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Joan Lunden Talks Parenting, Preschoolers, and Getting Organized

The ultimate "super mom" offers practical (and fun) advice for parents


Joan Lunden and her daughter Kate, age 9.

Joan Lunden and her daughter Kate, age 9, demonstrating Joan's new cookware line, Twiztt.

These days you hear a lot about "supermoms" -- do-it-all women who seamlessly balance work, home, kids, and everything else life throws at them. No mom seems to wear this title better than Joan Lunden, an award-winning journalist, New York Times bestselling author, motivational speaker, successful entrepreneur, one of America's most trusted television personalities, and mom to seven children, Jamie – 31, Lindsay – 29, Sarah – 25, and two sets of twins -- Kate and Max – 9, and Jack and Kimberly – 7.

Gracing America's television screens for almost two decades as the host of Good Morning America, Lunden became an important voice for women and moms -- an advocate for living healthy, happy lives.

While she isn't on television every day any longer, Lunden is still working to help make lives easier for families. She has just launched Twiztt, a non-toxic, non-stick cookware line made with ceramic. Five years ago she created Camp Reveille, a retreat for women to go and learn more about themselves while recharging their batteries. A member of the sandwich generation who cares for her 93-year-old mother, Lunden is outspoken about the stresses facing women today. The host of Taking Care, a series dedicated to caregivers, she serves as the spokesperson for A Place for Mom, a senior referral service, as well as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the American Lung Association, the American Red Cross and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Here she shares some of her best parenting secrets and tips, including how to convince kids to not only eat their vegetables but to do it quickly!

  • Write it down
    "I think the way I've been able to do it over the years by being incredibly organized. Truly, that is the secret to sanity if you are trying to juggle things that require so much of you, such as parenting and a job outside the home," Lunden said.

    Complicating matters is that kids themselves are super busy these days too. "Quite frankly, kids are so scheduled for so many things, that is a job in and of itself, trying to keep track of all of it. For me, little things I've picked up over the years, whether I figured them out or learned them from the many, many, many guests I've interviewed over the years on Good Morning America is to anticipate and preplan and keep organized."

    Her secret is a simple one, just two words. "Family calendar. To me that's why the whole thing doesn't fall apart! By simply having a family calendar in the kitchen. Everything goes on that thing. Every doctor's appointment, class photos, every soccer game, every ballet class, every birthday party. Everything! And don't forget there's the soccer schedule and the day that you are in charge of of snacks."

    "I've just learned to preplan at the beginning of the week. We circle the wagons, get the posse going and say, 'All right. What is the challenge for this week?' and we look ahead."

  • Even small steps can save you time
    "It's the little things," says Lunden, who with four kids under age 10 has a lot of "little things" to deal with on a nearly hourly basis. And with two sets of twins, each in their own class at school, one not so little thing are the number of birthday parties her kids are invited to. ("Four little ones in four different classes with at least 20 kids in the class -- you do the math" Lunden laughs.)

    "I picked this up from someone who was on the show once. I wait for toy store sales and I go and I buy. I never go to the toy store to buy birthday gifts one by one. I would tear my hair out if I did that! I go to the toy store and I buy ten of a great boy gift at the age level that my kids are at at that time. And then ten girls ones. And I have them wrapped and I put little stickies on them so I know what they are and I put them in my closet at home."

    Lunden also has a card drawer at home with files. "I can get anything -- I can go in there and get 'Happy Anniversary,' 'Happy Birthday,' 'Merry Christmas,' 'Happy Hanukkah,' graduations -- you name it and I file them. And then every three or four months, I somehow find an afternoon I find a little bit of time -- a little bit of leisure time (laughs) -- if I've gone to the drug store to pick something up. And I'll spend 20 minutes in front of that wall of cards and I'll just buy 30 cards and I'll go home and replenish the card drawer.

    Seem like too much planning? Maybe, but Lunden says the time payoff is huge. "I always found that last minute 'Oh my gosh, we've got a birthday party at 10:30, I don't have a card, I don't have a gift,' rush is what sends me over the wall. That's what sends me over the cliff. That 20 minutes is going to save you 42 hedaches over the course of the next month."

  • Make ordinary tasks a challenge
    "People will say, Oh my gosh, how do you do it? but in a perverse way, it's easier with two sets of twins. I don't have to cajole anyone. We walk in the door and all I'll have to say is, 'Let's see who can be the first one to hang up their coat and put their shoes in the cubby and get to the table.'" With that simple sentence, their competitive natures will kick in and Lunden's request will be fulfilled.

    "I think you can do the same thing with meals," Lunden said. "I hate it when I hear 'I don't want this,' at the table. So instead I try to round up the troops on Sunday and say, 'O.K., how many people here want to have chicken fajitas this night?" and we go through six or seven things that I know are pretty popular. It makes shopping a hundred times easier."

  • Include kids in regular activities
    Speaking of grocery shopping, Lunden always tries to include her kids on the trip. "It's nice to take one of them with you. I don't take four with me (laughs) but I take one of them. These are my opportunities to teach them my little rules. Shop the perimeter of the store where all the fresh food is. Try to make your cart as colorful as possible because that is where all the nutrients are -- fill it with vegetables and fruit. Let them just start taking it in. They learn so much by what we do as much as we learn what we tell them to do."
  • On feeding a picky eater
    "You just have to keep reintroducing things. I find it interesting that one night they won't eat something and then six months later then they do. There are also geat ways to hide things -- mashed potatoes with cauliflower -- they never know the difference! Or try adding parsnips -- which is really yummy, they make it a little sweeter and kids never know the difference! You can make a meatloaf with carrots and onions, and all type of things and they never really know the difference, they just think they are eating hamburger with catsup on it.There are a lot of ways. If a child is going to eat broccoli with a little bit of cheese sauce on it -- great!"

    Lunden says you should also have fun with it. "In our house, we have green bean eating contests or broccoli eating contests where I say, 'O.K., I'm ready, who is ready for a green bean eating contest?' And everybody grabs the green beans, even though they really don't want to eat it, but they also don't want to miss out on this green bean eating contest! And then I'll say '3- 2- 1!' and they just shove the green beans into their mouths. So it's about making things fun and showing that you are going to do it with them."

Get more advice and ideas from celebrity moms like Alyson Hannigan, Mia Hamm, and Jane Seymour here -- Parenting Tips from Celebrity Moms

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