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Podcast Ep. 27: Melissa Joan Hart on Parenting in the Age of Smart Phones, Social Media, and too Much Stuff

In this episode

If you're old enough to be a parent, then you most likely grew up with Melissa Joan Hart on your TV. From “Clarissa Explains It All" to “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” Melissa seemed like she was a mainstay on television in the 1990s. 

All these years later, she continues to have an amazing career, not just as an actor, but as a director and producer as well. More importantly, she's a mom of three and an amazing human being. 

Audra and I met her several years ago after our son, Max went on the “Jimmy Kimmel Show,” which is a whole story in itself. But it led to Melissa's oldest son, Rainbow, looming for Max and then supporting a fundraiser for our nonprofit Maxlove Project. 

Melissa has stayed in touch over the years, continuing to support Maxlove Project, and now The Family Thrive. 

We had an absolute blast talking with Melissa. We dug into her childhood, her upbringing, her career. But most of all, we talked about real parenting issues: the shock of finally becoming a mother, the struggle to raise authentic, caring kids in this age of smartphones and social media, getting kids to do chores, coping with the last tooth lost, the last kindergarten graduation, and most importantly, who would her kids choose to save in a burning car, her or her husband Mark? This was a super fun episode, so without further ado, here is the truly wonderful Melissa Joan Hart.

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About our guest

Melissa Joan Hart is a mom, an actor known for her leading roles on “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” and author of Melissa Explains It All: Tales From My Abnormally Normal Life. You can keep up with her on Instagram!

Show notes

Transcript highlights


Melissa: Alright, guys. 

Audra: Hi, thank you so much for joining us, thank you for doing this. 

Justin: Yes, thank you. 

Audra: We’re so excited to talk to you.

Melissa: It's been years since we've seen you guys. 

Audra: It is. It was. So let's go back in time then. It was like the hottest day of the year in Southern California. I think maybe ever at that time, in September for the Loom-a-Thon and I remember everybody was just like in their cars, in air conditioning, you know, for that event.

Melissa: I remember exactly. I stole my sister's dress and I wore this beautiful little sundress that day and I'm so glad I did because I always love seeing those pictures and it reminds me of that day and of how hot it was. But Elsa was there, right, and Anna. 

Audra: Yeah, the pictures are gorgeous. Yeah. And you helped one of our moms shave her head for childhood cancer research. Those pictures are beautiful. Her child is doing really well in survivorship. And yeah, you just brought so much to that event and it was just really such a highlight for so many of us. You know, it's something that was, I mean, Tustin, California, doesn't get, you know, treated like that very often. So I know our community really, really enjoyed it. 

Melissa: Oh, and it was such fun, and me and my kids have such a good memory of it. It was just so much fun for us to, you know, they had such fun. You guys made it like absolute fun for the kids and it was so meaningful, especially because my son, they because they got to meet Max and they got to kind of understand a little bit more about, you know, the ways other kids live and things that, you know, trials they have to go through in life. And it really gave Mason, especially my oldest one, who’s now 15, it gave him this outlook on life. That kind of it created a little empathy. He was a pretty empathetic kid, but it just created another level. 

And it was really exciting because he went back, I don't know if I ever told you this, but he went back to my work a few times and he would loom for, he would rainbow loom for people at work. He would sit backstage. They made him a little market stand and he would sit back there and he would like, well, I guess we did tell you because he ended up fundraising for you guys. One night he made like 150 bucks and like he would do it once while on this one night in particular, he got like 150 bucks from the crew. 

So we were doing a live show and he was backstage, like taking orders from the crew. What colors do you want? What style do you want? Like this style, this style, this style. And he'd make them all bracelets. And I still have a ton of those bracelets on probably back here behind me somewhere. 

Audra: Oh my god, that's amazing. Like a social entrepreneur, right? So that's how we connected. I think it was from a mutual friend who was working with you, and somehow I think it was around when Max had done the whole thing with Jimmy Kimmel. Did you see that or Mason see that? Either something happened there where I think he was rainbow looming anyway. And then he saw this thing with Max. It was like, I'm going to do it for a cause. 

Melissa: Yes. I think he was. I think he just kind of gotten into it. We had just kind of like, you know, one of the craft stores and gotten a ton of products to just start doing it. But it wasn't until he met Max, I think that he really was like he made it very clear. You know, I feel like those things he'll often do and then be done with. He's kind of gone back to rainbow looming, like all of his life. And I think a lot of it came from like seeing Max do it, seeing that code on Jimmy Kimmel, like all that stuff, he just got really into it. He loved that he could be creative, that he could fundraise, you know, all these things. So he still won't let me throw it away. And he's 15. 


08:21

Audra: Ok, so that's really cool to hear. Is that something that has always been important to you, like in your adult life? Did you get into that when you were younger? 

Melissa: I pretend to do a lot of things. I pretend to scrapbook. I pretend to garden. I mean, I'll get out there once a while. I'll get myself really dirty. I never prepare myself. I never put the gloves on completely or get the clippers or the bench or the kneepads or whatever. 

I have all of it and I want to. But like most of the time, I'll just like, go rip the vines down and I just get thorns all in my hands, and I'm like, I got to get these vines out of here. Like, I don't really prepare. I just sort of go after it and do it. I don't like pick a day, which is probably why my daffodils aren't in the ground yet. 

But you know, I kind of more attack things. Like, I see something and I go outside the door, I'm like, “I have to take that down” or have to fix that or replant that right. But I don't go like, today's my gardening day and I'm going to go, you know, cut some hydrangeas and lovely pruning my whatever.” You know, I don't really…

Audra: Totally, I identify with that. Like, it's impulsive, right? It's sort of like, this needs to get done. And I tend to do it like when it's so hot out here.

Melissa: Oh yeah.
Justin: So what I'm hearing is that you will just feel called and then you just answer the call. And so then what that brings to mind is the story of how you even got into the acting business. You were watching TV shows and there were no characters named Melissa and…

Melissa: Well, it was Romper Room. It was one specific show, Romper Room, and they never said, I don't know if you guys remember that show, you're probably too young.

Audra: No, we're the same age.  

Melissa: Oh ok. Do you remember Romper Room?

Audra: I don't, no. 

Melissa: Do you? 

Justin: I don't. Well, so you were in New York, like you grew up in New York, right? So I grew up in Arizona.

Audra: Where in New York? 

Melissa: Long Island and the city when I was a teenager. 

Audra: Ok, I grew up upstate, but I still don’t remember Romper Room. 

Melissa: I wish I could say what channel it was on, like PBS or something. It was sort of like Sesame Street, like a show where a woman named Miss Mary Ann would sit and like, read to children. I forget. 

I don't even know what the show technically did, but I know that there were always guests. Little kids that would sit in front of her and be like, story time kind of thing. And at the end of it, she would pick up her mirror and go, I see, you know, I see Justin, I see, like she would say all the kids names. She would never say Melissa. And I finally put together that if I could get in the audience, she's saying those kids names. Those are the names she's saying. So if I got in the audience, she'd say, Melissa, for all the Melissa's out there.

Justin: So you felt called. So you answered the call. 

Melissa: It makes me competitive. 

Justin: Yeah. So I…

Audra: You're helping people be seen and heard like you recognize like it would be nice for our name, our name, not just your name. 

Melissa: It would be nice for all the Melissa’s out there to have Miss Mary Ann say their name in the Magic Mirror. 

Audra: Right, right. It's like having your name on one of those little license plate keychains. You know, my name was never on those.

Melissa: Yes. Yeah, there used to be a lot of Melissa's. There's not so much anymore. But yeah, that was a big thing for me. So that's the catalyst. That's sort of where it started. 

Justin: Yeah. So I'm really interested in these defining stories where you can see a person's life and personality and their true authentic self in these early stories. So I'm wondering, like, what does this story say about Melissa? Like, what does it say about like the true, authentic Melissa?

Melissa: That I really want people to say my name… And yet I've always been called other names like Sabrina and Clarissa. 

Audra: So you started early. How did you feel called to act? 

Melissa: Well, I literally just said to my mom, “I have to be on TV.” It was about Romper Room, but it was like this whole other thing of like, I just need to be on TV. And she was like, “Got it, ok.” 

And she knew someone who was a manager, and she called them and got me an audition and I booked the first audition. It was a bathtub doll. I had to be naked. I was terrified. I was in underwear, but I had to show my boobs in the bathtub. 

And I was four, but I had to play with the doll in the bathtub as my first job ever and all those lights and people. And it was just kind of crazy. But I kept booking auditions. I kept bugging commercials. 

So I was a really big commercial kid and commercials make a ton of money. You know, if you get a national commercial and it plays a lot, you can make a good amount of money. So all of a sudden, you know, my family, my dad was a fisherman and my mom was a stay at home mom and at the time she was pregnant with her third kid, I think when I started acting. Right? Yeah, I guess she was about pregnant with the third and she was only, gosh, 24. 

Justin: Oh my god. 24. 

Melissa: Yeah. And so, you know, she'd been pregnant since she got married. So we didn't have a lot. So having me work and like it, it was easy enough, I could go to the city, do a few auditions. I booked almost every other audition, so it was worth it because then I'm shooting commercials and I might work one day or five days. 

And then, you know, the residuals would kind of role in over the next year or two, as much as it played. And so it was good money. I mean, I wasn't aware of that. I got a Barbie doll if I got a job. So, you know, I got a Barbie and then the money went to, you know, food and bikes and clothes and mortgage. 

Justin: That's amazing. 

Audra: It is. I mean, that's an incredible story. And so your dad's a fisherman, your dad's going to work. What kind of, I'm curious, what kind of fisherman? 

Melissa: Let's see, when I was really little he was breeding clams. He actually now breeds oysters. So they had a shop. He and his brother had a shop down by the water. We lived on Long Island, on the South Shore, and he and his brother had a shop on the bay and they'd go down there and they still both own, now they own the whole marina and the boatyard, and they have this like my uncle owns, half of my dad owns the other half and their best friend used to live on the property, until he passed away.

 And so it's like these two brothers and their sons work with them, and my sister works with my dad and sort of like this whole family little area of Long Island. And so we used to be breeding clams. 

And then when I was about six or seven, he started a construction company building homes. I don't know if my dad's like me, he just can't hold still. So then he went into wholesaling lobsters, a long time until the West Nile virus. Do you guys remember when the West Nile virus?

Audra: Yeah. Yeah.

Melissa: It was the mosquitoes. Yeah, before kind of pre-Zika. So the West Nile virus wiped out the lobsters in New York. 

Audra: It did?

Melissa: Yeah, because mosquitoes and lobsters are in the same species or in some sort of same genetic makeup. So when they sprayed all the water for mosquitoes, they killed all the lobsters. So his career was now done with the lobsters... And then he went to breeding oysters. And so he and my sister breed oysters. And right now, because it's not oyster season, they are breeding kelp. So if you go to a spa and get a kelp facial, it might be my dad's kelp. 

Audra: So it sounds like a serial entrepreneur. 

Melissa: Look at this picture, if you look at his, their shop is full of all this algae to feed the oysters. Now all this kelp and it just sort of looks a little bit like a meth lab in a way. It's like all these weird, crazy like bins of neon colors and bags of stuff. Yeah, super bizarre, but it's really cool. And neither of them, like he and my sister, they both run it. They didn’t go to school for it or anything. But technically they're like marine biologists, I guess, because they know all this stuff. It's crazy, but I'm not. I don't know much about it except eating it. So.

Audra: Thank you for sharing this. I love discovering these. These sorts of things like these stories I feel like are just fantastic. And so your mom then would, you know, in addition to, you know, you got the home, the kids, all these young kids, she's young and she's taking you into the city to work. 

Melissa: Yeah, she's dragging all of us. I mean, my sister and I were very close in age and looked very similar two years apart, and we would audition for almost everything together. 

She was just my sister, was a little bit more emotional, a little bit more moody, and I was more like, I'll eat the cereal and say, it's the best thing ever. Sure, you know? And so I kind of booked all the auditions. 

My sister had to find her own identity later on in life. She became the smart one. She's a New York City public school teacher. 

Audra: What grade?

Melissa: She was teaching eighth grade math until the pandemic.

Audra: Oh, wow, that's intense. That's an intense... 

Melissa: I know, I was like, “Can you help? Can you tutor them on Zoom? Can you help at all, please, on the math problems, on text message or something?” 

Yeah. So my sister and I did that a lot together and like all of us, ended up. My two younger sisters did a lot of theater, they both have good voices and did singing and dancing. And eventually kind of everybody dropped out of the business except for my mother and my mother became a manager because so many people came to her then and we're like, “Hey, get my kid into acting.” And she was like, “Alright, I'll start managing.” 

And then my mom divorced my dad when I was about 14. I just started, Clarissa Explains It All, l moved to Manhattan, and they had five kids at the time, and we all were now living between two homes really on Long Island and Manhattan. And my mom became my casting director, so she was now casting commercials and stuff like that. 

So she's finding the actors to put in projects, different projects. And then she started our, while we were living in Manhattan, she was handed, on a playground, she was handed a comic book of Sabrina the Teenage Witch from the Archie Comics, and she was like, “Well, this would be a great show.” 

And since we had already worked at Nickelodeon, which was a Viacom company, she went to Viacom and said, “Hey, we want to make this a movie for Melissa.” They sold it to Showtime. We did a movie that won stars like Ryan Reynolds and some other familiar faces you probably know. And then we spun that off into the TV series, moved to LA and did that for seven years. And then she had two more kids. So. 

Audra: That's incredible. So your mother, when did she marry your dad? 

Melissa: She got married when she was 19.

Audra: 19. Had kids immediately. 

Melissa: Yeah, she was pregnant. Yeah, yeah. 

Audra: Immediately. And look, I mean, I'm so inspired to hear about how she built this incredible career from, you know, learning along the way, learning, growing and then kind of like getting into these new spaces. 

Melissa: She’s fascinating. I mean, she is, it's so funny to think of my mom and my dad together because they're such opposites. He wants to stay in his little hometown, won't even like, come visit me. I'm like, “Come to Lake Tahoe. We'll drive around on the boat” and he’s like, “I have my own boat. Why do I need to come to you?” You know, he's kind of like a homebody guy. And then my mom is this lifelong learner. 

I remember her going to college online, which I didn't even know that. I can't believe that existed in like the ‘80s when we were, when I was a kid. I guess it wasn't technically online. I guess it was like, do the work at your own pace and come to school responded or whatever? Yeah. Well, she, like, was working on her college degree later on. 

And then, you know, and then she learned how to be a manager and then a talent agent and then a producer. And now she, like, has an apartment in LA, an apartment in Paris, bounces around. She calls herself a boomerang grandparent. 

She's got ten grandkids and she goes from like New York, San Diego, Nashville, LA, Paris, like she's in Paris right now. 

But like the other day, she was in Ireland, and now I think she's in Spain and like every day is like a different place and she just can't hold still and she just wants to learn. And she's learning French again because they have an apartment in Paris. So she's gonna learn French, but she's learning how to cook in Italy. 

And, you know, it's like skiing in the Alps and like all this crazy wild. But at the same time, we're developing TV shows and movies and doing Christmas movies and whatnot. She and I are cut from the same cloth for sure. I don't know if I got it from her or her mother. I think probably we both got travel bug from her mother. But yeah, I mean, just always, always anxious to learn more and do more. 

Justin: So I have a question that I was going to wait to ask. But now that we're talking about your childhood and your mother now, I mean, of course, your childhood is so unusual, you know. How are you able to take lessons from your childhood and apply them to your parenting? Like, what can you take from the way that you grew up and bring it into what you're doing? 

Melissa: Well, I think we all struggle with that in a way, though, because the way we grew up, like not just me and my family in our weird, like, you know, being a recognizable face thing. Like all that aside, there's always these weird things like my family I grew up with, you know, if you wanted a bicycle you wait until Christmas. 

My kids are growing up with, like my son lost his fifth pair of AirPods. Am I really going to go to Costco by another $150 pair? Like he's lost like, almost like $1,000 worth of AirPods, and I really like gonna buy? He’s like stealing mine and then I go buy myself new ones and let him have mine? And I'm like, Why do I keep doing that? Like, that's not what would have happened to me or my husband or. 

Like my husband grew up in southern rural Alabama. Like that he had a lot of birthday presents a Christmas presents that was it. Like for me, it was like I got a Barbie doll if I did a commercial. 

But like, you know, and I was never denied anything, school clothes and, you know, at the beginning of the school year and things like that. But if I lost something, it was gone. You know? And these kids are growing up in a totally different way. 

And there's that aspect. And then you add on the fact that like, you know, I was raised in this way. So my my 15 year old and I got in a fight the other day because I said, when football is over in a few weeks, you got to get a job. He's going to be 16. And in Nashville, that means he can drive, which is scary. But he wants to take flying lessons like he wants to be a pilot. 

So he's been taking flying lessons and those are expensive. And his football and all of his camps he wants to go to next summer. I'm like, “You got to start like, you don't even do chores around the house because you're like, ‘Oh, football, so intense.’ Ok, well, when football is over, are you going to get a job at Chick-Fil-A or? Are we going to like, you know, go work at the local...I want you to work in the movie theater so you're not like out in the sun and like always doing physical stuff, let's do something else.”

 But he's like, “I can't do that. I couldn't, do you understand how hard I work at football and school?” And I'm like, “Whoa, dude, at your age, I was holding down a full time job, working 70 hours a week. I had Saturdays off. I was living in Florida while my family's in New York, and I'm learning 50 pages a week. And if I don't have that memorized by Tuesday, the rest of the crew has to wait for me to go home to their family and they don't get to go to dinner.” 

You know, like you're telling me about stress and I'm trying to relate to him and there's no relation. It's like apples and oranges. 

Justin: Oh, that's intense.

Melissa: You know? So I'm struggling with that right now. Like, what lessons can I teach them? Really just trying to teach by example. Try not to spoil them in every sense. It's really hard because like you have kids and you're like, I want them to have better than I did. But does that mean they get to go to Disney World every year on their birthday? Like, probably not, shouldn’t. But I want to go to Disney World every year on their birthday. 

Audra: It's your birthday too. Right, right. But I totally hear you on that. That's like, really, the work is, it is in us, is like holding ourselves back with like, yes, we want to give them what we didn't have. 

But very often it's what we didn't have that makes us who we are today and makes us like, all of those experiences are like what brings us our perspective and our drive and our creativity and all of these things that if we give them too much, we kind of like deny them these experiences, right? But we love to give them things. 

And so it can be, it's like you have to reel yourself in. I think that's like a, I think that's the kind of modern problem of our kids generation, very often is the trophy for everything, it's being given absolutely everything. 


26:38

Melissa: I remember babysitting full time at 12, right? And nobody will allow a 12 year old to babysit anymore. Like, I don't know if Max is doing any of that kind of stuff, but like.

Audra: No, his sister's trying to get into it, though, because she rides horses, which is freaking expensive. So she's like trying to figure out how she can start saving, and we use the green light card for them. Have you heard that?

Melissa: Yes! Wur kids have that. Yeah, I love that. 

Audra: It's great. Yeah, we love it. We love it. They have their own Amazon accounts and like, buy their things, you know? But Maesie is trying to get into it. But it is a challenge, like we have to get her fully trained, and she's young these days for it, like people want older, older people to do it. Max is ready to go to work. He's like, Target, whatever. Yeah, he wants to go work. He’s all in.

Melissa: My little one, Brady is like that. My 13 year old, he is very much like when he wanted a cell phone. I was like wait until eighth grade group of moms that agreed to wait till eighth grade to get phones. Braden, on the other hand, like I don't know if you ever heard of the Gizmo Watch like Verizon has the Gizmo. You can get the watch and it has like nine phone numbers programmed into it and you can text, but they can only text back like, yes, no, maybe I'll be home in, you know, in 10 minutes or whatever. Like a few things. 

And our rule was, if you use this Gizmo, if you keep it charged, you don't lose it. You put it in your backpack, you put it up next to your dresser or you put it on the kitchen counter charging. Those are only places, go six months of using that properly. Oh, and good phone etiquette. You can get a flip phone. Then from a flip phone six more months, then you can get a smartphone and Brady being younger, being like 10 was like, Got it, no problem. And he's always answering like, “Hello mom, I love you. Bye.” And the other one's like, “What?” 

Audra: Oooh, we missed the boat on that! We should have taken notes on that. That's what we get. “What.” 

Melissa: So my older one was it. And so that eventually it was like Brady actually hands it over like $200, you'd say, from the Tooth Fairy and everything else. And I was like, Here's $200. Here's all the reasons I should have a phone because you want to get in touch with me. I have friends I need to, you know, I'm starting to get a girlfriend. I want to take her to the movies. I should probably have a phone. I will not get social media, blah blah blah blah, all the stuff. A

nd so we were like, my husband went to Costco and I got two phones was like, All right, here you go, Brady. And he's like Mason, who was like in eighth grade at the time. It was like, “Do you want a phone? You need to do what Brady did. You need to prove to us, you know, you're responsible. You need to give us a list of blah, blah, blah. You need to figure out how you're going to pay us back for it.” 

And he was like, “Yeah, you'll give it to me when you're ready.” Sure enough, he ends up going to school in a different state and we have to get like 45 minutes away and we ended up having to give it to him cause we're like, “We need to know if you need to be picked up, are you taking the bus or are you staying for sports like?” 

So we ended up giving him a phone and we were like, urhh, right? And we didn't want to do it. But it was very much like, This is not yours. This is ours. You can use it, but we get it back whenever we need it. And so that was, we had to do the same thing with a car, like this is our car, but you can use it until you lose that right. You know, all these things, we try to... they also know how to wear us down. Like even my nine year old, they all know exactly how many times they say, “Ma, ma, ma, ma” until you go, “What? I'm on the phone.” You know, like, if 10 times is the time she snaps, then I'll say it 11. 

Justin: Yeah, oh my god, so…

Audra: This is such wisdom. I want to put it like a pin in some of these things. So they like these are just really, really great tips. And I love the “It's ours” thing, like I am so, the kids are around here somewhere, but they'll, I think we should make note of that. Like, it's ours when it comes to various things…

Justin: And you can use it till you lose the privilege. 

Melissa: Yeah, it's not a gift, that's why I kind of never give them as gifts, because then I feel like you can't really take it away. It's theirs. You gave it to them like, you're going to take back your I don't know a lot of people. 

I know when they graduate fifth grade, give them a smartphone or something, and it's like, here's your gift for graduating fifth grade. And then it's like, Well, how are you going to when you take that away? That's sort of a strange thing. 

Sometimes I feel like so with the car, I'm actually going to go buy. It's a car. He wants a car that I want, I want a Dodge Charger and he wants a Challenger. But I'm going to get the Charger because it's a four door and I think I'm going to drive it around for a few months and then be like, “Hey, guess what? You can have the keys for most of the time unless I want it back.” 

Justin: Smart. 

Audra:That's good that way. 

Melissa: But the problem is right now, like, I have a deal going with my brother. My brother's like, I bet you you will not get him a car. He's like, I bet you, you're going to get him a brand new car that has an MSRP of over $40,000. And I was like, no and no like, I'm going to get I'm an old beat up and then my husband's like, No, we're not. We wanted to have the safety features of a new car, and then I'm like, Oh, screw, like, oh, so am I going to lose the bet to my brother because then I need to buy my brother a Lamborghini. And that's not fun. 


32:52

Audra: Oh my God, the things we did in the ‘90s. So like, we grew up with you. It's so crazy to think. But I mean, you were like the public facing version of us for our generation. You know, like, it's so cool to think that, I mean, we both graduated in 95. So that was totally our era. 

And it's so it's really, really cool to connect with you as a person because I feel like you played these roles kind of like for us in a sense, throughout life, as you were growing up on screen and hearing these stories, I'm thinking like the things that we did in the ‘90s, and I know it's the right thing to do to let my kids do various things, but I have such a hard time with it. Are times really different today, do you think?

Melissa: It’s just not documented the same way, right? I mean, we're used with like group text messages, you know, group chats that are getting out of control where you invite a stranger on because we've lived all over the place. My son invited a stranger on and he started sending inappropriate photos to this whole group of people. And it's just, you know, we're dealing with all this new stuff, all uncharted territory that none of us have ever dealt with before and trying to figure out what that means.

Justin: I can’t imagine that.

Melissa: It's a nightmare. 

Justin: Melissa, can you imagine if you had all this stuff when you were that age?

Melissa: You guys would not have wanted to talk to me if you knew what I'd done when I was like… I mean, I was a pretty good kid. You guys read the book, right? You said, in the thing that you read the book. 

Audra: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Melissa: Even then, some of the, I put in, there are some of my racier stuff. I mean, there's a few secrets I kept for myself, but it's pretty much all in there. 

Justin: Very good kid. Very disciplined. Yeah.

Melissa: I always said I had a I think I put in there that I had a coordinated rebellion, like it was planned. I was going to do something naughty. I made sure I had a lot of time to recover or, you know, I was like…

Justin: Planned it out.

Melissa: Yeah, separated my life out in a certain way where things don't overlap. 

Justin: Well, the race car thing makes a lot of sense, right? So you like to go fast, but it's on a track. It's with, you know, all…

Melissa: Everyone's going the same direction. 

Justin: Yeah, exactly. 


36:47

Justin: When did you know you wanted to be a mother? 

Melissa: Always. I'm the oldest of eight kids. I always, that was always going to be my goal. I had so much success young, right? I mean, I never considered my childhood being very successful and even Clarissa years not necessarily successful. I wasn't able to put any of that money away. 

So it wasn't until Sabrina came around, and that was a very lucrative job. And I was really smart though, I made sure I always saved and whatnot. But I also was like, Well, I was successful in my career, and I was successful in being able to make a good amount of money. I separate those two, too. I don't know if like multiple, maybe combine those. But like I think of my career and making money as two different things. And like, I was able to have both and I thought, Well, because I have those two things, I'll never find love like, I couldn't possibly have all these things. And so I was wrong. I did find love. 

But in the preparation of it, I always had plans of like, Well, if I'm not married, by the time I'm 38 or 40, I'll have a baby on my own or I'll adopt. I always wanted to adopt children, and I still do, but I always had a plan to be a mother. Always, always, always. 

Justin: Always. And so can you tell us about was there a shift from Melissa before motherhood and Melissa after? Or were you just preparing yourself and you just like, glide into motherhood? 

Melissa: I mean, looking back, it definitely seems like a different life without children, right? Like, I can't even imagine what, I keep trying to think. Like I even said to my husband because we actually ended up having lunch and walking around the mall together. I was supposed to be working in my work got done early. I actually was doing a commercial for Lifetime in Verizon, and it got done about three hours earlier than it was supposed to. 

And so I was like, Do you want me at the mall, have lunch and like, walk around and like, start Christmas shopping? And it was like, this crazy moment. And I was thinking about it and I was like, What did we used to do before we had kids? Like we had all this time, we just stop and go on vacation? Like, what did we do? It just seems like a different world. So I guess I just never made note of the fact that like, I got to go to the mall and have lunch like, you know. I have to say I did, I mean, I felt very confident going into motherhood. My mom had been pregnant so many times where mom has seven kids, but I'm the oldest of eight. My dad has a daughter. Another daughter, like after he remarried. 

And so having all these babies around, I mean, my youngest sister was only like seven years older than my son. So there was always little ones around. There was always diapers to be changed, was always entertaining, playing, watching Disney movies, you know, all that stuff. So it was always kind of dabbled in my life anyway. And any time I went to Disney World, even when I was in my 20s, it took my little sisters, and so I always felt very much motherly. So when I was pregnant, I did not expect to not like being pregnant because my mom loved it so much. That was a shock to me, but also like…

Audra: Oh, so you didn't like being pregnant? What was it?

Melissa: I hated it. I don't know. Did you like it?

Audra: I, so I'm sort of opposite, like I didn't. I wasn't like a really maternal sort of person before this, and when I got pregnant, I really did enjoy it. Until the end. The end sucked the end, like, really, really sucked. But I actually kind of enjoyed it. But what was it? Was it the discomfort? Were you sick? 

Melissa: All of it, it was being scared of everything you do. I think I was like such an independent person. And now everyone's telling you you can't eat sushi and like what? You can't drink that, you can't like. I'm getting calls from my mom saying, Did you go to this certain workout class because my friend had a miscarriage going to that class. You shouldn't go to that class. 

Audra: Oh, so it was all the fear stuff.

Melissa: All I felt comfortable and doing was taking a walk with my husband to go get a bagel or ice cream, and I was gaining so much weight and then I'm uncomfortable and I don't feel good. And I was a very active, energetic person. 

But being pregnant freaked me out about everything, any healthy habit I had had to go away, like I like goat cheese, and all of a sudden they're like, “You can't have goat cheese, you can't have sushi,” you got to eat, you know? So now I'm like, ok, I'll have bagels and pasta. And so I'm bloating like a whale. You know, when I was just doing all these things, I couldn't go to my workouts and I couldn't, you know, and I was like, I should have asked my doctor more. 

But instead, I let everybody infiltrate my brain and just make me afraid. And I kind of like was sort of like this, especially my first pregnancy. Second one, I had Mason to chase around. I didn't gain as much weight. I felt much better. The pregnancy, the labor was so much easier. Everything was like boom, boom, boom. But then with the third one, I had this, not morning sickness, I had like afternoon sickness come 3:00 in the afternoon. I could not leave the couch with my Oreos or Raisin Bran. Those were my two things, and I could not even get my butt upstairs to go to bed. Not that I was puking or anything, so I know I was really, I never had a terrible pregnancy. 

I just didn't like the way I felt like I had to do all these, like trying to with the third one, like my stomach felt he was going to fall, like I was going to just tear off of my body. He was so heavy and big and it was... I just didn't like it all. 

But like then when the baby came, I wasn't concerned about it. I know how to change diaper. I know how to give a bottle, I know how to burp. I know all these things except for maybe swaddling, that seemed new. I felt like I knew it all, and I expected that I would have this amazing bond with our children and I would be the one taking care of them. 

But my husband picked it up first day in the hospital like I was actually really, really, my body was beaten and bruised after the first one, and he spent the first two weeks basically doing all the heavy lifting around the baby stuff, and he just picked it up like so naturally and I was kind of like jealous, like, that's what I was, you're the youngest of three kids. Like, what do you know about anything with kids? And he just like to it. 

He's like, you know, every bath, he's there doing bath time and he's there doing diaper changes, and he's there giving them bottles when he can. And like everything. And I was like, at first I was like, “Oh, good,” and then I was kind of like, “Wait a second. Slow down. What about me?” 

And so he but he became such a natural at it that now he's still like Mister Mom and I get to go to work. So it's not exactly I imagined having kids and being a little bit more of the full time caretaker, and instead I'm the working parent. So it's not exactly how I envisioned it, but also we have three boys, which I never envisioned. 

And I mean, this morning we were doing a “who would you save if this car started on fire” thing on the way to school. And they all said, “Daddy.” And I was like, “You know what?... I'm going to be in a car accident.” Little was like, “Well, both of you.” He was like, both, you know, “Well, we're gonna shove you both out.” And I was like, ok, yeah.

Audra: But that, I mean, that is such a trip, and I can identify with some of that with Justin, like he is a really involved dad, and I work a lot as well. And the kids, like, you know, I'll see things the social media of like, you know, the kids asking for mom and the kids will ask for dad. They'll be like dad, dad, dad, dad. Right? And there is a part of me. There's a part of me that's like, super stoked about that. And then there is a part of me that's like, Oh, you're not coming to me on that, you know? Yeah. 

Melissa: Mason went to homecoming for the first time. Did Max go? Has he done any of those kinds of school? 

Audra: They haven't had, their homecoming, I think, is for basketball. 

Melissa: Oh, ok. So we just had it, and it was the first time we've ever had it. But I didn't know one of these kids because we're new here. It wasn't like I imagined it being all these kids that I would know, and I'd know the parents. 

And I know, you know, I keep a little bit better track of where they were going, what they were doing. I was also out of town and my husband was here doing it. Luckily, he knew to get a corsage because I never really went to homecoming, so I didn't know that was like a thing. Well, luckily he knew all that and he was on top of it, and he made sure they got pictures and whatnot. 

But when I saw the pictures of this girl hanging on my son, I don't know this girl, I thought it was going be awkward like that... But, they were standing together taking a picture there, like she's like grabbing his bicep. He's got his hand all the way around her waist. She's holding his like, “What is this?” I was the one begging him. I was like, I will buy you new AirPods if you go to homecoming with a girl. But yet when it happened, I was like, “Whoa, whoa, that's not how I meant to be.” 

Justin: I did not envision this.

Melissa: And also was like, Wait, she's a short blond too. You've totally replaced me like, you don't need your mommy anymore. You've got this girl and your dad. 

Audra: Oh, it's really something else. And what a milestone that is, a homecoming milestone. All of Max's friends went to homecoming, and I saw all the pictures, heard all the things from the moms, all of the there is a time off like you're really stoked. But some grief too, right? Like there are days over…

Melissa: Like everybody prepares you for the firsts, but nobody prepares you for the lasts. And that's become a very real thing for me recently. Things like Tucker is going to lose his last tooth, and he’s my last child to lose teeth, you know. And like all these things, he's the last one, I was in second grade is as good as it gets. And he's, you know, this is my last second grader. 

And then I'll just feel like I have kids above second grade? That just makes me feel old and like, you know, there's all these things like you don't really think about, like flag football is going to end in then they’re in tackle. And just like these little things when you're like, yeah, first day of this, but then you're not like, Oh my gosh, it's the last time like I, I actually took off work on Halloween because I was like, I'm not missing this Halloween. This could be very well be our last like we've actually had for Halloween. Canceled one because of COVID last year, and we moved, so we really didn't know anywhere to go, not even trunk or treat like we didn't know how to do anything. 

Last year we drove all around town trying to find anything happening and couldn't. Luckily, I bought a lot of candy. No kids came to our door, so my kids got all that candy. But they didn't get candy last year and we had had one was canceled because of a snowstorm. One was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy coming through the Northeast. And then there was one other thing that happened I can remember, but basically they've had four Halloweens canceled. 

So I was like, I'm going to be home. There's only like two of these left for me to go trick or treating with my kids. So you know that it's, you know, the last one is coming soon. I've just got to want to be there for that, you know, and I don't want to miss those things. 

But what you asked before kind of hit me too, because I also was like one of these moms that never changed. I didn't change for the child. I made my children fit into our life. We still went to lunches and took the kids in the bucket seat, and we still, you know, went on trips, we just taught them how to be good on an airplane, made sure we had lots of tricks in our bag and snacks and, you know, lots of diapers and changes. 

And, you know, just make sure we could like, go on that trip and be with those people for that holiday or, you know, to bring them to work with me when they could. And you know, that kind of thing because also I did as much traveling with them and as much moving around and including them in my life when they were little because I knew someday. And it's happening now. 

There's going to be 10 years of high school and high school football where they can't leave, like all through elementary and middle school, it was like not working in Australia for a month. Nope, we're going up. We're going to Europe for the whole summer. Nope, we're going to go to Africa and do a mission trip. We're going to do these things now because like, I'm freaking out that my husband won't let me plan a trip for New Year's because I'm like, “When are we ever going to travel again?” 

So, you know, making sure that I got all that stuff in in the beginning because I know the next 10 years of our lives are going to be making sure that they're living up to the responsibilities that they've signed up for. 

Justin: So, I'm right in the middle of this book called Hunt Gather Parent. Have you heard of this now, Melissa? So it's by this NPR correspondent. She's like a science correspondent, but she took time off to travel the world and visit indigenous communities like one in Mexico, one in Africa, one I think in Alaska to see how they parent and how have human beings parented for, you know, hundreds of thousands of years. 

And one of the lessons that she brought back, which I thought was it was like really mind-blowing. But it's now brought to mind because of what you said is that all around the world, all different indigenous communities with different traditions. But what they do is they let make the kids fit into the adult world like there is no special kid playtime. 

There's no special toys. There's no special... These are kids. It's like kids are brought into the adult world, like right from the beginning and the kids are a lot happier. Like they love it and they grow up learning how to do these adult things. And so by the time they're like 10, they love doing chores. They love helping out. They love doing all this stuff. 

Melissa: And it's natural, like I've noticed with my kids, like when we started making them take out the trash, my husband was like, “I'll just do it. It's just easier if I just do it.” I'm like, “No, I'm going to leave the bag here all day until they take it out. Like if they're at school, it's going to sit here until they're done with school. If they forget and they go to football, they're going to do it when to get it back. It's going to sit here.” 

But eventually, after a few weeks of that, of them knowing I take out the trash now they just do it, you know? But now it's like getting them to empty the dishwasher. That dishwasher will sit open for 45 minutes. I will trip over it three or four times, but I'm still going to make them empty the dishwasher, you know, like. And it becomes natural. 

And that sounds like what you're talking about. Like, I've noticed that with certain chores if I stick to it. But then I leave town and my husband doesn't stay. Husband just does it. He's doing the laundry, he's doing the dishes. I'm like, “No, that's what they're here for. They need to do this.”

Audra: Yeah, you're not including them. And then by including them in your work the way that you bring them with you and you include them in your lives and your travel and things like that, there's so much they're learning.

Melissa: And these little skills like what you’re talking about for the life skills. A big one is doing laundry like I want them to go to college and not do laundry. And they're boys. They're probably not going to, but at least they’ll know how. They'll know how much detergent, they'll know what not to put in the dryer, you know, that kind of thing.

Justin: At least once a month. 

Melissa: Tucker learned the other day don't put your crayons in the dryer like they just got all over your clothes and everything's stuck together now and different colors and plus your crayons are ruined. So tough lesson, you know. 

Justin: Life lesson. 

Audra: I think it's so poignant thinking of your lasts, too. Like, that's going to be the last crayons that are going to be in the house. Like it's, you know what I mean?

Melissa: Like, we can finally get something in white. I can finally get a white sofa. You know, things like that. 

Audra: You can change out your furniture at some point, but it is. There is pain in that. Like, I see that with my daughter, like, her voice hasn't changed yet. She's 11, and it's like her hands are so small and these little things that you hang on to. I want to adopt. 

Or we, well, we've talked about it and a part of it, to be honest with you, is not just like I really, really want to have more kids, but I do kind of want to reset the clock a little bit. And there's a part of me that wants to have little ones again, like, it's not too late, you know, it's not too late to be in that space, especially if you've enjoyed being in that space. 

Melissa: Yeah, you know what? I used to always tell my boys, I'm like, “Oh, I'm going to kiss your little legs or something before they get all hairy and manny,” you know, like they're like, I was always like, touched their legs and be like, “Oh, someday these are just going to be hairy, gross, smelly boy legs.” 

And like, Yeah, we're getting the smell to your feet. They come home so sweaty from football, you know, and they're just like, they're little pigs. And it's like, yeah, it's starting to happen. Like, they're getting a little mustache. Like they get…

Audra: Oh, the mustache! Max has a mustache.

Melissa: And it’s like no, that's so gross. 

Audra: Yeah. So tell us about like social media and stuff like, how do you navigate that world?

Melissa: We always told them that it's illegal to have an Instagram account until you're, I think it's 14 or 13. So we always told them that and they're very much like, “Oh, it's the law we can't.” So they live by that. That was helpful. 

Justin: You will go to jail, you will go straight to jail.

Melissa: Also teaching them things, like I said, guys, we're just not like a normal family. Like if you accidentally, like my mother one time, did a geotag on our house and all of a sudden, everybody that follows her knows where we live. You know, it's like things like that were accidentally post what school you go to because I don't talk about what's right. You go to like you accidentally post your football uniform or your friend in their uniform, or you post the football field or you post the front of our house or, you know, things like that, then you know, I do have some fans out there that are a little, you know, not well-behaved and I don't want that.

 Like we have to be safe and be careful if they've seen people pull up to our driveway and be like, “Hey, can we come in?” And we're like, “No, we forgot to close the gate like, get out.” Well, you know, they've seen some of that and they see how people kind of come up to us in the street and in public. And so they're really careful about it. 

So that's a, you know, just telling them it's a safety thing has been really helpful. I don't know for sure that they don't have like a finsta account. Apparently, there's these fake Insta accounts. They tell the parents there's one and they actually have another. So, yeah, so that apparently could be. I just I love that you guys just looked at each other like…

Audra: We know that Max, like he he doesn't care, he likes to watch YouTube and TikTok, and he's not really, you know, but he does not care about Instagram. And Maesie doesn't today. But I worry more about her because of the effect on girls like Instagram is devastating.

Melissa: My two older ones, even though they both have Brady's very social, so he wants to watch TikTok. But he also I did catch him with his own TikTok account, and then he went online and I very clearly said, “Do not link ours, do not say anything on yours about you being my son because people will find you and they'll figure stuff out.” 

And he went on my TikTok. I found he went on my phone, my TikTok, and said, “Hey guys, it would really mean a lot to my son if you would follow him.” 

So then I was like, “You idiot. Now not only I gotta delete mine, delete yours, what are you thinking?” I literally said, “Won't let anyone know who you can go on and watch. But now you're posting on mine that you have one, like, what a moron you are.” 

First of all, I totally, that's easy to catch you. Like, not very smart, but he’s my little social butterfly that's holding me. Like, Let's create the he wants to create the dances and do the fun videos and stuff like that. 

My older one, he wants to fly airplanes on a simulator and, you know, and the little one wants to jump on the trampoline. So luckily right now, although the little one does want a YouTube channel and they're hearing like you can make money on YouTube channels and stuff, which is a little, bleh. Please no. 

Audra: It's some sort of like thing going around with the kids that they think that they can become creators and make money. I'm like, How are you going to get, you know, I'm just like…

Melissa: I don't know enough to protect them from it. Like, I don't know enough yet on what to do to not do. How do you keep those? You know, I know one of them plays video games, the middle one. How do I know who's playing with him or how he's giving information to or, you know? Right? That stuff I’m still not navigating. I lived up to my husband and he's our it guy, but I don't think he knows either. 

I mean, we've put these kids on lockdown as far as their screen time goes. And, you know, at 10:00 p.m., all their screens go off and they can't contact anyone unless it's an emergency and things like that. But at the same time, they hack it all the time. My oldest one has hacked everything we've put on the phone. 

Audra: Really, do you use an app?

Melissa: I don't know if I'm proud of him or really pissed at him. 

Justin: Yeah, right, right. A little bit of pride, but a little bit of anger. 

Audra: You're really passionate about a lot of causes and it's how we met. You you know, you've, I think, been involved in child cancer before meeting Max. But you really care about causes that affect kids. It seems you represent a lot of causes, you ensure that a lot of voices are heard. 

And that's something that I think goes back to that. Like making sure Melissa is seen and heard, all the Melissa's are seen and heard. You know that part of you. But where does that come from? I think it's just so amazing. You use your platform to ensure that people are seen, heard, recognized for what they go through, that their causes are amplified. Where did that come from for you? 

Melissa: You know, I think it comes from well, being the oldest kid of so many and feeling so responsible for all of them and wanting nothing but the best for them and not being able to imagine anything bad ever happening to them, but also realizing how lucky we are that I'm a family, I come from a family of eight and I have three healthy boys and like, I have zero to complain about and I am given a lot of opportunity and I know that that's rare and I know that's fleeting. I know that could be taken away from me at any moment. And so I want to share that as much as possible and spread around money, awareness, hope, love all of it as much as I can while I can and not take any of it for granted and know that I was only given these opportunities to share with others and to bring joy. 

Like I, you know, for a while there, I was like, Oh, I'm on TV. Like people make it so important you’re a celebrity. Like, what's so important about it? There’s nothing important about it. But then I get calls from people or, you know, meet people at Comic-Con and stuff. And they're like, I spent a long time in the hospital and you helped me through it. Or I was really depressed and... 

So we started praying before each show during Melissa and Joey, we had a first day on the set who had worked with Reba. And it's funny because I'm full circle now. 

I'm working with Reba myself on Young Sheldon directing her, but she worked on her show. She did what a lot of musicians do. She would pray before every show, have her group come together in a circle, hold hands and do a prayer. And she brought that to our first aid. Our first day brought it to me, and we started to pray before every show and we just started to pray like, forget all this stuff. It doesn't matter. Like, it doesn't matter what's going on. The only thing that matters right now is that we give someone a laugh that needs it. And that's what we would pray and I have it framed up in my office that says, Give someone a laugh who needs it. 

And that's always my prayer now before I go do a show because acting is not, it's not important unless it's for that relief, unless it's for that escapism, right? And so that's what we're good for and that's what we do. And all the rest of it is secondary. And so I just try to share and spread the love as much as possible. And I'm trying to teach my kids that as well. 

But again, like we go back to, you know, it's hard not to teach them to be greedy or to spoil them or that kind of thing. But I also think because of where I came from, I know I don't need a lot, but I also hold on to everything. I mean, I'm sitting in front of all these socks and I'm like, I will not get rid of these socks. I know there's a pair somewhere, but I could probably afford new socks, but I won't know.

Justin: Melissa, that is just environmentally sound. 

Melissa: I don't use tissues anymore. I use a handkerchief. I don't use cotton pads. I can't get rid of Q-tips. I tried that, but it's necessary in my life. But you know, it's like I just try to look out for everybody and take care of everybody. And I think there's plenty of room around the world for everyone to, there's no need to be competitive. There's no need for any of that. The only thing like sometimes I do support a lot of different charities. I do tend to focus on the ones with kids because I think that's the most important thing. 

Your child's health and happiness are like the most important things in this world and that is something I throw myself into and behind. And that's why I work a lot with youth villages that I just play Wheel of Fortune. I just won $1,000,000 for it. 

Audra: We saw that. That's incredible. Congratulations. 

Melissa: And that goes back to me wanting to adopt and like, you know, foster kids and just imagining kids at 18 years old, aging out of foster care, no one to go home to, go to college, did anyone help them with the SATs, you know, like, what are they going to do as a career? Are they, you know, are they going to join the army or are they going to be a bagger at Walmart? Like, what are they going to do? So they do life set, and that's, that money's going to go really help life set and all these kids that are going to be on their own soon because they have a family before Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter. 

What about summer break? If they are in college, you know, where do they go? What do they do? So to try to get them on their feet and you know, I just love putting myself, I think part of being an actor is putting yourself in other people's shoes and understanding the background, like even look at like Cruella, right? 

The most recent movie. And I didn't actually see it. But to know that this woman that is thought of is so evil has a backstory. And there's a reason and there's something that happened to her in her childhood that, you know, makes her be so hateful. But really, it's just someone calling out for love and attention. 

So if we can share that earlier than, you know, maybe we can put a stop to some of the hate and some of the drama that goes on around the world. And so I've always just wanted to reach out and help, be helpful. But I do feel like sometimes I might dilute the charities that I really love, but I just love so many. I just want to help everybody. 

Audra: You do a beautiful job. You really do. 

Melissa: But I was like, there's so many I want to help. I don't want to compete with them. I want to help them. So how can I just get involved with everybody? 

Audra: That's beautiful. I think it's part of your calling is connecting people to these causes and connecting people to other people's experiences, you know, broadening our world, bringing that love and fantastic. And you bring just like this light energy. And I think it's so important because you amplify a diversity of causes, and I think that's what we need to see. 

There are so many ways we can show up in the world. Like there's more than enough opportunities to show up and do something good and help someone smile today. Help make this day good today, right? 

Melissa: There are. Yes. And that's the, like, you know, I already made my list of the charities I want to help for Giving Tuesday or who I'm going to donate to. I'm going to, you know, promote and you guys are on there. 

But like, you know, it killed me on Wheel of Fortune, not being able to split it up among all my favorite charities. I mean. You guys and a hole in the wall gang up in Connecticut, which was ... And what the work they do there is incredible. And then youth villages and then World Vision, who helps out on a global scale children and families all around the world. I mean, there's so many of my friends, the president of Lupus L.A. and helps with autoimmune diseases. Just really, you know, a disease that not a lot of people know about or aware of. 

Justin: When I saw the Wheel of Fortune thing, I mean, I loved that program. Life set seemed like such a powerful, impactful program. So we are now going to ask three questions.

Audra: Justin keeps us on track. 

Justin: I'm the driver. She's the personality. So we ask these three questions to every guest. And so we start with: if you could put a post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that post-it note say?

Melissa: Be a good listener. That's always what I say to my kids when they go to the school bus. Be a good listener. I think if you're a good listener, it helps you in every aspect. 

I tell my kids, I'm like, If you're a good listener, you'll be a good friend. You'll be a good student. You'll be a good child. To be a good parent, you'll be, you know, a good neighbor. And I need to learn that myself because I'm a big talker, as I've proven in the last hour. I need to listen. 

Audra: Thank goodness you're talking.

Melissa: I need to listen more. You know, I need to. And that's the thing I've always been like. It's always been my job to be the talker. But yeah, and I excel at it. But I need to listen too. what I need to listen to my kids and I and they're always telling me that like, “mom, you don't even listen to the answer.” 

I do need to listen more and I need to. I also, for me, my post-it note would probably say, ask more questions… I want to let you know everything about me. So you feel comfortable telling me about you. I don't want to ask questions because I might ask the wrong question. Or maybe it's something I should already know or, you know, that kind of thing. And I think I do need to ask more questions. B

ut in general, I think good advice all around the world is: be a good listener.

Justin: We're going to give you two then. So it's: ask more questions. Be a good listener. Melissa, is there a quote recently that you came across that changed the way you think or feel? 

Melissa: So I posted one on Instagram. Let me look real quick, my friend runs this program called On-Site. These workshops down here in Nashville, and they have one as well in San Diego. He wrote this: “Love is not telling people what they need to be included. It's including them and reminding them why they belong.” And that one really struck me. I haven't seen a quote in a while that struck me. 

But my kids actually say that I always quote, I think it's Dr. Seuss or Winnie the Pooh who says, “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.” And that's when I look at my kids have started to live by that one. Because of these, like we were talking about these last and when you have these lasts, not just the first, but the last. And it seems upsetting like, you know, when my son graduates second grade or loses his last tooth, like, I can't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Audra: It's a beautiful reminder, and in a way of living life, especially with things are fleeting. We don't, you know, we're a blip. We have with the little bit of time that we have to live life like that, you'll be present and really it. 

Melissa: Yeah, that's the thing to always try to be present, right? 

Justin: So the last question really dovetails nicely. As you well know, it can be exhausting raising kids as you know the schedules and all the everything that goes into it. And so it's nice to take a break and or a step back and think, what do we love about kids? So Melissa, what do you love about kids?

Melissa: I love the innocence. I love the simple view on life. My kids got so upset with me the other day because I wouldn't go on the trampoline with them. I'm like, “It's too cold out. I have things to do. You don't understand,” and like, just go on the trampoline. Are they going to remember that I, you know, cleaned the dishes, or remember that I went on the trampoline with them? 

And which one is going to be more important at the end? And I need to do that more often, and they see life like that. You know, they see life in, with more play. And I mean, I always say, do what you have to do, then you get to do what you want to do. But at the same time, it's like they just have this innocence of, just a simple outlook. There's that one thing they want and they want to do. It might be like their goal is to get that piece of candy. Or it might be to get mom on the trampoline. Or it might be that they want that sleepover next weekend. And whatever that one goal is, they really focus on those things, man, and they go after them. 

Justin: Being in the moment.

Audra: Yeah, totally. They're ultimately present, right? It's really cool. Well, thank you for sharing that with us, and thank you for sharing everything with us. 

Melissa: Well, I want to ask you guys, can you give me an update on like Max and how he's doing? And you're because I have a little like in the last few years that I've been missing you like, can you guys give me a little one on one?

Audra: Yeah, thank you for asking. Yeah, Max is doing really well. He is still fighting, so he still has cancer like he has tumors in his brain stem and he'll go through these phases where they'll grow and then kind of will get on treatment or something, and he'll stabilize and then grow. 

So it's been over 10 years of fighting this disease, but we're lucky he's, so lucky he's still with us, and he has a really great quality of life. He's on a targeted therapy. So one of the new cancer drugs that targets like a specific pathway for the cancer, and it's been working. So he had a disease that was growing so rapidly as of early 2020. It was like growing so much. It was crazy because a friend of mine was like, Can you just take him out of school and just go and just be with him for the next few months because we didn't know what was going to happen, like, it was really pretty dire. They're talking about like palliative surgery, like, what were you going to do? 

And then Covid hit and Covid's been, you know, devastating. But for us, in some strange way, it gave us this crazy, powerful time together to just be together and for him not to be in school and not, you know. So we really treasure that. But he’s now treated in Atlanta, and he is doing really, really great on this targeted drug that's saving his life. It's literally saving his life right now.

Melissa: And what about side effects with it? Or is it more mellow? 

Audra: There are some side effects like weight gain, and it causes pain. Yeah, like joint pain. And so he can't run. One of the things I used to love to run, so he can ride his bike and he can do Peloton and things like that, but he used to love to run. That's a bummer. You can't do things like that. It causes some skin problems and things that, like a 14 year old, doesn't love, you know. 

But he's starting a nonprofit program here locally for After-School Weightlifting, and he's really getting excited about that. He would be, he would make a great football player. He's a big dude, just really like he is. He is like, well, like, set for it. But, you know, I'm sure they wouldn’t let him. 

Justin: His neurosurgeon wouldn’t approve. 

Audra: But yeah, he is doing really well. And Maxlove is 10 years old. I mean, it's incredible. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary and we're moving into the next 10 years and it's just we're doing incredible things in the world of integrative and complementary quality of life enhancing care for childhood cancer and rare disease families. 

And we're doing work that really no one else is doing in the space, and that's why we're doing it. So I hear you when you talk about like I'm so drawn to, if I could do anything, I'd be like some VC, but for charities, and find a way to help everybody accomplish their missions because I just love it so much. I love it when people are in there doing the work, making a difference. And we do what we do because we we have to do it like until we can drop the mic and say we accomplished this and we've changed health care for kids, then we are going to be in it.

 And so maybe one day, maybe one day we can graduate and do something else. But for now we're making that difference and growing, still super grassroots. 

Melissa: I'll be sharing your story with my boys and just update them. And definitely keeping you in our prayers and sending as much awareness your way as possible. 

Audra: We appreciate it so much. Thank you, thank you for spending this time with us. It feels really great to really connect with you. 

Melissa: You guys should come to Nashville, bring Max, come to a game or something. State championships soon. So come on out. 

Audra: Oh We’d love to! Wow, congratulations. That's awesome. 

Melissa: I don't know if he'll get to play, but we'll see.

Audra: Do you think that he's headed towards, like, does he want to play professional football.

Melissa: So he wants to play professional football just to fund the airline? He's going to start. He thinks he's Richard Branson, but he does want to read the Richard Branson book because he knows how to do it. He's already got a business plan. Very cocky 15 year old. 

Justin: You don't need the books. 

Audra: Well, it sounds like you, your mom and your dad, like all of you are like, really, really incredible entrepreneurs. But more power to him. I love hearing that. I love your…

Melissa: Little ones like maybe I'll be a YouTuber and I'm like, well... Let's take a little bit. Work at PetSmart. 

Audra: What about an airline? Yeah. Oh, that's awesome. Yeah, we love it. You know, if we ever come out there. And let us know if you ever come to Savannah.

Melissa: I will. Actually, I will. Sounds like a great spot to just do a little trip, too. So I will. Say hi to the kids for me.

Audra: Likewise. And have a great weekend. 

Melissa: Thank you. You, too. Bye you guys. 


Podcast Ep. 27: Melissa Joan Hart on Parenting in the Age of Smart Phones, Social Media, and too Much Stuff

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Podcast Ep. 27: Melissa Joan Hart on Parenting in the Age of Smart Phones, Social Media, and too Much Stuff

Audra and Justin catch up with mom, actor, and author Melissa Joan Hart. Tune in for their conversation on parenting topics like responsibilities, raising authentic kids, and more.

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90 minutes

In this episode

If you're old enough to be a parent, then you most likely grew up with Melissa Joan Hart on your TV. From “Clarissa Explains It All" to “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” Melissa seemed like she was a mainstay on television in the 1990s. 

All these years later, she continues to have an amazing career, not just as an actor, but as a director and producer as well. More importantly, she's a mom of three and an amazing human being. 

Audra and I met her several years ago after our son, Max went on the “Jimmy Kimmel Show,” which is a whole story in itself. But it led to Melissa's oldest son, Rainbow, looming for Max and then supporting a fundraiser for our nonprofit Maxlove Project. 

Melissa has stayed in touch over the years, continuing to support Maxlove Project, and now The Family Thrive. 

We had an absolute blast talking with Melissa. We dug into her childhood, her upbringing, her career. But most of all, we talked about real parenting issues: the shock of finally becoming a mother, the struggle to raise authentic, caring kids in this age of smartphones and social media, getting kids to do chores, coping with the last tooth lost, the last kindergarten graduation, and most importantly, who would her kids choose to save in a burning car, her or her husband Mark? This was a super fun episode, so without further ado, here is the truly wonderful Melissa Joan Hart.

Listen here

About our guest

Melissa Joan Hart is a mom, an actor known for her leading roles on “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” and author of Melissa Explains It All: Tales From My Abnormally Normal Life. You can keep up with her on Instagram!

Show notes

In this episode

If you're old enough to be a parent, then you most likely grew up with Melissa Joan Hart on your TV. From “Clarissa Explains It All" to “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” Melissa seemed like she was a mainstay on television in the 1990s. 

All these years later, she continues to have an amazing career, not just as an actor, but as a director and producer as well. More importantly, she's a mom of three and an amazing human being. 

Audra and I met her several years ago after our son, Max went on the “Jimmy Kimmel Show,” which is a whole story in itself. But it led to Melissa's oldest son, Rainbow, looming for Max and then supporting a fundraiser for our nonprofit Maxlove Project. 

Melissa has stayed in touch over the years, continuing to support Maxlove Project, and now The Family Thrive. 

We had an absolute blast talking with Melissa. We dug into her childhood, her upbringing, her career. But most of all, we talked about real parenting issues: the shock of finally becoming a mother, the struggle to raise authentic, caring kids in this age of smartphones and social media, getting kids to do chores, coping with the last tooth lost, the last kindergarten graduation, and most importantly, who would her kids choose to save in a burning car, her or her husband Mark? This was a super fun episode, so without further ado, here is the truly wonderful Melissa Joan Hart.

Listen here

About our guest

Melissa Joan Hart is a mom, an actor known for her leading roles on “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” and author of Melissa Explains It All: Tales From My Abnormally Normal Life. You can keep up with her on Instagram!

Show notes

In this episode

If you're old enough to be a parent, then you most likely grew up with Melissa Joan Hart on your TV. From “Clarissa Explains It All" to “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” Melissa seemed like she was a mainstay on television in the 1990s. 

All these years later, she continues to have an amazing career, not just as an actor, but as a director and producer as well. More importantly, she's a mom of three and an amazing human being. 

Audra and I met her several years ago after our son, Max went on the “Jimmy Kimmel Show,” which is a whole story in itself. But it led to Melissa's oldest son, Rainbow, looming for Max and then supporting a fundraiser for our nonprofit Maxlove Project. 

Melissa has stayed in touch over the years, continuing to support Maxlove Project, and now The Family Thrive. 

We had an absolute blast talking with Melissa. We dug into her childhood, her upbringing, her career. But most of all, we talked about real parenting issues: the shock of finally becoming a mother, the struggle to raise authentic, caring kids in this age of smartphones and social media, getting kids to do chores, coping with the last tooth lost, the last kindergarten graduation, and most importantly, who would her kids choose to save in a burning car, her or her husband Mark? This was a super fun episode, so without further ado, here is the truly wonderful Melissa Joan Hart.

Listen here

About our guest

Melissa Joan Hart is a mom, an actor known for her leading roles on “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” and author of Melissa Explains It All: Tales From My Abnormally Normal Life. You can keep up with her on Instagram!

Show notes

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Transcript highlights


Melissa: Alright, guys. 

Audra: Hi, thank you so much for joining us, thank you for doing this. 

Justin: Yes, thank you. 

Audra: We’re so excited to talk to you.

Melissa: It's been years since we've seen you guys. 

Audra: It is. It was. So let's go back in time then. It was like the hottest day of the year in Southern California. I think maybe ever at that time, in September for the Loom-a-Thon and I remember everybody was just like in their cars, in air conditioning, you know, for that event.

Melissa: I remember exactly. I stole my sister's dress and I wore this beautiful little sundress that day and I'm so glad I did because I always love seeing those pictures and it reminds me of that day and of how hot it was. But Elsa was there, right, and Anna. 

Audra: Yeah, the pictures are gorgeous. Yeah. And you helped one of our moms shave her head for childhood cancer research. Those pictures are beautiful. Her child is doing really well in survivorship. And yeah, you just brought so much to that event and it was just really such a highlight for so many of us. You know, it's something that was, I mean, Tustin, California, doesn't get, you know, treated like that very often. So I know our community really, really enjoyed it. 

Melissa: Oh, and it was such fun, and me and my kids have such a good memory of it. It was just so much fun for us to, you know, they had such fun. You guys made it like absolute fun for the kids and it was so meaningful, especially because my son, they because they got to meet Max and they got to kind of understand a little bit more about, you know, the ways other kids live and things that, you know, trials they have to go through in life. And it really gave Mason, especially my oldest one, who’s now 15, it gave him this outlook on life. That kind of it created a little empathy. He was a pretty empathetic kid, but it just created another level. 

And it was really exciting because he went back, I don't know if I ever told you this, but he went back to my work a few times and he would loom for, he would rainbow loom for people at work. He would sit backstage. They made him a little market stand and he would sit back there and he would like, well, I guess we did tell you because he ended up fundraising for you guys. One night he made like 150 bucks and like he would do it once while on this one night in particular, he got like 150 bucks from the crew. 

So we were doing a live show and he was backstage, like taking orders from the crew. What colors do you want? What style do you want? Like this style, this style, this style. And he'd make them all bracelets. And I still have a ton of those bracelets on probably back here behind me somewhere. 

Audra: Oh my god, that's amazing. Like a social entrepreneur, right? So that's how we connected. I think it was from a mutual friend who was working with you, and somehow I think it was around when Max had done the whole thing with Jimmy Kimmel. Did you see that or Mason see that? Either something happened there where I think he was rainbow looming anyway. And then he saw this thing with Max. It was like, I'm going to do it for a cause. 

Melissa: Yes. I think he was. I think he just kind of gotten into it. We had just kind of like, you know, one of the craft stores and gotten a ton of products to just start doing it. But it wasn't until he met Max, I think that he really was like he made it very clear. You know, I feel like those things he'll often do and then be done with. He's kind of gone back to rainbow looming, like all of his life. And I think a lot of it came from like seeing Max do it, seeing that code on Jimmy Kimmel, like all that stuff, he just got really into it. He loved that he could be creative, that he could fundraise, you know, all these things. So he still won't let me throw it away. And he's 15. 


08:21

Audra: Ok, so that's really cool to hear. Is that something that has always been important to you, like in your adult life? Did you get into that when you were younger? 

Melissa: I pretend to do a lot of things. I pretend to scrapbook. I pretend to garden. I mean, I'll get out there once a while. I'll get myself really dirty. I never prepare myself. I never put the gloves on completely or get the clippers or the bench or the kneepads or whatever. 

I have all of it and I want to. But like most of the time, I'll just like, go rip the vines down and I just get thorns all in my hands, and I'm like, I got to get these vines out of here. Like, I don't really prepare. I just sort of go after it and do it. I don't like pick a day, which is probably why my daffodils aren't in the ground yet. 

But you know, I kind of more attack things. Like, I see something and I go outside the door, I'm like, “I have to take that down” or have to fix that or replant that right. But I don't go like, today's my gardening day and I'm going to go, you know, cut some hydrangeas and lovely pruning my whatever.” You know, I don't really…

Audra: Totally, I identify with that. Like, it's impulsive, right? It's sort of like, this needs to get done. And I tend to do it like when it's so hot out here.

Melissa: Oh yeah.
Justin: So what I'm hearing is that you will just feel called and then you just answer the call. And so then what that brings to mind is the story of how you even got into the acting business. You were watching TV shows and there were no characters named Melissa and…

Melissa: Well, it was Romper Room. It was one specific show, Romper Room, and they never said, I don't know if you guys remember that show, you're probably too young.

Audra: No, we're the same age.  

Melissa: Oh ok. Do you remember Romper Room?

Audra: I don't, no. 

Melissa: Do you? 

Justin: I don't. Well, so you were in New York, like you grew up in New York, right? So I grew up in Arizona.

Audra: Where in New York? 

Melissa: Long Island and the city when I was a teenager. 

Audra: Ok, I grew up upstate, but I still don’t remember Romper Room. 

Melissa: I wish I could say what channel it was on, like PBS or something. It was sort of like Sesame Street, like a show where a woman named Miss Mary Ann would sit and like, read to children. I forget. 

I don't even know what the show technically did, but I know that there were always guests. Little kids that would sit in front of her and be like, story time kind of thing. And at the end of it, she would pick up her mirror and go, I see, you know, I see Justin, I see, like she would say all the kids names. She would never say Melissa. And I finally put together that if I could get in the audience, she's saying those kids names. Those are the names she's saying. So if I got in the audience, she'd say, Melissa, for all the Melissa's out there.

Justin: So you felt called. So you answered the call. 

Melissa: It makes me competitive. 

Justin: Yeah. So I…

Audra: You're helping people be seen and heard like you recognize like it would be nice for our name, our name, not just your name. 

Melissa: It would be nice for all the Melissa’s out there to have Miss Mary Ann say their name in the Magic Mirror. 

Audra: Right, right. It's like having your name on one of those little license plate keychains. You know, my name was never on those.

Melissa: Yes. Yeah, there used to be a lot of Melissa's. There's not so much anymore. But yeah, that was a big thing for me. So that's the catalyst. That's sort of where it started. 

Justin: Yeah. So I'm really interested in these defining stories where you can see a person's life and personality and their true authentic self in these early stories. So I'm wondering, like, what does this story say about Melissa? Like, what does it say about like the true, authentic Melissa?

Melissa: That I really want people to say my name… And yet I've always been called other names like Sabrina and Clarissa. 

Audra: So you started early. How did you feel called to act? 

Melissa: Well, I literally just said to my mom, “I have to be on TV.” It was about Romper Room, but it was like this whole other thing of like, I just need to be on TV. And she was like, “Got it, ok.” 

And she knew someone who was a manager, and she called them and got me an audition and I booked the first audition. It was a bathtub doll. I had to be naked. I was terrified. I was in underwear, but I had to show my boobs in the bathtub. 

And I was four, but I had to play with the doll in the bathtub as my first job ever and all those lights and people. And it was just kind of crazy. But I kept booking auditions. I kept bugging commercials. 

So I was a really big commercial kid and commercials make a ton of money. You know, if you get a national commercial and it plays a lot, you can make a good amount of money. So all of a sudden, you know, my family, my dad was a fisherman and my mom was a stay at home mom and at the time she was pregnant with her third kid, I think when I started acting. Right? Yeah, I guess she was about pregnant with the third and she was only, gosh, 24. 

Justin: Oh my god. 24. 

Melissa: Yeah. And so, you know, she'd been pregnant since she got married. So we didn't have a lot. So having me work and like it, it was easy enough, I could go to the city, do a few auditions. I booked almost every other audition, so it was worth it because then I'm shooting commercials and I might work one day or five days. 

And then, you know, the residuals would kind of role in over the next year or two, as much as it played. And so it was good money. I mean, I wasn't aware of that. I got a Barbie doll if I got a job. So, you know, I got a Barbie and then the money went to, you know, food and bikes and clothes and mortgage. 

Justin: That's amazing. 

Audra: It is. I mean, that's an incredible story. And so your dad's a fisherman, your dad's going to work. What kind of, I'm curious, what kind of fisherman? 

Melissa: Let's see, when I was really little he was breeding clams. He actually now breeds oysters. So they had a shop. He and his brother had a shop down by the water. We lived on Long Island, on the South Shore, and he and his brother had a shop on the bay and they'd go down there and they still both own, now they own the whole marina and the boatyard, and they have this like my uncle owns, half of my dad owns the other half and their best friend used to live on the property, until he passed away.

 And so it's like these two brothers and their sons work with them, and my sister works with my dad and sort of like this whole family little area of Long Island. And so we used to be breeding clams. 

And then when I was about six or seven, he started a construction company building homes. I don't know if my dad's like me, he just can't hold still. So then he went into wholesaling lobsters, a long time until the West Nile virus. Do you guys remember when the West Nile virus?

Audra: Yeah. Yeah.

Melissa: It was the mosquitoes. Yeah, before kind of pre-Zika. So the West Nile virus wiped out the lobsters in New York. 

Audra: It did?

Melissa: Yeah, because mosquitoes and lobsters are in the same species or in some sort of same genetic makeup. So when they sprayed all the water for mosquitoes, they killed all the lobsters. So his career was now done with the lobsters... And then he went to breeding oysters. And so he and my sister breed oysters. And right now, because it's not oyster season, they are breeding kelp. So if you go to a spa and get a kelp facial, it might be my dad's kelp. 

Audra: So it sounds like a serial entrepreneur. 

Melissa: Look at this picture, if you look at his, their shop is full of all this algae to feed the oysters. Now all this kelp and it just sort of looks a little bit like a meth lab in a way. It's like all these weird, crazy like bins of neon colors and bags of stuff. Yeah, super bizarre, but it's really cool. And neither of them, like he and my sister, they both run it. They didn’t go to school for it or anything. But technically they're like marine biologists, I guess, because they know all this stuff. It's crazy, but I'm not. I don't know much about it except eating it. So.

Audra: Thank you for sharing this. I love discovering these. These sorts of things like these stories I feel like are just fantastic. And so your mom then would, you know, in addition to, you know, you got the home, the kids, all these young kids, she's young and she's taking you into the city to work. 

Melissa: Yeah, she's dragging all of us. I mean, my sister and I were very close in age and looked very similar two years apart, and we would audition for almost everything together. 

She was just my sister, was a little bit more emotional, a little bit more moody, and I was more like, I'll eat the cereal and say, it's the best thing ever. Sure, you know? And so I kind of booked all the auditions. 

My sister had to find her own identity later on in life. She became the smart one. She's a New York City public school teacher. 

Audra: What grade?

Melissa: She was teaching eighth grade math until the pandemic.

Audra: Oh, wow, that's intense. That's an intense... 

Melissa: I know, I was like, “Can you help? Can you tutor them on Zoom? Can you help at all, please, on the math problems, on text message or something?” 

Yeah. So my sister and I did that a lot together and like all of us, ended up. My two younger sisters did a lot of theater, they both have good voices and did singing and dancing. And eventually kind of everybody dropped out of the business except for my mother and my mother became a manager because so many people came to her then and we're like, “Hey, get my kid into acting.” And she was like, “Alright, I'll start managing.” 

And then my mom divorced my dad when I was about 14. I just started, Clarissa Explains It All, l moved to Manhattan, and they had five kids at the time, and we all were now living between two homes really on Long Island and Manhattan. And my mom became my casting director, so she was now casting commercials and stuff like that. 

So she's finding the actors to put in projects, different projects. And then she started our, while we were living in Manhattan, she was handed, on a playground, she was handed a comic book of Sabrina the Teenage Witch from the Archie Comics, and she was like, “Well, this would be a great show.” 

And since we had already worked at Nickelodeon, which was a Viacom company, she went to Viacom and said, “Hey, we want to make this a movie for Melissa.” They sold it to Showtime. We did a movie that won stars like Ryan Reynolds and some other familiar faces you probably know. And then we spun that off into the TV series, moved to LA and did that for seven years. And then she had two more kids. So. 

Audra: That's incredible. So your mother, when did she marry your dad? 

Melissa: She got married when she was 19.

Audra: 19. Had kids immediately. 

Melissa: Yeah, she was pregnant. Yeah, yeah. 

Audra: Immediately. And look, I mean, I'm so inspired to hear about how she built this incredible career from, you know, learning along the way, learning, growing and then kind of like getting into these new spaces. 

Melissa: She’s fascinating. I mean, she is, it's so funny to think of my mom and my dad together because they're such opposites. He wants to stay in his little hometown, won't even like, come visit me. I'm like, “Come to Lake Tahoe. We'll drive around on the boat” and he’s like, “I have my own boat. Why do I need to come to you?” You know, he's kind of like a homebody guy. And then my mom is this lifelong learner. 

I remember her going to college online, which I didn't even know that. I can't believe that existed in like the ‘80s when we were, when I was a kid. I guess it wasn't technically online. I guess it was like, do the work at your own pace and come to school responded or whatever? Yeah. Well, she, like, was working on her college degree later on. 

And then, you know, and then she learned how to be a manager and then a talent agent and then a producer. And now she, like, has an apartment in LA, an apartment in Paris, bounces around. She calls herself a boomerang grandparent. 

She's got ten grandkids and she goes from like New York, San Diego, Nashville, LA, Paris, like she's in Paris right now. 

But like the other day, she was in Ireland, and now I think she's in Spain and like every day is like a different place and she just can't hold still and she just wants to learn. And she's learning French again because they have an apartment in Paris. So she's gonna learn French, but she's learning how to cook in Italy. 

And, you know, it's like skiing in the Alps and like all this crazy wild. But at the same time, we're developing TV shows and movies and doing Christmas movies and whatnot. She and I are cut from the same cloth for sure. I don't know if I got it from her or her mother. I think probably we both got travel bug from her mother. But yeah, I mean, just always, always anxious to learn more and do more. 

Justin: So I have a question that I was going to wait to ask. But now that we're talking about your childhood and your mother now, I mean, of course, your childhood is so unusual, you know. How are you able to take lessons from your childhood and apply them to your parenting? Like, what can you take from the way that you grew up and bring it into what you're doing? 

Melissa: Well, I think we all struggle with that in a way, though, because the way we grew up, like not just me and my family in our weird, like, you know, being a recognizable face thing. Like all that aside, there's always these weird things like my family I grew up with, you know, if you wanted a bicycle you wait until Christmas. 

My kids are growing up with, like my son lost his fifth pair of AirPods. Am I really going to go to Costco by another $150 pair? Like he's lost like, almost like $1,000 worth of AirPods, and I really like gonna buy? He’s like stealing mine and then I go buy myself new ones and let him have mine? And I'm like, Why do I keep doing that? Like, that's not what would have happened to me or my husband or. 

Like my husband grew up in southern rural Alabama. Like that he had a lot of birthday presents a Christmas presents that was it. Like for me, it was like I got a Barbie doll if I did a commercial. 

But like, you know, and I was never denied anything, school clothes and, you know, at the beginning of the school year and things like that. But if I lost something, it was gone. You know? And these kids are growing up in a totally different way. 

And there's that aspect. And then you add on the fact that like, you know, I was raised in this way. So my my 15 year old and I got in a fight the other day because I said, when football is over in a few weeks, you got to get a job. He's going to be 16. And in Nashville, that means he can drive, which is scary. But he wants to take flying lessons like he wants to be a pilot. 

So he's been taking flying lessons and those are expensive. And his football and all of his camps he wants to go to next summer. I'm like, “You got to start like, you don't even do chores around the house because you're like, ‘Oh, football, so intense.’ Ok, well, when football is over, are you going to get a job at Chick-Fil-A or? Are we going to like, you know, go work at the local...I want you to work in the movie theater so you're not like out in the sun and like always doing physical stuff, let's do something else.”

 But he's like, “I can't do that. I couldn't, do you understand how hard I work at football and school?” And I'm like, “Whoa, dude, at your age, I was holding down a full time job, working 70 hours a week. I had Saturdays off. I was living in Florida while my family's in New York, and I'm learning 50 pages a week. And if I don't have that memorized by Tuesday, the rest of the crew has to wait for me to go home to their family and they don't get to go to dinner.” 

You know, like you're telling me about stress and I'm trying to relate to him and there's no relation. It's like apples and oranges. 

Justin: Oh, that's intense.

Melissa: You know? So I'm struggling with that right now. Like, what lessons can I teach them? Really just trying to teach by example. Try not to spoil them in every sense. It's really hard because like you have kids and you're like, I want them to have better than I did. But does that mean they get to go to Disney World every year on their birthday? Like, probably not, shouldn’t. But I want to go to Disney World every year on their birthday. 

Audra: It's your birthday too. Right, right. But I totally hear you on that. That's like, really, the work is, it is in us, is like holding ourselves back with like, yes, we want to give them what we didn't have. 

But very often it's what we didn't have that makes us who we are today and makes us like, all of those experiences are like what brings us our perspective and our drive and our creativity and all of these things that if we give them too much, we kind of like deny them these experiences, right? But we love to give them things. 

And so it can be, it's like you have to reel yourself in. I think that's like a, I think that's the kind of modern problem of our kids generation, very often is the trophy for everything, it's being given absolutely everything. 


26:38

Melissa: I remember babysitting full time at 12, right? And nobody will allow a 12 year old to babysit anymore. Like, I don't know if Max is doing any of that kind of stuff, but like.

Audra: No, his sister's trying to get into it, though, because she rides horses, which is freaking expensive. So she's like trying to figure out how she can start saving, and we use the green light card for them. Have you heard that?

Melissa: Yes! Wur kids have that. Yeah, I love that. 

Audra: It's great. Yeah, we love it. We love it. They have their own Amazon accounts and like, buy their things, you know? But Maesie is trying to get into it. But it is a challenge, like we have to get her fully trained, and she's young these days for it, like people want older, older people to do it. Max is ready to go to work. He's like, Target, whatever. Yeah, he wants to go work. He’s all in.

Melissa: My little one, Brady is like that. My 13 year old, he is very much like when he wanted a cell phone. I was like wait until eighth grade group of moms that agreed to wait till eighth grade to get phones. Braden, on the other hand, like I don't know if you ever heard of the Gizmo Watch like Verizon has the Gizmo. You can get the watch and it has like nine phone numbers programmed into it and you can text, but they can only text back like, yes, no, maybe I'll be home in, you know, in 10 minutes or whatever. Like a few things. 

And our rule was, if you use this Gizmo, if you keep it charged, you don't lose it. You put it in your backpack, you put it up next to your dresser or you put it on the kitchen counter charging. Those are only places, go six months of using that properly. Oh, and good phone etiquette. You can get a flip phone. Then from a flip phone six more months, then you can get a smartphone and Brady being younger, being like 10 was like, Got it, no problem. And he's always answering like, “Hello mom, I love you. Bye.” And the other one's like, “What?” 

Audra: Oooh, we missed the boat on that! We should have taken notes on that. That's what we get. “What.” 

Melissa: So my older one was it. And so that eventually it was like Brady actually hands it over like $200, you'd say, from the Tooth Fairy and everything else. And I was like, Here's $200. Here's all the reasons I should have a phone because you want to get in touch with me. I have friends I need to, you know, I'm starting to get a girlfriend. I want to take her to the movies. I should probably have a phone. I will not get social media, blah blah blah blah, all the stuff. A

nd so we were like, my husband went to Costco and I got two phones was like, All right, here you go, Brady. And he's like Mason, who was like in eighth grade at the time. It was like, “Do you want a phone? You need to do what Brady did. You need to prove to us, you know, you're responsible. You need to give us a list of blah, blah, blah. You need to figure out how you're going to pay us back for it.” 

And he was like, “Yeah, you'll give it to me when you're ready.” Sure enough, he ends up going to school in a different state and we have to get like 45 minutes away and we ended up having to give it to him cause we're like, “We need to know if you need to be picked up, are you taking the bus or are you staying for sports like?” 

So we ended up giving him a phone and we were like, urhh, right? And we didn't want to do it. But it was very much like, This is not yours. This is ours. You can use it, but we get it back whenever we need it. And so that was, we had to do the same thing with a car, like this is our car, but you can use it until you lose that right. You know, all these things, we try to... they also know how to wear us down. Like even my nine year old, they all know exactly how many times they say, “Ma, ma, ma, ma” until you go, “What? I'm on the phone.” You know, like, if 10 times is the time she snaps, then I'll say it 11. 

Justin: Yeah, oh my god, so…

Audra: This is such wisdom. I want to put it like a pin in some of these things. So they like these are just really, really great tips. And I love the “It's ours” thing, like I am so, the kids are around here somewhere, but they'll, I think we should make note of that. Like, it's ours when it comes to various things…

Justin: And you can use it till you lose the privilege. 

Melissa: Yeah, it's not a gift, that's why I kind of never give them as gifts, because then I feel like you can't really take it away. It's theirs. You gave it to them like, you're going to take back your I don't know a lot of people. 

I know when they graduate fifth grade, give them a smartphone or something, and it's like, here's your gift for graduating fifth grade. And then it's like, Well, how are you going to when you take that away? That's sort of a strange thing. 

Sometimes I feel like so with the car, I'm actually going to go buy. It's a car. He wants a car that I want, I want a Dodge Charger and he wants a Challenger. But I'm going to get the Charger because it's a four door and I think I'm going to drive it around for a few months and then be like, “Hey, guess what? You can have the keys for most of the time unless I want it back.” 

Justin: Smart. 

Audra:That's good that way. 

Melissa: But the problem is right now, like, I have a deal going with my brother. My brother's like, I bet you you will not get him a car. He's like, I bet you, you're going to get him a brand new car that has an MSRP of over $40,000. And I was like, no and no like, I'm going to get I'm an old beat up and then my husband's like, No, we're not. We wanted to have the safety features of a new car, and then I'm like, Oh, screw, like, oh, so am I going to lose the bet to my brother because then I need to buy my brother a Lamborghini. And that's not fun. 


32:52

Audra: Oh my God, the things we did in the ‘90s. So like, we grew up with you. It's so crazy to think. But I mean, you were like the public facing version of us for our generation. You know, like, it's so cool to think that, I mean, we both graduated in 95. So that was totally our era. 

And it's so it's really, really cool to connect with you as a person because I feel like you played these roles kind of like for us in a sense, throughout life, as you were growing up on screen and hearing these stories, I'm thinking like the things that we did in the ‘90s, and I know it's the right thing to do to let my kids do various things, but I have such a hard time with it. Are times really different today, do you think?

Melissa: It’s just not documented the same way, right? I mean, we're used with like group text messages, you know, group chats that are getting out of control where you invite a stranger on because we've lived all over the place. My son invited a stranger on and he started sending inappropriate photos to this whole group of people. And it's just, you know, we're dealing with all this new stuff, all uncharted territory that none of us have ever dealt with before and trying to figure out what that means.

Justin: I can’t imagine that.

Melissa: It's a nightmare. 

Justin: Melissa, can you imagine if you had all this stuff when you were that age?

Melissa: You guys would not have wanted to talk to me if you knew what I'd done when I was like… I mean, I was a pretty good kid. You guys read the book, right? You said, in the thing that you read the book. 

Audra: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Melissa: Even then, some of the, I put in, there are some of my racier stuff. I mean, there's a few secrets I kept for myself, but it's pretty much all in there. 

Justin: Very good kid. Very disciplined. Yeah.

Melissa: I always said I had a I think I put in there that I had a coordinated rebellion, like it was planned. I was going to do something naughty. I made sure I had a lot of time to recover or, you know, I was like…

Justin: Planned it out.

Melissa: Yeah, separated my life out in a certain way where things don't overlap. 

Justin: Well, the race car thing makes a lot of sense, right? So you like to go fast, but it's on a track. It's with, you know, all…

Melissa: Everyone's going the same direction. 

Justin: Yeah, exactly. 


36:47

Justin: When did you know you wanted to be a mother? 

Melissa: Always. I'm the oldest of eight kids. I always, that was always going to be my goal. I had so much success young, right? I mean, I never considered my childhood being very successful and even Clarissa years not necessarily successful. I wasn't able to put any of that money away. 

So it wasn't until Sabrina came around, and that was a very lucrative job. And I was really smart though, I made sure I always saved and whatnot. But I also was like, Well, I was successful in my career, and I was successful in being able to make a good amount of money. I separate those two, too. I don't know if like multiple, maybe combine those. But like I think of my career and making money as two different things. And like, I was able to have both and I thought, Well, because I have those two things, I'll never find love like, I couldn't possibly have all these things. And so I was wrong. I did find love. 

But in the preparation of it, I always had plans of like, Well, if I'm not married, by the time I'm 38 or 40, I'll have a baby on my own or I'll adopt. I always wanted to adopt children, and I still do, but I always had a plan to be a mother. Always, always, always. 

Justin: Always. And so can you tell us about was there a shift from Melissa before motherhood and Melissa after? Or were you just preparing yourself and you just like, glide into motherhood? 

Melissa: I mean, looking back, it definitely seems like a different life without children, right? Like, I can't even imagine what, I keep trying to think. Like I even said to my husband because we actually ended up having lunch and walking around the mall together. I was supposed to be working in my work got done early. I actually was doing a commercial for Lifetime in Verizon, and it got done about three hours earlier than it was supposed to. 

And so I was like, Do you want me at the mall, have lunch and like, walk around and like, start Christmas shopping? And it was like, this crazy moment. And I was thinking about it and I was like, What did we used to do before we had kids? Like we had all this time, we just stop and go on vacation? Like, what did we do? It just seems like a different world. So I guess I just never made note of the fact that like, I got to go to the mall and have lunch like, you know. I have to say I did, I mean, I felt very confident going into motherhood. My mom had been pregnant so many times where mom has seven kids, but I'm the oldest of eight. My dad has a daughter. Another daughter, like after he remarried. 

And so having all these babies around, I mean, my youngest sister was only like seven years older than my son. So there was always little ones around. There was always diapers to be changed, was always entertaining, playing, watching Disney movies, you know, all that stuff. So it was always kind of dabbled in my life anyway. And any time I went to Disney World, even when I was in my 20s, it took my little sisters, and so I always felt very much motherly. So when I was pregnant, I did not expect to not like being pregnant because my mom loved it so much. That was a shock to me, but also like…

Audra: Oh, so you didn't like being pregnant? What was it?

Melissa: I hated it. I don't know. Did you like it?

Audra: I, so I'm sort of opposite, like I didn't. I wasn't like a really maternal sort of person before this, and when I got pregnant, I really did enjoy it. Until the end. The end sucked the end, like, really, really sucked. But I actually kind of enjoyed it. But what was it? Was it the discomfort? Were you sick? 

Melissa: All of it, it was being scared of everything you do. I think I was like such an independent person. And now everyone's telling you you can't eat sushi and like what? You can't drink that, you can't like. I'm getting calls from my mom saying, Did you go to this certain workout class because my friend had a miscarriage going to that class. You shouldn't go to that class. 

Audra: Oh, so it was all the fear stuff.

Melissa: All I felt comfortable and doing was taking a walk with my husband to go get a bagel or ice cream, and I was gaining so much weight and then I'm uncomfortable and I don't feel good. And I was a very active, energetic person. 

But being pregnant freaked me out about everything, any healthy habit I had had to go away, like I like goat cheese, and all of a sudden they're like, “You can't have goat cheese, you can't have sushi,” you got to eat, you know? So now I'm like, ok, I'll have bagels and pasta. And so I'm bloating like a whale. You know, when I was just doing all these things, I couldn't go to my workouts and I couldn't, you know, and I was like, I should have asked my doctor more. 

But instead, I let everybody infiltrate my brain and just make me afraid. And I kind of like was sort of like this, especially my first pregnancy. Second one, I had Mason to chase around. I didn't gain as much weight. I felt much better. The pregnancy, the labor was so much easier. Everything was like boom, boom, boom. But then with the third one, I had this, not morning sickness, I had like afternoon sickness come 3:00 in the afternoon. I could not leave the couch with my Oreos or Raisin Bran. Those were my two things, and I could not even get my butt upstairs to go to bed. Not that I was puking or anything, so I know I was really, I never had a terrible pregnancy. 

I just didn't like the way I felt like I had to do all these, like trying to with the third one, like my stomach felt he was going to fall, like I was going to just tear off of my body. He was so heavy and big and it was... I just didn't like it all. 

But like then when the baby came, I wasn't concerned about it. I know how to change diaper. I know how to give a bottle, I know how to burp. I know all these things except for maybe swaddling, that seemed new. I felt like I knew it all, and I expected that I would have this amazing bond with our children and I would be the one taking care of them. 

But my husband picked it up first day in the hospital like I was actually really, really, my body was beaten and bruised after the first one, and he spent the first two weeks basically doing all the heavy lifting around the baby stuff, and he just picked it up like so naturally and I was kind of like jealous, like, that's what I was, you're the youngest of three kids. Like, what do you know about anything with kids? And he just like to it. 

He's like, you know, every bath, he's there doing bath time and he's there doing diaper changes, and he's there giving them bottles when he can. And like everything. And I was like, at first I was like, “Oh, good,” and then I was kind of like, “Wait a second. Slow down. What about me?” 

And so he but he became such a natural at it that now he's still like Mister Mom and I get to go to work. So it's not exactly I imagined having kids and being a little bit more of the full time caretaker, and instead I'm the working parent. So it's not exactly how I envisioned it, but also we have three boys, which I never envisioned. 

And I mean, this morning we were doing a “who would you save if this car started on fire” thing on the way to school. And they all said, “Daddy.” And I was like, “You know what?... I'm going to be in a car accident.” Little was like, “Well, both of you.” He was like, both, you know, “Well, we're gonna shove you both out.” And I was like, ok, yeah.

Audra: But that, I mean, that is such a trip, and I can identify with some of that with Justin, like he is a really involved dad, and I work a lot as well. And the kids, like, you know, I'll see things the social media of like, you know, the kids asking for mom and the kids will ask for dad. They'll be like dad, dad, dad, dad. Right? And there is a part of me. There's a part of me that's like, super stoked about that. And then there is a part of me that's like, Oh, you're not coming to me on that, you know? Yeah. 

Melissa: Mason went to homecoming for the first time. Did Max go? Has he done any of those kinds of school? 

Audra: They haven't had, their homecoming, I think, is for basketball. 

Melissa: Oh, ok. So we just had it, and it was the first time we've ever had it. But I didn't know one of these kids because we're new here. It wasn't like I imagined it being all these kids that I would know, and I'd know the parents. 

And I know, you know, I keep a little bit better track of where they were going, what they were doing. I was also out of town and my husband was here doing it. Luckily, he knew to get a corsage because I never really went to homecoming, so I didn't know that was like a thing. Well, luckily he knew all that and he was on top of it, and he made sure they got pictures and whatnot. 

But when I saw the pictures of this girl hanging on my son, I don't know this girl, I thought it was going be awkward like that... But, they were standing together taking a picture there, like she's like grabbing his bicep. He's got his hand all the way around her waist. She's holding his like, “What is this?” I was the one begging him. I was like, I will buy you new AirPods if you go to homecoming with a girl. But yet when it happened, I was like, “Whoa, whoa, that's not how I meant to be.” 

Justin: I did not envision this.

Melissa: And also was like, Wait, she's a short blond too. You've totally replaced me like, you don't need your mommy anymore. You've got this girl and your dad. 

Audra: Oh, it's really something else. And what a milestone that is, a homecoming milestone. All of Max's friends went to homecoming, and I saw all the pictures, heard all the things from the moms, all of the there is a time off like you're really stoked. But some grief too, right? Like there are days over…

Melissa: Like everybody prepares you for the firsts, but nobody prepares you for the lasts. And that's become a very real thing for me recently. Things like Tucker is going to lose his last tooth, and he’s my last child to lose teeth, you know. And like all these things, he's the last one, I was in second grade is as good as it gets. And he's, you know, this is my last second grader. 

And then I'll just feel like I have kids above second grade? That just makes me feel old and like, you know, there's all these things like you don't really think about, like flag football is going to end in then they’re in tackle. And just like these little things when you're like, yeah, first day of this, but then you're not like, Oh my gosh, it's the last time like I, I actually took off work on Halloween because I was like, I'm not missing this Halloween. This could be very well be our last like we've actually had for Halloween. Canceled one because of COVID last year, and we moved, so we really didn't know anywhere to go, not even trunk or treat like we didn't know how to do anything. 

Last year we drove all around town trying to find anything happening and couldn't. Luckily, I bought a lot of candy. No kids came to our door, so my kids got all that candy. But they didn't get candy last year and we had had one was canceled because of a snowstorm. One was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy coming through the Northeast. And then there was one other thing that happened I can remember, but basically they've had four Halloweens canceled. 

So I was like, I'm going to be home. There's only like two of these left for me to go trick or treating with my kids. So you know that it's, you know, the last one is coming soon. I've just got to want to be there for that, you know, and I don't want to miss those things. 

But what you asked before kind of hit me too, because I also was like one of these moms that never changed. I didn't change for the child. I made my children fit into our life. We still went to lunches and took the kids in the bucket seat, and we still, you know, went on trips, we just taught them how to be good on an airplane, made sure we had lots of tricks in our bag and snacks and, you know, lots of diapers and changes. 

And, you know, just make sure we could like, go on that trip and be with those people for that holiday or, you know, to bring them to work with me when they could. And you know, that kind of thing because also I did as much traveling with them and as much moving around and including them in my life when they were little because I knew someday. And it's happening now. 

There's going to be 10 years of high school and high school football where they can't leave, like all through elementary and middle school, it was like not working in Australia for a month. Nope, we're going up. We're going to Europe for the whole summer. Nope, we're going to go to Africa and do a mission trip. We're going to do these things now because like, I'm freaking out that my husband won't let me plan a trip for New Year's because I'm like, “When are we ever going to travel again?” 

So, you know, making sure that I got all that stuff in in the beginning because I know the next 10 years of our lives are going to be making sure that they're living up to the responsibilities that they've signed up for. 

Justin: So, I'm right in the middle of this book called Hunt Gather Parent. Have you heard of this now, Melissa? So it's by this NPR correspondent. She's like a science correspondent, but she took time off to travel the world and visit indigenous communities like one in Mexico, one in Africa, one I think in Alaska to see how they parent and how have human beings parented for, you know, hundreds of thousands of years. 

And one of the lessons that she brought back, which I thought was it was like really mind-blowing. But it's now brought to mind because of what you said is that all around the world, all different indigenous communities with different traditions. But what they do is they let make the kids fit into the adult world like there is no special kid playtime. 

There's no special toys. There's no special... These are kids. It's like kids are brought into the adult world, like right from the beginning and the kids are a lot happier. Like they love it and they grow up learning how to do these adult things. And so by the time they're like 10, they love doing chores. They love helping out. They love doing all this stuff. 

Melissa: And it's natural, like I've noticed with my kids, like when we started making them take out the trash, my husband was like, “I'll just do it. It's just easier if I just do it.” I'm like, “No, I'm going to leave the bag here all day until they take it out. Like if they're at school, it's going to sit here until they're done with school. If they forget and they go to football, they're going to do it when to get it back. It's going to sit here.” 

But eventually, after a few weeks of that, of them knowing I take out the trash now they just do it, you know? But now it's like getting them to empty the dishwasher. That dishwasher will sit open for 45 minutes. I will trip over it three or four times, but I'm still going to make them empty the dishwasher, you know, like. And it becomes natural. 

And that sounds like what you're talking about. Like, I've noticed that with certain chores if I stick to it. But then I leave town and my husband doesn't stay. Husband just does it. He's doing the laundry, he's doing the dishes. I'm like, “No, that's what they're here for. They need to do this.”

Audra: Yeah, you're not including them. And then by including them in your work the way that you bring them with you and you include them in your lives and your travel and things like that, there's so much they're learning.

Melissa: And these little skills like what you’re talking about for the life skills. A big one is doing laundry like I want them to go to college and not do laundry. And they're boys. They're probably not going to, but at least they’ll know how. They'll know how much detergent, they'll know what not to put in the dryer, you know, that kind of thing.

Justin: At least once a month. 

Melissa: Tucker learned the other day don't put your crayons in the dryer like they just got all over your clothes and everything's stuck together now and different colors and plus your crayons are ruined. So tough lesson, you know. 

Justin: Life lesson. 

Audra: I think it's so poignant thinking of your lasts, too. Like, that's going to be the last crayons that are going to be in the house. Like it's, you know what I mean?

Melissa: Like, we can finally get something in white. I can finally get a white sofa. You know, things like that. 

Audra: You can change out your furniture at some point, but it is. There is pain in that. Like, I see that with my daughter, like, her voice hasn't changed yet. She's 11, and it's like her hands are so small and these little things that you hang on to. I want to adopt. 

Or we, well, we've talked about it and a part of it, to be honest with you, is not just like I really, really want to have more kids, but I do kind of want to reset the clock a little bit. And there's a part of me that wants to have little ones again, like, it's not too late, you know, it's not too late to be in that space, especially if you've enjoyed being in that space. 

Melissa: Yeah, you know what? I used to always tell my boys, I'm like, “Oh, I'm going to kiss your little legs or something before they get all hairy and manny,” you know, like they're like, I was always like, touched their legs and be like, “Oh, someday these are just going to be hairy, gross, smelly boy legs.” 

And like, Yeah, we're getting the smell to your feet. They come home so sweaty from football, you know, and they're just like, they're little pigs. And it's like, yeah, it's starting to happen. Like, they're getting a little mustache. Like they get…

Audra: Oh, the mustache! Max has a mustache.

Melissa: And it’s like no, that's so gross. 

Audra: Yeah. So tell us about like social media and stuff like, how do you navigate that world?

Melissa: We always told them that it's illegal to have an Instagram account until you're, I think it's 14 or 13. So we always told them that and they're very much like, “Oh, it's the law we can't.” So they live by that. That was helpful. 

Justin: You will go to jail, you will go straight to jail.

Melissa: Also teaching them things, like I said, guys, we're just not like a normal family. Like if you accidentally, like my mother one time, did a geotag on our house and all of a sudden, everybody that follows her knows where we live. You know, it's like things like that were accidentally post what school you go to because I don't talk about what's right. You go to like you accidentally post your football uniform or your friend in their uniform, or you post the football field or you post the front of our house or, you know, things like that, then you know, I do have some fans out there that are a little, you know, not well-behaved and I don't want that.

 Like we have to be safe and be careful if they've seen people pull up to our driveway and be like, “Hey, can we come in?” And we're like, “No, we forgot to close the gate like, get out.” Well, you know, they've seen some of that and they see how people kind of come up to us in the street and in public. And so they're really careful about it. 

So that's a, you know, just telling them it's a safety thing has been really helpful. I don't know for sure that they don't have like a finsta account. Apparently, there's these fake Insta accounts. They tell the parents there's one and they actually have another. So, yeah, so that apparently could be. I just I love that you guys just looked at each other like…

Audra: We know that Max, like he he doesn't care, he likes to watch YouTube and TikTok, and he's not really, you know, but he does not care about Instagram. And Maesie doesn't today. But I worry more about her because of the effect on girls like Instagram is devastating.

Melissa: My two older ones, even though they both have Brady's very social, so he wants to watch TikTok. But he also I did catch him with his own TikTok account, and then he went online and I very clearly said, “Do not link ours, do not say anything on yours about you being my son because people will find you and they'll figure stuff out.” 

And he went on my TikTok. I found he went on my phone, my TikTok, and said, “Hey guys, it would really mean a lot to my son if you would follow him.” 

So then I was like, “You idiot. Now not only I gotta delete mine, delete yours, what are you thinking?” I literally said, “Won't let anyone know who you can go on and watch. But now you're posting on mine that you have one, like, what a moron you are.” 

First of all, I totally, that's easy to catch you. Like, not very smart, but he’s my little social butterfly that's holding me. Like, Let's create the he wants to create the dances and do the fun videos and stuff like that. 

My older one, he wants to fly airplanes on a simulator and, you know, and the little one wants to jump on the trampoline. So luckily right now, although the little one does want a YouTube channel and they're hearing like you can make money on YouTube channels and stuff, which is a little, bleh. Please no. 

Audra: It's some sort of like thing going around with the kids that they think that they can become creators and make money. I'm like, How are you going to get, you know, I'm just like…

Melissa: I don't know enough to protect them from it. Like, I don't know enough yet on what to do to not do. How do you keep those? You know, I know one of them plays video games, the middle one. How do I know who's playing with him or how he's giving information to or, you know? Right? That stuff I’m still not navigating. I lived up to my husband and he's our it guy, but I don't think he knows either. 

I mean, we've put these kids on lockdown as far as their screen time goes. And, you know, at 10:00 p.m., all their screens go off and they can't contact anyone unless it's an emergency and things like that. But at the same time, they hack it all the time. My oldest one has hacked everything we've put on the phone. 

Audra: Really, do you use an app?

Melissa: I don't know if I'm proud of him or really pissed at him. 

Justin: Yeah, right, right. A little bit of pride, but a little bit of anger. 

Audra: You're really passionate about a lot of causes and it's how we met. You you know, you've, I think, been involved in child cancer before meeting Max. But you really care about causes that affect kids. It seems you represent a lot of causes, you ensure that a lot of voices are heard. 

And that's something that I think goes back to that. Like making sure Melissa is seen and heard, all the Melissa's are seen and heard. You know that part of you. But where does that come from? I think it's just so amazing. You use your platform to ensure that people are seen, heard, recognized for what they go through, that their causes are amplified. Where did that come from for you? 

Melissa: You know, I think it comes from well, being the oldest kid of so many and feeling so responsible for all of them and wanting nothing but the best for them and not being able to imagine anything bad ever happening to them, but also realizing how lucky we are that I'm a family, I come from a family of eight and I have three healthy boys and like, I have zero to complain about and I am given a lot of opportunity and I know that that's rare and I know that's fleeting. I know that could be taken away from me at any moment. And so I want to share that as much as possible and spread around money, awareness, hope, love all of it as much as I can while I can and not take any of it for granted and know that I was only given these opportunities to share with others and to bring joy. 

Like I, you know, for a while there, I was like, Oh, I'm on TV. Like people make it so important you’re a celebrity. Like, what's so important about it? There’s nothing important about it. But then I get calls from people or, you know, meet people at Comic-Con and stuff. And they're like, I spent a long time in the hospital and you helped me through it. Or I was really depressed and... 

So we started praying before each show during Melissa and Joey, we had a first day on the set who had worked with Reba. And it's funny because I'm full circle now. 

I'm working with Reba myself on Young Sheldon directing her, but she worked on her show. She did what a lot of musicians do. She would pray before every show, have her group come together in a circle, hold hands and do a prayer. And she brought that to our first aid. Our first day brought it to me, and we started to pray before every show and we just started to pray like, forget all this stuff. It doesn't matter. Like, it doesn't matter what's going on. The only thing that matters right now is that we give someone a laugh that needs it. And that's what we would pray and I have it framed up in my office that says, Give someone a laugh who needs it. 

And that's always my prayer now before I go do a show because acting is not, it's not important unless it's for that relief, unless it's for that escapism, right? And so that's what we're good for and that's what we do. And all the rest of it is secondary. And so I just try to share and spread the love as much as possible. And I'm trying to teach my kids that as well. 

But again, like we go back to, you know, it's hard not to teach them to be greedy or to spoil them or that kind of thing. But I also think because of where I came from, I know I don't need a lot, but I also hold on to everything. I mean, I'm sitting in front of all these socks and I'm like, I will not get rid of these socks. I know there's a pair somewhere, but I could probably afford new socks, but I won't know.

Justin: Melissa, that is just environmentally sound. 

Melissa: I don't use tissues anymore. I use a handkerchief. I don't use cotton pads. I can't get rid of Q-tips. I tried that, but it's necessary in my life. But you know, it's like I just try to look out for everybody and take care of everybody. And I think there's plenty of room around the world for everyone to, there's no need to be competitive. There's no need for any of that. The only thing like sometimes I do support a lot of different charities. I do tend to focus on the ones with kids because I think that's the most important thing. 

Your child's health and happiness are like the most important things in this world and that is something I throw myself into and behind. And that's why I work a lot with youth villages that I just play Wheel of Fortune. I just won $1,000,000 for it. 

Audra: We saw that. That's incredible. Congratulations. 

Melissa: And that goes back to me wanting to adopt and like, you know, foster kids and just imagining kids at 18 years old, aging out of foster care, no one to go home to, go to college, did anyone help them with the SATs, you know, like, what are they going to do as a career? Are they, you know, are they going to join the army or are they going to be a bagger at Walmart? Like, what are they going to do? So they do life set, and that's, that money's going to go really help life set and all these kids that are going to be on their own soon because they have a family before Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter. 

What about summer break? If they are in college, you know, where do they go? What do they do? So to try to get them on their feet and you know, I just love putting myself, I think part of being an actor is putting yourself in other people's shoes and understanding the background, like even look at like Cruella, right? 

The most recent movie. And I didn't actually see it. But to know that this woman that is thought of is so evil has a backstory. And there's a reason and there's something that happened to her in her childhood that, you know, makes her be so hateful. But really, it's just someone calling out for love and attention. 

So if we can share that earlier than, you know, maybe we can put a stop to some of the hate and some of the drama that goes on around the world. And so I've always just wanted to reach out and help, be helpful. But I do feel like sometimes I might dilute the charities that I really love, but I just love so many. I just want to help everybody. 

Audra: You do a beautiful job. You really do. 

Melissa: But I was like, there's so many I want to help. I don't want to compete with them. I want to help them. So how can I just get involved with everybody? 

Audra: That's beautiful. I think it's part of your calling is connecting people to these causes and connecting people to other people's experiences, you know, broadening our world, bringing that love and fantastic. And you bring just like this light energy. And I think it's so important because you amplify a diversity of causes, and I think that's what we need to see. 

There are so many ways we can show up in the world. Like there's more than enough opportunities to show up and do something good and help someone smile today. Help make this day good today, right? 

Melissa: There are. Yes. And that's the, like, you know, I already made my list of the charities I want to help for Giving Tuesday or who I'm going to donate to. I'm going to, you know, promote and you guys are on there. 

But like, you know, it killed me on Wheel of Fortune, not being able to split it up among all my favorite charities. I mean. You guys and a hole in the wall gang up in Connecticut, which was ... And what the work they do there is incredible. And then youth villages and then World Vision, who helps out on a global scale children and families all around the world. I mean, there's so many of my friends, the president of Lupus L.A. and helps with autoimmune diseases. Just really, you know, a disease that not a lot of people know about or aware of. 

Justin: When I saw the Wheel of Fortune thing, I mean, I loved that program. Life set seemed like such a powerful, impactful program. So we are now going to ask three questions.

Audra: Justin keeps us on track. 

Justin: I'm the driver. She's the personality. So we ask these three questions to every guest. And so we start with: if you could put a post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that post-it note say?

Melissa: Be a good listener. That's always what I say to my kids when they go to the school bus. Be a good listener. I think if you're a good listener, it helps you in every aspect. 

I tell my kids, I'm like, If you're a good listener, you'll be a good friend. You'll be a good student. You'll be a good child. To be a good parent, you'll be, you know, a good neighbor. And I need to learn that myself because I'm a big talker, as I've proven in the last hour. I need to listen. 

Audra: Thank goodness you're talking.

Melissa: I need to listen more. You know, I need to. And that's the thing I've always been like. It's always been my job to be the talker. But yeah, and I excel at it. But I need to listen too. what I need to listen to my kids and I and they're always telling me that like, “mom, you don't even listen to the answer.” 

I do need to listen more and I need to. I also, for me, my post-it note would probably say, ask more questions… I want to let you know everything about me. So you feel comfortable telling me about you. I don't want to ask questions because I might ask the wrong question. Or maybe it's something I should already know or, you know, that kind of thing. And I think I do need to ask more questions. B

ut in general, I think good advice all around the world is: be a good listener.

Justin: We're going to give you two then. So it's: ask more questions. Be a good listener. Melissa, is there a quote recently that you came across that changed the way you think or feel? 

Melissa: So I posted one on Instagram. Let me look real quick, my friend runs this program called On-Site. These workshops down here in Nashville, and they have one as well in San Diego. He wrote this: “Love is not telling people what they need to be included. It's including them and reminding them why they belong.” And that one really struck me. I haven't seen a quote in a while that struck me. 

But my kids actually say that I always quote, I think it's Dr. Seuss or Winnie the Pooh who says, “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.” And that's when I look at my kids have started to live by that one. Because of these, like we were talking about these last and when you have these lasts, not just the first, but the last. And it seems upsetting like, you know, when my son graduates second grade or loses his last tooth, like, I can't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Audra: It's a beautiful reminder, and in a way of living life, especially with things are fleeting. We don't, you know, we're a blip. We have with the little bit of time that we have to live life like that, you'll be present and really it. 

Melissa: Yeah, that's the thing to always try to be present, right? 

Justin: So the last question really dovetails nicely. As you well know, it can be exhausting raising kids as you know the schedules and all the everything that goes into it. And so it's nice to take a break and or a step back and think, what do we love about kids? So Melissa, what do you love about kids?

Melissa: I love the innocence. I love the simple view on life. My kids got so upset with me the other day because I wouldn't go on the trampoline with them. I'm like, “It's too cold out. I have things to do. You don't understand,” and like, just go on the trampoline. Are they going to remember that I, you know, cleaned the dishes, or remember that I went on the trampoline with them? 

And which one is going to be more important at the end? And I need to do that more often, and they see life like that. You know, they see life in, with more play. And I mean, I always say, do what you have to do, then you get to do what you want to do. But at the same time, it's like they just have this innocence of, just a simple outlook. There's that one thing they want and they want to do. It might be like their goal is to get that piece of candy. Or it might be to get mom on the trampoline. Or it might be that they want that sleepover next weekend. And whatever that one goal is, they really focus on those things, man, and they go after them. 

Justin: Being in the moment.

Audra: Yeah, totally. They're ultimately present, right? It's really cool. Well, thank you for sharing that with us, and thank you for sharing everything with us. 

Melissa: Well, I want to ask you guys, can you give me an update on like Max and how he's doing? And you're because I have a little like in the last few years that I've been missing you like, can you guys give me a little one on one?

Audra: Yeah, thank you for asking. Yeah, Max is doing really well. He is still fighting, so he still has cancer like he has tumors in his brain stem and he'll go through these phases where they'll grow and then kind of will get on treatment or something, and he'll stabilize and then grow. 

So it's been over 10 years of fighting this disease, but we're lucky he's, so lucky he's still with us, and he has a really great quality of life. He's on a targeted therapy. So one of the new cancer drugs that targets like a specific pathway for the cancer, and it's been working. So he had a disease that was growing so rapidly as of early 2020. It was like growing so much. It was crazy because a friend of mine was like, Can you just take him out of school and just go and just be with him for the next few months because we didn't know what was going to happen, like, it was really pretty dire. They're talking about like palliative surgery, like, what were you going to do? 

And then Covid hit and Covid's been, you know, devastating. But for us, in some strange way, it gave us this crazy, powerful time together to just be together and for him not to be in school and not, you know. So we really treasure that. But he’s now treated in Atlanta, and he is doing really, really great on this targeted drug that's saving his life. It's literally saving his life right now.

Melissa: And what about side effects with it? Or is it more mellow? 

Audra: There are some side effects like weight gain, and it causes pain. Yeah, like joint pain. And so he can't run. One of the things I used to love to run, so he can ride his bike and he can do Peloton and things like that, but he used to love to run. That's a bummer. You can't do things like that. It causes some skin problems and things that, like a 14 year old, doesn't love, you know. 

But he's starting a nonprofit program here locally for After-School Weightlifting, and he's really getting excited about that. He would be, he would make a great football player. He's a big dude, just really like he is. He is like, well, like, set for it. But, you know, I'm sure they wouldn’t let him. 

Justin: His neurosurgeon wouldn’t approve. 

Audra: But yeah, he is doing really well. And Maxlove is 10 years old. I mean, it's incredible. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary and we're moving into the next 10 years and it's just we're doing incredible things in the world of integrative and complementary quality of life enhancing care for childhood cancer and rare disease families. 

And we're doing work that really no one else is doing in the space, and that's why we're doing it. So I hear you when you talk about like I'm so drawn to, if I could do anything, I'd be like some VC, but for charities, and find a way to help everybody accomplish their missions because I just love it so much. I love it when people are in there doing the work, making a difference. And we do what we do because we we have to do it like until we can drop the mic and say we accomplished this and we've changed health care for kids, then we are going to be in it.

 And so maybe one day, maybe one day we can graduate and do something else. But for now we're making that difference and growing, still super grassroots. 

Melissa: I'll be sharing your story with my boys and just update them. And definitely keeping you in our prayers and sending as much awareness your way as possible. 

Audra: We appreciate it so much. Thank you, thank you for spending this time with us. It feels really great to really connect with you. 

Melissa: You guys should come to Nashville, bring Max, come to a game or something. State championships soon. So come on out. 

Audra: Oh We’d love to! Wow, congratulations. That's awesome. 

Melissa: I don't know if he'll get to play, but we'll see.

Audra: Do you think that he's headed towards, like, does he want to play professional football.

Melissa: So he wants to play professional football just to fund the airline? He's going to start. He thinks he's Richard Branson, but he does want to read the Richard Branson book because he knows how to do it. He's already got a business plan. Very cocky 15 year old. 

Justin: You don't need the books. 

Audra: Well, it sounds like you, your mom and your dad, like all of you are like, really, really incredible entrepreneurs. But more power to him. I love hearing that. I love your…

Melissa: Little ones like maybe I'll be a YouTuber and I'm like, well... Let's take a little bit. Work at PetSmart. 

Audra: What about an airline? Yeah. Oh, that's awesome. Yeah, we love it. You know, if we ever come out there. And let us know if you ever come to Savannah.

Melissa: I will. Actually, I will. Sounds like a great spot to just do a little trip, too. So I will. Say hi to the kids for me.

Audra: Likewise. And have a great weekend. 

Melissa: Thank you. You, too. Bye you guys. 


Transcript highlights


Melissa: Alright, guys. 

Audra: Hi, thank you so much for joining us, thank you for doing this. 

Justin: Yes, thank you. 

Audra: We’re so excited to talk to you.

Melissa: It's been years since we've seen you guys. 

Audra: It is. It was. So let's go back in time then. It was like the hottest day of the year in Southern California. I think maybe ever at that time, in September for the Loom-a-Thon and I remember everybody was just like in their cars, in air conditioning, you know, for that event.

Melissa: I remember exactly. I stole my sister's dress and I wore this beautiful little sundress that day and I'm so glad I did because I always love seeing those pictures and it reminds me of that day and of how hot it was. But Elsa was there, right, and Anna. 

Audra: Yeah, the pictures are gorgeous. Yeah. And you helped one of our moms shave her head for childhood cancer research. Those pictures are beautiful. Her child is doing really well in survivorship. And yeah, you just brought so much to that event and it was just really such a highlight for so many of us. You know, it's something that was, I mean, Tustin, California, doesn't get, you know, treated like that very often. So I know our community really, really enjoyed it. 

Melissa: Oh, and it was such fun, and me and my kids have such a good memory of it. It was just so much fun for us to, you know, they had such fun. You guys made it like absolute fun for the kids and it was so meaningful, especially because my son, they because they got to meet Max and they got to kind of understand a little bit more about, you know, the ways other kids live and things that, you know, trials they have to go through in life. And it really gave Mason, especially my oldest one, who’s now 15, it gave him this outlook on life. That kind of it created a little empathy. He was a pretty empathetic kid, but it just created another level. 

And it was really exciting because he went back, I don't know if I ever told you this, but he went back to my work a few times and he would loom for, he would rainbow loom for people at work. He would sit backstage. They made him a little market stand and he would sit back there and he would like, well, I guess we did tell you because he ended up fundraising for you guys. One night he made like 150 bucks and like he would do it once while on this one night in particular, he got like 150 bucks from the crew. 

So we were doing a live show and he was backstage, like taking orders from the crew. What colors do you want? What style do you want? Like this style, this style, this style. And he'd make them all bracelets. And I still have a ton of those bracelets on probably back here behind me somewhere. 

Audra: Oh my god, that's amazing. Like a social entrepreneur, right? So that's how we connected. I think it was from a mutual friend who was working with you, and somehow I think it was around when Max had done the whole thing with Jimmy Kimmel. Did you see that or Mason see that? Either something happened there where I think he was rainbow looming anyway. And then he saw this thing with Max. It was like, I'm going to do it for a cause. 

Melissa: Yes. I think he was. I think he just kind of gotten into it. We had just kind of like, you know, one of the craft stores and gotten a ton of products to just start doing it. But it wasn't until he met Max, I think that he really was like he made it very clear. You know, I feel like those things he'll often do and then be done with. He's kind of gone back to rainbow looming, like all of his life. And I think a lot of it came from like seeing Max do it, seeing that code on Jimmy Kimmel, like all that stuff, he just got really into it. He loved that he could be creative, that he could fundraise, you know, all these things. So he still won't let me throw it away. And he's 15. 


08:21

Audra: Ok, so that's really cool to hear. Is that something that has always been important to you, like in your adult life? Did you get into that when you were younger? 

Melissa: I pretend to do a lot of things. I pretend to scrapbook. I pretend to garden. I mean, I'll get out there once a while. I'll get myself really dirty. I never prepare myself. I never put the gloves on completely or get the clippers or the bench or the kneepads or whatever. 

I have all of it and I want to. But like most of the time, I'll just like, go rip the vines down and I just get thorns all in my hands, and I'm like, I got to get these vines out of here. Like, I don't really prepare. I just sort of go after it and do it. I don't like pick a day, which is probably why my daffodils aren't in the ground yet. 

But you know, I kind of more attack things. Like, I see something and I go outside the door, I'm like, “I have to take that down” or have to fix that or replant that right. But I don't go like, today's my gardening day and I'm going to go, you know, cut some hydrangeas and lovely pruning my whatever.” You know, I don't really…

Audra: Totally, I identify with that. Like, it's impulsive, right? It's sort of like, this needs to get done. And I tend to do it like when it's so hot out here.

Melissa: Oh yeah.
Justin: So what I'm hearing is that you will just feel called and then you just answer the call. And so then what that brings to mind is the story of how you even got into the acting business. You were watching TV shows and there were no characters named Melissa and…

Melissa: Well, it was Romper Room. It was one specific show, Romper Room, and they never said, I don't know if you guys remember that show, you're probably too young.

Audra: No, we're the same age.  

Melissa: Oh ok. Do you remember Romper Room?

Audra: I don't, no. 

Melissa: Do you? 

Justin: I don't. Well, so you were in New York, like you grew up in New York, right? So I grew up in Arizona.

Audra: Where in New York? 

Melissa: Long Island and the city when I was a teenager. 

Audra: Ok, I grew up upstate, but I still don’t remember Romper Room. 

Melissa: I wish I could say what channel it was on, like PBS or something. It was sort of like Sesame Street, like a show where a woman named Miss Mary Ann would sit and like, read to children. I forget. 

I don't even know what the show technically did, but I know that there were always guests. Little kids that would sit in front of her and be like, story time kind of thing. And at the end of it, she would pick up her mirror and go, I see, you know, I see Justin, I see, like she would say all the kids names. She would never say Melissa. And I finally put together that if I could get in the audience, she's saying those kids names. Those are the names she's saying. So if I got in the audience, she'd say, Melissa, for all the Melissa's out there.

Justin: So you felt called. So you answered the call. 

Melissa: It makes me competitive. 

Justin: Yeah. So I…

Audra: You're helping people be seen and heard like you recognize like it would be nice for our name, our name, not just your name. 

Melissa: It would be nice for all the Melissa’s out there to have Miss Mary Ann say their name in the Magic Mirror. 

Audra: Right, right. It's like having your name on one of those little license plate keychains. You know, my name was never on those.

Melissa: Yes. Yeah, there used to be a lot of Melissa's. There's not so much anymore. But yeah, that was a big thing for me. So that's the catalyst. That's sort of where it started. 

Justin: Yeah. So I'm really interested in these defining stories where you can see a person's life and personality and their true authentic self in these early stories. So I'm wondering, like, what does this story say about Melissa? Like, what does it say about like the true, authentic Melissa?

Melissa: That I really want people to say my name… And yet I've always been called other names like Sabrina and Clarissa. 

Audra: So you started early. How did you feel called to act? 

Melissa: Well, I literally just said to my mom, “I have to be on TV.” It was about Romper Room, but it was like this whole other thing of like, I just need to be on TV. And she was like, “Got it, ok.” 

And she knew someone who was a manager, and she called them and got me an audition and I booked the first audition. It was a bathtub doll. I had to be naked. I was terrified. I was in underwear, but I had to show my boobs in the bathtub. 

And I was four, but I had to play with the doll in the bathtub as my first job ever and all those lights and people. And it was just kind of crazy. But I kept booking auditions. I kept bugging commercials. 

So I was a really big commercial kid and commercials make a ton of money. You know, if you get a national commercial and it plays a lot, you can make a good amount of money. So all of a sudden, you know, my family, my dad was a fisherman and my mom was a stay at home mom and at the time she was pregnant with her third kid, I think when I started acting. Right? Yeah, I guess she was about pregnant with the third and she was only, gosh, 24. 

Justin: Oh my god. 24. 

Melissa: Yeah. And so, you know, she'd been pregnant since she got married. So we didn't have a lot. So having me work and like it, it was easy enough, I could go to the city, do a few auditions. I booked almost every other audition, so it was worth it because then I'm shooting commercials and I might work one day or five days. 

And then, you know, the residuals would kind of role in over the next year or two, as much as it played. And so it was good money. I mean, I wasn't aware of that. I got a Barbie doll if I got a job. So, you know, I got a Barbie and then the money went to, you know, food and bikes and clothes and mortgage. 

Justin: That's amazing. 

Audra: It is. I mean, that's an incredible story. And so your dad's a fisherman, your dad's going to work. What kind of, I'm curious, what kind of fisherman? 

Melissa: Let's see, when I was really little he was breeding clams. He actually now breeds oysters. So they had a shop. He and his brother had a shop down by the water. We lived on Long Island, on the South Shore, and he and his brother had a shop on the bay and they'd go down there and they still both own, now they own the whole marina and the boatyard, and they have this like my uncle owns, half of my dad owns the other half and their best friend used to live on the property, until he passed away.

 And so it's like these two brothers and their sons work with them, and my sister works with my dad and sort of like this whole family little area of Long Island. And so we used to be breeding clams. 

And then when I was about six or seven, he started a construction company building homes. I don't know if my dad's like me, he just can't hold still. So then he went into wholesaling lobsters, a long time until the West Nile virus. Do you guys remember when the West Nile virus?

Audra: Yeah. Yeah.

Melissa: It was the mosquitoes. Yeah, before kind of pre-Zika. So the West Nile virus wiped out the lobsters in New York. 

Audra: It did?

Melissa: Yeah, because mosquitoes and lobsters are in the same species or in some sort of same genetic makeup. So when they sprayed all the water for mosquitoes, they killed all the lobsters. So his career was now done with the lobsters... And then he went to breeding oysters. And so he and my sister breed oysters. And right now, because it's not oyster season, they are breeding kelp. So if you go to a spa and get a kelp facial, it might be my dad's kelp. 

Audra: So it sounds like a serial entrepreneur. 

Melissa: Look at this picture, if you look at his, their shop is full of all this algae to feed the oysters. Now all this kelp and it just sort of looks a little bit like a meth lab in a way. It's like all these weird, crazy like bins of neon colors and bags of stuff. Yeah, super bizarre, but it's really cool. And neither of them, like he and my sister, they both run it. They didn’t go to school for it or anything. But technically they're like marine biologists, I guess, because they know all this stuff. It's crazy, but I'm not. I don't know much about it except eating it. So.

Audra: Thank you for sharing this. I love discovering these. These sorts of things like these stories I feel like are just fantastic. And so your mom then would, you know, in addition to, you know, you got the home, the kids, all these young kids, she's young and she's taking you into the city to work. 

Melissa: Yeah, she's dragging all of us. I mean, my sister and I were very close in age and looked very similar two years apart, and we would audition for almost everything together. 

She was just my sister, was a little bit more emotional, a little bit more moody, and I was more like, I'll eat the cereal and say, it's the best thing ever. Sure, you know? And so I kind of booked all the auditions. 

My sister had to find her own identity later on in life. She became the smart one. She's a New York City public school teacher. 

Audra: What grade?

Melissa: She was teaching eighth grade math until the pandemic.

Audra: Oh, wow, that's intense. That's an intense... 

Melissa: I know, I was like, “Can you help? Can you tutor them on Zoom? Can you help at all, please, on the math problems, on text message or something?” 

Yeah. So my sister and I did that a lot together and like all of us, ended up. My two younger sisters did a lot of theater, they both have good voices and did singing and dancing. And eventually kind of everybody dropped out of the business except for my mother and my mother became a manager because so many people came to her then and we're like, “Hey, get my kid into acting.” And she was like, “Alright, I'll start managing.” 

And then my mom divorced my dad when I was about 14. I just started, Clarissa Explains It All, l moved to Manhattan, and they had five kids at the time, and we all were now living between two homes really on Long Island and Manhattan. And my mom became my casting director, so she was now casting commercials and stuff like that. 

So she's finding the actors to put in projects, different projects. And then she started our, while we were living in Manhattan, she was handed, on a playground, she was handed a comic book of Sabrina the Teenage Witch from the Archie Comics, and she was like, “Well, this would be a great show.” 

And since we had already worked at Nickelodeon, which was a Viacom company, she went to Viacom and said, “Hey, we want to make this a movie for Melissa.” They sold it to Showtime. We did a movie that won stars like Ryan Reynolds and some other familiar faces you probably know. And then we spun that off into the TV series, moved to LA and did that for seven years. And then she had two more kids. So. 

Audra: That's incredible. So your mother, when did she marry your dad? 

Melissa: She got married when she was 19.

Audra: 19. Had kids immediately. 

Melissa: Yeah, she was pregnant. Yeah, yeah. 

Audra: Immediately. And look, I mean, I'm so inspired to hear about how she built this incredible career from, you know, learning along the way, learning, growing and then kind of like getting into these new spaces. 

Melissa: She’s fascinating. I mean, she is, it's so funny to think of my mom and my dad together because they're such opposites. He wants to stay in his little hometown, won't even like, come visit me. I'm like, “Come to Lake Tahoe. We'll drive around on the boat” and he’s like, “I have my own boat. Why do I need to come to you?” You know, he's kind of like a homebody guy. And then my mom is this lifelong learner. 

I remember her going to college online, which I didn't even know that. I can't believe that existed in like the ‘80s when we were, when I was a kid. I guess it wasn't technically online. I guess it was like, do the work at your own pace and come to school responded or whatever? Yeah. Well, she, like, was working on her college degree later on. 

And then, you know, and then she learned how to be a manager and then a talent agent and then a producer. And now she, like, has an apartment in LA, an apartment in Paris, bounces around. She calls herself a boomerang grandparent. 

She's got ten grandkids and she goes from like New York, San Diego, Nashville, LA, Paris, like she's in Paris right now. 

But like the other day, she was in Ireland, and now I think she's in Spain and like every day is like a different place and she just can't hold still and she just wants to learn. And she's learning French again because they have an apartment in Paris. So she's gonna learn French, but she's learning how to cook in Italy. 

And, you know, it's like skiing in the Alps and like all this crazy wild. But at the same time, we're developing TV shows and movies and doing Christmas movies and whatnot. She and I are cut from the same cloth for sure. I don't know if I got it from her or her mother. I think probably we both got travel bug from her mother. But yeah, I mean, just always, always anxious to learn more and do more. 

Justin: So I have a question that I was going to wait to ask. But now that we're talking about your childhood and your mother now, I mean, of course, your childhood is so unusual, you know. How are you able to take lessons from your childhood and apply them to your parenting? Like, what can you take from the way that you grew up and bring it into what you're doing? 

Melissa: Well, I think we all struggle with that in a way, though, because the way we grew up, like not just me and my family in our weird, like, you know, being a recognizable face thing. Like all that aside, there's always these weird things like my family I grew up with, you know, if you wanted a bicycle you wait until Christmas. 

My kids are growing up with, like my son lost his fifth pair of AirPods. Am I really going to go to Costco by another $150 pair? Like he's lost like, almost like $1,000 worth of AirPods, and I really like gonna buy? He’s like stealing mine and then I go buy myself new ones and let him have mine? And I'm like, Why do I keep doing that? Like, that's not what would have happened to me or my husband or. 

Like my husband grew up in southern rural Alabama. Like that he had a lot of birthday presents a Christmas presents that was it. Like for me, it was like I got a Barbie doll if I did a commercial. 

But like, you know, and I was never denied anything, school clothes and, you know, at the beginning of the school year and things like that. But if I lost something, it was gone. You know? And these kids are growing up in a totally different way. 

And there's that aspect. And then you add on the fact that like, you know, I was raised in this way. So my my 15 year old and I got in a fight the other day because I said, when football is over in a few weeks, you got to get a job. He's going to be 16. And in Nashville, that means he can drive, which is scary. But he wants to take flying lessons like he wants to be a pilot. 

So he's been taking flying lessons and those are expensive. And his football and all of his camps he wants to go to next summer. I'm like, “You got to start like, you don't even do chores around the house because you're like, ‘Oh, football, so intense.’ Ok, well, when football is over, are you going to get a job at Chick-Fil-A or? Are we going to like, you know, go work at the local...I want you to work in the movie theater so you're not like out in the sun and like always doing physical stuff, let's do something else.”

 But he's like, “I can't do that. I couldn't, do you understand how hard I work at football and school?” And I'm like, “Whoa, dude, at your age, I was holding down a full time job, working 70 hours a week. I had Saturdays off. I was living in Florida while my family's in New York, and I'm learning 50 pages a week. And if I don't have that memorized by Tuesday, the rest of the crew has to wait for me to go home to their family and they don't get to go to dinner.” 

You know, like you're telling me about stress and I'm trying to relate to him and there's no relation. It's like apples and oranges. 

Justin: Oh, that's intense.

Melissa: You know? So I'm struggling with that right now. Like, what lessons can I teach them? Really just trying to teach by example. Try not to spoil them in every sense. It's really hard because like you have kids and you're like, I want them to have better than I did. But does that mean they get to go to Disney World every year on their birthday? Like, probably not, shouldn’t. But I want to go to Disney World every year on their birthday. 

Audra: It's your birthday too. Right, right. But I totally hear you on that. That's like, really, the work is, it is in us, is like holding ourselves back with like, yes, we want to give them what we didn't have. 

But very often it's what we didn't have that makes us who we are today and makes us like, all of those experiences are like what brings us our perspective and our drive and our creativity and all of these things that if we give them too much, we kind of like deny them these experiences, right? But we love to give them things. 

And so it can be, it's like you have to reel yourself in. I think that's like a, I think that's the kind of modern problem of our kids generation, very often is the trophy for everything, it's being given absolutely everything. 


26:38

Melissa: I remember babysitting full time at 12, right? And nobody will allow a 12 year old to babysit anymore. Like, I don't know if Max is doing any of that kind of stuff, but like.

Audra: No, his sister's trying to get into it, though, because she rides horses, which is freaking expensive. So she's like trying to figure out how she can start saving, and we use the green light card for them. Have you heard that?

Melissa: Yes! Wur kids have that. Yeah, I love that. 

Audra: It's great. Yeah, we love it. We love it. They have their own Amazon accounts and like, buy their things, you know? But Maesie is trying to get into it. But it is a challenge, like we have to get her fully trained, and she's young these days for it, like people want older, older people to do it. Max is ready to go to work. He's like, Target, whatever. Yeah, he wants to go work. He’s all in.

Melissa: My little one, Brady is like that. My 13 year old, he is very much like when he wanted a cell phone. I was like wait until eighth grade group of moms that agreed to wait till eighth grade to get phones. Braden, on the other hand, like I don't know if you ever heard of the Gizmo Watch like Verizon has the Gizmo. You can get the watch and it has like nine phone numbers programmed into it and you can text, but they can only text back like, yes, no, maybe I'll be home in, you know, in 10 minutes or whatever. Like a few things. 

And our rule was, if you use this Gizmo, if you keep it charged, you don't lose it. You put it in your backpack, you put it up next to your dresser or you put it on the kitchen counter charging. Those are only places, go six months of using that properly. Oh, and good phone etiquette. You can get a flip phone. Then from a flip phone six more months, then you can get a smartphone and Brady being younger, being like 10 was like, Got it, no problem. And he's always answering like, “Hello mom, I love you. Bye.” And the other one's like, “What?” 

Audra: Oooh, we missed the boat on that! We should have taken notes on that. That's what we get. “What.” 

Melissa: So my older one was it. And so that eventually it was like Brady actually hands it over like $200, you'd say, from the Tooth Fairy and everything else. And I was like, Here's $200. Here's all the reasons I should have a phone because you want to get in touch with me. I have friends I need to, you know, I'm starting to get a girlfriend. I want to take her to the movies. I should probably have a phone. I will not get social media, blah blah blah blah, all the stuff. A

nd so we were like, my husband went to Costco and I got two phones was like, All right, here you go, Brady. And he's like Mason, who was like in eighth grade at the time. It was like, “Do you want a phone? You need to do what Brady did. You need to prove to us, you know, you're responsible. You need to give us a list of blah, blah, blah. You need to figure out how you're going to pay us back for it.” 

And he was like, “Yeah, you'll give it to me when you're ready.” Sure enough, he ends up going to school in a different state and we have to get like 45 minutes away and we ended up having to give it to him cause we're like, “We need to know if you need to be picked up, are you taking the bus or are you staying for sports like?” 

So we ended up giving him a phone and we were like, urhh, right? And we didn't want to do it. But it was very much like, This is not yours. This is ours. You can use it, but we get it back whenever we need it. And so that was, we had to do the same thing with a car, like this is our car, but you can use it until you lose that right. You know, all these things, we try to... they also know how to wear us down. Like even my nine year old, they all know exactly how many times they say, “Ma, ma, ma, ma” until you go, “What? I'm on the phone.” You know, like, if 10 times is the time she snaps, then I'll say it 11. 

Justin: Yeah, oh my god, so…

Audra: This is such wisdom. I want to put it like a pin in some of these things. So they like these are just really, really great tips. And I love the “It's ours” thing, like I am so, the kids are around here somewhere, but they'll, I think we should make note of that. Like, it's ours when it comes to various things…

Justin: And you can use it till you lose the privilege. 

Melissa: Yeah, it's not a gift, that's why I kind of never give them as gifts, because then I feel like you can't really take it away. It's theirs. You gave it to them like, you're going to take back your I don't know a lot of people. 

I know when they graduate fifth grade, give them a smartphone or something, and it's like, here's your gift for graduating fifth grade. And then it's like, Well, how are you going to when you take that away? That's sort of a strange thing. 

Sometimes I feel like so with the car, I'm actually going to go buy. It's a car. He wants a car that I want, I want a Dodge Charger and he wants a Challenger. But I'm going to get the Charger because it's a four door and I think I'm going to drive it around for a few months and then be like, “Hey, guess what? You can have the keys for most of the time unless I want it back.” 

Justin: Smart. 

Audra:That's good that way. 

Melissa: But the problem is right now, like, I have a deal going with my brother. My brother's like, I bet you you will not get him a car. He's like, I bet you, you're going to get him a brand new car that has an MSRP of over $40,000. And I was like, no and no like, I'm going to get I'm an old beat up and then my husband's like, No, we're not. We wanted to have the safety features of a new car, and then I'm like, Oh, screw, like, oh, so am I going to lose the bet to my brother because then I need to buy my brother a Lamborghini. And that's not fun. 


32:52

Audra: Oh my God, the things we did in the ‘90s. So like, we grew up with you. It's so crazy to think. But I mean, you were like the public facing version of us for our generation. You know, like, it's so cool to think that, I mean, we both graduated in 95. So that was totally our era. 

And it's so it's really, really cool to connect with you as a person because I feel like you played these roles kind of like for us in a sense, throughout life, as you were growing up on screen and hearing these stories, I'm thinking like the things that we did in the ‘90s, and I know it's the right thing to do to let my kids do various things, but I have such a hard time with it. Are times really different today, do you think?

Melissa: It’s just not documented the same way, right? I mean, we're used with like group text messages, you know, group chats that are getting out of control where you invite a stranger on because we've lived all over the place. My son invited a stranger on and he started sending inappropriate photos to this whole group of people. And it's just, you know, we're dealing with all this new stuff, all uncharted territory that none of us have ever dealt with before and trying to figure out what that means.

Justin: I can’t imagine that.

Melissa: It's a nightmare. 

Justin: Melissa, can you imagine if you had all this stuff when you were that age?

Melissa: You guys would not have wanted to talk to me if you knew what I'd done when I was like… I mean, I was a pretty good kid. You guys read the book, right? You said, in the thing that you read the book. 

Audra: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Melissa: Even then, some of the, I put in, there are some of my racier stuff. I mean, there's a few secrets I kept for myself, but it's pretty much all in there. 

Justin: Very good kid. Very disciplined. Yeah.

Melissa: I always said I had a I think I put in there that I had a coordinated rebellion, like it was planned. I was going to do something naughty. I made sure I had a lot of time to recover or, you know, I was like…

Justin: Planned it out.

Melissa: Yeah, separated my life out in a certain way where things don't overlap. 

Justin: Well, the race car thing makes a lot of sense, right? So you like to go fast, but it's on a track. It's with, you know, all…

Melissa: Everyone's going the same direction. 

Justin: Yeah, exactly. 


36:47

Justin: When did you know you wanted to be a mother? 

Melissa: Always. I'm the oldest of eight kids. I always, that was always going to be my goal. I had so much success young, right? I mean, I never considered my childhood being very successful and even Clarissa years not necessarily successful. I wasn't able to put any of that money away. 

So it wasn't until Sabrina came around, and that was a very lucrative job. And I was really smart though, I made sure I always saved and whatnot. But I also was like, Well, I was successful in my career, and I was successful in being able to make a good amount of money. I separate those two, too. I don't know if like multiple, maybe combine those. But like I think of my career and making money as two different things. And like, I was able to have both and I thought, Well, because I have those two things, I'll never find love like, I couldn't possibly have all these things. And so I was wrong. I did find love. 

But in the preparation of it, I always had plans of like, Well, if I'm not married, by the time I'm 38 or 40, I'll have a baby on my own or I'll adopt. I always wanted to adopt children, and I still do, but I always had a plan to be a mother. Always, always, always. 

Justin: Always. And so can you tell us about was there a shift from Melissa before motherhood and Melissa after? Or were you just preparing yourself and you just like, glide into motherhood? 

Melissa: I mean, looking back, it definitely seems like a different life without children, right? Like, I can't even imagine what, I keep trying to think. Like I even said to my husband because we actually ended up having lunch and walking around the mall together. I was supposed to be working in my work got done early. I actually was doing a commercial for Lifetime in Verizon, and it got done about three hours earlier than it was supposed to. 

And so I was like, Do you want me at the mall, have lunch and like, walk around and like, start Christmas shopping? And it was like, this crazy moment. And I was thinking about it and I was like, What did we used to do before we had kids? Like we had all this time, we just stop and go on vacation? Like, what did we do? It just seems like a different world. So I guess I just never made note of the fact that like, I got to go to the mall and have lunch like, you know. I have to say I did, I mean, I felt very confident going into motherhood. My mom had been pregnant so many times where mom has seven kids, but I'm the oldest of eight. My dad has a daughter. Another daughter, like after he remarried. 

And so having all these babies around, I mean, my youngest sister was only like seven years older than my son. So there was always little ones around. There was always diapers to be changed, was always entertaining, playing, watching Disney movies, you know, all that stuff. So it was always kind of dabbled in my life anyway. And any time I went to Disney World, even when I was in my 20s, it took my little sisters, and so I always felt very much motherly. So when I was pregnant, I did not expect to not like being pregnant because my mom loved it so much. That was a shock to me, but also like…

Audra: Oh, so you didn't like being pregnant? What was it?

Melissa: I hated it. I don't know. Did you like it?

Audra: I, so I'm sort of opposite, like I didn't. I wasn't like a really maternal sort of person before this, and when I got pregnant, I really did enjoy it. Until the end. The end sucked the end, like, really, really sucked. But I actually kind of enjoyed it. But what was it? Was it the discomfort? Were you sick? 

Melissa: All of it, it was being scared of everything you do. I think I was like such an independent person. And now everyone's telling you you can't eat sushi and like what? You can't drink that, you can't like. I'm getting calls from my mom saying, Did you go to this certain workout class because my friend had a miscarriage going to that class. You shouldn't go to that class. 

Audra: Oh, so it was all the fear stuff.

Melissa: All I felt comfortable and doing was taking a walk with my husband to go get a bagel or ice cream, and I was gaining so much weight and then I'm uncomfortable and I don't feel good. And I was a very active, energetic person. 

But being pregnant freaked me out about everything, any healthy habit I had had to go away, like I like goat cheese, and all of a sudden they're like, “You can't have goat cheese, you can't have sushi,” you got to eat, you know? So now I'm like, ok, I'll have bagels and pasta. And so I'm bloating like a whale. You know, when I was just doing all these things, I couldn't go to my workouts and I couldn't, you know, and I was like, I should have asked my doctor more. 

But instead, I let everybody infiltrate my brain and just make me afraid. And I kind of like was sort of like this, especially my first pregnancy. Second one, I had Mason to chase around. I didn't gain as much weight. I felt much better. The pregnancy, the labor was so much easier. Everything was like boom, boom, boom. But then with the third one, I had this, not morning sickness, I had like afternoon sickness come 3:00 in the afternoon. I could not leave the couch with my Oreos or Raisin Bran. Those were my two things, and I could not even get my butt upstairs to go to bed. Not that I was puking or anything, so I know I was really, I never had a terrible pregnancy. 

I just didn't like the way I felt like I had to do all these, like trying to with the third one, like my stomach felt he was going to fall, like I was going to just tear off of my body. He was so heavy and big and it was... I just didn't like it all. 

But like then when the baby came, I wasn't concerned about it. I know how to change diaper. I know how to give a bottle, I know how to burp. I know all these things except for maybe swaddling, that seemed new. I felt like I knew it all, and I expected that I would have this amazing bond with our children and I would be the one taking care of them. 

But my husband picked it up first day in the hospital like I was actually really, really, my body was beaten and bruised after the first one, and he spent the first two weeks basically doing all the heavy lifting around the baby stuff, and he just picked it up like so naturally and I was kind of like jealous, like, that's what I was, you're the youngest of three kids. Like, what do you know about anything with kids? And he just like to it. 

He's like, you know, every bath, he's there doing bath time and he's there doing diaper changes, and he's there giving them bottles when he can. And like everything. And I was like, at first I was like, “Oh, good,” and then I was kind of like, “Wait a second. Slow down. What about me?” 

And so he but he became such a natural at it that now he's still like Mister Mom and I get to go to work. So it's not exactly I imagined having kids and being a little bit more of the full time caretaker, and instead I'm the working parent. So it's not exactly how I envisioned it, but also we have three boys, which I never envisioned. 

And I mean, this morning we were doing a “who would you save if this car started on fire” thing on the way to school. And they all said, “Daddy.” And I was like, “You know what?... I'm going to be in a car accident.” Little was like, “Well, both of you.” He was like, both, you know, “Well, we're gonna shove you both out.” And I was like, ok, yeah.

Audra: But that, I mean, that is such a trip, and I can identify with some of that with Justin, like he is a really involved dad, and I work a lot as well. And the kids, like, you know, I'll see things the social media of like, you know, the kids asking for mom and the kids will ask for dad. They'll be like dad, dad, dad, dad. Right? And there is a part of me. There's a part of me that's like, super stoked about that. And then there is a part of me that's like, Oh, you're not coming to me on that, you know? Yeah. 

Melissa: Mason went to homecoming for the first time. Did Max go? Has he done any of those kinds of school? 

Audra: They haven't had, their homecoming, I think, is for basketball. 

Melissa: Oh, ok. So we just had it, and it was the first time we've ever had it. But I didn't know one of these kids because we're new here. It wasn't like I imagined it being all these kids that I would know, and I'd know the parents. 

And I know, you know, I keep a little bit better track of where they were going, what they were doing. I was also out of town and my husband was here doing it. Luckily, he knew to get a corsage because I never really went to homecoming, so I didn't know that was like a thing. Well, luckily he knew all that and he was on top of it, and he made sure they got pictures and whatnot. 

But when I saw the pictures of this girl hanging on my son, I don't know this girl, I thought it was going be awkward like that... But, they were standing together taking a picture there, like she's like grabbing his bicep. He's got his hand all the way around her waist. She's holding his like, “What is this?” I was the one begging him. I was like, I will buy you new AirPods if you go to homecoming with a girl. But yet when it happened, I was like, “Whoa, whoa, that's not how I meant to be.” 

Justin: I did not envision this.

Melissa: And also was like, Wait, she's a short blond too. You've totally replaced me like, you don't need your mommy anymore. You've got this girl and your dad. 

Audra: Oh, it's really something else. And what a milestone that is, a homecoming milestone. All of Max's friends went to homecoming, and I saw all the pictures, heard all the things from the moms, all of the there is a time off like you're really stoked. But some grief too, right? Like there are days over…

Melissa: Like everybody prepares you for the firsts, but nobody prepares you for the lasts. And that's become a very real thing for me recently. Things like Tucker is going to lose his last tooth, and he’s my last child to lose teeth, you know. And like all these things, he's the last one, I was in second grade is as good as it gets. And he's, you know, this is my last second grader. 

And then I'll just feel like I have kids above second grade? That just makes me feel old and like, you know, there's all these things like you don't really think about, like flag football is going to end in then they’re in tackle. And just like these little things when you're like, yeah, first day of this, but then you're not like, Oh my gosh, it's the last time like I, I actually took off work on Halloween because I was like, I'm not missing this Halloween. This could be very well be our last like we've actually had for Halloween. Canceled one because of COVID last year, and we moved, so we really didn't know anywhere to go, not even trunk or treat like we didn't know how to do anything. 

Last year we drove all around town trying to find anything happening and couldn't. Luckily, I bought a lot of candy. No kids came to our door, so my kids got all that candy. But they didn't get candy last year and we had had one was canceled because of a snowstorm. One was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy coming through the Northeast. And then there was one other thing that happened I can remember, but basically they've had four Halloweens canceled. 

So I was like, I'm going to be home. There's only like two of these left for me to go trick or treating with my kids. So you know that it's, you know, the last one is coming soon. I've just got to want to be there for that, you know, and I don't want to miss those things. 

But what you asked before kind of hit me too, because I also was like one of these moms that never changed. I didn't change for the child. I made my children fit into our life. We still went to lunches and took the kids in the bucket seat, and we still, you know, went on trips, we just taught them how to be good on an airplane, made sure we had lots of tricks in our bag and snacks and, you know, lots of diapers and changes. 

And, you know, just make sure we could like, go on that trip and be with those people for that holiday or, you know, to bring them to work with me when they could. And you know, that kind of thing because also I did as much traveling with them and as much moving around and including them in my life when they were little because I knew someday. And it's happening now. 

There's going to be 10 years of high school and high school football where they can't leave, like all through elementary and middle school, it was like not working in Australia for a month. Nope, we're going up. We're going to Europe for the whole summer. Nope, we're going to go to Africa and do a mission trip. We're going to do these things now because like, I'm freaking out that my husband won't let me plan a trip for New Year's because I'm like, “When are we ever going to travel again?” 

So, you know, making sure that I got all that stuff in in the beginning because I know the next 10 years of our lives are going to be making sure that they're living up to the responsibilities that they've signed up for. 

Justin: So, I'm right in the middle of this book called Hunt Gather Parent. Have you heard of this now, Melissa? So it's by this NPR correspondent. She's like a science correspondent, but she took time off to travel the world and visit indigenous communities like one in Mexico, one in Africa, one I think in Alaska to see how they parent and how have human beings parented for, you know, hundreds of thousands of years. 

And one of the lessons that she brought back, which I thought was it was like really mind-blowing. But it's now brought to mind because of what you said is that all around the world, all different indigenous communities with different traditions. But what they do is they let make the kids fit into the adult world like there is no special kid playtime. 

There's no special toys. There's no special... These are kids. It's like kids are brought into the adult world, like right from the beginning and the kids are a lot happier. Like they love it and they grow up learning how to do these adult things. And so by the time they're like 10, they love doing chores. They love helping out. They love doing all this stuff. 

Melissa: And it's natural, like I've noticed with my kids, like when we started making them take out the trash, my husband was like, “I'll just do it. It's just easier if I just do it.” I'm like, “No, I'm going to leave the bag here all day until they take it out. Like if they're at school, it's going to sit here until they're done with school. If they forget and they go to football, they're going to do it when to get it back. It's going to sit here.” 

But eventually, after a few weeks of that, of them knowing I take out the trash now they just do it, you know? But now it's like getting them to empty the dishwasher. That dishwasher will sit open for 45 minutes. I will trip over it three or four times, but I'm still going to make them empty the dishwasher, you know, like. And it becomes natural. 

And that sounds like what you're talking about. Like, I've noticed that with certain chores if I stick to it. But then I leave town and my husband doesn't stay. Husband just does it. He's doing the laundry, he's doing the dishes. I'm like, “No, that's what they're here for. They need to do this.”

Audra: Yeah, you're not including them. And then by including them in your work the way that you bring them with you and you include them in your lives and your travel and things like that, there's so much they're learning.

Melissa: And these little skills like what you’re talking about for the life skills. A big one is doing laundry like I want them to go to college and not do laundry. And they're boys. They're probably not going to, but at least they’ll know how. They'll know how much detergent, they'll know what not to put in the dryer, you know, that kind of thing.

Justin: At least once a month. 

Melissa: Tucker learned the other day don't put your crayons in the dryer like they just got all over your clothes and everything's stuck together now and different colors and plus your crayons are ruined. So tough lesson, you know. 

Justin: Life lesson. 

Audra: I think it's so poignant thinking of your lasts, too. Like, that's going to be the last crayons that are going to be in the house. Like it's, you know what I mean?

Melissa: Like, we can finally get something in white. I can finally get a white sofa. You know, things like that. 

Audra: You can change out your furniture at some point, but it is. There is pain in that. Like, I see that with my daughter, like, her voice hasn't changed yet. She's 11, and it's like her hands are so small and these little things that you hang on to. I want to adopt. 

Or we, well, we've talked about it and a part of it, to be honest with you, is not just like I really, really want to have more kids, but I do kind of want to reset the clock a little bit. And there's a part of me that wants to have little ones again, like, it's not too late, you know, it's not too late to be in that space, especially if you've enjoyed being in that space. 

Melissa: Yeah, you know what? I used to always tell my boys, I'm like, “Oh, I'm going to kiss your little legs or something before they get all hairy and manny,” you know, like they're like, I was always like, touched their legs and be like, “Oh, someday these are just going to be hairy, gross, smelly boy legs.” 

And like, Yeah, we're getting the smell to your feet. They come home so sweaty from football, you know, and they're just like, they're little pigs. And it's like, yeah, it's starting to happen. Like, they're getting a little mustache. Like they get…

Audra: Oh, the mustache! Max has a mustache.

Melissa: And it’s like no, that's so gross. 

Audra: Yeah. So tell us about like social media and stuff like, how do you navigate that world?

Melissa: We always told them that it's illegal to have an Instagram account until you're, I think it's 14 or 13. So we always told them that and they're very much like, “Oh, it's the law we can't.” So they live by that. That was helpful. 

Justin: You will go to jail, you will go straight to jail.

Melissa: Also teaching them things, like I said, guys, we're just not like a normal family. Like if you accidentally, like my mother one time, did a geotag on our house and all of a sudden, everybody that follows her knows where we live. You know, it's like things like that were accidentally post what school you go to because I don't talk about what's right. You go to like you accidentally post your football uniform or your friend in their uniform, or you post the football field or you post the front of our house or, you know, things like that, then you know, I do have some fans out there that are a little, you know, not well-behaved and I don't want that.

 Like we have to be safe and be careful if they've seen people pull up to our driveway and be like, “Hey, can we come in?” And we're like, “No, we forgot to close the gate like, get out.” Well, you know, they've seen some of that and they see how people kind of come up to us in the street and in public. And so they're really careful about it. 

So that's a, you know, just telling them it's a safety thing has been really helpful. I don't know for sure that they don't have like a finsta account. Apparently, there's these fake Insta accounts. They tell the parents there's one and they actually have another. So, yeah, so that apparently could be. I just I love that you guys just looked at each other like…

Audra: We know that Max, like he he doesn't care, he likes to watch YouTube and TikTok, and he's not really, you know, but he does not care about Instagram. And Maesie doesn't today. But I worry more about her because of the effect on girls like Instagram is devastating.

Melissa: My two older ones, even though they both have Brady's very social, so he wants to watch TikTok. But he also I did catch him with his own TikTok account, and then he went online and I very clearly said, “Do not link ours, do not say anything on yours about you being my son because people will find you and they'll figure stuff out.” 

And he went on my TikTok. I found he went on my phone, my TikTok, and said, “Hey guys, it would really mean a lot to my son if you would follow him.” 

So then I was like, “You idiot. Now not only I gotta delete mine, delete yours, what are you thinking?” I literally said, “Won't let anyone know who you can go on and watch. But now you're posting on mine that you have one, like, what a moron you are.” 

First of all, I totally, that's easy to catch you. Like, not very smart, but he’s my little social butterfly that's holding me. Like, Let's create the he wants to create the dances and do the fun videos and stuff like that. 

My older one, he wants to fly airplanes on a simulator and, you know, and the little one wants to jump on the trampoline. So luckily right now, although the little one does want a YouTube channel and they're hearing like you can make money on YouTube channels and stuff, which is a little, bleh. Please no. 

Audra: It's some sort of like thing going around with the kids that they think that they can become creators and make money. I'm like, How are you going to get, you know, I'm just like…

Melissa: I don't know enough to protect them from it. Like, I don't know enough yet on what to do to not do. How do you keep those? You know, I know one of them plays video games, the middle one. How do I know who's playing with him or how he's giving information to or, you know? Right? That stuff I’m still not navigating. I lived up to my husband and he's our it guy, but I don't think he knows either. 

I mean, we've put these kids on lockdown as far as their screen time goes. And, you know, at 10:00 p.m., all their screens go off and they can't contact anyone unless it's an emergency and things like that. But at the same time, they hack it all the time. My oldest one has hacked everything we've put on the phone. 

Audra: Really, do you use an app?

Melissa: I don't know if I'm proud of him or really pissed at him. 

Justin: Yeah, right, right. A little bit of pride, but a little bit of anger. 

Audra: You're really passionate about a lot of causes and it's how we met. You you know, you've, I think, been involved in child cancer before meeting Max. But you really care about causes that affect kids. It seems you represent a lot of causes, you ensure that a lot of voices are heard. 

And that's something that I think goes back to that. Like making sure Melissa is seen and heard, all the Melissa's are seen and heard. You know that part of you. But where does that come from? I think it's just so amazing. You use your platform to ensure that people are seen, heard, recognized for what they go through, that their causes are amplified. Where did that come from for you? 

Melissa: You know, I think it comes from well, being the oldest kid of so many and feeling so responsible for all of them and wanting nothing but the best for them and not being able to imagine anything bad ever happening to them, but also realizing how lucky we are that I'm a family, I come from a family of eight and I have three healthy boys and like, I have zero to complain about and I am given a lot of opportunity and I know that that's rare and I know that's fleeting. I know that could be taken away from me at any moment. And so I want to share that as much as possible and spread around money, awareness, hope, love all of it as much as I can while I can and not take any of it for granted and know that I was only given these opportunities to share with others and to bring joy. 

Like I, you know, for a while there, I was like, Oh, I'm on TV. Like people make it so important you’re a celebrity. Like, what's so important about it? There’s nothing important about it. But then I get calls from people or, you know, meet people at Comic-Con and stuff. And they're like, I spent a long time in the hospital and you helped me through it. Or I was really depressed and... 

So we started praying before each show during Melissa and Joey, we had a first day on the set who had worked with Reba. And it's funny because I'm full circle now. 

I'm working with Reba myself on Young Sheldon directing her, but she worked on her show. She did what a lot of musicians do. She would pray before every show, have her group come together in a circle, hold hands and do a prayer. And she brought that to our first aid. Our first day brought it to me, and we started to pray before every show and we just started to pray like, forget all this stuff. It doesn't matter. Like, it doesn't matter what's going on. The only thing that matters right now is that we give someone a laugh that needs it. And that's what we would pray and I have it framed up in my office that says, Give someone a laugh who needs it. 

And that's always my prayer now before I go do a show because acting is not, it's not important unless it's for that relief, unless it's for that escapism, right? And so that's what we're good for and that's what we do. And all the rest of it is secondary. And so I just try to share and spread the love as much as possible. And I'm trying to teach my kids that as well. 

But again, like we go back to, you know, it's hard not to teach them to be greedy or to spoil them or that kind of thing. But I also think because of where I came from, I know I don't need a lot, but I also hold on to everything. I mean, I'm sitting in front of all these socks and I'm like, I will not get rid of these socks. I know there's a pair somewhere, but I could probably afford new socks, but I won't know.

Justin: Melissa, that is just environmentally sound. 

Melissa: I don't use tissues anymore. I use a handkerchief. I don't use cotton pads. I can't get rid of Q-tips. I tried that, but it's necessary in my life. But you know, it's like I just try to look out for everybody and take care of everybody. And I think there's plenty of room around the world for everyone to, there's no need to be competitive. There's no need for any of that. The only thing like sometimes I do support a lot of different charities. I do tend to focus on the ones with kids because I think that's the most important thing. 

Your child's health and happiness are like the most important things in this world and that is something I throw myself into and behind. And that's why I work a lot with youth villages that I just play Wheel of Fortune. I just won $1,000,000 for it. 

Audra: We saw that. That's incredible. Congratulations. 

Melissa: And that goes back to me wanting to adopt and like, you know, foster kids and just imagining kids at 18 years old, aging out of foster care, no one to go home to, go to college, did anyone help them with the SATs, you know, like, what are they going to do as a career? Are they, you know, are they going to join the army or are they going to be a bagger at Walmart? Like, what are they going to do? So they do life set, and that's, that money's going to go really help life set and all these kids that are going to be on their own soon because they have a family before Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter. 

What about summer break? If they are in college, you know, where do they go? What do they do? So to try to get them on their feet and you know, I just love putting myself, I think part of being an actor is putting yourself in other people's shoes and understanding the background, like even look at like Cruella, right? 

The most recent movie. And I didn't actually see it. But to know that this woman that is thought of is so evil has a backstory. And there's a reason and there's something that happened to her in her childhood that, you know, makes her be so hateful. But really, it's just someone calling out for love and attention. 

So if we can share that earlier than, you know, maybe we can put a stop to some of the hate and some of the drama that goes on around the world. And so I've always just wanted to reach out and help, be helpful. But I do feel like sometimes I might dilute the charities that I really love, but I just love so many. I just want to help everybody. 

Audra: You do a beautiful job. You really do. 

Melissa: But I was like, there's so many I want to help. I don't want to compete with them. I want to help them. So how can I just get involved with everybody? 

Audra: That's beautiful. I think it's part of your calling is connecting people to these causes and connecting people to other people's experiences, you know, broadening our world, bringing that love and fantastic. And you bring just like this light energy. And I think it's so important because you amplify a diversity of causes, and I think that's what we need to see. 

There are so many ways we can show up in the world. Like there's more than enough opportunities to show up and do something good and help someone smile today. Help make this day good today, right? 

Melissa: There are. Yes. And that's the, like, you know, I already made my list of the charities I want to help for Giving Tuesday or who I'm going to donate to. I'm going to, you know, promote and you guys are on there. 

But like, you know, it killed me on Wheel of Fortune, not being able to split it up among all my favorite charities. I mean. You guys and a hole in the wall gang up in Connecticut, which was ... And what the work they do there is incredible. And then youth villages and then World Vision, who helps out on a global scale children and families all around the world. I mean, there's so many of my friends, the president of Lupus L.A. and helps with autoimmune diseases. Just really, you know, a disease that not a lot of people know about or aware of. 

Justin: When I saw the Wheel of Fortune thing, I mean, I loved that program. Life set seemed like such a powerful, impactful program. So we are now going to ask three questions.

Audra: Justin keeps us on track. 

Justin: I'm the driver. She's the personality. So we ask these three questions to every guest. And so we start with: if you could put a post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that post-it note say?

Melissa: Be a good listener. That's always what I say to my kids when they go to the school bus. Be a good listener. I think if you're a good listener, it helps you in every aspect. 

I tell my kids, I'm like, If you're a good listener, you'll be a good friend. You'll be a good student. You'll be a good child. To be a good parent, you'll be, you know, a good neighbor. And I need to learn that myself because I'm a big talker, as I've proven in the last hour. I need to listen. 

Audra: Thank goodness you're talking.

Melissa: I need to listen more. You know, I need to. And that's the thing I've always been like. It's always been my job to be the talker. But yeah, and I excel at it. But I need to listen too. what I need to listen to my kids and I and they're always telling me that like, “mom, you don't even listen to the answer.” 

I do need to listen more and I need to. I also, for me, my post-it note would probably say, ask more questions… I want to let you know everything about me. So you feel comfortable telling me about you. I don't want to ask questions because I might ask the wrong question. Or maybe it's something I should already know or, you know, that kind of thing. And I think I do need to ask more questions. B

ut in general, I think good advice all around the world is: be a good listener.

Justin: We're going to give you two then. So it's: ask more questions. Be a good listener. Melissa, is there a quote recently that you came across that changed the way you think or feel? 

Melissa: So I posted one on Instagram. Let me look real quick, my friend runs this program called On-Site. These workshops down here in Nashville, and they have one as well in San Diego. He wrote this: “Love is not telling people what they need to be included. It's including them and reminding them why they belong.” And that one really struck me. I haven't seen a quote in a while that struck me. 

But my kids actually say that I always quote, I think it's Dr. Seuss or Winnie the Pooh who says, “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.” And that's when I look at my kids have started to live by that one. Because of these, like we were talking about these last and when you have these lasts, not just the first, but the last. And it seems upsetting like, you know, when my son graduates second grade or loses his last tooth, like, I can't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Audra: It's a beautiful reminder, and in a way of living life, especially with things are fleeting. We don't, you know, we're a blip. We have with the little bit of time that we have to live life like that, you'll be present and really it. 

Melissa: Yeah, that's the thing to always try to be present, right? 

Justin: So the last question really dovetails nicely. As you well know, it can be exhausting raising kids as you know the schedules and all the everything that goes into it. And so it's nice to take a break and or a step back and think, what do we love about kids? So Melissa, what do you love about kids?

Melissa: I love the innocence. I love the simple view on life. My kids got so upset with me the other day because I wouldn't go on the trampoline with them. I'm like, “It's too cold out. I have things to do. You don't understand,” and like, just go on the trampoline. Are they going to remember that I, you know, cleaned the dishes, or remember that I went on the trampoline with them? 

And which one is going to be more important at the end? And I need to do that more often, and they see life like that. You know, they see life in, with more play. And I mean, I always say, do what you have to do, then you get to do what you want to do. But at the same time, it's like they just have this innocence of, just a simple outlook. There's that one thing they want and they want to do. It might be like their goal is to get that piece of candy. Or it might be to get mom on the trampoline. Or it might be that they want that sleepover next weekend. And whatever that one goal is, they really focus on those things, man, and they go after them. 

Justin: Being in the moment.

Audra: Yeah, totally. They're ultimately present, right? It's really cool. Well, thank you for sharing that with us, and thank you for sharing everything with us. 

Melissa: Well, I want to ask you guys, can you give me an update on like Max and how he's doing? And you're because I have a little like in the last few years that I've been missing you like, can you guys give me a little one on one?

Audra: Yeah, thank you for asking. Yeah, Max is doing really well. He is still fighting, so he still has cancer like he has tumors in his brain stem and he'll go through these phases where they'll grow and then kind of will get on treatment or something, and he'll stabilize and then grow. 

So it's been over 10 years of fighting this disease, but we're lucky he's, so lucky he's still with us, and he has a really great quality of life. He's on a targeted therapy. So one of the new cancer drugs that targets like a specific pathway for the cancer, and it's been working. So he had a disease that was growing so rapidly as of early 2020. It was like growing so much. It was crazy because a friend of mine was like, Can you just take him out of school and just go and just be with him for the next few months because we didn't know what was going to happen, like, it was really pretty dire. They're talking about like palliative surgery, like, what were you going to do? 

And then Covid hit and Covid's been, you know, devastating. But for us, in some strange way, it gave us this crazy, powerful time together to just be together and for him not to be in school and not, you know. So we really treasure that. But he’s now treated in Atlanta, and he is doing really, really great on this targeted drug that's saving his life. It's literally saving his life right now.

Melissa: And what about side effects with it? Or is it more mellow? 

Audra: There are some side effects like weight gain, and it causes pain. Yeah, like joint pain. And so he can't run. One of the things I used to love to run, so he can ride his bike and he can do Peloton and things like that, but he used to love to run. That's a bummer. You can't do things like that. It causes some skin problems and things that, like a 14 year old, doesn't love, you know. 

But he's starting a nonprofit program here locally for After-School Weightlifting, and he's really getting excited about that. He would be, he would make a great football player. He's a big dude, just really like he is. He is like, well, like, set for it. But, you know, I'm sure they wouldn’t let him. 

Justin: His neurosurgeon wouldn’t approve. 

Audra: But yeah, he is doing really well. And Maxlove is 10 years old. I mean, it's incredible. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary and we're moving into the next 10 years and it's just we're doing incredible things in the world of integrative and complementary quality of life enhancing care for childhood cancer and rare disease families. 

And we're doing work that really no one else is doing in the space, and that's why we're doing it. So I hear you when you talk about like I'm so drawn to, if I could do anything, I'd be like some VC, but for charities, and find a way to help everybody accomplish their missions because I just love it so much. I love it when people are in there doing the work, making a difference. And we do what we do because we we have to do it like until we can drop the mic and say we accomplished this and we've changed health care for kids, then we are going to be in it.

 And so maybe one day, maybe one day we can graduate and do something else. But for now we're making that difference and growing, still super grassroots. 

Melissa: I'll be sharing your story with my boys and just update them. And definitely keeping you in our prayers and sending as much awareness your way as possible. 

Audra: We appreciate it so much. Thank you, thank you for spending this time with us. It feels really great to really connect with you. 

Melissa: You guys should come to Nashville, bring Max, come to a game or something. State championships soon. So come on out. 

Audra: Oh We’d love to! Wow, congratulations. That's awesome. 

Melissa: I don't know if he'll get to play, but we'll see.

Audra: Do you think that he's headed towards, like, does he want to play professional football.

Melissa: So he wants to play professional football just to fund the airline? He's going to start. He thinks he's Richard Branson, but he does want to read the Richard Branson book because he knows how to do it. He's already got a business plan. Very cocky 15 year old. 

Justin: You don't need the books. 

Audra: Well, it sounds like you, your mom and your dad, like all of you are like, really, really incredible entrepreneurs. But more power to him. I love hearing that. I love your…

Melissa: Little ones like maybe I'll be a YouTuber and I'm like, well... Let's take a little bit. Work at PetSmart. 

Audra: What about an airline? Yeah. Oh, that's awesome. Yeah, we love it. You know, if we ever come out there. And let us know if you ever come to Savannah.

Melissa: I will. Actually, I will. Sounds like a great spot to just do a little trip, too. So I will. Say hi to the kids for me.

Audra: Likewise. And have a great weekend. 

Melissa: Thank you. You, too. Bye you guys. 


Transcript highlights


Melissa: Alright, guys. 

Audra: Hi, thank you so much for joining us, thank you for doing this. 

Justin: Yes, thank you. 

Audra: We’re so excited to talk to you.

Melissa: It's been years since we've seen you guys. 

Audra: It is. It was. So let's go back in time then. It was like the hottest day of the year in Southern California. I think maybe ever at that time, in September for the Loom-a-Thon and I remember everybody was just like in their cars, in air conditioning, you know, for that event.

Melissa: I remember exactly. I stole my sister's dress and I wore this beautiful little sundress that day and I'm so glad I did because I always love seeing those pictures and it reminds me of that day and of how hot it was. But Elsa was there, right, and Anna. 

Audra: Yeah, the pictures are gorgeous. Yeah. And you helped one of our moms shave her head for childhood cancer research. Those pictures are beautiful. Her child is doing really well in survivorship. And yeah, you just brought so much to that event and it was just really such a highlight for so many of us. You know, it's something that was, I mean, Tustin, California, doesn't get, you know, treated like that very often. So I know our community really, really enjoyed it. 

Melissa: Oh, and it was such fun, and me and my kids have such a good memory of it. It was just so much fun for us to, you know, they had such fun. You guys made it like absolute fun for the kids and it was so meaningful, especially because my son, they because they got to meet Max and they got to kind of understand a little bit more about, you know, the ways other kids live and things that, you know, trials they have to go through in life. And it really gave Mason, especially my oldest one, who’s now 15, it gave him this outlook on life. That kind of it created a little empathy. He was a pretty empathetic kid, but it just created another level. 

And it was really exciting because he went back, I don't know if I ever told you this, but he went back to my work a few times and he would loom for, he would rainbow loom for people at work. He would sit backstage. They made him a little market stand and he would sit back there and he would like, well, I guess we did tell you because he ended up fundraising for you guys. One night he made like 150 bucks and like he would do it once while on this one night in particular, he got like 150 bucks from the crew. 

So we were doing a live show and he was backstage, like taking orders from the crew. What colors do you want? What style do you want? Like this style, this style, this style. And he'd make them all bracelets. And I still have a ton of those bracelets on probably back here behind me somewhere. 

Audra: Oh my god, that's amazing. Like a social entrepreneur, right? So that's how we connected. I think it was from a mutual friend who was working with you, and somehow I think it was around when Max had done the whole thing with Jimmy Kimmel. Did you see that or Mason see that? Either something happened there where I think he was rainbow looming anyway. And then he saw this thing with Max. It was like, I'm going to do it for a cause. 

Melissa: Yes. I think he was. I think he just kind of gotten into it. We had just kind of like, you know, one of the craft stores and gotten a ton of products to just start doing it. But it wasn't until he met Max, I think that he really was like he made it very clear. You know, I feel like those things he'll often do and then be done with. He's kind of gone back to rainbow looming, like all of his life. And I think a lot of it came from like seeing Max do it, seeing that code on Jimmy Kimmel, like all that stuff, he just got really into it. He loved that he could be creative, that he could fundraise, you know, all these things. So he still won't let me throw it away. And he's 15. 


08:21

Audra: Ok, so that's really cool to hear. Is that something that has always been important to you, like in your adult life? Did you get into that when you were younger? 

Melissa: I pretend to do a lot of things. I pretend to scrapbook. I pretend to garden. I mean, I'll get out there once a while. I'll get myself really dirty. I never prepare myself. I never put the gloves on completely or get the clippers or the bench or the kneepads or whatever. 

I have all of it and I want to. But like most of the time, I'll just like, go rip the vines down and I just get thorns all in my hands, and I'm like, I got to get these vines out of here. Like, I don't really prepare. I just sort of go after it and do it. I don't like pick a day, which is probably why my daffodils aren't in the ground yet. 

But you know, I kind of more attack things. Like, I see something and I go outside the door, I'm like, “I have to take that down” or have to fix that or replant that right. But I don't go like, today's my gardening day and I'm going to go, you know, cut some hydrangeas and lovely pruning my whatever.” You know, I don't really…

Audra: Totally, I identify with that. Like, it's impulsive, right? It's sort of like, this needs to get done. And I tend to do it like when it's so hot out here.

Melissa: Oh yeah.
Justin: So what I'm hearing is that you will just feel called and then you just answer the call. And so then what that brings to mind is the story of how you even got into the acting business. You were watching TV shows and there were no characters named Melissa and…

Melissa: Well, it was Romper Room. It was one specific show, Romper Room, and they never said, I don't know if you guys remember that show, you're probably too young.

Audra: No, we're the same age.  

Melissa: Oh ok. Do you remember Romper Room?

Audra: I don't, no. 

Melissa: Do you? 

Justin: I don't. Well, so you were in New York, like you grew up in New York, right? So I grew up in Arizona.

Audra: Where in New York? 

Melissa: Long Island and the city when I was a teenager. 

Audra: Ok, I grew up upstate, but I still don’t remember Romper Room. 

Melissa: I wish I could say what channel it was on, like PBS or something. It was sort of like Sesame Street, like a show where a woman named Miss Mary Ann would sit and like, read to children. I forget. 

I don't even know what the show technically did, but I know that there were always guests. Little kids that would sit in front of her and be like, story time kind of thing. And at the end of it, she would pick up her mirror and go, I see, you know, I see Justin, I see, like she would say all the kids names. She would never say Melissa. And I finally put together that if I could get in the audience, she's saying those kids names. Those are the names she's saying. So if I got in the audience, she'd say, Melissa, for all the Melissa's out there.

Justin: So you felt called. So you answered the call. 

Melissa: It makes me competitive. 

Justin: Yeah. So I…

Audra: You're helping people be seen and heard like you recognize like it would be nice for our name, our name, not just your name. 

Melissa: It would be nice for all the Melissa’s out there to have Miss Mary Ann say their name in the Magic Mirror. 

Audra: Right, right. It's like having your name on one of those little license plate keychains. You know, my name was never on those.

Melissa: Yes. Yeah, there used to be a lot of Melissa's. There's not so much anymore. But yeah, that was a big thing for me. So that's the catalyst. That's sort of where it started. 

Justin: Yeah. So I'm really interested in these defining stories where you can see a person's life and personality and their true authentic self in these early stories. So I'm wondering, like, what does this story say about Melissa? Like, what does it say about like the true, authentic Melissa?

Melissa: That I really want people to say my name… And yet I've always been called other names like Sabrina and Clarissa. 

Audra: So you started early. How did you feel called to act? 

Melissa: Well, I literally just said to my mom, “I have to be on TV.” It was about Romper Room, but it was like this whole other thing of like, I just need to be on TV. And she was like, “Got it, ok.” 

And she knew someone who was a manager, and she called them and got me an audition and I booked the first audition. It was a bathtub doll. I had to be naked. I was terrified. I was in underwear, but I had to show my boobs in the bathtub. 

And I was four, but I had to play with the doll in the bathtub as my first job ever and all those lights and people. And it was just kind of crazy. But I kept booking auditions. I kept bugging commercials. 

So I was a really big commercial kid and commercials make a ton of money. You know, if you get a national commercial and it plays a lot, you can make a good amount of money. So all of a sudden, you know, my family, my dad was a fisherman and my mom was a stay at home mom and at the time she was pregnant with her third kid, I think when I started acting. Right? Yeah, I guess she was about pregnant with the third and she was only, gosh, 24. 

Justin: Oh my god. 24. 

Melissa: Yeah. And so, you know, she'd been pregnant since she got married. So we didn't have a lot. So having me work and like it, it was easy enough, I could go to the city, do a few auditions. I booked almost every other audition, so it was worth it because then I'm shooting commercials and I might work one day or five days. 

And then, you know, the residuals would kind of role in over the next year or two, as much as it played. And so it was good money. I mean, I wasn't aware of that. I got a Barbie doll if I got a job. So, you know, I got a Barbie and then the money went to, you know, food and bikes and clothes and mortgage. 

Justin: That's amazing. 

Audra: It is. I mean, that's an incredible story. And so your dad's a fisherman, your dad's going to work. What kind of, I'm curious, what kind of fisherman? 

Melissa: Let's see, when I was really little he was breeding clams. He actually now breeds oysters. So they had a shop. He and his brother had a shop down by the water. We lived on Long Island, on the South Shore, and he and his brother had a shop on the bay and they'd go down there and they still both own, now they own the whole marina and the boatyard, and they have this like my uncle owns, half of my dad owns the other half and their best friend used to live on the property, until he passed away.

 And so it's like these two brothers and their sons work with them, and my sister works with my dad and sort of like this whole family little area of Long Island. And so we used to be breeding clams. 

And then when I was about six or seven, he started a construction company building homes. I don't know if my dad's like me, he just can't hold still. So then he went into wholesaling lobsters, a long time until the West Nile virus. Do you guys remember when the West Nile virus?

Audra: Yeah. Yeah.

Melissa: It was the mosquitoes. Yeah, before kind of pre-Zika. So the West Nile virus wiped out the lobsters in New York. 

Audra: It did?

Melissa: Yeah, because mosquitoes and lobsters are in the same species or in some sort of same genetic makeup. So when they sprayed all the water for mosquitoes, they killed all the lobsters. So his career was now done with the lobsters... And then he went to breeding oysters. And so he and my sister breed oysters. And right now, because it's not oyster season, they are breeding kelp. So if you go to a spa and get a kelp facial, it might be my dad's kelp. 

Audra: So it sounds like a serial entrepreneur. 

Melissa: Look at this picture, if you look at his, their shop is full of all this algae to feed the oysters. Now all this kelp and it just sort of looks a little bit like a meth lab in a way. It's like all these weird, crazy like bins of neon colors and bags of stuff. Yeah, super bizarre, but it's really cool. And neither of them, like he and my sister, they both run it. They didn’t go to school for it or anything. But technically they're like marine biologists, I guess, because they know all this stuff. It's crazy, but I'm not. I don't know much about it except eating it. So.

Audra: Thank you for sharing this. I love discovering these. These sorts of things like these stories I feel like are just fantastic. And so your mom then would, you know, in addition to, you know, you got the home, the kids, all these young kids, she's young and she's taking you into the city to work. 

Melissa: Yeah, she's dragging all of us. I mean, my sister and I were very close in age and looked very similar two years apart, and we would audition for almost everything together. 

She was just my sister, was a little bit more emotional, a little bit more moody, and I was more like, I'll eat the cereal and say, it's the best thing ever. Sure, you know? And so I kind of booked all the auditions. 

My sister had to find her own identity later on in life. She became the smart one. She's a New York City public school teacher. 

Audra: What grade?

Melissa: She was teaching eighth grade math until the pandemic.

Audra: Oh, wow, that's intense. That's an intense... 

Melissa: I know, I was like, “Can you help? Can you tutor them on Zoom? Can you help at all, please, on the math problems, on text message or something?” 

Yeah. So my sister and I did that a lot together and like all of us, ended up. My two younger sisters did a lot of theater, they both have good voices and did singing and dancing. And eventually kind of everybody dropped out of the business except for my mother and my mother became a manager because so many people came to her then and we're like, “Hey, get my kid into acting.” And she was like, “Alright, I'll start managing.” 

And then my mom divorced my dad when I was about 14. I just started, Clarissa Explains It All, l moved to Manhattan, and they had five kids at the time, and we all were now living between two homes really on Long Island and Manhattan. And my mom became my casting director, so she was now casting commercials and stuff like that. 

So she's finding the actors to put in projects, different projects. And then she started our, while we were living in Manhattan, she was handed, on a playground, she was handed a comic book of Sabrina the Teenage Witch from the Archie Comics, and she was like, “Well, this would be a great show.” 

And since we had already worked at Nickelodeon, which was a Viacom company, she went to Viacom and said, “Hey, we want to make this a movie for Melissa.” They sold it to Showtime. We did a movie that won stars like Ryan Reynolds and some other familiar faces you probably know. And then we spun that off into the TV series, moved to LA and did that for seven years. And then she had two more kids. So. 

Audra: That's incredible. So your mother, when did she marry your dad? 

Melissa: She got married when she was 19.

Audra: 19. Had kids immediately. 

Melissa: Yeah, she was pregnant. Yeah, yeah. 

Audra: Immediately. And look, I mean, I'm so inspired to hear about how she built this incredible career from, you know, learning along the way, learning, growing and then kind of like getting into these new spaces. 

Melissa: She’s fascinating. I mean, she is, it's so funny to think of my mom and my dad together because they're such opposites. He wants to stay in his little hometown, won't even like, come visit me. I'm like, “Come to Lake Tahoe. We'll drive around on the boat” and he’s like, “I have my own boat. Why do I need to come to you?” You know, he's kind of like a homebody guy. And then my mom is this lifelong learner. 

I remember her going to college online, which I didn't even know that. I can't believe that existed in like the ‘80s when we were, when I was a kid. I guess it wasn't technically online. I guess it was like, do the work at your own pace and come to school responded or whatever? Yeah. Well, she, like, was working on her college degree later on. 

And then, you know, and then she learned how to be a manager and then a talent agent and then a producer. And now she, like, has an apartment in LA, an apartment in Paris, bounces around. She calls herself a boomerang grandparent. 

She's got ten grandkids and she goes from like New York, San Diego, Nashville, LA, Paris, like she's in Paris right now. 

But like the other day, she was in Ireland, and now I think she's in Spain and like every day is like a different place and she just can't hold still and she just wants to learn. And she's learning French again because they have an apartment in Paris. So she's gonna learn French, but she's learning how to cook in Italy. 

And, you know, it's like skiing in the Alps and like all this crazy wild. But at the same time, we're developing TV shows and movies and doing Christmas movies and whatnot. She and I are cut from the same cloth for sure. I don't know if I got it from her or her mother. I think probably we both got travel bug from her mother. But yeah, I mean, just always, always anxious to learn more and do more. 

Justin: So I have a question that I was going to wait to ask. But now that we're talking about your childhood and your mother now, I mean, of course, your childhood is so unusual, you know. How are you able to take lessons from your childhood and apply them to your parenting? Like, what can you take from the way that you grew up and bring it into what you're doing? 

Melissa: Well, I think we all struggle with that in a way, though, because the way we grew up, like not just me and my family in our weird, like, you know, being a recognizable face thing. Like all that aside, there's always these weird things like my family I grew up with, you know, if you wanted a bicycle you wait until Christmas. 

My kids are growing up with, like my son lost his fifth pair of AirPods. Am I really going to go to Costco by another $150 pair? Like he's lost like, almost like $1,000 worth of AirPods, and I really like gonna buy? He’s like stealing mine and then I go buy myself new ones and let him have mine? And I'm like, Why do I keep doing that? Like, that's not what would have happened to me or my husband or. 

Like my husband grew up in southern rural Alabama. Like that he had a lot of birthday presents a Christmas presents that was it. Like for me, it was like I got a Barbie doll if I did a commercial. 

But like, you know, and I was never denied anything, school clothes and, you know, at the beginning of the school year and things like that. But if I lost something, it was gone. You know? And these kids are growing up in a totally different way. 

And there's that aspect. And then you add on the fact that like, you know, I was raised in this way. So my my 15 year old and I got in a fight the other day because I said, when football is over in a few weeks, you got to get a job. He's going to be 16. And in Nashville, that means he can drive, which is scary. But he wants to take flying lessons like he wants to be a pilot. 

So he's been taking flying lessons and those are expensive. And his football and all of his camps he wants to go to next summer. I'm like, “You got to start like, you don't even do chores around the house because you're like, ‘Oh, football, so intense.’ Ok, well, when football is over, are you going to get a job at Chick-Fil-A or? Are we going to like, you know, go work at the local...I want you to work in the movie theater so you're not like out in the sun and like always doing physical stuff, let's do something else.”

 But he's like, “I can't do that. I couldn't, do you understand how hard I work at football and school?” And I'm like, “Whoa, dude, at your age, I was holding down a full time job, working 70 hours a week. I had Saturdays off. I was living in Florida while my family's in New York, and I'm learning 50 pages a week. And if I don't have that memorized by Tuesday, the rest of the crew has to wait for me to go home to their family and they don't get to go to dinner.” 

You know, like you're telling me about stress and I'm trying to relate to him and there's no relation. It's like apples and oranges. 

Justin: Oh, that's intense.

Melissa: You know? So I'm struggling with that right now. Like, what lessons can I teach them? Really just trying to teach by example. Try not to spoil them in every sense. It's really hard because like you have kids and you're like, I want them to have better than I did. But does that mean they get to go to Disney World every year on their birthday? Like, probably not, shouldn’t. But I want to go to Disney World every year on their birthday. 

Audra: It's your birthday too. Right, right. But I totally hear you on that. That's like, really, the work is, it is in us, is like holding ourselves back with like, yes, we want to give them what we didn't have. 

But very often it's what we didn't have that makes us who we are today and makes us like, all of those experiences are like what brings us our perspective and our drive and our creativity and all of these things that if we give them too much, we kind of like deny them these experiences, right? But we love to give them things. 

And so it can be, it's like you have to reel yourself in. I think that's like a, I think that's the kind of modern problem of our kids generation, very often is the trophy for everything, it's being given absolutely everything. 


26:38

Melissa: I remember babysitting full time at 12, right? And nobody will allow a 12 year old to babysit anymore. Like, I don't know if Max is doing any of that kind of stuff, but like.

Audra: No, his sister's trying to get into it, though, because she rides horses, which is freaking expensive. So she's like trying to figure out how she can start saving, and we use the green light card for them. Have you heard that?

Melissa: Yes! Wur kids have that. Yeah, I love that. 

Audra: It's great. Yeah, we love it. We love it. They have their own Amazon accounts and like, buy their things, you know? But Maesie is trying to get into it. But it is a challenge, like we have to get her fully trained, and she's young these days for it, like people want older, older people to do it. Max is ready to go to work. He's like, Target, whatever. Yeah, he wants to go work. He’s all in.

Melissa: My little one, Brady is like that. My 13 year old, he is very much like when he wanted a cell phone. I was like wait until eighth grade group of moms that agreed to wait till eighth grade to get phones. Braden, on the other hand, like I don't know if you ever heard of the Gizmo Watch like Verizon has the Gizmo. You can get the watch and it has like nine phone numbers programmed into it and you can text, but they can only text back like, yes, no, maybe I'll be home in, you know, in 10 minutes or whatever. Like a few things. 

And our rule was, if you use this Gizmo, if you keep it charged, you don't lose it. You put it in your backpack, you put it up next to your dresser or you put it on the kitchen counter charging. Those are only places, go six months of using that properly. Oh, and good phone etiquette. You can get a flip phone. Then from a flip phone six more months, then you can get a smartphone and Brady being younger, being like 10 was like, Got it, no problem. And he's always answering like, “Hello mom, I love you. Bye.” And the other one's like, “What?” 

Audra: Oooh, we missed the boat on that! We should have taken notes on that. That's what we get. “What.” 

Melissa: So my older one was it. And so that eventually it was like Brady actually hands it over like $200, you'd say, from the Tooth Fairy and everything else. And I was like, Here's $200. Here's all the reasons I should have a phone because you want to get in touch with me. I have friends I need to, you know, I'm starting to get a girlfriend. I want to take her to the movies. I should probably have a phone. I will not get social media, blah blah blah blah, all the stuff. A

nd so we were like, my husband went to Costco and I got two phones was like, All right, here you go, Brady. And he's like Mason, who was like in eighth grade at the time. It was like, “Do you want a phone? You need to do what Brady did. You need to prove to us, you know, you're responsible. You need to give us a list of blah, blah, blah. You need to figure out how you're going to pay us back for it.” 

And he was like, “Yeah, you'll give it to me when you're ready.” Sure enough, he ends up going to school in a different state and we have to get like 45 minutes away and we ended up having to give it to him cause we're like, “We need to know if you need to be picked up, are you taking the bus or are you staying for sports like?” 

So we ended up giving him a phone and we were like, urhh, right? And we didn't want to do it. But it was very much like, This is not yours. This is ours. You can use it, but we get it back whenever we need it. And so that was, we had to do the same thing with a car, like this is our car, but you can use it until you lose that right. You know, all these things, we try to... they also know how to wear us down. Like even my nine year old, they all know exactly how many times they say, “Ma, ma, ma, ma” until you go, “What? I'm on the phone.” You know, like, if 10 times is the time she snaps, then I'll say it 11. 

Justin: Yeah, oh my god, so…

Audra: This is such wisdom. I want to put it like a pin in some of these things. So they like these are just really, really great tips. And I love the “It's ours” thing, like I am so, the kids are around here somewhere, but they'll, I think we should make note of that. Like, it's ours when it comes to various things…

Justin: And you can use it till you lose the privilege. 

Melissa: Yeah, it's not a gift, that's why I kind of never give them as gifts, because then I feel like you can't really take it away. It's theirs. You gave it to them like, you're going to take back your I don't know a lot of people. 

I know when they graduate fifth grade, give them a smartphone or something, and it's like, here's your gift for graduating fifth grade. And then it's like, Well, how are you going to when you take that away? That's sort of a strange thing. 

Sometimes I feel like so with the car, I'm actually going to go buy. It's a car. He wants a car that I want, I want a Dodge Charger and he wants a Challenger. But I'm going to get the Charger because it's a four door and I think I'm going to drive it around for a few months and then be like, “Hey, guess what? You can have the keys for most of the time unless I want it back.” 

Justin: Smart. 

Audra:That's good that way. 

Melissa: But the problem is right now, like, I have a deal going with my brother. My brother's like, I bet you you will not get him a car. He's like, I bet you, you're going to get him a brand new car that has an MSRP of over $40,000. And I was like, no and no like, I'm going to get I'm an old beat up and then my husband's like, No, we're not. We wanted to have the safety features of a new car, and then I'm like, Oh, screw, like, oh, so am I going to lose the bet to my brother because then I need to buy my brother a Lamborghini. And that's not fun. 


32:52

Audra: Oh my God, the things we did in the ‘90s. So like, we grew up with you. It's so crazy to think. But I mean, you were like the public facing version of us for our generation. You know, like, it's so cool to think that, I mean, we both graduated in 95. So that was totally our era. 

And it's so it's really, really cool to connect with you as a person because I feel like you played these roles kind of like for us in a sense, throughout life, as you were growing up on screen and hearing these stories, I'm thinking like the things that we did in the ‘90s, and I know it's the right thing to do to let my kids do various things, but I have such a hard time with it. Are times really different today, do you think?

Melissa: It’s just not documented the same way, right? I mean, we're used with like group text messages, you know, group chats that are getting out of control where you invite a stranger on because we've lived all over the place. My son invited a stranger on and he started sending inappropriate photos to this whole group of people. And it's just, you know, we're dealing with all this new stuff, all uncharted territory that none of us have ever dealt with before and trying to figure out what that means.

Justin: I can’t imagine that.

Melissa: It's a nightmare. 

Justin: Melissa, can you imagine if you had all this stuff when you were that age?

Melissa: You guys would not have wanted to talk to me if you knew what I'd done when I was like… I mean, I was a pretty good kid. You guys read the book, right? You said, in the thing that you read the book. 

Audra: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Melissa: Even then, some of the, I put in, there are some of my racier stuff. I mean, there's a few secrets I kept for myself, but it's pretty much all in there. 

Justin: Very good kid. Very disciplined. Yeah.

Melissa: I always said I had a I think I put in there that I had a coordinated rebellion, like it was planned. I was going to do something naughty. I made sure I had a lot of time to recover or, you know, I was like…

Justin: Planned it out.

Melissa: Yeah, separated my life out in a certain way where things don't overlap. 

Justin: Well, the race car thing makes a lot of sense, right? So you like to go fast, but it's on a track. It's with, you know, all…

Melissa: Everyone's going the same direction. 

Justin: Yeah, exactly. 


36:47

Justin: When did you know you wanted to be a mother? 

Melissa: Always. I'm the oldest of eight kids. I always, that was always going to be my goal. I had so much success young, right? I mean, I never considered my childhood being very successful and even Clarissa years not necessarily successful. I wasn't able to put any of that money away. 

So it wasn't until Sabrina came around, and that was a very lucrative job. And I was really smart though, I made sure I always saved and whatnot. But I also was like, Well, I was successful in my career, and I was successful in being able to make a good amount of money. I separate those two, too. I don't know if like multiple, maybe combine those. But like I think of my career and making money as two different things. And like, I was able to have both and I thought, Well, because I have those two things, I'll never find love like, I couldn't possibly have all these things. And so I was wrong. I did find love. 

But in the preparation of it, I always had plans of like, Well, if I'm not married, by the time I'm 38 or 40, I'll have a baby on my own or I'll adopt. I always wanted to adopt children, and I still do, but I always had a plan to be a mother. Always, always, always. 

Justin: Always. And so can you tell us about was there a shift from Melissa before motherhood and Melissa after? Or were you just preparing yourself and you just like, glide into motherhood? 

Melissa: I mean, looking back, it definitely seems like a different life without children, right? Like, I can't even imagine what, I keep trying to think. Like I even said to my husband because we actually ended up having lunch and walking around the mall together. I was supposed to be working in my work got done early. I actually was doing a commercial for Lifetime in Verizon, and it got done about three hours earlier than it was supposed to. 

And so I was like, Do you want me at the mall, have lunch and like, walk around and like, start Christmas shopping? And it was like, this crazy moment. And I was thinking about it and I was like, What did we used to do before we had kids? Like we had all this time, we just stop and go on vacation? Like, what did we do? It just seems like a different world. So I guess I just never made note of the fact that like, I got to go to the mall and have lunch like, you know. I have to say I did, I mean, I felt very confident going into motherhood. My mom had been pregnant so many times where mom has seven kids, but I'm the oldest of eight. My dad has a daughter. Another daughter, like after he remarried. 

And so having all these babies around, I mean, my youngest sister was only like seven years older than my son. So there was always little ones around. There was always diapers to be changed, was always entertaining, playing, watching Disney movies, you know, all that stuff. So it was always kind of dabbled in my life anyway. And any time I went to Disney World, even when I was in my 20s, it took my little sisters, and so I always felt very much motherly. So when I was pregnant, I did not expect to not like being pregnant because my mom loved it so much. That was a shock to me, but also like…

Audra: Oh, so you didn't like being pregnant? What was it?

Melissa: I hated it. I don't know. Did you like it?

Audra: I, so I'm sort of opposite, like I didn't. I wasn't like a really maternal sort of person before this, and when I got pregnant, I really did enjoy it. Until the end. The end sucked the end, like, really, really sucked. But I actually kind of enjoyed it. But what was it? Was it the discomfort? Were you sick? 

Melissa: All of it, it was being scared of everything you do. I think I was like such an independent person. And now everyone's telling you you can't eat sushi and like what? You can't drink that, you can't like. I'm getting calls from my mom saying, Did you go to this certain workout class because my friend had a miscarriage going to that class. You shouldn't go to that class. 

Audra: Oh, so it was all the fear stuff.

Melissa: All I felt comfortable and doing was taking a walk with my husband to go get a bagel or ice cream, and I was gaining so much weight and then I'm uncomfortable and I don't feel good. And I was a very active, energetic person. 

But being pregnant freaked me out about everything, any healthy habit I had had to go away, like I like goat cheese, and all of a sudden they're like, “You can't have goat cheese, you can't have sushi,” you got to eat, you know? So now I'm like, ok, I'll have bagels and pasta. And so I'm bloating like a whale. You know, when I was just doing all these things, I couldn't go to my workouts and I couldn't, you know, and I was like, I should have asked my doctor more. 

But instead, I let everybody infiltrate my brain and just make me afraid. And I kind of like was sort of like this, especially my first pregnancy. Second one, I had Mason to chase around. I didn't gain as much weight. I felt much better. The pregnancy, the labor was so much easier. Everything was like boom, boom, boom. But then with the third one, I had this, not morning sickness, I had like afternoon sickness come 3:00 in the afternoon. I could not leave the couch with my Oreos or Raisin Bran. Those were my two things, and I could not even get my butt upstairs to go to bed. Not that I was puking or anything, so I know I was really, I never had a terrible pregnancy. 

I just didn't like the way I felt like I had to do all these, like trying to with the third one, like my stomach felt he was going to fall, like I was going to just tear off of my body. He was so heavy and big and it was... I just didn't like it all. 

But like then when the baby came, I wasn't concerned about it. I know how to change diaper. I know how to give a bottle, I know how to burp. I know all these things except for maybe swaddling, that seemed new. I felt like I knew it all, and I expected that I would have this amazing bond with our children and I would be the one taking care of them. 

But my husband picked it up first day in the hospital like I was actually really, really, my body was beaten and bruised after the first one, and he spent the first two weeks basically doing all the heavy lifting around the baby stuff, and he just picked it up like so naturally and I was kind of like jealous, like, that's what I was, you're the youngest of three kids. Like, what do you know about anything with kids? And he just like to it. 

He's like, you know, every bath, he's there doing bath time and he's there doing diaper changes, and he's there giving them bottles when he can. And like everything. And I was like, at first I was like, “Oh, good,” and then I was kind of like, “Wait a second. Slow down. What about me?” 

And so he but he became such a natural at it that now he's still like Mister Mom and I get to go to work. So it's not exactly I imagined having kids and being a little bit more of the full time caretaker, and instead I'm the working parent. So it's not exactly how I envisioned it, but also we have three boys, which I never envisioned. 

And I mean, this morning we were doing a “who would you save if this car started on fire” thing on the way to school. And they all said, “Daddy.” And I was like, “You know what?... I'm going to be in a car accident.” Little was like, “Well, both of you.” He was like, both, you know, “Well, we're gonna shove you both out.” And I was like, ok, yeah.

Audra: But that, I mean, that is such a trip, and I can identify with some of that with Justin, like he is a really involved dad, and I work a lot as well. And the kids, like, you know, I'll see things the social media of like, you know, the kids asking for mom and the kids will ask for dad. They'll be like dad, dad, dad, dad. Right? And there is a part of me. There's a part of me that's like, super stoked about that. And then there is a part of me that's like, Oh, you're not coming to me on that, you know? Yeah. 

Melissa: Mason went to homecoming for the first time. Did Max go? Has he done any of those kinds of school? 

Audra: They haven't had, their homecoming, I think, is for basketball. 

Melissa: Oh, ok. So we just had it, and it was the first time we've ever had it. But I didn't know one of these kids because we're new here. It wasn't like I imagined it being all these kids that I would know, and I'd know the parents. 

And I know, you know, I keep a little bit better track of where they were going, what they were doing. I was also out of town and my husband was here doing it. Luckily, he knew to get a corsage because I never really went to homecoming, so I didn't know that was like a thing. Well, luckily he knew all that and he was on top of it, and he made sure they got pictures and whatnot. 

But when I saw the pictures of this girl hanging on my son, I don't know this girl, I thought it was going be awkward like that... But, they were standing together taking a picture there, like she's like grabbing his bicep. He's got his hand all the way around her waist. She's holding his like, “What is this?” I was the one begging him. I was like, I will buy you new AirPods if you go to homecoming with a girl. But yet when it happened, I was like, “Whoa, whoa, that's not how I meant to be.” 

Justin: I did not envision this.

Melissa: And also was like, Wait, she's a short blond too. You've totally replaced me like, you don't need your mommy anymore. You've got this girl and your dad. 

Audra: Oh, it's really something else. And what a milestone that is, a homecoming milestone. All of Max's friends went to homecoming, and I saw all the pictures, heard all the things from the moms, all of the there is a time off like you're really stoked. But some grief too, right? Like there are days over…

Melissa: Like everybody prepares you for the firsts, but nobody prepares you for the lasts. And that's become a very real thing for me recently. Things like Tucker is going to lose his last tooth, and he’s my last child to lose teeth, you know. And like all these things, he's the last one, I was in second grade is as good as it gets. And he's, you know, this is my last second grader. 

And then I'll just feel like I have kids above second grade? That just makes me feel old and like, you know, there's all these things like you don't really think about, like flag football is going to end in then they’re in tackle. And just like these little things when you're like, yeah, first day of this, but then you're not like, Oh my gosh, it's the last time like I, I actually took off work on Halloween because I was like, I'm not missing this Halloween. This could be very well be our last like we've actually had for Halloween. Canceled one because of COVID last year, and we moved, so we really didn't know anywhere to go, not even trunk or treat like we didn't know how to do anything. 

Last year we drove all around town trying to find anything happening and couldn't. Luckily, I bought a lot of candy. No kids came to our door, so my kids got all that candy. But they didn't get candy last year and we had had one was canceled because of a snowstorm. One was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy coming through the Northeast. And then there was one other thing that happened I can remember, but basically they've had four Halloweens canceled. 

So I was like, I'm going to be home. There's only like two of these left for me to go trick or treating with my kids. So you know that it's, you know, the last one is coming soon. I've just got to want to be there for that, you know, and I don't want to miss those things. 

But what you asked before kind of hit me too, because I also was like one of these moms that never changed. I didn't change for the child. I made my children fit into our life. We still went to lunches and took the kids in the bucket seat, and we still, you know, went on trips, we just taught them how to be good on an airplane, made sure we had lots of tricks in our bag and snacks and, you know, lots of diapers and changes. 

And, you know, just make sure we could like, go on that trip and be with those people for that holiday or, you know, to bring them to work with me when they could. And you know, that kind of thing because also I did as much traveling with them and as much moving around and including them in my life when they were little because I knew someday. And it's happening now. 

There's going to be 10 years of high school and high school football where they can't leave, like all through elementary and middle school, it was like not working in Australia for a month. Nope, we're going up. We're going to Europe for the whole summer. Nope, we're going to go to Africa and do a mission trip. We're going to do these things now because like, I'm freaking out that my husband won't let me plan a trip for New Year's because I'm like, “When are we ever going to travel again?” 

So, you know, making sure that I got all that stuff in in the beginning because I know the next 10 years of our lives are going to be making sure that they're living up to the responsibilities that they've signed up for. 

Justin: So, I'm right in the middle of this book called Hunt Gather Parent. Have you heard of this now, Melissa? So it's by this NPR correspondent. She's like a science correspondent, but she took time off to travel the world and visit indigenous communities like one in Mexico, one in Africa, one I think in Alaska to see how they parent and how have human beings parented for, you know, hundreds of thousands of years. 

And one of the lessons that she brought back, which I thought was it was like really mind-blowing. But it's now brought to mind because of what you said is that all around the world, all different indigenous communities with different traditions. But what they do is they let make the kids fit into the adult world like there is no special kid playtime. 

There's no special toys. There's no special... These are kids. It's like kids are brought into the adult world, like right from the beginning and the kids are a lot happier. Like they love it and they grow up learning how to do these adult things. And so by the time they're like 10, they love doing chores. They love helping out. They love doing all this stuff. 

Melissa: And it's natural, like I've noticed with my kids, like when we started making them take out the trash, my husband was like, “I'll just do it. It's just easier if I just do it.” I'm like, “No, I'm going to leave the bag here all day until they take it out. Like if they're at school, it's going to sit here until they're done with school. If they forget and they go to football, they're going to do it when to get it back. It's going to sit here.” 

But eventually, after a few weeks of that, of them knowing I take out the trash now they just do it, you know? But now it's like getting them to empty the dishwasher. That dishwasher will sit open for 45 minutes. I will trip over it three or four times, but I'm still going to make them empty the dishwasher, you know, like. And it becomes natural. 

And that sounds like what you're talking about. Like, I've noticed that with certain chores if I stick to it. But then I leave town and my husband doesn't stay. Husband just does it. He's doing the laundry, he's doing the dishes. I'm like, “No, that's what they're here for. They need to do this.”

Audra: Yeah, you're not including them. And then by including them in your work the way that you bring them with you and you include them in your lives and your travel and things like that, there's so much they're learning.

Melissa: And these little skills like what you’re talking about for the life skills. A big one is doing laundry like I want them to go to college and not do laundry. And they're boys. They're probably not going to, but at least they’ll know how. They'll know how much detergent, they'll know what not to put in the dryer, you know, that kind of thing.

Justin: At least once a month. 

Melissa: Tucker learned the other day don't put your crayons in the dryer like they just got all over your clothes and everything's stuck together now and different colors and plus your crayons are ruined. So tough lesson, you know. 

Justin: Life lesson. 

Audra: I think it's so poignant thinking of your lasts, too. Like, that's going to be the last crayons that are going to be in the house. Like it's, you know what I mean?

Melissa: Like, we can finally get something in white. I can finally get a white sofa. You know, things like that. 

Audra: You can change out your furniture at some point, but it is. There is pain in that. Like, I see that with my daughter, like, her voice hasn't changed yet. She's 11, and it's like her hands are so small and these little things that you hang on to. I want to adopt. 

Or we, well, we've talked about it and a part of it, to be honest with you, is not just like I really, really want to have more kids, but I do kind of want to reset the clock a little bit. And there's a part of me that wants to have little ones again, like, it's not too late, you know, it's not too late to be in that space, especially if you've enjoyed being in that space. 

Melissa: Yeah, you know what? I used to always tell my boys, I'm like, “Oh, I'm going to kiss your little legs or something before they get all hairy and manny,” you know, like they're like, I was always like, touched their legs and be like, “Oh, someday these are just going to be hairy, gross, smelly boy legs.” 

And like, Yeah, we're getting the smell to your feet. They come home so sweaty from football, you know, and they're just like, they're little pigs. And it's like, yeah, it's starting to happen. Like, they're getting a little mustache. Like they get…

Audra: Oh, the mustache! Max has a mustache.

Melissa: And it’s like no, that's so gross. 

Audra: Yeah. So tell us about like social media and stuff like, how do you navigate that world?

Melissa: We always told them that it's illegal to have an Instagram account until you're, I think it's 14 or 13. So we always told them that and they're very much like, “Oh, it's the law we can't.” So they live by that. That was helpful. 

Justin: You will go to jail, you will go straight to jail.

Melissa: Also teaching them things, like I said, guys, we're just not like a normal family. Like if you accidentally, like my mother one time, did a geotag on our house and all of a sudden, everybody that follows her knows where we live. You know, it's like things like that were accidentally post what school you go to because I don't talk about what's right. You go to like you accidentally post your football uniform or your friend in their uniform, or you post the football field or you post the front of our house or, you know, things like that, then you know, I do have some fans out there that are a little, you know, not well-behaved and I don't want that.

 Like we have to be safe and be careful if they've seen people pull up to our driveway and be like, “Hey, can we come in?” And we're like, “No, we forgot to close the gate like, get out.” Well, you know, they've seen some of that and they see how people kind of come up to us in the street and in public. And so they're really careful about it. 

So that's a, you know, just telling them it's a safety thing has been really helpful. I don't know for sure that they don't have like a finsta account. Apparently, there's these fake Insta accounts. They tell the parents there's one and they actually have another. So, yeah, so that apparently could be. I just I love that you guys just looked at each other like…

Audra: We know that Max, like he he doesn't care, he likes to watch YouTube and TikTok, and he's not really, you know, but he does not care about Instagram. And Maesie doesn't today. But I worry more about her because of the effect on girls like Instagram is devastating.

Melissa: My two older ones, even though they both have Brady's very social, so he wants to watch TikTok. But he also I did catch him with his own TikTok account, and then he went online and I very clearly said, “Do not link ours, do not say anything on yours about you being my son because people will find you and they'll figure stuff out.” 

And he went on my TikTok. I found he went on my phone, my TikTok, and said, “Hey guys, it would really mean a lot to my son if you would follow him.” 

So then I was like, “You idiot. Now not only I gotta delete mine, delete yours, what are you thinking?” I literally said, “Won't let anyone know who you can go on and watch. But now you're posting on mine that you have one, like, what a moron you are.” 

First of all, I totally, that's easy to catch you. Like, not very smart, but he’s my little social butterfly that's holding me. Like, Let's create the he wants to create the dances and do the fun videos and stuff like that. 

My older one, he wants to fly airplanes on a simulator and, you know, and the little one wants to jump on the trampoline. So luckily right now, although the little one does want a YouTube channel and they're hearing like you can make money on YouTube channels and stuff, which is a little, bleh. Please no. 

Audra: It's some sort of like thing going around with the kids that they think that they can become creators and make money. I'm like, How are you going to get, you know, I'm just like…

Melissa: I don't know enough to protect them from it. Like, I don't know enough yet on what to do to not do. How do you keep those? You know, I know one of them plays video games, the middle one. How do I know who's playing with him or how he's giving information to or, you know? Right? That stuff I’m still not navigating. I lived up to my husband and he's our it guy, but I don't think he knows either. 

I mean, we've put these kids on lockdown as far as their screen time goes. And, you know, at 10:00 p.m., all their screens go off and they can't contact anyone unless it's an emergency and things like that. But at the same time, they hack it all the time. My oldest one has hacked everything we've put on the phone. 

Audra: Really, do you use an app?

Melissa: I don't know if I'm proud of him or really pissed at him. 

Justin: Yeah, right, right. A little bit of pride, but a little bit of anger. 

Audra: You're really passionate about a lot of causes and it's how we met. You you know, you've, I think, been involved in child cancer before meeting Max. But you really care about causes that affect kids. It seems you represent a lot of causes, you ensure that a lot of voices are heard. 

And that's something that I think goes back to that. Like making sure Melissa is seen and heard, all the Melissa's are seen and heard. You know that part of you. But where does that come from? I think it's just so amazing. You use your platform to ensure that people are seen, heard, recognized for what they go through, that their causes are amplified. Where did that come from for you? 

Melissa: You know, I think it comes from well, being the oldest kid of so many and feeling so responsible for all of them and wanting nothing but the best for them and not being able to imagine anything bad ever happening to them, but also realizing how lucky we are that I'm a family, I come from a family of eight and I have three healthy boys and like, I have zero to complain about and I am given a lot of opportunity and I know that that's rare and I know that's fleeting. I know that could be taken away from me at any moment. And so I want to share that as much as possible and spread around money, awareness, hope, love all of it as much as I can while I can and not take any of it for granted and know that I was only given these opportunities to share with others and to bring joy. 

Like I, you know, for a while there, I was like, Oh, I'm on TV. Like people make it so important you’re a celebrity. Like, what's so important about it? There’s nothing important about it. But then I get calls from people or, you know, meet people at Comic-Con and stuff. And they're like, I spent a long time in the hospital and you helped me through it. Or I was really depressed and... 

So we started praying before each show during Melissa and Joey, we had a first day on the set who had worked with Reba. And it's funny because I'm full circle now. 

I'm working with Reba myself on Young Sheldon directing her, but she worked on her show. She did what a lot of musicians do. She would pray before every show, have her group come together in a circle, hold hands and do a prayer. And she brought that to our first aid. Our first day brought it to me, and we started to pray before every show and we just started to pray like, forget all this stuff. It doesn't matter. Like, it doesn't matter what's going on. The only thing that matters right now is that we give someone a laugh that needs it. And that's what we would pray and I have it framed up in my office that says, Give someone a laugh who needs it. 

And that's always my prayer now before I go do a show because acting is not, it's not important unless it's for that relief, unless it's for that escapism, right? And so that's what we're good for and that's what we do. And all the rest of it is secondary. And so I just try to share and spread the love as much as possible. And I'm trying to teach my kids that as well. 

But again, like we go back to, you know, it's hard not to teach them to be greedy or to spoil them or that kind of thing. But I also think because of where I came from, I know I don't need a lot, but I also hold on to everything. I mean, I'm sitting in front of all these socks and I'm like, I will not get rid of these socks. I know there's a pair somewhere, but I could probably afford new socks, but I won't know.

Justin: Melissa, that is just environmentally sound. 

Melissa: I don't use tissues anymore. I use a handkerchief. I don't use cotton pads. I can't get rid of Q-tips. I tried that, but it's necessary in my life. But you know, it's like I just try to look out for everybody and take care of everybody. And I think there's plenty of room around the world for everyone to, there's no need to be competitive. There's no need for any of that. The only thing like sometimes I do support a lot of different charities. I do tend to focus on the ones with kids because I think that's the most important thing. 

Your child's health and happiness are like the most important things in this world and that is something I throw myself into and behind. And that's why I work a lot with youth villages that I just play Wheel of Fortune. I just won $1,000,000 for it. 

Audra: We saw that. That's incredible. Congratulations. 

Melissa: And that goes back to me wanting to adopt and like, you know, foster kids and just imagining kids at 18 years old, aging out of foster care, no one to go home to, go to college, did anyone help them with the SATs, you know, like, what are they going to do as a career? Are they, you know, are they going to join the army or are they going to be a bagger at Walmart? Like, what are they going to do? So they do life set, and that's, that money's going to go really help life set and all these kids that are going to be on their own soon because they have a family before Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter. 

What about summer break? If they are in college, you know, where do they go? What do they do? So to try to get them on their feet and you know, I just love putting myself, I think part of being an actor is putting yourself in other people's shoes and understanding the background, like even look at like Cruella, right? 

The most recent movie. And I didn't actually see it. But to know that this woman that is thought of is so evil has a backstory. And there's a reason and there's something that happened to her in her childhood that, you know, makes her be so hateful. But really, it's just someone calling out for love and attention. 

So if we can share that earlier than, you know, maybe we can put a stop to some of the hate and some of the drama that goes on around the world. And so I've always just wanted to reach out and help, be helpful. But I do feel like sometimes I might dilute the charities that I really love, but I just love so many. I just want to help everybody. 

Audra: You do a beautiful job. You really do. 

Melissa: But I was like, there's so many I want to help. I don't want to compete with them. I want to help them. So how can I just get involved with everybody? 

Audra: That's beautiful. I think it's part of your calling is connecting people to these causes and connecting people to other people's experiences, you know, broadening our world, bringing that love and fantastic. And you bring just like this light energy. And I think it's so important because you amplify a diversity of causes, and I think that's what we need to see. 

There are so many ways we can show up in the world. Like there's more than enough opportunities to show up and do something good and help someone smile today. Help make this day good today, right? 

Melissa: There are. Yes. And that's the, like, you know, I already made my list of the charities I want to help for Giving Tuesday or who I'm going to donate to. I'm going to, you know, promote and you guys are on there. 

But like, you know, it killed me on Wheel of Fortune, not being able to split it up among all my favorite charities. I mean. You guys and a hole in the wall gang up in Connecticut, which was ... And what the work they do there is incredible. And then youth villages and then World Vision, who helps out on a global scale children and families all around the world. I mean, there's so many of my friends, the president of Lupus L.A. and helps with autoimmune diseases. Just really, you know, a disease that not a lot of people know about or aware of. 

Justin: When I saw the Wheel of Fortune thing, I mean, I loved that program. Life set seemed like such a powerful, impactful program. So we are now going to ask three questions.

Audra: Justin keeps us on track. 

Justin: I'm the driver. She's the personality. So we ask these three questions to every guest. And so we start with: if you could put a post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that post-it note say?

Melissa: Be a good listener. That's always what I say to my kids when they go to the school bus. Be a good listener. I think if you're a good listener, it helps you in every aspect. 

I tell my kids, I'm like, If you're a good listener, you'll be a good friend. You'll be a good student. You'll be a good child. To be a good parent, you'll be, you know, a good neighbor. And I need to learn that myself because I'm a big talker, as I've proven in the last hour. I need to listen. 

Audra: Thank goodness you're talking.

Melissa: I need to listen more. You know, I need to. And that's the thing I've always been like. It's always been my job to be the talker. But yeah, and I excel at it. But I need to listen too. what I need to listen to my kids and I and they're always telling me that like, “mom, you don't even listen to the answer.” 

I do need to listen more and I need to. I also, for me, my post-it note would probably say, ask more questions… I want to let you know everything about me. So you feel comfortable telling me about you. I don't want to ask questions because I might ask the wrong question. Or maybe it's something I should already know or, you know, that kind of thing. And I think I do need to ask more questions. B

ut in general, I think good advice all around the world is: be a good listener.

Justin: We're going to give you two then. So it's: ask more questions. Be a good listener. Melissa, is there a quote recently that you came across that changed the way you think or feel? 

Melissa: So I posted one on Instagram. Let me look real quick, my friend runs this program called On-Site. These workshops down here in Nashville, and they have one as well in San Diego. He wrote this: “Love is not telling people what they need to be included. It's including them and reminding them why they belong.” And that one really struck me. I haven't seen a quote in a while that struck me. 

But my kids actually say that I always quote, I think it's Dr. Seuss or Winnie the Pooh who says, “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.” And that's when I look at my kids have started to live by that one. Because of these, like we were talking about these last and when you have these lasts, not just the first, but the last. And it seems upsetting like, you know, when my son graduates second grade or loses his last tooth, like, I can't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Audra: It's a beautiful reminder, and in a way of living life, especially with things are fleeting. We don't, you know, we're a blip. We have with the little bit of time that we have to live life like that, you'll be present and really it. 

Melissa: Yeah, that's the thing to always try to be present, right? 

Justin: So the last question really dovetails nicely. As you well know, it can be exhausting raising kids as you know the schedules and all the everything that goes into it. And so it's nice to take a break and or a step back and think, what do we love about kids? So Melissa, what do you love about kids?

Melissa: I love the innocence. I love the simple view on life. My kids got so upset with me the other day because I wouldn't go on the trampoline with them. I'm like, “It's too cold out. I have things to do. You don't understand,” and like, just go on the trampoline. Are they going to remember that I, you know, cleaned the dishes, or remember that I went on the trampoline with them? 

And which one is going to be more important at the end? And I need to do that more often, and they see life like that. You know, they see life in, with more play. And I mean, I always say, do what you have to do, then you get to do what you want to do. But at the same time, it's like they just have this innocence of, just a simple outlook. There's that one thing they want and they want to do. It might be like their goal is to get that piece of candy. Or it might be to get mom on the trampoline. Or it might be that they want that sleepover next weekend. And whatever that one goal is, they really focus on those things, man, and they go after them. 

Justin: Being in the moment.

Audra: Yeah, totally. They're ultimately present, right? It's really cool. Well, thank you for sharing that with us, and thank you for sharing everything with us. 

Melissa: Well, I want to ask you guys, can you give me an update on like Max and how he's doing? And you're because I have a little like in the last few years that I've been missing you like, can you guys give me a little one on one?

Audra: Yeah, thank you for asking. Yeah, Max is doing really well. He is still fighting, so he still has cancer like he has tumors in his brain stem and he'll go through these phases where they'll grow and then kind of will get on treatment or something, and he'll stabilize and then grow. 

So it's been over 10 years of fighting this disease, but we're lucky he's, so lucky he's still with us, and he has a really great quality of life. He's on a targeted therapy. So one of the new cancer drugs that targets like a specific pathway for the cancer, and it's been working. So he had a disease that was growing so rapidly as of early 2020. It was like growing so much. It was crazy because a friend of mine was like, Can you just take him out of school and just go and just be with him for the next few months because we didn't know what was going to happen, like, it was really pretty dire. They're talking about like palliative surgery, like, what were you going to do? 

And then Covid hit and Covid's been, you know, devastating. But for us, in some strange way, it gave us this crazy, powerful time together to just be together and for him not to be in school and not, you know. So we really treasure that. But he’s now treated in Atlanta, and he is doing really, really great on this targeted drug that's saving his life. It's literally saving his life right now.

Melissa: And what about side effects with it? Or is it more mellow? 

Audra: There are some side effects like weight gain, and it causes pain. Yeah, like joint pain. And so he can't run. One of the things I used to love to run, so he can ride his bike and he can do Peloton and things like that, but he used to love to run. That's a bummer. You can't do things like that. It causes some skin problems and things that, like a 14 year old, doesn't love, you know. 

But he's starting a nonprofit program here locally for After-School Weightlifting, and he's really getting excited about that. He would be, he would make a great football player. He's a big dude, just really like he is. He is like, well, like, set for it. But, you know, I'm sure they wouldn’t let him. 

Justin: His neurosurgeon wouldn’t approve. 

Audra: But yeah, he is doing really well. And Maxlove is 10 years old. I mean, it's incredible. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary and we're moving into the next 10 years and it's just we're doing incredible things in the world of integrative and complementary quality of life enhancing care for childhood cancer and rare disease families. 

And we're doing work that really no one else is doing in the space, and that's why we're doing it. So I hear you when you talk about like I'm so drawn to, if I could do anything, I'd be like some VC, but for charities, and find a way to help everybody accomplish their missions because I just love it so much. I love it when people are in there doing the work, making a difference. And we do what we do because we we have to do it like until we can drop the mic and say we accomplished this and we've changed health care for kids, then we are going to be in it.

 And so maybe one day, maybe one day we can graduate and do something else. But for now we're making that difference and growing, still super grassroots. 

Melissa: I'll be sharing your story with my boys and just update them. And definitely keeping you in our prayers and sending as much awareness your way as possible. 

Audra: We appreciate it so much. Thank you, thank you for spending this time with us. It feels really great to really connect with you. 

Melissa: You guys should come to Nashville, bring Max, come to a game or something. State championships soon. So come on out. 

Audra: Oh We’d love to! Wow, congratulations. That's awesome. 

Melissa: I don't know if he'll get to play, but we'll see.

Audra: Do you think that he's headed towards, like, does he want to play professional football.

Melissa: So he wants to play professional football just to fund the airline? He's going to start. He thinks he's Richard Branson, but he does want to read the Richard Branson book because he knows how to do it. He's already got a business plan. Very cocky 15 year old. 

Justin: You don't need the books. 

Audra: Well, it sounds like you, your mom and your dad, like all of you are like, really, really incredible entrepreneurs. But more power to him. I love hearing that. I love your…

Melissa: Little ones like maybe I'll be a YouTuber and I'm like, well... Let's take a little bit. Work at PetSmart. 

Audra: What about an airline? Yeah. Oh, that's awesome. Yeah, we love it. You know, if we ever come out there. And let us know if you ever come to Savannah.

Melissa: I will. Actually, I will. Sounds like a great spot to just do a little trip, too. So I will. Say hi to the kids for me.

Audra: Likewise. And have a great weekend. 

Melissa: Thank you. You, too. Bye you guys. 


Transcript highlights


Melissa: Alright, guys. 

Audra: Hi, thank you so much for joining us, thank you for doing this. 

Justin: Yes, thank you. 

Audra: We’re so excited to talk to you.

Melissa: It's been years since we've seen you guys. 

Audra: It is. It was. So let's go back in time then. It was like the hottest day of the year in Southern California. I think maybe ever at that time, in September for the Loom-a-Thon and I remember everybody was just like in their cars, in air conditioning, you know, for that event.

Melissa: I remember exactly. I stole my sister's dress and I wore this beautiful little sundress that day and I'm so glad I did because I always love seeing those pictures and it reminds me of that day and of how hot it was. But Elsa was there, right, and Anna. 

Audra: Yeah, the pictures are gorgeous. Yeah. And you helped one of our moms shave her head for childhood cancer research. Those pictures are beautiful. Her child is doing really well in survivorship. And yeah, you just brought so much to that event and it was just really such a highlight for so many of us. You know, it's something that was, I mean, Tustin, California, doesn't get, you know, treated like that very often. So I know our community really, really enjoyed it. 

Melissa: Oh, and it was such fun, and me and my kids have such a good memory of it. It was just so much fun for us to, you know, they had such fun. You guys made it like absolute fun for the kids and it was so meaningful, especially because my son, they because they got to meet Max and they got to kind of understand a little bit more about, you know, the ways other kids live and things that, you know, trials they have to go through in life. And it really gave Mason, especially my oldest one, who’s now 15, it gave him this outlook on life. That kind of it created a little empathy. He was a pretty empathetic kid, but it just created another level. 

And it was really exciting because he went back, I don't know if I ever told you this, but he went back to my work a few times and he would loom for, he would rainbow loom for people at work. He would sit backstage. They made him a little market stand and he would sit back there and he would like, well, I guess we did tell you because he ended up fundraising for you guys. One night he made like 150 bucks and like he would do it once while on this one night in particular, he got like 150 bucks from the crew. 

So we were doing a live show and he was backstage, like taking orders from the crew. What colors do you want? What style do you want? Like this style, this style, this style. And he'd make them all bracelets. And I still have a ton of those bracelets on probably back here behind me somewhere. 

Audra: Oh my god, that's amazing. Like a social entrepreneur, right? So that's how we connected. I think it was from a mutual friend who was working with you, and somehow I think it was around when Max had done the whole thing with Jimmy Kimmel. Did you see that or Mason see that? Either something happened there where I think he was rainbow looming anyway. And then he saw this thing with Max. It was like, I'm going to do it for a cause. 

Melissa: Yes. I think he was. I think he just kind of gotten into it. We had just kind of like, you know, one of the craft stores and gotten a ton of products to just start doing it. But it wasn't until he met Max, I think that he really was like he made it very clear. You know, I feel like those things he'll often do and then be done with. He's kind of gone back to rainbow looming, like all of his life. And I think a lot of it came from like seeing Max do it, seeing that code on Jimmy Kimmel, like all that stuff, he just got really into it. He loved that he could be creative, that he could fundraise, you know, all these things. So he still won't let me throw it away. And he's 15. 


08:21

Audra: Ok, so that's really cool to hear. Is that something that has always been important to you, like in your adult life? Did you get into that when you were younger? 

Melissa: I pretend to do a lot of things. I pretend to scrapbook. I pretend to garden. I mean, I'll get out there once a while. I'll get myself really dirty. I never prepare myself. I never put the gloves on completely or get the clippers or the bench or the kneepads or whatever. 

I have all of it and I want to. But like most of the time, I'll just like, go rip the vines down and I just get thorns all in my hands, and I'm like, I got to get these vines out of here. Like, I don't really prepare. I just sort of go after it and do it. I don't like pick a day, which is probably why my daffodils aren't in the ground yet. 

But you know, I kind of more attack things. Like, I see something and I go outside the door, I'm like, “I have to take that down” or have to fix that or replant that right. But I don't go like, today's my gardening day and I'm going to go, you know, cut some hydrangeas and lovely pruning my whatever.” You know, I don't really…

Audra: Totally, I identify with that. Like, it's impulsive, right? It's sort of like, this needs to get done. And I tend to do it like when it's so hot out here.

Melissa: Oh yeah.
Justin: So what I'm hearing is that you will just feel called and then you just answer the call. And so then what that brings to mind is the story of how you even got into the acting business. You were watching TV shows and there were no characters named Melissa and…

Melissa: Well, it was Romper Room. It was one specific show, Romper Room, and they never said, I don't know if you guys remember that show, you're probably too young.

Audra: No, we're the same age.  

Melissa: Oh ok. Do you remember Romper Room?

Audra: I don't, no. 

Melissa: Do you? 

Justin: I don't. Well, so you were in New York, like you grew up in New York, right? So I grew up in Arizona.

Audra: Where in New York? 

Melissa: Long Island and the city when I was a teenager. 

Audra: Ok, I grew up upstate, but I still don’t remember Romper Room. 

Melissa: I wish I could say what channel it was on, like PBS or something. It was sort of like Sesame Street, like a show where a woman named Miss Mary Ann would sit and like, read to children. I forget. 

I don't even know what the show technically did, but I know that there were always guests. Little kids that would sit in front of her and be like, story time kind of thing. And at the end of it, she would pick up her mirror and go, I see, you know, I see Justin, I see, like she would say all the kids names. She would never say Melissa. And I finally put together that if I could get in the audience, she's saying those kids names. Those are the names she's saying. So if I got in the audience, she'd say, Melissa, for all the Melissa's out there.

Justin: So you felt called. So you answered the call. 

Melissa: It makes me competitive. 

Justin: Yeah. So I…

Audra: You're helping people be seen and heard like you recognize like it would be nice for our name, our name, not just your name. 

Melissa: It would be nice for all the Melissa’s out there to have Miss Mary Ann say their name in the Magic Mirror. 

Audra: Right, right. It's like having your name on one of those little license plate keychains. You know, my name was never on those.

Melissa: Yes. Yeah, there used to be a lot of Melissa's. There's not so much anymore. But yeah, that was a big thing for me. So that's the catalyst. That's sort of where it started. 

Justin: Yeah. So I'm really interested in these defining stories where you can see a person's life and personality and their true authentic self in these early stories. So I'm wondering, like, what does this story say about Melissa? Like, what does it say about like the true, authentic Melissa?

Melissa: That I really want people to say my name… And yet I've always been called other names like Sabrina and Clarissa. 

Audra: So you started early. How did you feel called to act? 

Melissa: Well, I literally just said to my mom, “I have to be on TV.” It was about Romper Room, but it was like this whole other thing of like, I just need to be on TV. And she was like, “Got it, ok.” 

And she knew someone who was a manager, and she called them and got me an audition and I booked the first audition. It was a bathtub doll. I had to be naked. I was terrified. I was in underwear, but I had to show my boobs in the bathtub. 

And I was four, but I had to play with the doll in the bathtub as my first job ever and all those lights and people. And it was just kind of crazy. But I kept booking auditions. I kept bugging commercials. 

So I was a really big commercial kid and commercials make a ton of money. You know, if you get a national commercial and it plays a lot, you can make a good amount of money. So all of a sudden, you know, my family, my dad was a fisherman and my mom was a stay at home mom and at the time she was pregnant with her third kid, I think when I started acting. Right? Yeah, I guess she was about pregnant with the third and she was only, gosh, 24. 

Justin: Oh my god. 24. 

Melissa: Yeah. And so, you know, she'd been pregnant since she got married. So we didn't have a lot. So having me work and like it, it was easy enough, I could go to the city, do a few auditions. I booked almost every other audition, so it was worth it because then I'm shooting commercials and I might work one day or five days. 

And then, you know, the residuals would kind of role in over the next year or two, as much as it played. And so it was good money. I mean, I wasn't aware of that. I got a Barbie doll if I got a job. So, you know, I got a Barbie and then the money went to, you know, food and bikes and clothes and mortgage. 

Justin: That's amazing. 

Audra: It is. I mean, that's an incredible story. And so your dad's a fisherman, your dad's going to work. What kind of, I'm curious, what kind of fisherman? 

Melissa: Let's see, when I was really little he was breeding clams. He actually now breeds oysters. So they had a shop. He and his brother had a shop down by the water. We lived on Long Island, on the South Shore, and he and his brother had a shop on the bay and they'd go down there and they still both own, now they own the whole marina and the boatyard, and they have this like my uncle owns, half of my dad owns the other half and their best friend used to live on the property, until he passed away.

 And so it's like these two brothers and their sons work with them, and my sister works with my dad and sort of like this whole family little area of Long Island. And so we used to be breeding clams. 

And then when I was about six or seven, he started a construction company building homes. I don't know if my dad's like me, he just can't hold still. So then he went into wholesaling lobsters, a long time until the West Nile virus. Do you guys remember when the West Nile virus?

Audra: Yeah. Yeah.

Melissa: It was the mosquitoes. Yeah, before kind of pre-Zika. So the West Nile virus wiped out the lobsters in New York. 

Audra: It did?

Melissa: Yeah, because mosquitoes and lobsters are in the same species or in some sort of same genetic makeup. So when they sprayed all the water for mosquitoes, they killed all the lobsters. So his career was now done with the lobsters... And then he went to breeding oysters. And so he and my sister breed oysters. And right now, because it's not oyster season, they are breeding kelp. So if you go to a spa and get a kelp facial, it might be my dad's kelp. 

Audra: So it sounds like a serial entrepreneur. 

Melissa: Look at this picture, if you look at his, their shop is full of all this algae to feed the oysters. Now all this kelp and it just sort of looks a little bit like a meth lab in a way. It's like all these weird, crazy like bins of neon colors and bags of stuff. Yeah, super bizarre, but it's really cool. And neither of them, like he and my sister, they both run it. They didn’t go to school for it or anything. But technically they're like marine biologists, I guess, because they know all this stuff. It's crazy, but I'm not. I don't know much about it except eating it. So.

Audra: Thank you for sharing this. I love discovering these. These sorts of things like these stories I feel like are just fantastic. And so your mom then would, you know, in addition to, you know, you got the home, the kids, all these young kids, she's young and she's taking you into the city to work. 

Melissa: Yeah, she's dragging all of us. I mean, my sister and I were very close in age and looked very similar two years apart, and we would audition for almost everything together. 

She was just my sister, was a little bit more emotional, a little bit more moody, and I was more like, I'll eat the cereal and say, it's the best thing ever. Sure, you know? And so I kind of booked all the auditions. 

My sister had to find her own identity later on in life. She became the smart one. She's a New York City public school teacher. 

Audra: What grade?

Melissa: She was teaching eighth grade math until the pandemic.

Audra: Oh, wow, that's intense. That's an intense... 

Melissa: I know, I was like, “Can you help? Can you tutor them on Zoom? Can you help at all, please, on the math problems, on text message or something?” 

Yeah. So my sister and I did that a lot together and like all of us, ended up. My two younger sisters did a lot of theater, they both have good voices and did singing and dancing. And eventually kind of everybody dropped out of the business except for my mother and my mother became a manager because so many people came to her then and we're like, “Hey, get my kid into acting.” And she was like, “Alright, I'll start managing.” 

And then my mom divorced my dad when I was about 14. I just started, Clarissa Explains It All, l moved to Manhattan, and they had five kids at the time, and we all were now living between two homes really on Long Island and Manhattan. And my mom became my casting director, so she was now casting commercials and stuff like that. 

So she's finding the actors to put in projects, different projects. And then she started our, while we were living in Manhattan, she was handed, on a playground, she was handed a comic book of Sabrina the Teenage Witch from the Archie Comics, and she was like, “Well, this would be a great show.” 

And since we had already worked at Nickelodeon, which was a Viacom company, she went to Viacom and said, “Hey, we want to make this a movie for Melissa.” They sold it to Showtime. We did a movie that won stars like Ryan Reynolds and some other familiar faces you probably know. And then we spun that off into the TV series, moved to LA and did that for seven years. And then she had two more kids. So. 

Audra: That's incredible. So your mother, when did she marry your dad? 

Melissa: She got married when she was 19.

Audra: 19. Had kids immediately. 

Melissa: Yeah, she was pregnant. Yeah, yeah. 

Audra: Immediately. And look, I mean, I'm so inspired to hear about how she built this incredible career from, you know, learning along the way, learning, growing and then kind of like getting into these new spaces. 

Melissa: She’s fascinating. I mean, she is, it's so funny to think of my mom and my dad together because they're such opposites. He wants to stay in his little hometown, won't even like, come visit me. I'm like, “Come to Lake Tahoe. We'll drive around on the boat” and he’s like, “I have my own boat. Why do I need to come to you?” You know, he's kind of like a homebody guy. And then my mom is this lifelong learner. 

I remember her going to college online, which I didn't even know that. I can't believe that existed in like the ‘80s when we were, when I was a kid. I guess it wasn't technically online. I guess it was like, do the work at your own pace and come to school responded or whatever? Yeah. Well, she, like, was working on her college degree later on. 

And then, you know, and then she learned how to be a manager and then a talent agent and then a producer. And now she, like, has an apartment in LA, an apartment in Paris, bounces around. She calls herself a boomerang grandparent. 

She's got ten grandkids and she goes from like New York, San Diego, Nashville, LA, Paris, like she's in Paris right now. 

But like the other day, she was in Ireland, and now I think she's in Spain and like every day is like a different place and she just can't hold still and she just wants to learn. And she's learning French again because they have an apartment in Paris. So she's gonna learn French, but she's learning how to cook in Italy. 

And, you know, it's like skiing in the Alps and like all this crazy wild. But at the same time, we're developing TV shows and movies and doing Christmas movies and whatnot. She and I are cut from the same cloth for sure. I don't know if I got it from her or her mother. I think probably we both got travel bug from her mother. But yeah, I mean, just always, always anxious to learn more and do more. 

Justin: So I have a question that I was going to wait to ask. But now that we're talking about your childhood and your mother now, I mean, of course, your childhood is so unusual, you know. How are you able to take lessons from your childhood and apply them to your parenting? Like, what can you take from the way that you grew up and bring it into what you're doing? 

Melissa: Well, I think we all struggle with that in a way, though, because the way we grew up, like not just me and my family in our weird, like, you know, being a recognizable face thing. Like all that aside, there's always these weird things like my family I grew up with, you know, if you wanted a bicycle you wait until Christmas. 

My kids are growing up with, like my son lost his fifth pair of AirPods. Am I really going to go to Costco by another $150 pair? Like he's lost like, almost like $1,000 worth of AirPods, and I really like gonna buy? He’s like stealing mine and then I go buy myself new ones and let him have mine? And I'm like, Why do I keep doing that? Like, that's not what would have happened to me or my husband or. 

Like my husband grew up in southern rural Alabama. Like that he had a lot of birthday presents a Christmas presents that was it. Like for me, it was like I got a Barbie doll if I did a commercial. 

But like, you know, and I was never denied anything, school clothes and, you know, at the beginning of the school year and things like that. But if I lost something, it was gone. You know? And these kids are growing up in a totally different way. 

And there's that aspect. And then you add on the fact that like, you know, I was raised in this way. So my my 15 year old and I got in a fight the other day because I said, when football is over in a few weeks, you got to get a job. He's going to be 16. And in Nashville, that means he can drive, which is scary. But he wants to take flying lessons like he wants to be a pilot. 

So he's been taking flying lessons and those are expensive. And his football and all of his camps he wants to go to next summer. I'm like, “You got to start like, you don't even do chores around the house because you're like, ‘Oh, football, so intense.’ Ok, well, when football is over, are you going to get a job at Chick-Fil-A or? Are we going to like, you know, go work at the local...I want you to work in the movie theater so you're not like out in the sun and like always doing physical stuff, let's do something else.”

 But he's like, “I can't do that. I couldn't, do you understand how hard I work at football and school?” And I'm like, “Whoa, dude, at your age, I was holding down a full time job, working 70 hours a week. I had Saturdays off. I was living in Florida while my family's in New York, and I'm learning 50 pages a week. And if I don't have that memorized by Tuesday, the rest of the crew has to wait for me to go home to their family and they don't get to go to dinner.” 

You know, like you're telling me about stress and I'm trying to relate to him and there's no relation. It's like apples and oranges. 

Justin: Oh, that's intense.

Melissa: You know? So I'm struggling with that right now. Like, what lessons can I teach them? Really just trying to teach by example. Try not to spoil them in every sense. It's really hard because like you have kids and you're like, I want them to have better than I did. But does that mean they get to go to Disney World every year on their birthday? Like, probably not, shouldn’t. But I want to go to Disney World every year on their birthday. 

Audra: It's your birthday too. Right, right. But I totally hear you on that. That's like, really, the work is, it is in us, is like holding ourselves back with like, yes, we want to give them what we didn't have. 

But very often it's what we didn't have that makes us who we are today and makes us like, all of those experiences are like what brings us our perspective and our drive and our creativity and all of these things that if we give them too much, we kind of like deny them these experiences, right? But we love to give them things. 

And so it can be, it's like you have to reel yourself in. I think that's like a, I think that's the kind of modern problem of our kids generation, very often is the trophy for everything, it's being given absolutely everything. 


26:38

Melissa: I remember babysitting full time at 12, right? And nobody will allow a 12 year old to babysit anymore. Like, I don't know if Max is doing any of that kind of stuff, but like.

Audra: No, his sister's trying to get into it, though, because she rides horses, which is freaking expensive. So she's like trying to figure out how she can start saving, and we use the green light card for them. Have you heard that?

Melissa: Yes! Wur kids have that. Yeah, I love that. 

Audra: It's great. Yeah, we love it. We love it. They have their own Amazon accounts and like, buy their things, you know? But Maesie is trying to get into it. But it is a challenge, like we have to get her fully trained, and she's young these days for it, like people want older, older people to do it. Max is ready to go to work. He's like, Target, whatever. Yeah, he wants to go work. He’s all in.

Melissa: My little one, Brady is like that. My 13 year old, he is very much like when he wanted a cell phone. I was like wait until eighth grade group of moms that agreed to wait till eighth grade to get phones. Braden, on the other hand, like I don't know if you ever heard of the Gizmo Watch like Verizon has the Gizmo. You can get the watch and it has like nine phone numbers programmed into it and you can text, but they can only text back like, yes, no, maybe I'll be home in, you know, in 10 minutes or whatever. Like a few things. 

And our rule was, if you use this Gizmo, if you keep it charged, you don't lose it. You put it in your backpack, you put it up next to your dresser or you put it on the kitchen counter charging. Those are only places, go six months of using that properly. Oh, and good phone etiquette. You can get a flip phone. Then from a flip phone six more months, then you can get a smartphone and Brady being younger, being like 10 was like, Got it, no problem. And he's always answering like, “Hello mom, I love you. Bye.” And the other one's like, “What?” 

Audra: Oooh, we missed the boat on that! We should have taken notes on that. That's what we get. “What.” 

Melissa: So my older one was it. And so that eventually it was like Brady actually hands it over like $200, you'd say, from the Tooth Fairy and everything else. And I was like, Here's $200. Here's all the reasons I should have a phone because you want to get in touch with me. I have friends I need to, you know, I'm starting to get a girlfriend. I want to take her to the movies. I should probably have a phone. I will not get social media, blah blah blah blah, all the stuff. A

nd so we were like, my husband went to Costco and I got two phones was like, All right, here you go, Brady. And he's like Mason, who was like in eighth grade at the time. It was like, “Do you want a phone? You need to do what Brady did. You need to prove to us, you know, you're responsible. You need to give us a list of blah, blah, blah. You need to figure out how you're going to pay us back for it.” 

And he was like, “Yeah, you'll give it to me when you're ready.” Sure enough, he ends up going to school in a different state and we have to get like 45 minutes away and we ended up having to give it to him cause we're like, “We need to know if you need to be picked up, are you taking the bus or are you staying for sports like?” 

So we ended up giving him a phone and we were like, urhh, right? And we didn't want to do it. But it was very much like, This is not yours. This is ours. You can use it, but we get it back whenever we need it. And so that was, we had to do the same thing with a car, like this is our car, but you can use it until you lose that right. You know, all these things, we try to... they also know how to wear us down. Like even my nine year old, they all know exactly how many times they say, “Ma, ma, ma, ma” until you go, “What? I'm on the phone.” You know, like, if 10 times is the time she snaps, then I'll say it 11. 

Justin: Yeah, oh my god, so…

Audra: This is such wisdom. I want to put it like a pin in some of these things. So they like these are just really, really great tips. And I love the “It's ours” thing, like I am so, the kids are around here somewhere, but they'll, I think we should make note of that. Like, it's ours when it comes to various things…

Justin: And you can use it till you lose the privilege. 

Melissa: Yeah, it's not a gift, that's why I kind of never give them as gifts, because then I feel like you can't really take it away. It's theirs. You gave it to them like, you're going to take back your I don't know a lot of people. 

I know when they graduate fifth grade, give them a smartphone or something, and it's like, here's your gift for graduating fifth grade. And then it's like, Well, how are you going to when you take that away? That's sort of a strange thing. 

Sometimes I feel like so with the car, I'm actually going to go buy. It's a car. He wants a car that I want, I want a Dodge Charger and he wants a Challenger. But I'm going to get the Charger because it's a four door and I think I'm going to drive it around for a few months and then be like, “Hey, guess what? You can have the keys for most of the time unless I want it back.” 

Justin: Smart. 

Audra:That's good that way. 

Melissa: But the problem is right now, like, I have a deal going with my brother. My brother's like, I bet you you will not get him a car. He's like, I bet you, you're going to get him a brand new car that has an MSRP of over $40,000. And I was like, no and no like, I'm going to get I'm an old beat up and then my husband's like, No, we're not. We wanted to have the safety features of a new car, and then I'm like, Oh, screw, like, oh, so am I going to lose the bet to my brother because then I need to buy my brother a Lamborghini. And that's not fun. 


32:52

Audra: Oh my God, the things we did in the ‘90s. So like, we grew up with you. It's so crazy to think. But I mean, you were like the public facing version of us for our generation. You know, like, it's so cool to think that, I mean, we both graduated in 95. So that was totally our era. 

And it's so it's really, really cool to connect with you as a person because I feel like you played these roles kind of like for us in a sense, throughout life, as you were growing up on screen and hearing these stories, I'm thinking like the things that we did in the ‘90s, and I know it's the right thing to do to let my kids do various things, but I have such a hard time with it. Are times really different today, do you think?

Melissa: It’s just not documented the same way, right? I mean, we're used with like group text messages, you know, group chats that are getting out of control where you invite a stranger on because we've lived all over the place. My son invited a stranger on and he started sending inappropriate photos to this whole group of people. And it's just, you know, we're dealing with all this new stuff, all uncharted territory that none of us have ever dealt with before and trying to figure out what that means.

Justin: I can’t imagine that.

Melissa: It's a nightmare. 

Justin: Melissa, can you imagine if you had all this stuff when you were that age?

Melissa: You guys would not have wanted to talk to me if you knew what I'd done when I was like… I mean, I was a pretty good kid. You guys read the book, right? You said, in the thing that you read the book. 

Audra: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Melissa: Even then, some of the, I put in, there are some of my racier stuff. I mean, there's a few secrets I kept for myself, but it's pretty much all in there. 

Justin: Very good kid. Very disciplined. Yeah.

Melissa: I always said I had a I think I put in there that I had a coordinated rebellion, like it was planned. I was going to do something naughty. I made sure I had a lot of time to recover or, you know, I was like…

Justin: Planned it out.

Melissa: Yeah, separated my life out in a certain way where things don't overlap. 

Justin: Well, the race car thing makes a lot of sense, right? So you like to go fast, but it's on a track. It's with, you know, all…

Melissa: Everyone's going the same direction. 

Justin: Yeah, exactly. 


36:47

Justin: When did you know you wanted to be a mother? 

Melissa: Always. I'm the oldest of eight kids. I always, that was always going to be my goal. I had so much success young, right? I mean, I never considered my childhood being very successful and even Clarissa years not necessarily successful. I wasn't able to put any of that money away. 

So it wasn't until Sabrina came around, and that was a very lucrative job. And I was really smart though, I made sure I always saved and whatnot. But I also was like, Well, I was successful in my career, and I was successful in being able to make a good amount of money. I separate those two, too. I don't know if like multiple, maybe combine those. But like I think of my career and making money as two different things. And like, I was able to have both and I thought, Well, because I have those two things, I'll never find love like, I couldn't possibly have all these things. And so I was wrong. I did find love. 

But in the preparation of it, I always had plans of like, Well, if I'm not married, by the time I'm 38 or 40, I'll have a baby on my own or I'll adopt. I always wanted to adopt children, and I still do, but I always had a plan to be a mother. Always, always, always. 

Justin: Always. And so can you tell us about was there a shift from Melissa before motherhood and Melissa after? Or were you just preparing yourself and you just like, glide into motherhood? 

Melissa: I mean, looking back, it definitely seems like a different life without children, right? Like, I can't even imagine what, I keep trying to think. Like I even said to my husband because we actually ended up having lunch and walking around the mall together. I was supposed to be working in my work got done early. I actually was doing a commercial for Lifetime in Verizon, and it got done about three hours earlier than it was supposed to. 

And so I was like, Do you want me at the mall, have lunch and like, walk around and like, start Christmas shopping? And it was like, this crazy moment. And I was thinking about it and I was like, What did we used to do before we had kids? Like we had all this time, we just stop and go on vacation? Like, what did we do? It just seems like a different world. So I guess I just never made note of the fact that like, I got to go to the mall and have lunch like, you know. I have to say I did, I mean, I felt very confident going into motherhood. My mom had been pregnant so many times where mom has seven kids, but I'm the oldest of eight. My dad has a daughter. Another daughter, like after he remarried. 

And so having all these babies around, I mean, my youngest sister was only like seven years older than my son. So there was always little ones around. There was always diapers to be changed, was always entertaining, playing, watching Disney movies, you know, all that stuff. So it was always kind of dabbled in my life anyway. And any time I went to Disney World, even when I was in my 20s, it took my little sisters, and so I always felt very much motherly. So when I was pregnant, I did not expect to not like being pregnant because my mom loved it so much. That was a shock to me, but also like…

Audra: Oh, so you didn't like being pregnant? What was it?

Melissa: I hated it. I don't know. Did you like it?

Audra: I, so I'm sort of opposite, like I didn't. I wasn't like a really maternal sort of person before this, and when I got pregnant, I really did enjoy it. Until the end. The end sucked the end, like, really, really sucked. But I actually kind of enjoyed it. But what was it? Was it the discomfort? Were you sick? 

Melissa: All of it, it was being scared of everything you do. I think I was like such an independent person. And now everyone's telling you you can't eat sushi and like what? You can't drink that, you can't like. I'm getting calls from my mom saying, Did you go to this certain workout class because my friend had a miscarriage going to that class. You shouldn't go to that class. 

Audra: Oh, so it was all the fear stuff.

Melissa: All I felt comfortable and doing was taking a walk with my husband to go get a bagel or ice cream, and I was gaining so much weight and then I'm uncomfortable and I don't feel good. And I was a very active, energetic person. 

But being pregnant freaked me out about everything, any healthy habit I had had to go away, like I like goat cheese, and all of a sudden they're like, “You can't have goat cheese, you can't have sushi,” you got to eat, you know? So now I'm like, ok, I'll have bagels and pasta. And so I'm bloating like a whale. You know, when I was just doing all these things, I couldn't go to my workouts and I couldn't, you know, and I was like, I should have asked my doctor more. 

But instead, I let everybody infiltrate my brain and just make me afraid. And I kind of like was sort of like this, especially my first pregnancy. Second one, I had Mason to chase around. I didn't gain as much weight. I felt much better. The pregnancy, the labor was so much easier. Everything was like boom, boom, boom. But then with the third one, I had this, not morning sickness, I had like afternoon sickness come 3:00 in the afternoon. I could not leave the couch with my Oreos or Raisin Bran. Those were my two things, and I could not even get my butt upstairs to go to bed. Not that I was puking or anything, so I know I was really, I never had a terrible pregnancy. 

I just didn't like the way I felt like I had to do all these, like trying to with the third one, like my stomach felt he was going to fall, like I was going to just tear off of my body. He was so heavy and big and it was... I just didn't like it all. 

But like then when the baby came, I wasn't concerned about it. I know how to change diaper. I know how to give a bottle, I know how to burp. I know all these things except for maybe swaddling, that seemed new. I felt like I knew it all, and I expected that I would have this amazing bond with our children and I would be the one taking care of them. 

But my husband picked it up first day in the hospital like I was actually really, really, my body was beaten and bruised after the first one, and he spent the first two weeks basically doing all the heavy lifting around the baby stuff, and he just picked it up like so naturally and I was kind of like jealous, like, that's what I was, you're the youngest of three kids. Like, what do you know about anything with kids? And he just like to it. 

He's like, you know, every bath, he's there doing bath time and he's there doing diaper changes, and he's there giving them bottles when he can. And like everything. And I was like, at first I was like, “Oh, good,” and then I was kind of like, “Wait a second. Slow down. What about me?” 

And so he but he became such a natural at it that now he's still like Mister Mom and I get to go to work. So it's not exactly I imagined having kids and being a little bit more of the full time caretaker, and instead I'm the working parent. So it's not exactly how I envisioned it, but also we have three boys, which I never envisioned. 

And I mean, this morning we were doing a “who would you save if this car started on fire” thing on the way to school. And they all said, “Daddy.” And I was like, “You know what?... I'm going to be in a car accident.” Little was like, “Well, both of you.” He was like, both, you know, “Well, we're gonna shove you both out.” And I was like, ok, yeah.

Audra: But that, I mean, that is such a trip, and I can identify with some of that with Justin, like he is a really involved dad, and I work a lot as well. And the kids, like, you know, I'll see things the social media of like, you know, the kids asking for mom and the kids will ask for dad. They'll be like dad, dad, dad, dad. Right? And there is a part of me. There's a part of me that's like, super stoked about that. And then there is a part of me that's like, Oh, you're not coming to me on that, you know? Yeah. 

Melissa: Mason went to homecoming for the first time. Did Max go? Has he done any of those kinds of school? 

Audra: They haven't had, their homecoming, I think, is for basketball. 

Melissa: Oh, ok. So we just had it, and it was the first time we've ever had it. But I didn't know one of these kids because we're new here. It wasn't like I imagined it being all these kids that I would know, and I'd know the parents. 

And I know, you know, I keep a little bit better track of where they were going, what they were doing. I was also out of town and my husband was here doing it. Luckily, he knew to get a corsage because I never really went to homecoming, so I didn't know that was like a thing. Well, luckily he knew all that and he was on top of it, and he made sure they got pictures and whatnot. 

But when I saw the pictures of this girl hanging on my son, I don't know this girl, I thought it was going be awkward like that... But, they were standing together taking a picture there, like she's like grabbing his bicep. He's got his hand all the way around her waist. She's holding his like, “What is this?” I was the one begging him. I was like, I will buy you new AirPods if you go to homecoming with a girl. But yet when it happened, I was like, “Whoa, whoa, that's not how I meant to be.” 

Justin: I did not envision this.

Melissa: And also was like, Wait, she's a short blond too. You've totally replaced me like, you don't need your mommy anymore. You've got this girl and your dad. 

Audra: Oh, it's really something else. And what a milestone that is, a homecoming milestone. All of Max's friends went to homecoming, and I saw all the pictures, heard all the things from the moms, all of the there is a time off like you're really stoked. But some grief too, right? Like there are days over…

Melissa: Like everybody prepares you for the firsts, but nobody prepares you for the lasts. And that's become a very real thing for me recently. Things like Tucker is going to lose his last tooth, and he’s my last child to lose teeth, you know. And like all these things, he's the last one, I was in second grade is as good as it gets. And he's, you know, this is my last second grader. 

And then I'll just feel like I have kids above second grade? That just makes me feel old and like, you know, there's all these things like you don't really think about, like flag football is going to end in then they’re in tackle. And just like these little things when you're like, yeah, first day of this, but then you're not like, Oh my gosh, it's the last time like I, I actually took off work on Halloween because I was like, I'm not missing this Halloween. This could be very well be our last like we've actually had for Halloween. Canceled one because of COVID last year, and we moved, so we really didn't know anywhere to go, not even trunk or treat like we didn't know how to do anything. 

Last year we drove all around town trying to find anything happening and couldn't. Luckily, I bought a lot of candy. No kids came to our door, so my kids got all that candy. But they didn't get candy last year and we had had one was canceled because of a snowstorm. One was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy coming through the Northeast. And then there was one other thing that happened I can remember, but basically they've had four Halloweens canceled. 

So I was like, I'm going to be home. There's only like two of these left for me to go trick or treating with my kids. So you know that it's, you know, the last one is coming soon. I've just got to want to be there for that, you know, and I don't want to miss those things. 

But what you asked before kind of hit me too, because I also was like one of these moms that never changed. I didn't change for the child. I made my children fit into our life. We still went to lunches and took the kids in the bucket seat, and we still, you know, went on trips, we just taught them how to be good on an airplane, made sure we had lots of tricks in our bag and snacks and, you know, lots of diapers and changes. 

And, you know, just make sure we could like, go on that trip and be with those people for that holiday or, you know, to bring them to work with me when they could. And you know, that kind of thing because also I did as much traveling with them and as much moving around and including them in my life when they were little because I knew someday. And it's happening now. 

There's going to be 10 years of high school and high school football where they can't leave, like all through elementary and middle school, it was like not working in Australia for a month. Nope, we're going up. We're going to Europe for the whole summer. Nope, we're going to go to Africa and do a mission trip. We're going to do these things now because like, I'm freaking out that my husband won't let me plan a trip for New Year's because I'm like, “When are we ever going to travel again?” 

So, you know, making sure that I got all that stuff in in the beginning because I know the next 10 years of our lives are going to be making sure that they're living up to the responsibilities that they've signed up for. 

Justin: So, I'm right in the middle of this book called Hunt Gather Parent. Have you heard of this now, Melissa? So it's by this NPR correspondent. She's like a science correspondent, but she took time off to travel the world and visit indigenous communities like one in Mexico, one in Africa, one I think in Alaska to see how they parent and how have human beings parented for, you know, hundreds of thousands of years. 

And one of the lessons that she brought back, which I thought was it was like really mind-blowing. But it's now brought to mind because of what you said is that all around the world, all different indigenous communities with different traditions. But what they do is they let make the kids fit into the adult world like there is no special kid playtime. 

There's no special toys. There's no special... These are kids. It's like kids are brought into the adult world, like right from the beginning and the kids are a lot happier. Like they love it and they grow up learning how to do these adult things. And so by the time they're like 10, they love doing chores. They love helping out. They love doing all this stuff. 

Melissa: And it's natural, like I've noticed with my kids, like when we started making them take out the trash, my husband was like, “I'll just do it. It's just easier if I just do it.” I'm like, “No, I'm going to leave the bag here all day until they take it out. Like if they're at school, it's going to sit here until they're done with school. If they forget and they go to football, they're going to do it when to get it back. It's going to sit here.” 

But eventually, after a few weeks of that, of them knowing I take out the trash now they just do it, you know? But now it's like getting them to empty the dishwasher. That dishwasher will sit open for 45 minutes. I will trip over it three or four times, but I'm still going to make them empty the dishwasher, you know, like. And it becomes natural. 

And that sounds like what you're talking about. Like, I've noticed that with certain chores if I stick to it. But then I leave town and my husband doesn't stay. Husband just does it. He's doing the laundry, he's doing the dishes. I'm like, “No, that's what they're here for. They need to do this.”

Audra: Yeah, you're not including them. And then by including them in your work the way that you bring them with you and you include them in your lives and your travel and things like that, there's so much they're learning.

Melissa: And these little skills like what you’re talking about for the life skills. A big one is doing laundry like I want them to go to college and not do laundry. And they're boys. They're probably not going to, but at least they’ll know how. They'll know how much detergent, they'll know what not to put in the dryer, you know, that kind of thing.

Justin: At least once a month. 

Melissa: Tucker learned the other day don't put your crayons in the dryer like they just got all over your clothes and everything's stuck together now and different colors and plus your crayons are ruined. So tough lesson, you know. 

Justin: Life lesson. 

Audra: I think it's so poignant thinking of your lasts, too. Like, that's going to be the last crayons that are going to be in the house. Like it's, you know what I mean?

Melissa: Like, we can finally get something in white. I can finally get a white sofa. You know, things like that. 

Audra: You can change out your furniture at some point, but it is. There is pain in that. Like, I see that with my daughter, like, her voice hasn't changed yet. She's 11, and it's like her hands are so small and these little things that you hang on to. I want to adopt. 

Or we, well, we've talked about it and a part of it, to be honest with you, is not just like I really, really want to have more kids, but I do kind of want to reset the clock a little bit. And there's a part of me that wants to have little ones again, like, it's not too late, you know, it's not too late to be in that space, especially if you've enjoyed being in that space. 

Melissa: Yeah, you know what? I used to always tell my boys, I'm like, “Oh, I'm going to kiss your little legs or something before they get all hairy and manny,” you know, like they're like, I was always like, touched their legs and be like, “Oh, someday these are just going to be hairy, gross, smelly boy legs.” 

And like, Yeah, we're getting the smell to your feet. They come home so sweaty from football, you know, and they're just like, they're little pigs. And it's like, yeah, it's starting to happen. Like, they're getting a little mustache. Like they get…

Audra: Oh, the mustache! Max has a mustache.

Melissa: And it’s like no, that's so gross. 

Audra: Yeah. So tell us about like social media and stuff like, how do you navigate that world?

Melissa: We always told them that it's illegal to have an Instagram account until you're, I think it's 14 or 13. So we always told them that and they're very much like, “Oh, it's the law we can't.” So they live by that. That was helpful. 

Justin: You will go to jail, you will go straight to jail.

Melissa: Also teaching them things, like I said, guys, we're just not like a normal family. Like if you accidentally, like my mother one time, did a geotag on our house and all of a sudden, everybody that follows her knows where we live. You know, it's like things like that were accidentally post what school you go to because I don't talk about what's right. You go to like you accidentally post your football uniform or your friend in their uniform, or you post the football field or you post the front of our house or, you know, things like that, then you know, I do have some fans out there that are a little, you know, not well-behaved and I don't want that.

 Like we have to be safe and be careful if they've seen people pull up to our driveway and be like, “Hey, can we come in?” And we're like, “No, we forgot to close the gate like, get out.” Well, you know, they've seen some of that and they see how people kind of come up to us in the street and in public. And so they're really careful about it. 

So that's a, you know, just telling them it's a safety thing has been really helpful. I don't know for sure that they don't have like a finsta account. Apparently, there's these fake Insta accounts. They tell the parents there's one and they actually have another. So, yeah, so that apparently could be. I just I love that you guys just looked at each other like…

Audra: We know that Max, like he he doesn't care, he likes to watch YouTube and TikTok, and he's not really, you know, but he does not care about Instagram. And Maesie doesn't today. But I worry more about her because of the effect on girls like Instagram is devastating.

Melissa: My two older ones, even though they both have Brady's very social, so he wants to watch TikTok. But he also I did catch him with his own TikTok account, and then he went online and I very clearly said, “Do not link ours, do not say anything on yours about you being my son because people will find you and they'll figure stuff out.” 

And he went on my TikTok. I found he went on my phone, my TikTok, and said, “Hey guys, it would really mean a lot to my son if you would follow him.” 

So then I was like, “You idiot. Now not only I gotta delete mine, delete yours, what are you thinking?” I literally said, “Won't let anyone know who you can go on and watch. But now you're posting on mine that you have one, like, what a moron you are.” 

First of all, I totally, that's easy to catch you. Like, not very smart, but he’s my little social butterfly that's holding me. Like, Let's create the he wants to create the dances and do the fun videos and stuff like that. 

My older one, he wants to fly airplanes on a simulator and, you know, and the little one wants to jump on the trampoline. So luckily right now, although the little one does want a YouTube channel and they're hearing like you can make money on YouTube channels and stuff, which is a little, bleh. Please no. 

Audra: It's some sort of like thing going around with the kids that they think that they can become creators and make money. I'm like, How are you going to get, you know, I'm just like…

Melissa: I don't know enough to protect them from it. Like, I don't know enough yet on what to do to not do. How do you keep those? You know, I know one of them plays video games, the middle one. How do I know who's playing with him or how he's giving information to or, you know? Right? That stuff I’m still not navigating. I lived up to my husband and he's our it guy, but I don't think he knows either. 

I mean, we've put these kids on lockdown as far as their screen time goes. And, you know, at 10:00 p.m., all their screens go off and they can't contact anyone unless it's an emergency and things like that. But at the same time, they hack it all the time. My oldest one has hacked everything we've put on the phone. 

Audra: Really, do you use an app?

Melissa: I don't know if I'm proud of him or really pissed at him. 

Justin: Yeah, right, right. A little bit of pride, but a little bit of anger. 

Audra: You're really passionate about a lot of causes and it's how we met. You you know, you've, I think, been involved in child cancer before meeting Max. But you really care about causes that affect kids. It seems you represent a lot of causes, you ensure that a lot of voices are heard. 

And that's something that I think goes back to that. Like making sure Melissa is seen and heard, all the Melissa's are seen and heard. You know that part of you. But where does that come from? I think it's just so amazing. You use your platform to ensure that people are seen, heard, recognized for what they go through, that their causes are amplified. Where did that come from for you? 

Melissa: You know, I think it comes from well, being the oldest kid of so many and feeling so responsible for all of them and wanting nothing but the best for them and not being able to imagine anything bad ever happening to them, but also realizing how lucky we are that I'm a family, I come from a family of eight and I have three healthy boys and like, I have zero to complain about and I am given a lot of opportunity and I know that that's rare and I know that's fleeting. I know that could be taken away from me at any moment. And so I want to share that as much as possible and spread around money, awareness, hope, love all of it as much as I can while I can and not take any of it for granted and know that I was only given these opportunities to share with others and to bring joy. 

Like I, you know, for a while there, I was like, Oh, I'm on TV. Like people make it so important you’re a celebrity. Like, what's so important about it? There’s nothing important about it. But then I get calls from people or, you know, meet people at Comic-Con and stuff. And they're like, I spent a long time in the hospital and you helped me through it. Or I was really depressed and... 

So we started praying before each show during Melissa and Joey, we had a first day on the set who had worked with Reba. And it's funny because I'm full circle now. 

I'm working with Reba myself on Young Sheldon directing her, but she worked on her show. She did what a lot of musicians do. She would pray before every show, have her group come together in a circle, hold hands and do a prayer. And she brought that to our first aid. Our first day brought it to me, and we started to pray before every show and we just started to pray like, forget all this stuff. It doesn't matter. Like, it doesn't matter what's going on. The only thing that matters right now is that we give someone a laugh that needs it. And that's what we would pray and I have it framed up in my office that says, Give someone a laugh who needs it. 

And that's always my prayer now before I go do a show because acting is not, it's not important unless it's for that relief, unless it's for that escapism, right? And so that's what we're good for and that's what we do. And all the rest of it is secondary. And so I just try to share and spread the love as much as possible. And I'm trying to teach my kids that as well. 

But again, like we go back to, you know, it's hard not to teach them to be greedy or to spoil them or that kind of thing. But I also think because of where I came from, I know I don't need a lot, but I also hold on to everything. I mean, I'm sitting in front of all these socks and I'm like, I will not get rid of these socks. I know there's a pair somewhere, but I could probably afford new socks, but I won't know.

Justin: Melissa, that is just environmentally sound. 

Melissa: I don't use tissues anymore. I use a handkerchief. I don't use cotton pads. I can't get rid of Q-tips. I tried that, but it's necessary in my life. But you know, it's like I just try to look out for everybody and take care of everybody. And I think there's plenty of room around the world for everyone to, there's no need to be competitive. There's no need for any of that. The only thing like sometimes I do support a lot of different charities. I do tend to focus on the ones with kids because I think that's the most important thing. 

Your child's health and happiness are like the most important things in this world and that is something I throw myself into and behind. And that's why I work a lot with youth villages that I just play Wheel of Fortune. I just won $1,000,000 for it. 

Audra: We saw that. That's incredible. Congratulations. 

Melissa: And that goes back to me wanting to adopt and like, you know, foster kids and just imagining kids at 18 years old, aging out of foster care, no one to go home to, go to college, did anyone help them with the SATs, you know, like, what are they going to do as a career? Are they, you know, are they going to join the army or are they going to be a bagger at Walmart? Like, what are they going to do? So they do life set, and that's, that money's going to go really help life set and all these kids that are going to be on their own soon because they have a family before Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter. 

What about summer break? If they are in college, you know, where do they go? What do they do? So to try to get them on their feet and you know, I just love putting myself, I think part of being an actor is putting yourself in other people's shoes and understanding the background, like even look at like Cruella, right? 

The most recent movie. And I didn't actually see it. But to know that this woman that is thought of is so evil has a backstory. And there's a reason and there's something that happened to her in her childhood that, you know, makes her be so hateful. But really, it's just someone calling out for love and attention. 

So if we can share that earlier than, you know, maybe we can put a stop to some of the hate and some of the drama that goes on around the world. And so I've always just wanted to reach out and help, be helpful. But I do feel like sometimes I might dilute the charities that I really love, but I just love so many. I just want to help everybody. 

Audra: You do a beautiful job. You really do. 

Melissa: But I was like, there's so many I want to help. I don't want to compete with them. I want to help them. So how can I just get involved with everybody? 

Audra: That's beautiful. I think it's part of your calling is connecting people to these causes and connecting people to other people's experiences, you know, broadening our world, bringing that love and fantastic. And you bring just like this light energy. And I think it's so important because you amplify a diversity of causes, and I think that's what we need to see. 

There are so many ways we can show up in the world. Like there's more than enough opportunities to show up and do something good and help someone smile today. Help make this day good today, right? 

Melissa: There are. Yes. And that's the, like, you know, I already made my list of the charities I want to help for Giving Tuesday or who I'm going to donate to. I'm going to, you know, promote and you guys are on there. 

But like, you know, it killed me on Wheel of Fortune, not being able to split it up among all my favorite charities. I mean. You guys and a hole in the wall gang up in Connecticut, which was ... And what the work they do there is incredible. And then youth villages and then World Vision, who helps out on a global scale children and families all around the world. I mean, there's so many of my friends, the president of Lupus L.A. and helps with autoimmune diseases. Just really, you know, a disease that not a lot of people know about or aware of. 

Justin: When I saw the Wheel of Fortune thing, I mean, I loved that program. Life set seemed like such a powerful, impactful program. So we are now going to ask three questions.

Audra: Justin keeps us on track. 

Justin: I'm the driver. She's the personality. So we ask these three questions to every guest. And so we start with: if you could put a post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that post-it note say?

Melissa: Be a good listener. That's always what I say to my kids when they go to the school bus. Be a good listener. I think if you're a good listener, it helps you in every aspect. 

I tell my kids, I'm like, If you're a good listener, you'll be a good friend. You'll be a good student. You'll be a good child. To be a good parent, you'll be, you know, a good neighbor. And I need to learn that myself because I'm a big talker, as I've proven in the last hour. I need to listen. 

Audra: Thank goodness you're talking.

Melissa: I need to listen more. You know, I need to. And that's the thing I've always been like. It's always been my job to be the talker. But yeah, and I excel at it. But I need to listen too. what I need to listen to my kids and I and they're always telling me that like, “mom, you don't even listen to the answer.” 

I do need to listen more and I need to. I also, for me, my post-it note would probably say, ask more questions… I want to let you know everything about me. So you feel comfortable telling me about you. I don't want to ask questions because I might ask the wrong question. Or maybe it's something I should already know or, you know, that kind of thing. And I think I do need to ask more questions. B

ut in general, I think good advice all around the world is: be a good listener.

Justin: We're going to give you two then. So it's: ask more questions. Be a good listener. Melissa, is there a quote recently that you came across that changed the way you think or feel? 

Melissa: So I posted one on Instagram. Let me look real quick, my friend runs this program called On-Site. These workshops down here in Nashville, and they have one as well in San Diego. He wrote this: “Love is not telling people what they need to be included. It's including them and reminding them why they belong.” And that one really struck me. I haven't seen a quote in a while that struck me. 

But my kids actually say that I always quote, I think it's Dr. Seuss or Winnie the Pooh who says, “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.” And that's when I look at my kids have started to live by that one. Because of these, like we were talking about these last and when you have these lasts, not just the first, but the last. And it seems upsetting like, you know, when my son graduates second grade or loses his last tooth, like, I can't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Audra: It's a beautiful reminder, and in a way of living life, especially with things are fleeting. We don't, you know, we're a blip. We have with the little bit of time that we have to live life like that, you'll be present and really it. 

Melissa: Yeah, that's the thing to always try to be present, right? 

Justin: So the last question really dovetails nicely. As you well know, it can be exhausting raising kids as you know the schedules and all the everything that goes into it. And so it's nice to take a break and or a step back and think, what do we love about kids? So Melissa, what do you love about kids?

Melissa: I love the innocence. I love the simple view on life. My kids got so upset with me the other day because I wouldn't go on the trampoline with them. I'm like, “It's too cold out. I have things to do. You don't understand,” and like, just go on the trampoline. Are they going to remember that I, you know, cleaned the dishes, or remember that I went on the trampoline with them? 

And which one is going to be more important at the end? And I need to do that more often, and they see life like that. You know, they see life in, with more play. And I mean, I always say, do what you have to do, then you get to do what you want to do. But at the same time, it's like they just have this innocence of, just a simple outlook. There's that one thing they want and they want to do. It might be like their goal is to get that piece of candy. Or it might be to get mom on the trampoline. Or it might be that they want that sleepover next weekend. And whatever that one goal is, they really focus on those things, man, and they go after them. 

Justin: Being in the moment.

Audra: Yeah, totally. They're ultimately present, right? It's really cool. Well, thank you for sharing that with us, and thank you for sharing everything with us. 

Melissa: Well, I want to ask you guys, can you give me an update on like Max and how he's doing? And you're because I have a little like in the last few years that I've been missing you like, can you guys give me a little one on one?

Audra: Yeah, thank you for asking. Yeah, Max is doing really well. He is still fighting, so he still has cancer like he has tumors in his brain stem and he'll go through these phases where they'll grow and then kind of will get on treatment or something, and he'll stabilize and then grow. 

So it's been over 10 years of fighting this disease, but we're lucky he's, so lucky he's still with us, and he has a really great quality of life. He's on a targeted therapy. So one of the new cancer drugs that targets like a specific pathway for the cancer, and it's been working. So he had a disease that was growing so rapidly as of early 2020. It was like growing so much. It was crazy because a friend of mine was like, Can you just take him out of school and just go and just be with him for the next few months because we didn't know what was going to happen, like, it was really pretty dire. They're talking about like palliative surgery, like, what were you going to do? 

And then Covid hit and Covid's been, you know, devastating. But for us, in some strange way, it gave us this crazy, powerful time together to just be together and for him not to be in school and not, you know. So we really treasure that. But he’s now treated in Atlanta, and he is doing really, really great on this targeted drug that's saving his life. It's literally saving his life right now.

Melissa: And what about side effects with it? Or is it more mellow? 

Audra: There are some side effects like weight gain, and it causes pain. Yeah, like joint pain. And so he can't run. One of the things I used to love to run, so he can ride his bike and he can do Peloton and things like that, but he used to love to run. That's a bummer. You can't do things like that. It causes some skin problems and things that, like a 14 year old, doesn't love, you know. 

But he's starting a nonprofit program here locally for After-School Weightlifting, and he's really getting excited about that. He would be, he would make a great football player. He's a big dude, just really like he is. He is like, well, like, set for it. But, you know, I'm sure they wouldn’t let him. 

Justin: His neurosurgeon wouldn’t approve. 

Audra: But yeah, he is doing really well. And Maxlove is 10 years old. I mean, it's incredible. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary and we're moving into the next 10 years and it's just we're doing incredible things in the world of integrative and complementary quality of life enhancing care for childhood cancer and rare disease families. 

And we're doing work that really no one else is doing in the space, and that's why we're doing it. So I hear you when you talk about like I'm so drawn to, if I could do anything, I'd be like some VC, but for charities, and find a way to help everybody accomplish their missions because I just love it so much. I love it when people are in there doing the work, making a difference. And we do what we do because we we have to do it like until we can drop the mic and say we accomplished this and we've changed health care for kids, then we are going to be in it.

 And so maybe one day, maybe one day we can graduate and do something else. But for now we're making that difference and growing, still super grassroots. 

Melissa: I'll be sharing your story with my boys and just update them. And definitely keeping you in our prayers and sending as much awareness your way as possible. 

Audra: We appreciate it so much. Thank you, thank you for spending this time with us. It feels really great to really connect with you. 

Melissa: You guys should come to Nashville, bring Max, come to a game or something. State championships soon. So come on out. 

Audra: Oh We’d love to! Wow, congratulations. That's awesome. 

Melissa: I don't know if he'll get to play, but we'll see.

Audra: Do you think that he's headed towards, like, does he want to play professional football.

Melissa: So he wants to play professional football just to fund the airline? He's going to start. He thinks he's Richard Branson, but he does want to read the Richard Branson book because he knows how to do it. He's already got a business plan. Very cocky 15 year old. 

Justin: You don't need the books. 

Audra: Well, it sounds like you, your mom and your dad, like all of you are like, really, really incredible entrepreneurs. But more power to him. I love hearing that. I love your…

Melissa: Little ones like maybe I'll be a YouTuber and I'm like, well... Let's take a little bit. Work at PetSmart. 

Audra: What about an airline? Yeah. Oh, that's awesome. Yeah, we love it. You know, if we ever come out there. And let us know if you ever come to Savannah.

Melissa: I will. Actually, I will. Sounds like a great spot to just do a little trip, too. So I will. Say hi to the kids for me.

Audra: Likewise. And have a great weekend. 

Melissa: Thank you. You, too. Bye you guys. 


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