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Mother's Day Issue

Chudney Ross, Founder of Books & Cookies

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Diana Ross' eldest daughter, Rhonda, followed in her mom's footsteps—she's a singer and actress. Second eldest Tracee Ellis did, too—you know her from ABC's Black-ish. Chudney, the youngest and our Mother's Day spotlight today, was the only one to stay away from the cameras—instead, she went the entrepreneur route and founded Books and Cookies in Los Angeles. What started in 2011 as a children's bookstore, kid’s café and enrichment center is now an on-the-go mobile enterprise. "My staff and I travel around LA sharing high energy, interactive story times that engage children in books and learning, through reading, singing, movement, instrument/parachute play and more!" says Chudney, who has two other siblings (brothers Ross and Evan).

Of course, things have changed with our new shelter-at-home norm—and it's helped Chudney, who's now a mom herself to little Callaway and Everlee, expand even more into the digital arena with interactive, musical story times live-streamed straight from her backyard. Also different this year: Mother's Day, which typically involves a big family gathering "anchored together by my mom," she says. "We will still make time to come together virtually. We have actually found it really wonderful to stay connected in this way and enjoy our family check-ins."

So what's it like being hitched to the great Ross name, having an icon for a mother? We find out as Chudney brings us in, past the curtain and klieg lights… Plus, discover all of Diana's supreme words of wisdom, too.

Diana Ross with daughters, from left, Rhonda, Chudney and Tracee Ellis; all photos via @chudneylross

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Q&A

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What are your Mother's Day traditions?
Family is so important and I am so fortunate that my family is so tight-knit and anchored together by my mom. For Mother’s Day, we usually gather together for a low-key brunch or lunch. Though we aren’t able to be together this year, I’m sure we will still make time to come together virtually. We have actually found it really wonderful to stay connected in this way and enjoy our family check-ins. I will also, of course, spend time with my little family at home as we do every day, laughing and being grateful to be together. I am very aware of how fortunate I am to be the mother to my two girls and that’s all the celebration I need.

Best Mother's Day gift given? And received?
We don’t really do Mother’s Day gifts. It’s more about quality time spent together. Our love, laughs and the fun we have together are gifts enough.

Favorite mother-daughter activity with Diana?
I have always been a snuggler. Growing up, I was always on my mom‘s lap for a snuggle or in her bed, instead of mine. I always felt safe and seen in my mother’s arms.

Favorite thing to borrow from her closet?
I remember as a small child playing in my mom’s costumes of sequins and tulle. As an adult, there’s no way that I could fit in them or wear them anywhere, but I am lucky enough to wear the same size shoe and borrow a gorgeous heel, swipe a comfortable Ugg boot or be on the receiving end of awesome hand-me-downs. (I have the same shoe size as my sister Tracee as well—lucky me!)

All grown up, from left: Chudney, mom Diana, Rhonda and Tracee Ellis

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What's family time like at your own house now?
Callaway has always been my best sidekick. We do everything together! It felt like quite a transition to bring a new baby into our world, but Callaway has quickly settled in to being the best big sister and Everlee is the perfect addition to our little family! We could not love her more and, just as I enjoyed as a child, we love to laugh, love and snuggle together!

What do you love about what you do at Books and Cookies?
How lucky I am to get to read, sing and play as a job! I’ve always enjoyed working with children (I am a former teacher) and I’ve always been an avid reader and a lover of books, so to share my love of reading with children and create an engaging, joyful learning environment around books is truly special.

How have things shifted with the new social-distancing norm?
I have been wanting to find a way to reach a wider community using a virtual platform, and this unique time has helped to kick-start that. Right now, we offer two interactive, musical story times each week from my backyard direct into people's living rooms—I am inspired by how resilient these young children are and how they are able to engage with me through the screen. It’s been very special to connect with little ones from all over the world and I look forward to adding more classes and finding other ways to connect and bring joy and happiness through learning during this time. You can sign up for classes here.

Chudney with their daughters, Callaway and Everlee

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Favorite children's books for Mother's Day?
My all-time favorite is You Made Me a Mother by Laurenne Sala. It’s such a heartwarming look at the powerful bond between mother and child and a perfect capturing a mother’s love. Other titles worth sharing: Someday by Allison McGhee, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn and The Mommy Book by Todd Parr.

What are your hacks to keeping work, family and personal ambition in balance and in check?
I think my biggest tip is that there is no balance! It’s a juggle and OK that things can often feel out of balance. Right now, with the baby at home, I am very focused on motherhood. This, I know, is my most important job, to raise two good humans, and I take that responsibility very seriously. Books and Cookies, personal growth and self care are also important to me and I know that some days I can be more business focused; on others, my attention is needed at home. I want my girls to know that I work hard and that I, too, am important, but I also want them to know that they are my top priority, just as I knew (and still do) with my own mother. I think one huge thing this safer-at-home time has shown me is that you can’t do it all all the time—it’s important to ask for help and prioritize what is important. I will always prioritize Callaway and Everlee above all else.

Greatest lesson learned from being a mom?
That I am capable of great things! I am stronger than I could have ever imagined. I can handle more than I would’ve ever thought possible and, most of all, I can love more deeply than I have ever loved before.

The next generation...

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Mom's Best Advice

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On Style
My mom had an amazing way of supporting us in everything we did. Even though I had terrible style in my awkward years, she allowed me to express myself the way I saw fit, complemented my choices and empowered me to make my own style!

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On Beauty
I guess the best beauty advice I received from my mother was that beauty comes from within. Happiness, joy and confidence make you beautiful.

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On Career
My mom taught us that anything was possible with hard work, determination and passion, and to never expect anything to just come to you. She also encouraged us to forge our own paths and not follow the steps of anyone else.

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On Motherhood
My mom is the most amazing role model for what motherhood should look like. From her, I learned the importance of being present, loving, supportive and giving of myself wholly.

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On Life
That anything was possible, to believe in myself and that I was perfect just the way I was. I hope to pass this positive outlook and confidence on to my own girls.

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