The movie starts following the day in the life of Helen Harris (Kate Hudson), an executive assistant for the President of a powerful modeling agency in Manhattan. From this opening scene, we can tell that Helen has a very busy, active city life. She works hard and fixes every little crisis that happens on modeling shoots and within the office. After work, she goes out to clubs to socialize with her clientele while also being young and having fun. As she arrives to the club that night, there is a long line of people waiting to get in. Of course, Helen is able to cut right to the front of the line; but before she goes in, she spots someone in the back of the line. It turns out that it is one of her new models, who is still unknown, named Tinka (Shakara Ledard). She gets Tinka in and then also gets the clubs DJ to give Tinka a shout-out and draw the crowds attention to her.
The next day, Helen goes to work at 7:30, way before her boss Dominique gets in. It is obvious that Helen works much harder than her boss and comes up with most of the ideas for the agency. She pushes Tinka as THE hot new model and her boss is pleased.
After work, Helen rushes to her sisters house for a birthday party. She is late and arrives as the family is in the middle of singing happy birthday, but the whole party stops when Helen arrives. This obviously annoys her eldest sister, Jenny (Joan Cusack), who is really anal and likes things done her way. They finish singing happy birthday and Helens other sister, Lindsay, starts opening her presents. During this part, Lindsays children start talking about the trip that Lindsay and her husband are going on without them. Lindsay gets really excited at Helens present- a copy of a Devo cd and some Devo hats. They start dancing around to Whip It and have a good time, while Jenny lingers in the back and gives disapproving looks.
After they all play basketball and tetherball in the backyard with Jenny and Lindsays kids, Helen and her two sisters are in the kitchen together. Helen is changing into a little black dress, getting ready to go out for the night. We see that Helens partying is a common occurrence and that Jenny does not approve of this.
The next day, Helen meets up with some people for lunch at a posh restaurant. There is a long wait, but Helen gets them seated immediately. Lunch is interrupted by Helens cell phone ringing it is Jenny on the phone and Helen begins to cry at the table. It turns out that Lindsay and her husband died in a car crash on their trip. Helen is devastated, and leaves the memorial reception to cry in the bathroom. After she collects herself, she wanders into Lindsays bedroom and finds the 3 children (15-year-old Audrey, 10-year-old Henry, and 5-year-old Sarah) hiding in their parents closet. The youngest one says, it smells like mommy in here. Helen sits down with them underneath the hanging clothes until Jenny comes and says that there are people who want to pay their respects and the children shouldnt be rude and hiding out in the closet. Helen and Jenny get into a little fight because Jenny asks that Helen go out and buy more napkins at this moment. Helen is so upset, she doesnt want to go buy them, but Jenny is adamant about it and acts as if it is the most important thing in the world.
The next morning, Helen and Jenny sit down with the lawyers to discuss Lindsays will. The mortgage and other things are discussed, but the part that is most important is the custody of the children. Both sisters expect that Jenny will be the one to get them, but when the lawyer reads the name of who will get custody, it is Helens. Jenny and Helen are both shocked and confused, but Lindsay wrote both of them letters to explain why she chose Helen instead. The lawyer says that there is a condition that if Helen refuses to take care of the children, they will go to Jenny. Jenny is relieved, but after Helen reads her letter she decides to take the children after all. Even the children are shocked that Helen is the one who will be taking care of them. The oldest child, Audrey (Hayden Panettiere), who is 15, sees Helen almost as a peer- not an adult.
Soon, Helen has to find a new place to live, because her small studio apartment in the city cannot accommodate herself and 3 children. Though she does not want to move out of Manhattan, they move to Queens into a 2-bedroom apartment, with Helen sleeping in the living room. Next is the dilemma of finding the children a new school. After many horrible schools, she begs God help me seconds later, she spots a Lutheran school where all three children can go.
At the meeting with the Pastor/principal of the school, Dan (John Corbett), Helen lies about being Lutheran. She lies badly, obviously not knowing anything about being a Lutheran, while the children smile and nod in the background. The Pastor makes a joke about needing blood tests on the children to prove that theyre Lutheran, so Helen lies and says they are hemophiliacs. The pastor laughs and tells Helen it was a joke and most of the kids who go to the school arent even Lutheran. As Pastor Dan shows Helen around the school, it is obvious that he is the object of many mothers affections. He is constantly getting cookies and brownies and other gifts from the mothers of the children who go to his school.
After Helen gets the kids back to school, she goes back to work. Unfortunately, she is unable to keep her same career schedule now that she is a mom. First, she gets to work much later. Then, her boss wants her to go on an important trip for her job, but Helen has to say no. Finally, her boss reminds her of a fashion show Helen has to be at that night, which Helen had completely forgotten about. Since the children could not be left alone, Helen brings them with her to the fashion show. Helen ends up leaving the youngest child sitting next to her boss, Dominique, to get food for the kids. The little girl asks Dominique if her nose boogies are green, and the boss responds, yes, they are a Prada shade, and not their best line. Next, the little girl sees Paris Hiltons dog on the other side of the runway and makes a dash for it. She ends up on the runway, knocking models over and scaring everyone. Helen comes back to the rescue and dances on the runway with the girl in her arms everyone smiles.
However, the next day, Helen makes another mistake at her work she brings a supermodel with her to the school and the kids end up drawing on the models face with permanent marker right before the model is set to go on a big shoot. Helen is forced to leave her job. She is depressed and sits around eating junk food and watching tv. Pastor Dan comes over to talk to Helen about the kids. While they are in the kitchen, they discover that Henrys (her nephew) pet turtle has died. She is really worried because the turtle means everything to him and is one of the only things that makes him happy anymore. So, she and Pastor Dan go to get a replacement turtle. Once they come back from the pet store, Pastor Dan and Helen start talking about the kids. He tells her that the youngest girl, Sarah, has emotional outbursts all the time, Henry never participates in sports, and the oldest, Audrey, is dating the worst kid at the school who is also a Senior. Helen gets defensive and says she is doing the best she can and has lost her whole life because of them she storms off when Dan asks her to consider how much the children have lost.
Helen goes to Jennys house for mothers day, where Jenny has prepared a huge feast and gushes about how wonderful it is to be a mother. Jenny pulls Helen aside and asks if Helen has brought the letter that Lindsay wrote to her from the reading of the will. Helen says yes and that she will let Jenny read it once Jenny shows Helen her letter. While they are all sitting down to dinner, Jenny goes into the kitchen and reads Helens letter without showing hers. Helen finds Jenny and asks why she is doing this. Jenny is furious, because Helens letter only has the lyrics of Whip It by Devo in it and says, this is not a letter! I would show you mine if yours was actually a letter! Helen storms off from Jennys house.
Then one night, Helen returns home to find Audrey having a party with tons of kids from school, including BZ, the boy that Pastor Dan warned Helen about- the boy Dan was about to kick out of school. Helen doesnt know what to do because she doesnt want to kick out the kids and make Audrey hate her, so she calls Jenny for the first time since their fight about the letters. Jenny tells Helen to put Nilma, the neighbor, on the phone. Nilma comes to Helens with a baseball bat and starts kicking out all of the kids. Once the kids have left, Audrey screams I hate you! to Helen and slams her door in Helens face.
Soon, Helen gets a new job at a used-car lot as the receptionist. Her neighbor, Nilma, is a very compassionate wife and mother and helps Helen get the job. Helen does a great job at her new position much like she did at her old job she manages to sell a car that no one thought could be sold a horrible looking green Cadillac. Things start looking better for Helen, who is now dating Pastor Dan after some initial reluctance. She has a talk with Sarah about her parents being in Heaven and seems to comfort her. Next, Helen has a talk with Henry about not playing basketball anymore. He tells her that since his dad can no longer play basketball, he no longer wants to. She explains to him that if his parents are looking down on him, then they would want him to look happy, or else it would be really sad for them. She also says that if his dad really is watching him at games, he would be pissed to have to watch a boring game, so Henry starts playing basketball again. Finally, she has a talk with Audrey about dating someone else Audrey argues that she is one of the only girls who got asked to prom by a senior so, Helen tells her that she can go with any other senior.
On prom night, Audrey is escorted by a very nervous senior to the prom. However, as soon as they get there, Audrey goes off with BZ, who plans on taking Audrey to a motel to take her virginity. A chaperone from the prom calls and tells Helen. She is panicked, and Pastor Dan (who had been at her house for their own private prom) rushes to the school to find out where BZ took Audrey. Helen calls Jenny, who comes over immediately. They find one of Helens credit cards missing and call the credit card company to find out where it was used. Helen and Jenny drive to the motel, and Jenny instructs Helen on how to storm into the motel room and take charge. But, in the end, Helen cannot do it she is too scared that Audrey will hate her forever. So, Jenny is the one who storms in and screams at both of the kids. Audrey is sitting on the floor by the bed, looking scared and worried about what is about to happen with BZ, but when Jenny comes in, she argues youre not my mother! Joan Cusacks acting is finally taken advantage of in this scene, as she puts the fear of God into BZ. Before she leaves she says, this doesnt make you a bad person, but this is very very bad behavior.
After this incident, the children are sent back to live with Jenny. Helen also breaks up with Pastor Dan because she says that she is a coward and not the kind of woman he needs.
The next scene is Helen sitting back in Dominiques office. Dominique is offering Helen her job back not because Helen no longer has children, but because Tinka asked specifically for Helen as her agent. Now, Helen is an agent, but she is still unhappy because she is without her kids. So, she drives out to Jennys and she asks for them back. Audrey comes down stairs and Helen asks her for her wallet. Audrey gets it and Helen tells her to hand over her fake ID. Audrey says I hate you, and Helen replies, well, I guess Im just going to have to live with that. Helen leaves Jennys house without the kids.
This time, Jenny follows Helen and finds her sitting at a park near her apartment in Queens. She hands Helen the letter from Lindsay. It explains that the reason Lindsay chose Helen is because when deciding the person who will take care of your children, no one seems good enough, so you pick the person who is most like you. Lindsay said that there is no doubt that Jenny is the greatest mother she has ever known (Jenny took care of Lindsay and Helen when their parents died when Helen was only 7), but that Helen is so much more like herself. She also believes that Helen will learn to be a wonderful mother, since she was raised by Jenny and will have Jenny to help her.
The next scenes show Helen going to the church and kissing Pastor Dan on the forehead, making up with him. And then, Helen in her apartment the kids returning to her.submitted by: may-may