Letter from the Publisher

It's about 8AM on a summer saturday on the bottom floor of an impressively spacious and exquisitely decorated Bethesda home, as we hear the identifiable "boom, boom, boom" of a child running down a flight of stairs. The child is 8-year-old Sophie Beck, and she comes to a shocked halt at the sight of rack after rack of designer clothes, sparkly gowns, colorful kids' ensembles, and hair ribbons at the bottom of the steps--not to mention the pool table covered in high-heeled shoes and jewelry. Understandably, she gasps in a Christmas-morning kind of way. We have taken over Sophie's basement rec room--"we" being the ten-or-so-person crew of this magazine--in order to spend the day photographing Sophie, her siblings, her dad, and, most important, her mom, Marla Malcolm Beck, the CEO and cofounder of Bluemercury, a national chain of spas and luxury beauty retailers. The night before, this was Sophie's space to watch TV and play dolls; this morning, it's our fashion war room.

But instead of touching everything--picking up gorgeous necklaces, slipping her feet into satin shoes, taking advantage of this dress-up dream come true, as one might expect a girl her age to do--Sophie politely introduces herself, smiles, and asks if she can help. We're impressed.

As manners and 8-year-olds are not exactly always simpatico, I immediately want to know how her mom has made this happen. I learn over the course of our 11-hour day in their house that Sophie, her older sister, Ariel, 10, and her younger brother, Luc, 6, are smart and thoughtful kids. And I learn why: the answer is Beck and her husband of 11 years, Barry, 45, Bluemercury's COO and cofounder. It's clear the Becks have plenty of rules, but Marla and Barry also impart a sense of fun and exploration to their brood, encouraging them to engage their silly sides as much as they do their brains. "Our kids have so much more homework and activities than we did when we were kids. I remember playing outside for hours until it got dark and we had to go in," says Beck, 43, who grew up in Oakland, California, and moved East after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley. "I really try to carve out time for them to be creative and play." She's also a big believer in consistency, which she says creates the kinds of boundaries that support manners and respect. "Families need rituals," she explains. "Whether it's dinner time, playing games together, or reading together, family togetherness is really accentuated if you have repeated rituals."