The NCIS: Hawai’i star and her musician husband are a busy pair, but they always have time for their biggest, most important project: their three kids.
Q: How do you divide and conquer with three young kids?
VANESSA: When we had our first baby, Camden, I was up in the middle of the night breastfeeding. So in the morning, it was daddy time, and Nick loved that bonding. Then we had our second, and he said, “I love this. Camden sleeps in, and I have time with Brooklyn.” Phoenix, our third—he was a preemie, so I spent most of my time with him. Nick said, “I really enjoy that after I wake the other kids up, I can just hold him.” So I was like, “You’re the morning guy!” For the last eight years, he is the one who wakes all the kids up. He gets up before everybody. He gets the paper. He takes the dog out. He gets his coffee. We’ve fallen into a routine, and it’s a win for me, and a win for Nick emotionally.
Q: Your new book, Life from Scratch, is packed with family recipes. What’s for breakfast?
V: This past year, Nick was doing stuff for 98 Degrees, and he had to go away for a little while, and Brooklyn was like, “Daddy, I need you to tell Mommy exactly how to make my pancakes.” Mind you, these are frozen pancakes. But she was insistent! So he was like, “Vanessa, I put this in for 40 seconds, I take it out. I put butter on it. I put on the syrup. I cut it into squares.”
Q: We bet there are things they love about Mommy.
V: Nick would sing to Cam when he was little, and he’d say, “Daddy, Daddy, no, no, no. I want to hear Mommy’s song.” And I’m like, “Do you know that Daddy’s music is what got us here?”
NICK: I’m just Dad to them. They don’t care that I sing for a living. They want Mom to sing!
Q: Do they realize you’re famous?
V: They’ve started to. On the first day of school, Camden came home and asked, “Mommy, where were you today?” I said, “I was at home, baby.” And he said, “Well, my friend said she saw you on Top Chef Junior.” And I said, “Oh, that’s a show.” And he said, “Is that on television?” Fast-forward and Daddy won The Masked Singer, and the kids in his class were amazed.
N: At the end of the day, we always come back to, “We’re just Mom and Dad, end of story.” What we do for a living may be different. But we’re no different from anyone else.
Q: Vanessa, how has life changed with your new show, NCIS: Hawai’i?
V: Nick and I had long, deep conversations about what it would mean for our family. Ultimately, we said, “This is a chance to expose them to this beautiful island and different people and cultures.” The first question we ask is, Is this good for our family? Then we figure how to make it work.
Q: How do you stay connected? Are Zoom good nights on the menu?
V: We try not to be gone for that long. I wish Zooms and FaceTimes were easy, but the kids fight over who gets screen time with Mommy. It’s just not fun. So Nick sends me videos.
Q: What daily rituals do you share?
V: At dinner, Daddy puts on the music, and I cook, with one or two of the kids helping me. Nick’s got the other kid, and we’re all together. It doesn’t happen seven days, but more than a few nights a week, all five of us together, phones and TVs off.
Q: Do the kids help?
V: They love to set the table. Camden gets the plates, Brooklyn gets the forks and spoons and knives, and Phoenix gets the napkins.
Q: How do you make sure they grow up with gratitude?
V: You can’t just say it once; it’s a lasting effect of your parenting. I try to balance. I don’t want to always say, “You can’t get this because most kids don’t have this”—because we work hard for what we have. But we make sure that our kids appreciate what we have and that they give back.
N: I’m on the Entertainment Council of Feeding America. It’s important to me that our kids are aware of food insecurity. When there was a food drive last year at Camden’s school, we took the kids to the food pantry, and they helped carry the boxes in. We want to show them that we’re very blessed, and there are others who aren’t in that position, and it’s our responsibility to help.
Q: What holiday traditions are you looking forward to celebrating?
V: Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, we decorate for Christmas. It’s midnight on Thanksgiving, and I’m asking Nick to go into the attic. It’s something to look forward to every single year, and it’s just one of the many things that we’ve created together that the kids look forward to. When they get older, different traditions might stick for them. I hope that they carry some on with their kids and their families. Family is about the memories, the tastes, the laughing, the tears. It’s life. It’s not that Nick was on a show, or I was. It’s that Mom used to make this every Sunday morning, and Dad used to do this every single day.
Pick Up Vanessa’s Book!
Life from Scratch, out now, features Vanessa’s recipes, holiday hacks, date night ideas, and advice for creating family traditions. (Start with her Chicken Adobo, mmm.)
By Laura Morgan | Photographs courtesy of Vanessa Lachey