By Woman's Day Staff
Most Americans know our stylish First Lady as a passionate advocate for military families and healthy eating. But she started out as Michelle Robinson, the daughter of middle-class parents on Chicago's South Side. "Growing up, Barack and I watched our families work hard to make ends meet. We now feel a huge responsibility to make sure others have the opportunities we had." Photo credit: OFA
"Michelle Obama is so open and honest, there were times I forgot I was talking to the First Lady of the United States. It's evident that family is her first priority and I was touched by how they manage to stay plugged into one another's lives in spite of a truly hectic schedule. If she can do it, anyone can."-Susan Spencer, Woman's Day Editor-in-Chief
Susan Spencer: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A pediatrician-I've always loved kids. Maybe because I was the youngest and I used to beg my mother for another younger brother or sister. I'd say, "Please, I'll take care of it! Just have the baby-I'll deal with it!" Fortunately, she was smart enough to know I didn't know what I was talking about when I was 10 (laughing). As I got older, I started realizing where my gifts were-and they didn't completely lie in the maths and sciences. I loved creative writing and I would spend hours writing and making up stories and poems. One of my aunts actually bound a lot of my stories together and made my first book.
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SS: Do you still write and create those poems and stories?
MO: No, but when I think about the things that brought me joy when I was little, it was all creative-writing, composing stories and poems and music. But as you start growing up, time slips away. But these are some of the things that, when life settles back down, I'd like to explore again in my life.
SS: What's your favorite quote and why?
MO: "To whom much is given, much is required," from Luke 12:48. Growing up, Barack and I both watched our families work hard to make ends meet. Because of their hard work, I was able to get an education and, later, a job at a law firm back home in Chicago. But as much as I liked putting a dent in my student loans, I felt something was missing. So I left that law firm and got involved in non-profit work and public service. Barack and I chose these paths because we both feel a responsibility to make sure others have the same kinds of opportunities to fulfill their potential that we had.
SS: Does your family have a favorite offbeat, fun tradition?
MO: At Christmas, we have a talent show where everyone-adults and kids-have to do something. You can sing, dance, hula hoop, tell jokes-anything goes! We started this tradition on my side of the family. The fathers usually get together and they sing. Barack is sometimes the lead singer. One year they sang Lean on Me. The kids oftentimes will pull together a skit. Malia was the author of one of the skits one year. Sasha sang an Adele song this year.
SS: How wonderful. Does she have a good voice?
MO: She has a very sweet voice. I'm her mother, yes, she has a beautiful voice [Laughing].
SS: What's the most important thing about your husband that you think people don't know, or appreciate?
MO: I think people would be impressed by how hard Barack works at being a good father. We have dinner as a family almost every single night. He may go right back to work afterwards, but that family time is important to him and he wants to hear what's going on in our kids' lives. And he rarely misses any of the girls' basketball games on the weekends. That may sound fairly normal, but when you're President, it's a lot tougher to find that time.
SS: What's the most important thing you learned from your mother? Father?
MO: My mother taught me to believe in myself and to pick myself back up whenever I stumble. My father showed me the value of perseverance. For years, he struggled with multiple sclerosis. But no matter how tired he was or how sick he felt, he just kept getting up each day and providing for our family.
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SS: What's the most important thing you've learned as a parent?
MO: You have to teach kids the "why." Using rewards or withholding something might help get them to make the right choices once or twice, but ultimately, it's far better to help them understand why something is the right choice.
SS: Can you think of an example of how this works in your daily life?
MO: Let's take nutrition. I only have control over what they eat when they're with me. I can't pick their school lunch, I can't be with them when they're at sleepovers or when they go to a movie with friends. I explain to Malia, for example, if she had a track meet and she felt more tired than usual, my first question would be, "What did you have for lunch?" Then we can talk about why: because you all you had was X, and your body just can't operate on that.
SS: How does your faith help you through the tough times?
MO: No matter what Barack and I are facing in our lives, our faith calls us to keep our minds and hearts open to the needs of others. Our faith, our values and our desire to leave something better for the next generation are what keep us pushing forward toward that vision every day.
SS: What was your favorite childhood activity?
MO: I loved playing outside all day with my friends, particularly a game called "Piggy," which involved a pitcher, a catcher, a batter, and a sixteen-inch softball. The goal is that you always want to be the batter. So the pitcher pitches, you hit it and you try to keep it on the ground because if somebody catches it on one bounce or they catch it on the fly, you're out as batter and they get to bat. Or if you swing and miss, the catcher can catch it on a bounce.
SS: So were you good at this game?
MO: I was a pretty good softball player. I was kind of a tomboy when I grew up because I had a big brother who was a super athlete. So I was always the person my brother was throwing to, or I was the guinea pig at batting practice so I had to keep up. We would play it for hours. And then there was the famous game as we got older, and the boys started kind of liking the girls, there was a game that was just called "Chase." [Laughing.] Pretty simple rules. The boys chase the girls and once you've got all the girls caught, the girls would chase the boys. And that could go on all day.
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Mama Kaye's Mac and Cheese
Mrs. Obama says that macaroni and cheese is the one dish that brings her back to childhood. This recipe comes from her daughters' Godmother, Mama Kaye.
- · 2 boxes of elbow macaroni
- · One stick of butter
- · 2 cups half and half
- · 6 large eggs
- · 1 can of cheddar cheese soup
- · 24 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- · Seasoned salt (to taste)
- · Fresh black pepper
- · Paprika
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water and olive oil, cook the pasta to al dente.
3. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Beat the eggs and stir in the soup and milk to make a creamy mixture. Stir in 1/2 of the cheese. Season with seasoned salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the macaroni and stir to make sure that all of the macaroni is covered. Pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese. Sprinkle paprika over the cheese until it is mostly red.
4. Cover with foil (spray Pam over the foil so that the cooked mac and cheese does not stick to the foil). Bake for 30 minutes or until done. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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