editor’s note: our kids love the dvd.)
How do you celebrate birthdays in your house? Birthdays are a huge deal in our house. “The birthday fairy” pays a visit overnight so that when my daughter wakes up, there are presents at the end of her bed and her room decorated with balloons and streamers. Usually there is a lovely letter from the fairy telling her that they are proud of something she’s done during that year. The whole family comes into the room and we watch as she opens gifts which always includes something special from the fairy as well. It sounds totally over the top but it is a lovely little special thing.
What websites inspire you and for which parts of your life? I look at a gazillion websites for design, fonts, how they show products, and for inspiration for our shows or site. I could spend hours pouring over Pinterest, TheDieline, or Etsy. But I don’t really go to sites repeatedly except for ours. We started this site because we wanted a visually beautiful place with edited content that would bring together some of the best parenting experts to answer the social/emotional questions we all face as parents in order to raise good people.
Tell us about a typical weekend: I feel like “typical” changes seasonally. Right now, Saturday mornings we visit the farmer’s market and come home and taste some of the things we bought. Usually we go to the beach at some point during the weekend and we usually have friends over for dinner one night. For the most part, I consider it a perfect weekend if I’ve had some time with the family, a little time with friends, and some alone time (either taking an exercise class, getting a nap, or even grabbing a latte, solo).
What music do you listen to? I am trying to listen to music more often but its an effort! Because of my work (and as a mom) I listen mostly to artists like Elizabeth Mitchell, Dan Zanes, Renee and Jeremy, and other kindie music. My daughter and I wrote a kids song which Elizabeth Mitchell performed called “The Happy Song” which is fun. Inara George (from The Birds and the Bees) sang our theme song which I co-wrote. When I listen to music, it kinda becomes work and I make voice notes to myself about insturments, lyrics, sounds, pace. Enjoyable work for sure. I love to discover new artists and think about future possible collaborations too.
What’s the thing that always stays on your to-do list and never gets crossed off? I don’t know how anyone finds time to organize papers. Or fill out legal or insurance forms. And I’d love to create photo albums. But those kinds of things just seem to suck the life out of me.
Top 3 favorite books? I love finding really great children’s books. My daughter was given Pickle Chiffon Pie which is so fantastic. We also love Tacky the Penguin, and I love Guji Guji—all because they teach great life lessons without being teachy.
Do you have a fail-safe beauty product or routine? I used to work in the beauty industry (with Kiehl’s) and was always impressed at how natural beauty editors are – most of them wear little make up at all. For me the routine is also bare bones. I always wear Neutrogena facial lotion with SPF, Kiehl’s mascara, some lipstick (I love the Chanel reds), and Cle de Peau conceiler. That’s it.
Your favorite family trip ever? Growing up my parents would take me and my sister out of school for 6 weeks at a time and we would travel one part of the world. I remember visiting Japan, Israel and Egypt, Australia, New Guinea, all over Europe, and South America. I wish I could do that with my family now! We tend to take less adventurous vacations that are more relaxing. Both my husband and daughter love the ocean so sometimes we end up in Kauai finding new beaches and frequenting the Hanalei Taro truck. And every year we trek to my mom’s corn farm in Indiana to do absolutely nothing.
Do you have any personal a-ha tip that you want to tell us about? The most important lesson my dad wanted to teach me was to be kind. But lately I’ve had to learn how to be kind to myself. I’ve had to quiet my inner critic and recognize that not everything can happen all at the same time. It’s a hard lesson for an A-type control freak like me, but an important one that I’m working on.
You feel your best when? When I’m grounded and in the moment and can trust that everything will be OK. Sometimes it helps to take inventory of all the things for which I’m grateful in life especially when I’m being challenged.
Proudest moment in parenting? I can’t choose just one but prefer to think of “little victories” like when my daughter shows love and empathy for my dad or when she announced to her teacher that her favorite food was salad.
Guiltiest pleasure? Singing. I will sing anytime anywhere. When I was little, my parents had a tradition of having us sing for our dessert which was fun. Everyone would sing along. Sometimes a group of my friends will rent a private Karaoke Room and sing for hours. In fact, when my son was three days past his due date I went karaoking. I sang my heart out with themed songs for him. I paid the tab and he was born two hours later. To this day, the surefire way to get his interest or calm him is by song.
Photos #2, 3, and 6 by Meg Mulligan