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Actress, singer, director and business owner Melissa Joan Hart, 33, has added another title to her resume -- reality show contestant. The Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch actress has joined the cast of Dancing with the Stars, premiering on ABC Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. Melissa, who lost over 55 lbs. after the birth of her two sons, Mason, 3½, and Braydon, 17 months, will most likely get in even better shape over the course of the show. iVillage spoke with the dancing mom about preparing her sons for her absence, how she keeps the spark alive in her six-year marriage to musician Mark Wilkerson, and the possibility of a Clarissa reunion.
Do you think you'll handle Dancing with the Stars well?
I think there will be a lot of ups and downs. I think the results-show nights will have a lot of different emotions running through me. I think that on Monday nights there will be a lot of nerves and excitement. I think that it's going to be a lot of different emotions, but it tests you as a person and lets you know you're still alive. And I hope on Tuesday night everyone calls in for Team Melarky -- our nickname for Melissa and Mark [Ballas] -- at 1-800-VOTE410.
How will you balance being a mom and working on Dancing with the Stars?
It's emotional to leave my kids… So far [the balancing] has been easy. I got to go dance four to six hours a day at the local Y and then I was with my kids in the morning or at night. I was able to bring my son to preschool, or sometimes I'd pick him up from preschool and go to lunch with him. I was always home for dinner. It's been fine the first four weeks. Now comes the hard part. Now I'm gone for a little over a week and then they'll come see me for a week and then they'll be gone for two weeks, and so on and so forth until the end.
Are you doing anything to prepare yourself or your kids for your absence?
Yes, I left a calendar behind with stickers on the days I'm going to be gone and they can cross it off with Daddy to count off the days until they come see me. We're going to iChat every night or every day. Of course my husband is going to be TiVo-ing me on TV so they can watch and see what Mommy's doing. And they're going to be coming out a lot. We're used to traveling. We're always moving around. They're used to a lot of flux in their lives, so it's just another thing we're going to have to get through, but it's temporary. Even though it seems like it's going to be forever.
Where did you get the calendar idea?
It was something the head of Mason's preschool told us to do. That, and for him to write in a journal every day for me. And I left sticky notes all around the house, so every time they see a blue sticky note, they know Mommy's thinking of them.
What was the biggest change going from one son to two?
It's a lot harder to be on your own [with them]. Right now we've got man-on-man coverage, but it's so much easier when you can double team. Like on an airplane with one kid, it's so much easier to stick him in the seat between you and be able to take turns -- whoever has the patience at the time deals with the child. Or one runs to get the diaper while one goes to do whatever. Instead of having two of you being able to do it, it's one-on-one, and you're having to rely a lot more on yourself than someone else to help you out. The good thing is they entertain each other too, except when they fight.
How did Mason feel about getting a sibling?
He was excited. He carried around a baby doll and talked a lot about babies. From day one he was always like," Can I hold the baby? Can I hold the baby?" When Brady was so little and didn't do much, Mason kind of just ignored him a lot. Now they're both kind of running around and playing. They go on the swing set. They wrestle. Now they can be buddies.
Do you have a secret to making your marriage to Mark Wilkerson last?
We bicker every day and that's sort of like our flirting. We understand we're in it for the long haul. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon. You want to pick your fights, but you also want to let things roll off your back. When there's something that's really bothering us, we deal with it. And when it's something we can let go, we do.
Will there ever be a Clarissa Explains It All reunion?
I don't think a reunion is a good idea in a lot of cases. I think it's too sad. You know, that time is gone. We said goodbye when we said goodbye and I think it's better to live on as it is. It's kind of weird. I don't necessarily like watching The Brady Brunch grow up