Michelle, 44, and Barack Obama, 46, with daughters Malia (left) and Sasha outside their Chicago house June 19
Squeezing some family fun between campaign stops, Sen. Barack Obama kicks a soccer ball to his 10-year-old daughter Malia and, with a wink to a reporter on the sidelines, confides one of his wife Michelle's secret talents: "She is the best Hula-Hooper I know. Once she gets the rhythm going, she can drop to her knees!"
And what about the Democratic presidential nominee? "That is one thing you will never see – me Hula-Hooping. I think that's clear."
Also clear: That even on the campaign trail, this is a brood almost like any other, with set routines (chores!), boundaries ($1 allowance!) and playtimes (movie nights!). The Obamas opened up to PEOPLE – first, at the family's three-story home in Chicago in June, and again on July 4, at a park in Butte, Mont., where the family campaigned and celebrated Malia's birthday – about the task of raising two girls, including 7-year-old Sasha, under the public eye.
PEOPLE: Someone told me today that you don't do birthday presents.
Michelle: No, because we spend hundreds of dollars on a birthday party and movie tickets and pizza and popcorn ...
Barack: That sleepover is enough. We want to teach some limits to them. And their friends bring over presents.
Michelle: They get so much stuff that it just becomes numbing. Malia believes there is still a Santa Claus even though she's a little wary because some of her friends are non-believers. But Malia says, "Ma, I know there is a Santa because there's no way you'd buy me all that stuff." [Laughing]
So what does a slumber party at the Obama house look like?
Barack: They're pretty noisy.
Michelle: The older they get, they just talk a lot. But they're at the age where they're pretty self-sufficient. [For Malia's birthday] we're going to go swimming, see Wall-E, make pizzas, have sundaes.
Barack: I usually go for the swim but this time I want to go to the movie just because Wall-E has gotten great reviews. I find actually that children's movies are the best movies these days. But I'll probably, after that, peel off until the cake.
Michelle: [Laughs] "Peel off."