May 8, 2013 at 11:17 AM ET
What’s the first lady’s ideal Mother’s Day?
“I mean, like any mother, I get to sleep in, or for me, it's wake up when I feel like it,” she said during an exclusive interview on TODAY.
After signing copies of her new book "American Grown" in a Washington D.C. bookstore, she revealed she's blissfully planning a quiet Sunday consisting of a workout, spending time with her mom, Marian Robinson, and deciding what’s for dinner. “My mom and I pick our meal. So we decide what we want to eat that day. So it's our choice,” she added, indicating that doesn’t happen very often.
Asked to finish the sentence, “My mother taught me…,” Mrs. Obama didn’t miss a beat. “What my mom taught me and continues to teach me is patience and good humor and common sense and openness. You know, my mom is such a good listener. And she has taught me that one of the best things I can do for my daughters is to listen, not talk or always give advice, but to be there with an open ear and a warm hug and an understanding heart because I still find myself going up to my mom's room and just talking to her for hours about any and everything. And that relationship keeps me whole, not just here as first lady in the White House but it has sustained me throughout my entire life. And if I could be half that mother for my girls, then I will have done a good thing.”
The first lady said the response has been “really good” to her first-ever book, which came out last May when she was a bit busy with other matters (hint — campaign!) and therefore couldn’t do as much publicity as she would have liked to do. That is why she signed more than 200 copies at a popular Washington bookstore Tuesday, just her second-ever book signing, after urging the crowd to “Buy away!” ahead of Mother’s Day.
All proceeds from the sale of her book go to the National Park Foundation, which funds community gardens throughout the U.S. and will continue to support the White House kitchen garden long after the Obamas leave 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
She thinks the book, which details the creation of the first White House kitchen garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden, has helped her to put to rest some misconceptions her critics have about her passions and Let’s Move, her anti-childhood obesity initiative. “Once people really hear what our goals are, they understand that this is about giving parents choices and the information to make the right choices,” she said. “It's really about information. It's not government telling people what to do.”
Mrs. Obama said the decision of Chris Christie, the Republican Governor of New Jersey, to have lap-band surgery, which Christie said he did for his wife and children, was a “very personal matter, something between the governor and his family.” She added, “I try not to comment on people’s personal choices.”
The first lady did say that millions of people, like Governor Christie himself, struggle with adulthood obesity. “And that’s one of the reasons why I think Let’s Move is so important, because we want to start working with kids when they’re young, to help them and families develop the habits and understand what their relationship to food is so that they don’t have these challenges when they get older.”
Hands down, she said, her favorite recipe in the book, especially for young mothers, is the cauliflower mac and cheese (page 252 in the book). It’s a “very healthy version” of mac and cheese, made of whole wheat pasta, cauliflower and not too much cheese. “And if kids eat this version first, they won't look for the other,” she told TODAY.
Mrs. Obama revealed they are trying to grow wheat in the garden this year for the first time, and if successful, they’ll try to make their own bread. They haven’t had much success with a fig tree because of those “darn squirrels” who eat the figs as soon as they get ripe. The rest of the garden is like many other gardens around the country, filled with broccoli, snap peas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, you name it. But you won’t find too many beets — the Obamas are not big fans!
The garden, Mrs. Obama said, cost just about a couple of hundred dollars to start, and feeds not just the first family and White House visitors for big events, but also the homeless with a portion of the food donated to shelters around the city. “And that’s one of the things I’m most proud of. It’s a very productive and utilized garden as are so many community gardens around the country.”
Kelly Wallace is the chief correspondent for iVillage.com. Follow her here on Twitter @kellywallaceTV!