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Jane Seymour: Heart Healthy Kids

It’s a sunny morning in Malibu, Calif., and legendary actress/author/artist Jane Seymour has just returned home from a parent-teacher conference at her sons’ school. Like boys, one of her twins needs reminding that it’s important to “play nice” during recess, and Seymour and the teacher have worked out a plan to help him remember. And just yesterday the twins, John and Kristopher, had their first baseball game of the season. Seymour and her husband, director James Keach, cheered the boys on, elated that the less competitive of the two actually made an incredible hit and tagged four runners out.

“I was just so excited,” Seymour says. “He is tortoise and the hare, the little engine that could, and he just had a beaming smile on his face. Then his brother, who usually wins everything, came out of the pen and gave him a pat on the back and cheered him and said, ‘Way to go!’ That is the stuff that makes my day.”

While these vignettes from Seymour’s life sound similar to many of us moms, what happens next during her day is a departure from what most of us can expect.

Seymour will meet with her secretary, who coordinates Seymour’s schedule and books her flights around the world. Once the to-do list is complete, Seymour is off to read a script for her upcoming appearance on Smallville, then to work on the funding and distribution of an upcoming film she’s producing, then to continue painting commissioned pieces for the Naples, Italy, Wine Festival. She also has events connected with her role in the comedy The Wedding Crashers, with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, and her documentary, Running Dry, about the world’s water crisis.

All before the twins return home from school.

When John and Kristopher get home, it’s again off to the races. Depending on the season, there’s practice for baseball or football or soccer or basketball, and every night, no matter the season, there’s piano practice.Jane Seymour-Raising Healthy Kids Starts with the Heart

“Music is very big and they are both very naturally musical,” says Seymour, who also is mother to grown children Sean and Katie, and stepmother to Jenni and Kalen. “Keeping all of this going is definitely difficult. I get frustrated about homework not being turned in and I get frustrated when they study for something and then they rush the test. You know, the usual mother stuff.”

The afternoon is all about family bonding. “We have no television viewing or video games or computer games during the week,” Seymour says. “It is school work, sports, music and family dinner time. We all sit together and talk and have dinner together. Then we read and we talk and they go to bed by 9. Before bedtime they will do an art project with me, or they will build things. They have pet lizards that they look after and play with.”

A Heart of Gold
A multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner and a recipient of the Officer of the British Empire, Seymour also has a branded line of home products and children’s apparel in Saks department stores and she owns St. Catherine’s Court, a 15th century historic manor house near Bath, England.

And while Seymour’s timeless appeal might be attributed it to her soft, lilting voice, her ballerina’s body or her signature long locks, all of these attributes are superficial. Digging deeper, it’s easy to see that Seymour’s true appeal comes from within. This is one celebrity whose star shines brighter because she has a heart of gold.

Seymour is a member of the American Red Cross National Celebrity Cabinet and an international ambassador for Childhelp USA, a national organization dedicated to the research, treatment and prevention of child abuse.Jane Seymour-Raising Healthy Kids Starts with the Heart Seymour is the honorary chairperson for City Hearts, an organization that enriches the lives of abused children, inner-city children and disadvantaged youths, by teaching the performing arts. Her latest philanthropic endeavor is the creation of a set of limited-edition note cards that are being sold in partnership with the California Pistachio Commission to raise awareness and funds for women’s heart disease prevention.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, one in three women dies of heart disease, making it the No. 1 killer of American women. “It’s nine times more risky to women than breast cancer, believe it or not,” Seymour says. With this startling statistic in mind, Seymour makes sure to eat a healthy diet and exercise as often as she can.

“I do some aerobics usually on an elliptical machine and then I do a lot of stretching,” Seymour says. “I do isometrics and light weights and I usually do it with the trainer across the street because I had back issues. I used to be a ballerina and I had injuries when I was younger. The good news is that I can do pretty much everything – I even manage to golf, which is amazing.”

Seymour’s back issues arose from her pregnancies. “My regular pregnancies caused havoc on my lower back, but with the twins, it was really hard,” she says. “I did very specific exercises for it. In fact, I wrote a book called Two At A Time: A Journey Through Twin Pregnancy and Birth (Atria, 2002), chronicling what I did, because I was proactive about the fact that at my age, I would have issues and that the weight of the children and my being a very small person I would have a lot of issues in terms of my lower back.”

Jane Seymour-Raising Healthy Kids Starts with the HeartStaying Fit with the Kids
Seymour extends her commitment to fitness to her children, making sure they’re involved in one sport per season and encouraging them to be active as a family. “I help throwing and catching with them,” she says. “I like to play tennis with them, that is my sport. And I like to play golf with them and I swim with them. But tackle football is just not an option. Table tennis I can play with them, or swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving.”

Though she doesn’t do it as often as she’d like, Seymour loves to cook. Each morning she prepares a hot breakfast, and then dinner when she can. “It depends on what my schedule is, but absolutely I love to cook – finding the time is tough.”

Seymour’s feeding style is tailored to her kids’ needs. “We have to make sure the skinny one eats more and eats the right thing and we are trying to persuade them to make good choices for themselves,” she says. “We feed them six small meals a day, rather than big ones. We give them a very good breakfast; we get some protein in them. When they eat toast or bread, there is no butter or cream cheese on it. They are now really into brown bread and brown rice, which is cool.”

Seymour says the key to getting kids to eat healthy is to get them involved in food preparation. “We grow organic vegetables in the garden and they help growing these things, so they take pride and ownership in broccoli and pea pods and zucchini and fresh strawberries and oranges,” she says. “And I cook with them sometimes. Of course, I don’t let them alone next to the stove. But they are perfectly capable of making any kind of egg dish and they have been known to cook pasta. They will chop things up and grate things and stir things and we read recipes together. They get excited when I cook. ‘Mommy – cook, Mommy – cook!’ So I say, ‘OK, guys, you help me!’ And we do it all together as a team.”

Seymour believes mealtimes should be special, and she carries over some of her own childhood memories. “We do this tradition. My sister does it as well,” she says. “My mom always lights the candles every night. Not for religious reasons. We just take the time out to put some flowers in the middle of the table, set the table. The boys help me with that and they love to light the candles and love to blow them out. When I did Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, I realized what was different in that series and what happens in most families’ lives now is that people don’t take the time out to sit down and have dinner with their families. I think it is very important. We all sit together and talk about what is going on.”

Jane Seymour-Raising Healthy Kids Starts with the HeartBecause Seymour is from England and they own an estate there, the family spends most of their vacations in the U.K. “I usually do a lot of art when I am there,” Seymour says. “The boys ride horses a lot. They go there about twice a year – summer and Christmas – and stay for a few weeks. That is when their extended family comes and their friends come and they get to hang out with a lot of English kids so they have a whole other culture, which is really nice. The kids are different, but they are also the same. We have some frightfully proper English gentleman who live right next door to us and you mix that with California kids and they seem to do just fine.”

A Heart for Art
While Seymour has always been artistic, it wasn’t until after she hit rock bottom that painting helped her return to the top. “When I turned 40, I found that my then husband had been unfaithful and had left me completely bankrupt, owing more money than I even knew existed, and I was alone with my two children,” she says. “I was finger painting with them and hanging them up, as one does, in the nursery. I was going to declare bankruptcy the next day and I was at a charity event, a book signing for a book that I had written, and I walked around and I saw some artist was donating his work for charity. I signed on at the silent auction to have my children drawn, and the artist came by the house to do this. He saw the finger paintings and asked, ‘Who did these?’ and I told him I did, and he said, ‘You are really good.'”

Seymour began taking lessons in watercolor, and it changed her life. “It helped me to process what would have been a huge depression,” she says. “I processed my anger, my depression, my fear. I painted and drew with my kids, and the next thing I knew I was working on the pilot for Dr. Quinn. Never had to declare bankruptcy, sorted out all these issues, painted on the set between takes. Then the crew started wanting my paintings – I made limited editions. Then they wanted to wear them on T-shirts so I did them as T-shirts. Then major art dealers came to me and wanted to represent me and then I was commissioned by a credit card company, Discover Card, and they used my painting on the credit card. It was launched at the Guggenheim Museum where they showed three of my pieces and sold the one that was on the card for $25,000 to the Make a Wish Foundation.”

Jane Seymour-Raising Healthy Kids Starts with the HeartBy that time, Seymour was seven months pregnant with the twins and Keach realized Seymour needed to be painting in her own home studio. Today, Seymour has studios in Malibu and in England, she has at least 12 one-woman shows a year in America and other shows around the world, and she is opening her own gallery in Los Angeles. Art is a business, but it is also a way for her to bond with her boys.

Too Close to Call
While it seems like Seymour must inhabit a world of 25-hour days and eight-day weeks, her motivation comes from wanting to give back to a world she almost left behind. “I had a near-death experience in which I actually left my body and I remember clearly that I took nothing with me: I didn’t take my clothes, I didn’t take my body, I took nothing,” she says. “Who I am as me was not inside the body that I was looking at that they were resuscitating and I looked down. ‘No, I want to get back in my body!’ And then when I managed to get back in that body somehow, my body was out of control and I realized how tenuous life is. If you don’t take care of the vehicle that you are assigned to, which I consider to be the body, and take care of that vehicle, it is a dicey and painful and tough experience.”

This close encounter caused Seymour to make some fundamental changes. “To the best of my ability, without trying to be obsessive about it, I try to look after myself,” she says. “I certainly appreciate life and take nothing for granted, not a minute of my day. And I felt that the only things I took with me was the love that I felt I had received and that I had given, and the difference that I may or may not have made in the time that I had in the world. That’s why I think I am probably overextended in trying to give back.”

Seymour makes sure to give credit to those who help her make things happen. “I can’t really take credit for some of the stuff that people give me a huge amount of credit for,” she says. “I do put in the effort that I am capable of doing to the best of my ability. I have to juggle the time I spend taking care of inner city kids with the time I spend taking care of my kids at home. They always say if you want something done, ask a busy person. Somehow or other at the end of the day I am, A) never bored, and B) if I actually sit down to look at what I accomplished that day in terms of putting people together, making things happen, sorting out problems, creating something, having ideas, I am sometimes amazed and we’ll all look at each other and go, ‘Wow, Team Jane Seymour – that was a good day.'”