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Recently, Brooke Burke spoke to CBB about getting her body back after baby, and the week before, discussed her top parenting tips. Today, Brooke fills us in on everything we wanted to know about her family, from favorite meals to top toys! Hear what the mom of four — Neriah, 9, Sierra Sky, 7, Heaven Rain, 2, and Shaya Braven, 14 months — has to say.
So does Rain think she’s such a big sister?
She does with her brother. But she loves being a little sister, because she’s trying to keep up with the older girls and trying to do everything they do. She’s always excited to see them, she wants to go to school with them in the morning. She’s really in love with them, it’s so cute.
Does she go to school?
We do a mommy/toddler program a couple days a week, and she’s just now at that point where I can drop her off alone for two hours, which is really exciting for her. I might have prolonged that but she’s developing really early and ready for that stimulation. She takes her little lunchbox and tries to be like her big sisters, and asks to go to school every day. It’s really cute.
I remember the first day when I dropped her off, two weeks ago, and I was like, “Are you sure you don’t need me?” And she was like, “Bye mom!” I love this time – this age is so precious. It’s the cutest time, 2 to 3.
Click below for more on school, lunches and playtime!
What do you like to pack in your kids’ lunchboxes?
My kids can be picky and they get really bored, and the other kids in the class always have something better than you do! I’ll score an orange and put it in a plastic bag so they can peel it – they love oranges. I’ll do pretzels, little bags of sunflower seeds or cashews or almonds, Rain really loves string cheese. I’ll take those yogurt tubes, and put them in the freezer, so they get frozen, and by the time the kids are ready to eat them at school they’re nice and cold and melted.
My kids aren’t really big sandwich eaters, so I’ll give them taco meat they can dip chips in, Nutella and fresh fruit, sliced sausage. I got a really great idea the other day about making artistic vegetables and fruits. You get frilly toothpicks and cube cheese, turkey, olives and tomatoes and you put them all on the toothpick so it looks pretty. Or fruit, with pineapple, melon, grapes and strawberries. So they’re pretty and fun to eat! It’s all about the presentation. I use those cool environmental lunchboxes, so everything is sectioned off. You open it up and it has compartmentalized trays so you don’t have to use baggies and create waste. There aren’t containers to open. They’re doing something in school now where they want kids to use reusable containers, so there are all these cool lunchboxes out now that are environmentally conscious.
Is there a meal all the kids enjoy eating?
Totally! I just did this whole “What’s for dinner?” section on my Web site. And I’m putting all my favorite recipes and gathering other great recipes from moms around the country. I feel like we all make one of five things, and end up repeating kids’ favorites. So I’m trying to share some great recipes and get some other ideas. Usually on Wednesdays I make homemade matzo ball soup. My daughter Neriah eats everything, my other daughter eats just the chicken and the vegetables, the baby eats just the matzo ball, and we all pick out of the pot! Bt the kids always look forward to that. Tonight I’m making another favorite dish, roasted garlic chicken with potatoes. And the kids love that. They eat really well, fortunately!
So after mealtime comes playtime. What are your must-have products for kids?
I’m really big on babywearing, so I’m a fan of baby slings. You have your hands back, and a great bonding experience with the baby. I used so many: The Peanut Shell, the Baby Bjorn, and I have a lot of beautiful wraps that are adjustable that I couldn’t live without.
I’m big on baby music, like sleepy music for naptime. There are so many mommy must-haves! I like to always have a great, cute book with me whether it’s small one I keep in the baby bag or one I keep in the car. Even if you’re making up a story with the same book it’s a great way of calming y our kids.
I probably have five to 10 strollers. I have different strollers for different needs. I’ve always used the Bugaboo, a baby jogger, a double-stroller – actually one front-front and one side-side. It’s crazy!
There are so many gadgets on the market now that you can get overwhelmed as a mom. I raised Neriah traveling around the world without a lot of toys; it was too much of a hassle. We made things up – like stories – we drew pictures, we played with things we could find in the environment. I raised her in the simplest way. I think less is more with many kids. There’s so much colorful stuff on the market right now and I don’t think you need a lot of it. I’ve never been big on movies for the kids – I like to communicate with them – we enjoy painting, music. I want them to get their hands dirty, touch things and experience that.
I bet Shaya will enjoy getting his hands dirty! Do you know of any differences between raising a son and raising daughters? Or do you think you raise all your kids in a similar manner?
I’d like to treat them all the same. I don’t know if I’ll baby Shaya less because I want him to be tougher – I don’t know if that’s a miss or what – but right now he’s a baby, and I treated all the babies the same. My girls are all very emotional and very dramatic, and I imagine he won’t be like that, but who knows. I think as parents it’s easy to have expectations. I really don’t know yet! I grew up without boys in my home – I had brothers, but they were all with my dad – so I don’t know what it’ll be like.
What about the fact that Shaya’s your first boy? Does he get doted on?
Well being the baby, youngest of four, all the girls are madly in love with him. We wanted a boy for so long, and my older girls wanted a boy for so long, so he’s not only the baby but the baby boy, and the first little boy in David’s family – he’s a little prince! He’s going to either be amazing with women, or really be in trouble! All the girls are doting on him, and worse, we are a total girl house. There is so much estrogen in our house! He just got his first truck recently. My girlfriends tease me a little bit about his clothes; they say, “You have to put him in thermals and flannels and dress him a little cooler,” and I’m like, “What do you mean? It’s blue!”
But it’s a totally different experience for me, and everyone says a relationship between mother and son is so extraordinary. I haven’t experienced that yet because I’m so close with my girls, and he’s too little to start giving back, but I’m interested to see how that develops. I can’t imagine being closer than I am with my girls, but I’ve always wanted to have a son, so this is really special.
What’s his personality like?
He’s really mellow – he hardly ever cries or makes a peep. Everyone else is so busy and into their own thing, but he’s really good boy so far. I mean maybe the storm is coming, I don’t know, but we’ll see. He’s not as affectionate as the girls – he likes to get up and go, make a beeline for the stairs and be free so he can do his own little boy thing.
Is he more daring than the girls?
Not yet. He’s just about to start walking, any day now. His dream is for someone to leave the stair gate open so he can make a beeline up the staircase. If anybody ever leaves that gate open, he looks at you with a mischievous little smile and tries to make it to the gate. That’s his goal! It’s so cute.
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On a different note, there is a picture of David carrying a box when you had Rain that said “Placenta” on it – what’s the story with that?
A lot of cultures believe you take the placenta and you bury it and plant something. So I took Rain’s placenta home to bury it and plant a rosebush, something fruitful and beautiful that’s going to bloom and blossom. It’s so rich in nutrients and everything, so it’s a valuable component of pregnancy. People do a lot of things with them.
Was that the first you buried?
Yes. It’s not every day that someone’s requesting to take their placenta home! So it didn’t happen with my other daughters – with one they lost it, with one they threw it away.
So last question: You might have another child? You might not?
I would say I might not ever! If you were to ask David, he’d say maybe, but I never say never. I feel really fortunate: I’ve had four healthy pregnancies, four healthy children, an amazing family, and a son now. I probably would’ve kept going if Shaya had been a girl, but I really feel I’ve been pregnant my whole life. I feel like my turn is coming now, for time for me.
There are so many studies. I think with motherhood and child-rearing in general, everyone’s going to tell you how to do it and why. I’ve always said to other mothers and women when they’ve asked me, that you have to find your own way and find out what works for your family, at all costs. You have to feel really good about your decisions. I don’t know if psychologically if there’s one way that’s better than the other – I feel like my children decided when they were coming into my life, and I didn’t decide deliberately! With Rain I really wanted to get pregnant. I promised David I would give him two children. I got pregnant with Shaya when I was still breastfeeding Rain – that whole myth that you can’t get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding is crazy! Shaya came maybe a little too soon, but it all worked out fine, and I’m so happy to have them both at this stage. It’s a little tougher having two kids in diapers – my girls were further apart – but it depends on what you want and how you want to structure your family, and the time you need for yourself, your husband and your family. You have to think about your kids, and how demanding they are and the time they require. It’s such an individual choice. Cherish each one and enjoy it.
I wonder how you get around with more than four! I have the biggest truck on the market, and it’s full! It’s their truck as much as mine. I have an Escalade, and I traded it in when I got pregnant with Shaya for the big one, because I need all the space I can get. I don’t think I’ll ever break down and get the minivan though!