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I have strung words together for The New York Times, Vice, and more. I write and shoot people (with a camera, you guys) from my home in upst...

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    baby bumpUsually when school rules make the news, you wonder what administrators were thinking. I'm wondering if the higher-ups at the high school in Michigan that has banned baby bumps from the yearbook were thinking at ALL. The school's pregnant teens were told they needed to have their photos re-shot so they didn't show their tummies because -- according to the superintendent anyway -- a baby bump in the yearbook violates the "state’s abstinence-based approach to sex education."

    Huh. So parents look to the yearbook to educate their kid? Since when?

    My kid came home with her yearbook the other day and I didn't give it a second thought. It's not a book of math facts we need to go over to make sure she's on the right track. It's a book full of pictures of kids she sees every day. What is she going to see in there that's different?

    What is a kid at White Cloud High School going to see if their pregnant classmates' photos aren't cropped at the shoulders? Nothing they don't see every day, that's for sure.

    So what, exactly, is the harm of showing pregnant teenagers in the yearbook? It's certainly not "educating" kids that sex without contraception makes babies. That's something they're already getting just by sitting in English class next to the girl with the sleeve of Saltines.

    Teen pregnancy is a sad fact of America. We can't just pretend it away. We can't whitewash the girls' photos out of their yearbooks so the school can push a squeaky clean image to the world.

    That doesn't change anything for the pregnant girls or their peers.

    Heck, let me go out on a limb here ... if you really want to hammer home that knocking boots makes babies, you give them irrefutable evidence. Say, maybe photos of their classmates with bellies out to here that will live on for eternity because they're in the permanent record of their school year ... and 900 kids have a copy?

    What do you think? Would you be upset if your kid's yearbook had pregnant girls in it?

     

    Image via Lina/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    cup of beerI love people watching. I can do it anywhere. In the mall. At the park. But I have to admit, some of the best people watching moments come right in my house -- while I'm watching a baseball game. And the wife who doused her husband with her beer in the middle of the Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets game this weekend didn't disappoint.

    Hubby saw Cubs pitcher Travis Wood get a hold of a ball and send it barrelling at the bleachers -- right where he was sitting with his beloved. So he jumps up -- probably to snag the thing but also to save his wife's hide -- and ends up knocking his wife's beer all over her in the process. So what did she do? What do you THINK she did? Just watch:

    Your browser does not support iframes.

    Hahaha! I'm not sure what I loved most. Her automatic, "Hey Buddy, nobody spills my beer and gets away with it" move or their easy going ribbing when the MLB network caught up with them and told them just how viral their little spat had gone.

    Sometimes you see things going on in the background at a game, and you have to hit the rewind (thank you TV on Demand!) because you just can't believe you saw it. But you don't always get the back story on it.

    When the moment FIRST caught viewers' attention, we didn't yet know why Ellen pitched her brew at her hubs, or that he'd be so tickled by the whole thing. I'm glad the folks at MLB tracked them down to get the whole story -- because their good nature is what really makes this crazy story work!

    By the way, the Mets won. Of course.

    What's been your favorite fan moment while watching a game?

     

    Image via a loves dc/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jenelle Evans mugshotIt's been, what, a month since the last time Jenelle Evans went to jail? The Teen Mom 2 star must have had a jones for her favorite hangout, because she's been arrested again! And she took the whole thing so seriously that she not only flashed a big grin in her (latest) mugshot, but jumped right on Twitter when she got home to make fun of it all!

    Come on guys, this is just a day in the life of the reality star. You don't expect her to actually be bummed that she's been hauled into the pokey, do you? Sheesh!

    TMZ reports Jenelle was arrested this time for missing a court date on her year-old cyberstalking case. A warrant was issued for her arrest for failure to appear, and she was placed under arrest yesterday by Brunswick County (North Carolina) Sheriff's deputies. Jenelle confirmed this on Twitter, where she admitted she no-showed, but said she got it all taken care of in 10 minutes, and now she's home in bed ... sick.

    More From The Stir: 'Teen Mom' Not Cancelled After All

    Considering she spent yesterday explaining to her fans that she's already had her tonsils removed and is allergic to penicillin, it seems she DID have plenty of free time yesterday. Priorities, people, priorities! When people suggested maybe her Twitter had been hacked because she was so active, Jenelle denied it:

    It's funny u guys think cuz I haven't been on twitter I've been in jail, I got in and out in an hour. Wasn't a big deal. Now getting off,bye

    Yeah, because it's so much better that she really WAS on Twitter instead of taking time to deal with her legal obligations?

    Is it any wonder Jenelle now has 10 (count 'em!) mugshots to her name? Most of us would be horrified to be arrested even once. She's proud it took her less than an hour to get it all squared away, so she could go back to milking the fans for sympathy for her sore throat.

    What do you think it will take for Jenelle to take this seriously?

     

    Image via Brunswick County Sheriff's Office


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    National Guard Oklahoma Tornado The Category 4 tornado that tore through parts of Oklahoma City, ripping apart two elementary schools as it moved through the area, has left us with images that are burned in our minds. The people of Moore, Oklahoma are hurting, and America, we should not look away. This is the time to do what we do best: to step in and help the people of Oklahoma.

    They are our brothers. Our sisters. Our fellow Americans. And if a single image out of Moore broke your heart, then you should help in whatever way you can.

    1. Donate to the United Way of Central Oklahoma. The non-profit already helps fund disaster relief efforts in that area, and their May Tornado Fund is being marked specifically for the victims in the Moore area.

    2. Donate to Team Rubicon. This veterans' group sent volunteers to help with relief efforts after Superstorm Sandy, and now they're launching a similar effort to put boots on the ground in Oklahoma making home repairs and lending a hand wherever they can.

    3. Spread the Picture Recovery Facebook Page. As relief workers pour in to help, they're finding plenty of items strewn about from the homes destroyed. What can be salvaged is being photographed and placed in a Facebook group where residents can lay claim to their belongings.

    4. Send Money to the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief. The group typically responds to disasters around the state, and this is no different. They have people on the ground, and they've promised "every penny" donated to their efforts will go to "disaster relief and helping victims."

    5. Share the Safe & Well Page. The American Red Cross has set up a site for folks who are okay to register their names so friends and relatives know they're all right.

    6. Donate to Global Giving. The online non-profit gets top marks from Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau, so you can feel safe knowing the Oklahoma Tornado Relief Fund is the real deal.

    7. Help Feed the Children. Just $50 will deliver 375 pounds of relief supplies to Oklahoma.

    8. Get a Band Together. The Bo Phillips Band, based in Stillwater, Oklahoma, has already started putting together a concert to help raise money for the victims. They're looking for musicians to perform on June 9 in Davis, Oklahoma.

    9. Buy Gift Cards. People are going to need to restock their entire lives, and the folks behind Toomer's for Tuscaloosa, a non-profit group that came together after the 2011 storms in Alabama, has turned their sights on helping folks in Oklahoma. They say gift cards to Target and Wal-Mart will be a huge help for families in need, and they're collecting them.

    10. Help the Tulsa Community Foundation. Another local charity, this non-profit will ensure donations stay IN Oklahoma.

    What are you doing today to honor the people in Oklahoma?

     

    Image via The National Guard/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    water balloonsOh America, are we TRYING to fill up our prisons until there is no room left? Have we actually gotten that far? Because I can't really see another other reason for having a bunch of kids arrested for ... wait for it ... throwing water balloons. In school. As part of a prank.

    Y'all have heard of spring fever, right? End of school ants in the pants? Just being kids?

    Anyone? McFly?

    The water balloon situation at Enloe High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, would be less troublesome if it weren't for the pattern of criminalizing youthful behavior that we've noticed developing in this nation.

    Take note:

    Last month, Kiera Wilmot, a 16-year-old doing a science experiment at her Florida high school, was arrested when the mixture of chemicals blew up. She was charged with possession/discharge of a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device. For a SCIENCE EXPERIMENT! The charges were eventually dropped -- due to public outcry.

    Back in February, kids at a Georgia high school were arrested for "inciting a riot" ... over a food fight. Again, the charges were dropped.

    And now this debacle in North Carolina, where the school admits the balloons in question contained just tap water. The juniors and sophomores -- all were 16, save for one 17-year-old -- could have been hauled into the principal's office for a tap on the wrist. Instead cops were called, and they were served with charges of disorderly conduct after a security officer in the school was hit.

    For water balloons.

    Unless public outcry once again shows prosecutors the error of their ways (fingers crossed), these kids will have criminal charges haunting them for the rest of their lives over a harmless prank that any one of us would have done as kids.

    This is where we've gone, America. Kids aren't getting worse. They're simply facing harsher consequences for the very things we did as kids.

    And why?

    Somehow we've lost sight of our own teen years and what we were like, what it was like when the temperatures rose and we started the countdown to the end of school, and we were high on life. We did stupid things too. Our kids are bound to do them because they are no better (or worse) than we were.

    It's time that we start treating our kids as we would have liked to have been treated when we were their age: like kids.

    Do you agree with the arrests for throwing water balloons? Are kids being thrown to the wolves in America?

     

    Image via stevendepolo/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    reasons to hire male babysitterHow's this for common sense being paraded as breaking news? The Wall Street Journal has an article out this week titled, "No, Girls Are Not Natural Baby Sitters." Considering my husband babysat as a teenager, they're only 20-some years behind the curve on that one, huh? And yet, when is the last time you hired a male babysitter? Have you EVER hired a boy to stay with your kids?

    Even in areas where parents tend to be pretty progressive, the number of parents who are willing to let a male come into the home to watch their kids is pretty low.

    In a survey of parents in Park Slope, Brooklyn, 97 percent of the sitters were female. But as the WSJ's article points out, based on the new book Babysitter: An American History, by Miriam Forman-Brunell, there's no reason to think a girl is going to be better with your kids than a boy.

    I happen to have two female sitters at the moment, but over the years, I've left my daughter with a male sitter more than a few times. She loved it. I loved it.

    I'd do it again in a heartbeat because there's so much to gain (and so little to lose):

    1. They provide a male-centric viewpoint. This isn't to say that girl-centric viewpoints are bad, but we're all trying to raise well-rounded kids, aren't we? The more people exposing them to a variety of experiences, the better we are able to do that.

    2. They teach kids to ignore gender barriers. If you always have a female sitter, your kids are not-so-subtly being told that only girls can care for kids. Fast forward to adulthood, and you set a daughter up to accept a husband who doesn't pull his weight around the house or a son who doesn't believe he needs to chip in.

    3. They're taller and stronger. OK, that's a bit of a generalization, but there's a scientific basis. My brother used to throw my daughter up in the air and catch her because he's over 6 feet tall with broad shoulders. He COULD do that. At 5'4" with puny upper arm muscles, I couldn't safely do the same. But the fact is, she LOVED it. There are things that people with bigger body types can do with kids that people who are smaller just can't.

    4. You break down gender barriers. It's not just about teaching your kids to ignore them, but also about retraining yourself not to play into stereotypes. There's power in breaking the mold.

    5. Pedophiles come in all shapes and sizes. This is the big elephant in the room, isn't it? That some boy is going to molest your kid? Sorry, but women can be molesters too. Or murderers. Just hiring females is NOT going to keep your kid safe; checking references, doing interviews, and going with your gut instinct is going to do that.

    Have you ever hired a boy babysitter? What's holding you back?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    lapdThe very words "child molester" send chills down my back. But when I heard an LAPD officer was arrested on suspicion of luring little girls to his house and abusing them, a pit in my stomach joined the typical chills. Miguel Schiappapietra was supposed to protect little kids from sickos.

    Now he's been charged with being one. And to top it off, Schiappapietra is a dad!

    How do we protect our kids from guys like him?

    According to the allegations against the LAPD officer, Schiappapietra lured two little girls under age 10 to his home, where he molested them. He's since been charged with two counts of lewd acts with a child, and he's being held on $100,000 bail.

    It's comforting to see that even LAPD officers are not above the law, but his arrest is little comfort to parents.

    As we struggle to teach them about bad people in this world, we are trying too to teach them about the good ones, the ones they can trust. We tell them that when the chips are down, they need to turn to parents with kids, to people in uniform.

    Schiappapietra was both.

    The hardest part to accept about child molesters is that they exist. But the second hardest is that we can't pin down a type. Not in a way that we can describe to our kids.

    They are male and female.

    They are parents and not.

    They are doctors, lawyers, bakers, candlestick makers ... and cops.

    And right now our best defense against them -- maybe even our only defense -- is a parent's gut. This arrest should be a flashing light for parents. 

    If something feels off about that guy (or lady) down the street, ignore the fancy degrees or the prestigious titles. Keep your kids away.

    Do you get feelings in your gut that people could hurt your kid? How do you judge who is good and who is bad?

     

    Image via Ringoeshire/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    bulimic losing weightI don't usually tell people I'm afraid of losing weight. I know what they'd think. Another fatty making excuses about not getting her act together. But I'm not just another fatty. I'm a recovering bulimic.

    I say recovering because, like alcoholism, there is no cure to bulimia. Yes, I've stopped throwing up, but the urge is always there. Eat a bowl of ice cream, think about going to the bathroom. Stand in front of the Xbox to work out and wonder if it wouldn't just be easier to stick my finger down my throat.

    The truth is, I have never lost weight without throwing up.

    And I know it's time I change that.

    A few years ago I got a job that changed my life. I could work -- full-time -- from home. It was wonderful. Is wonderful. I put my kid on the bus, I sit down in front of my laptop, and I bang on my keyboard all day long.

    Only that's the problem. I sit. All day long. Except when I stand up and walk to do something exciting like pee or let the dog out. Except when I wander into my kitchen because it is always there, tempting me. I am not just a recovering bulimic. I am an overeater who feeds her emotions with food.

    In three years at this job, I have gained roughly 30 pounds.

    And you can tell. My face is puffy. I've officially moved into "plus size" clothing. I feel tired doing the sort of things I used to do on a daily basis.

    I know I need to change things for me and also for my daughter, who needs to have a healthy mom. 

    But I'm terrified. I'm terrified of trying to lose weight without my crutch.

    I'm terrified that if I try to lose weight, I will fall victim to the evil monsters that I've never completely silenced.

    Just throw up.

    You know you want to.

    It's so easy.

    When I was in college, I sometimes threw up six times a night and more during the day. It petered out as I got older, stronger, took medicine to help keep the monsters at bay.

    When I got pregnant, I had what's known as hyperemisis gravidarum, essentially extreme morning sickness. I threw up not because I wanted to or even tried. I couldn't hold any food down without the help of medicines. I landed in the emergency room twice.

    I felt like it was my body's payback for years of purging. And so, after I had my daughter, I refused to diet. I told myself that it took nine months to put that weight on, and it would take at least that to take it off.

    It did, more or less. I happened to work a job that required a lot of movement -- I worked in a 100-plus-year-old building, and my office was on the second floor, so I ran stairs literally all day long. That and running around working several jobs to make ends meet helped take the weight off -- although I was left with weakened stomach muscles and loose, baggy skin. Some core workouts probably would have helped, but I was afraid.

    Now, here I am, nearly eight years after my daughter's birth, working an at-home job that doesn't let me run around. I've put on weight that needs to come off.

    Again I'm afraid. 

    But I'm pushing through it. I've started counting calories. I've cut all alcohol out of my diet. I've begun working out at least three times a week right here at home in front of my Xbox 360.

    It's been about a month since I started, and I have one giant bit of news to report: I haven't thrown up. Not once.

    I've wanted to. I've stared at the toilet, and I've cried myself to sleep.

    But I have vowed I'm going to do this the healthy way, and I will -- even if I have to do it with fear sitting on my shoulder, along for the ride. 

    Have you tried to lose weight since beating an eating disorder? How did you do it?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Rainbow Cake CakezillaI have spent weeks. No days. OK, OK, weeks, combing Pinterest for the perfect idea for cupcakes for my daughter's upcoming birthday party. She wants pandas, and she's going to get pandas if I have to stay up until 3 a.m. crafting cute little black and white bear cubs until my fingers bleed.

    Yes, I am one of those moms, the moms Good Morning America called out for being cakezillas who intimidate other moms with their push for perfection this week. A store-bought birthday cake just isn't good enough for my baby. 

    It sounds nuts, doesn't it?

    I know it does. I know I'm trying too hard.

    Every year after the party is over and the kids have gone home, I sit down on my couch and vow to lay off next year, to give myself a break. I'll hire someone to bake the cake! I'll go store-bought! I'll bite off something I can actually chew!

    And then spring hits, and my daughter's June birthday looms, and there I am, furiously searching for an idea to blow my kid away. Because I just.

    Can't.

    Stop.

    It's a sickness that I'm not quite sure how to explain, but I'll give it my best shot: I feel like making my kid's birthday awesome is part of getting her childhood "right," and that means doing things myself. I just can't bring myself to accept the "help" of an outside baker. The very idea fills me up with dread. Last year I was sick as a dog before my daughter's birthday, and even letting my husband make her "bring to school" cupcakes made me cry.

    Call it being a cakezilla. Call it peer pressure. Call it extreme parenting. Or just call it crazy.

    But I have a feeling I'm not alone, and not just because of the GMA story on us birthday cake nuts. As a mom there is always something you feel you need to do yourself, that you just won't accept help on.

    For me it's the birthday cake.

    Maybe for you it was the baby book.

    Maybe it's bath time.

    Or bed time.

    Or being the mom who HAS to volunteer to chaperone the kids' field trips because you just feel compelled to spend a day on a bus full of screaming 8-year-olds.

    We all have something we feel like we need to do for our kids and do all by ourselves, if only to prove that we can. Whether our kids will even notice is hard to tell. Every year she thanks me for her cake. But will she remember them in 10 years? In 20? Will she remember that Mommy was up into the wee hours on a muggy June night making a second cake because the first one stuck to the pan?

    Maybe she will. Maybe she won't.

    But doing this for my kid isn't about judging other mothers (I could give a fig if you go store-bought). It's about me showing my kid I love her in a way that works for me (and my neuroses).

    So don't be intimidated by my homemade birthday cake, and I won't be intimidated by your picture-perfect nursery.

    We all show love in different ways. 

    Have you fallen prey to the "must make the perfect cake" monster? Or is it something else you just can't delegate?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    fbiIt's been more than a month since the bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and things were finally settling down. Were, that is, until we woke up this morning to news that a man named Ibragim Todashev, thought to be a friend of bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had been killed by an FBI agent during an altercation in Florida.

    That sense of security that had washed back over you as the headlines shifted away from the Tsarnaev brothers and back to Kim Kardashian's shoes? That's gone now, isn't it?

    So far the FBI isn't telling us much about Todashev, aside from the fact that he was Chechnyan, had been linked to the elder Tsarnaev brother, and once lived in Boston. He was killed by an agent who reportedly felt that he was "under threat."

    It's the relationship with Tsarnaev and the fact that he was being questioned about it that makes the whole case so confusing.

    Was he involved in the bombing?

    Is there more going on than the feds are telling us?

    Is this nightmare ever going to be over?

    We want this to just be something two bad men did in their spare time, by themselves. It would be nice if this could all be wrapped up in a neat little package, give the families of the victims closure, and give average Americans a warm, fluffy security blanket to duck our heads back under.

    Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. And whether Todashev was involved in the bombing or not, the murky details around his death remind us that there are more violent people out there, some who may well carry the same anti-American feelings of the bombers.

    We may have gotten to the bottom of the story behind the Boston bombing. But the fight to keep America safe is never truly over.

    Were you starting to feel safe again or is this just something you expected?

     

    Image via o.maloteau/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Missing Girl Kathlynn ShepardA convicted pedophile and suspected abductor has been found dead. Ready to cheer? Hold your applause. Because before Michael James Klunder was discovered, cops say he kidnapped two girls. A 12-year-old escaped, but 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard is still missing. With Klunder's death, the cops have little to go on to find the missing girl

    Sadly, that's just the beginning of the tragedies surrounding the 42-year-old's mysterious death.

    Cops now think Klunder may have been responsible for the abduction and murder of Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Morrissey, the two little girls from Iowa whose disappearance last summer had the entire country on edge. If they're right, that means the Morissey and Cook families also just lost a chance to get answers from their daughters' killer.

    Answers beyond the fact that Klunder was a convicted sex offender, who was responsible for the kidnappings of two 3-year-old girls and a 21-year-old woman in December 1991. He was sentenced to 41 years for the crimes but spent less than two decades in jail.

    If cops' suspicions prove correct, he kidnapped and killed Lyric and Elizabeth just a year after finishing work release. Then came the abduction of Kathlynn and an unnamed 12-year-old on Monday afternoon at a bus stop. The latter girl bravely escaped.

    Good for her.

    But what about her fellow captive? What of her?

    This is where a live pedophile would pretty darn useful.

    We don't know how he died yet. There are rumors that he might have committed suicide -- in which case, there's little that could be done by authorities. On the other hand, if he was killed by someone, it's proof once again WHY vigilante justice doesn't work. Sure, a pedophile is dead, but at what cost?

    A powerful lesson in celebrating death, isn't it?

    Kathlynn Shepard's family is devastated. The Cook and Morrissey families are desperate.

    And what of poor Kathlynn? Is she out there, alone and scared, waiting to be rescued? Could we still help her?

    Without Klunder, who knows?

    What is your first inclination when you hear "dead pedophile"? Do you tend to cheer?

     

    Image via police handout


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    baby weightDo you ever read something that makes you cry hot, angry tears? Jessica Grose's story about defending her "fat" baby did that to me this week. The mother of a little girl born in December recently encountered one of my biggest pet peeves: people who comment on a baby's weight.

    For Grose, a woman telling her not to "worry" because her baby would "grow out of" the chubby stage triggered a discussion on the dysfunctional dialogue about body size. As a recovering bulimic and mother of a daughter, I'm right there with her.

    But that's just one facet of the discussion of babies and weight that makes me ball up my fists and want to scream. It's dangerous for babies! 

    Yes, dangerous.

    The thing is, the word "fat" is a scary one for parents, and not just ones with disordered eating in their pasts. 

    Every time you turn on the television, you're assaulted with news about childhood obesity and heart disease and diabetes. Naturally, we worry about our own kids. So when someone tells us our baby fits the bill, the worry kicks into overdrive. Are we hurting our kids? Is this something we must fix?

    Should we, gasp, put the baby on a diet?

    See that? One innocent little comment, and you risk setting parents -- and their babies -- on a course for disaster.

    Fact: baby weight fluctuates. A baby about to go through a growth spurt will pack on the pounds, only to thin out as they gain length. Babies who are not yet walking tend to have (adorable in my book) rolls in the legs that will be worked out when they start toddling off ... and developing those little muscles.

    Where a baby might look "fat" today, it very likely means they're absolutely normal ... for the period of growth that they're in.

    What's more, putting a baby on a "diet" can be extremely detrimental. Babies require diets high in healthy fats! The brain, for example, is about 60 percent fat -- fats made from essential fatty acids. Nerve tissue too is built off the fat in a baby's diet. Take that away, and you're very literally cutting off the stuff of life.

    How about instead of telling parents their babies are fat, we just leave that to the doctors, OK? They can tell a parent what to do, and how to do it safely.

    And if you're really desperate for something acceptable to say about the baby ... here are a few ideas.

    Do you comment on fat babies? What do you say?

     

    Image via Eric Lanning/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Michael RushbyWhen was the last time you sat your teenager down for a talk about his or her private parts? Ohhhh, you think they're too old for that? This might change your mind: a teen died of testicular cancer this month. He was just 16 years old.

    It's tragic. And sad. And it all could have been prevented.

    It turns out Michael Rushby was too embarrassed to tell anyone he'd found a lump in his testicles. Sadly, that fear is what killed him. By the time he told his older brother, eight months after he first noticed something was off, it was too late. His parents took him to the doctor, but after just two weeks, their son was dead.

    I don't blame the parents here, nor do I blame the poor kid. But as his mom makes the rounds of the media to push talking to kids about medical issues, no matter how embarrassing, I'll take it one further.

    We need to de-stigmatize talking about our bodies. Period.

    Kids need to know that it's OK to come to us not just with something as scary as a big lump in the groin, but the simpler stuff: tampons vs. pads and hair growth and body odor and ...

    Particularly, we need to keep the lines of communication open during the teen years. When you stop talking to your kids just because you think they're old enough to know everything, what message are we sending? That these things aren't to be talked about?

    I know, it's kind of uncomfortable to think about talking to a son who is taller than you are about his penis or a daughter who has a bigger bra size than you about her breasts. But you're the parent. Deal with it.

    There's a lot more at stake than your comfort here.

    Do you talk to your kids about their private areas? When did you stop?

     

    Image via Rushby family


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Angelina JolieWell, it turns out celebrity parents are just like us! At least when it comes to grossing out their kids! Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt recently got a request from 8-year-old daughter Zahara Jolie-Pitt to lay off the smooching in front of them!

    With a daughter set to turn 8 in just a few weeks, I'm waiting to hear the same thing out of her mouth. But will I listen to her? Not on her life!

    And neither should Brad and Angie! At least not if they know what's good for their big brood?

    Kissing in front of our kids is not just a right and privilege, the way I see it, it's good for them.

    Note I said kissing. Not sex. Not a 15-minute-long make-out session with tongues and groping of one another's asses.

    But a kiss hello or goodbye? A spontaneous swoop in just to say "honey, I love you" while you're making dinner? I'm all about that kind of PDA in front of my kid

    When her dad and I kiss or when Brad and Angie kiss in front of Zahara and her siblings, the message that's being sent is one of love. You're modeling a healthy relationship, one that they'll remember when they get older and start looking for someone to settle down with.

    Moments of love between parents are also reassuring for kids. With divorce a pretty common thing in America these days, most kids have at least a handful of friends whose parents aren't together anymore. I know my daughter has asked if that's going to happen to us; just because it's happened to her friends' parents. When she sees us kiss or hug or hold hands, we're sending her a message that things are OK here at home, that she doesn't need to worry -- everything's good on the home front.

    Considering their relationship is constantly being splashed on magazine covers (and more than a few times there have been rumors of breakups), Angelina and Brad have to send the same message to their kids, and those kisses do a world of wonder. Even if they do gross them out!

    Do you kiss in front of your kids? What do the kids say about it?


    Image via Splash News


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    hair dresser cutting hairTalk about a hairy situation! Stylists at a salon got themselves in a pickle recently when they told breastfeeding moms they'd have to cover up ... or they wouldn't snip their hair. Cue angry mom protest, and presto, change-o, there's been a rule change. Haircuts for everyone! Even nursing moms!

    Yeeeech! Now hold up, just a second. This is not an "OMG, boooobies, so grosssss" rant.

    I'm fully supportive of breastfeeding in public. It's just a baby eating, after all! That said, I don't think women should breastfeed everywhere.

    Sure, we have the right to do so, but as it is with many rights, this one comes with certain responsibilities. First, and foremost, we need to keep our babies safe and comfortable. And while one might argue that a hungry baby is an uncomfortable one, hunger pangs are far from the worst a baby can encounter.

    More From The Stir: An Open Letter to Moms Who Think Formula Is 'Poison'

    Just think about the last time you went in for a haircut. What happened? The stylist draped a cape over you to protect you from getting hair all over your clothes, right? Itchy, uncomfortable hair.

    Now consider a mother who is nursing her baby -- uncovered -- in that chair while the stylist snips, snips, snips away. Where is all that hair going? That's right -- right on the uncovered baby. In her face. In her ears. In her mouth.

    Itchy, uncomfortable hair.

    Ewwww! Poor kid!

    Oh, and it gets worse. Ever had a stylist drop her scissors on you? I have.

    Imagine her dropping them ... in a baby's eye.

    Breastfeeding uncovered while you're getting your hair done might be the ultimate in mommy multitasking, but it's bound to be rather unpleasant for the baby.

    This is where we separate the right to breastfeed from the necessity to do so in all situations. Is it really necessary that you feed your baby while getting your hair done? Couldn't you do it before? Or after? We aren't talking about something that can't be rescheduled here. It's a haircut, not surgery. 

    Yes, protecting the right to nurse in public is important for moms and babies alike. But let's use a little common sense ...

    Moms, you don't always need to multitask. Sometimes you need to just give in and give your babies your full attention.

    Would you breastfeed in the hairdresser's chair?

     

    Image via Marc Samson/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Faith-Healing parents Catherine Schaible Herbert SchaibleWhenever religion and the justice system tangle, you can expect things to get pretty hairy. Now that a couple of parents who practice "faith-healing" have been charged with murder, you can expect sparks will fly. But from the sounds of it, Catherine and Herbert Schaible did exactly that to their 7-month-old baby.

    Baby Brandon died April 18 from dehydration and bacterial pneumonia. Cops say when the little boy began showing symptoms of illness several days before his death, his parents decided to pray for him instead of calling a doctor.

    Sounds like murder to me, how about you?

    The Schaibles may not have purposely gotten Brandon sick. And they may not have killed him with a weapon of some sort. At first glance, their story might even sound more like manslaughter than murder.

    But manslaughter generally indicates a criminal didn't know what they were doing.

    In 2009, the Schaibles' 2-year-old son Kent died of bacterial pneumonia as his parents prayed over him rather than calling on a doctor. They were convicted of involuntary manslaughter but given only probation, leaving them to go home and continue making babies.

    They knew what would happen if they didn't call a doctor.

    They'd seen it happen.

    And cops say they did it anyway.

    When we talk about wrongful death in this country, we need to look at the whys as much as we do the hows.

    Technically this baby died because he got an infection. But he also died because his faith-healing parents allegedly skipped out on getting him medical care. They didn't have to pull a trigger or dig a knife into him to kill him. Inaction was enough.

    We live in a society where people are so quick to pull back, throw their hands up, and say, "Hey, not me, man." No one wants to get involved in anything -- that way when things go south, as they inevitably do, they can claim it wasn't their fault because they weren't involved.

    But it doesn't work that way.

    Sometimes not getting involved is the very worst thing you can do.

    Sometimes not getting involved is murder.

    Do you think the charges being levied against the Schaibles are right here? Do you feel any sympathy for them?

     

    Image via Philadelphia Police Department


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Military Homecoming Google DoodleDid you wake up this morning, power up Google, and start to sniffle? The world famous Google Doodle is paying tribute to our military families a wee bit early for Memorial Day, but this is not just any military homecoming. The picture of a little girl running to her soldier daddy is a true story, pulled from the life of the artist, a real-life military kid.

    Sabrina Brady of Sparta, Wisconsin is the kid in the picture. Her dad is the dad. AND 18-year-old Sabrina is the talented artist who drew the picture popping up on computer screens all over America today.

    Wait, did that just make you sniffle louder? 

    The Google 4 Doodle challenge this year asked kids to draw their "Best Day Ever." Brady drew herself as a 10-year-old, welcoming her dad home from an 18-month-long deployment. It's a beautiful tribute from a little girl to her daddy and a heartwarming send-up to our military families all in one. 

    Not to mention an in-your-face reminder that military kids should be a bigger part of the overall military story?

    Stories about military deployments tend to focus on the parents. They are, after all, the ones who are putting themselves in harm's way.

    More From The Stir: Military Spouse Appreciation Day: Let’s Celebrate the Toughest Job on the Homefront!

    But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I can't say enough that we should be doing more for military families. These kids often spend extended periods of time without Mom or Dad. They're often forced to move their entire lives, leaving friends behind and having to start all over again at new schools in new towns. They live a life unlike any other kid in America.

    And they turn out pretty great!

    More From The Stir: 8 Patriotic Quotes to Honor Our Troops on Armed Forces Day

    Look at Sabrina. She's a talented artist who won a $30,000 college scholarship, a Chromebook computer, and a $50,000 technology grant for her school from Google because she took the initiative to enter their annual Google 4 Doodle contest, and in the fall, she'll attend the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

    These kids don't always have it easy, but they blast through those hurdles ... and that makes them heroes in my eyes too.

    What did you think when you saw the Google Doodle today? Does it change your opinion knowing it's a real story?

     

    Image via Google


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    excuses kids use to delay bedtimeI love bedtime with my kid. We crawl into her bed, settle ourselves among the sea of stuffed animals, Pillow Pets, and books, and I finally have her captive in one spot where I can ask her about her school day. It's blissful. But then I get up to go downstairs to do all my important adult-after-kid-goes-to-bed things -- OK, OK, to veg on the couch with my iPad and the TV remote -- and that's when the drama begins.

    As every parent knows, putting your child to bed is easy. Getting them to stay in bed takes Harry Potter-style wizarding skills.

    Kids will make up ANY excuse not to stay in bed. No really, their imaginations know no bounds! Behold just a few of the wild and wacky delay tactics kids use daily (nightly?):

    1. I have to pee.

    2. I need a drink of water.

    3. That drink of water made me have to pee again!

    4. It's not dark out yet.

    5. It's too dark; I'm afraid!

    6. I'm just checking to see if you're still up.

    7. [Fifteen minutes later] Oh, I guess you're still up, Mom.

    8. [Ten minutes later] I thought you'd be in bed by now, Dad.

    9. I just wanted to say good morning! [Nice try kid!]

    10. I forgot to tell you I love you.

    11. You tucked me in, but I had to get my book when it fell on the floor, so I need you to tuck me in again.

    12. It's not fair; you don't have to sleep alone!

    13. My nightlight is too bright.

    14. My nightlight isn't bright enough; I can't read by it.

    15. My belly hurts!

    16. My foot hurts!

    17. I just scratched my bug bite that you told me not to scratch, and I'm bleeeeeeeding!

    18. Can I have a Band-Aid for this [points at skin completely devoid of anything even resembling a boo boo]?

    19. I need a hug!

    20. I need another hug!

    21. I didn't kiss Daddy.

    22. I kissed Daddy, but I didn't want to make you feel bad. I want to kiss you too, Mommy.

    23. There's a giant bug in my room [which will have mysteriously flown away when you get there, Mom].

    24. There's a giant bug OUTSIDE my room.

    25. But I didn't finish the daily challenge on [insert name of pointless video game here], and if I don't do it, I'll lose EVERYTHING.

    26. I want to know what happens next in the story. Just one more chapter, please?

    27. My stuffed animal fell out of bed [and I walked past it, down the hallway and all the way down the stairs to ask you to pick it up].

    28. I didn't say good night to the guinea pig.

    29. My shadow is really scary!

    30. I thought you were lonely out in the living room without me.

    31. Oops, I didn't finish my homework.

    32. Can we go over my spelling words again?

    33. I want to make a picture for my teacher because she's so cool!

    34. What's this word in Ramona the Pest mean?

    35. I forgot to tell you something REALLY important!

    36. Can the cat come sleep with me?

    37. [Twenty minutes later] The cat is snoring, and it's keeping me awake!

    38. Can we have pizza for dinner on Friday night? [This will be asked on a Sunday night.]

    39. Where is heaven?

    40. [Five minutes later] Is GG-Pa in heaven?

    41. [Two minutes later] What about Taylor's hamster? Is there hamster heaven?

    42. I can get up now; I'm not tired anymore.

    43. I had a nightmare!

    44. I had a good dream, and I want to tell you about it.

    45. I smelled food.

    46. Did you make my lunch for tomorrow yet?

    47. [Five minutes later] Just making sure you put PB&J in my lunch for tomorrow.

    48. [Two minutes later] Wait, no, I want ham and cheese!

    49. Talking about food made me hungry. Can I have a yogurt?

    50. Can I have a drink of water?

    And they wonder why parents drink?

    What are your kid's craziest excuses for getting out of bed at night?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    time clock The ongoing battle between the working parents and the stay-at-home parents may get all the press, but it's got nothing on working parents and the child-free who work with them. Working moms want a family-friendly workplace with respect for the fact that they have lives outside of the job. But is it fair of us to ask? Are we "playing the kid card" too much?

    As a mother I want to say no. But as a mom who has confessed she often feels guilty leaving work for her kid, I can easily see both sides.

    So can Karen Grigsby Bates. She's the mom who wrote the emotionally-charged Slate article "Why Working Parents Should Not Pull the Kid Card" this week. Yes, I said she's a mom. And she thinks her fellow moms and dads are pushing it with all this family-friendly workplace business. Says Bates:

    People without children have lives that are as legitimate and that they cherish as much as people who have children. This unwavering entitlement—I need time off; I have to have this holiday; I need to leave a half-hour before everyone else does, every day—kills office morale.

    Her comments have merit. Every mom who has ever had to leave work early for a kid with a stuffy nose has encountered at least one cranky co-worker along the way.

    But are all parents really killing office morale? Aaron Goldman recently confessed at Mom.me that he was afraid to broach the topic of a flexible work day when his daughter was first born. But when he did, he found it didn't affect his work negatively at all:

    As the months went by with our daughter, I slowly started to figure out that I could be more flexible, and that work would not suffer. Going in a little late after dropping my daughter off at day care is not a big deal, and although staying at home with a sick kid is not the best way to work, it can be done, and no one was judging me for it.

    And some parents aren't asking for help because they want it. They're put in positions where they're desperate. Take the plight of single dad of three and veteran Dan Greeley. His story hit the news when he decided to take a pay cut at work ... because he was at risk of losing child care assistance critical for his family. Olivia Golden, an expert on child and family assistance programs at the Urban Institute, a non-partisan economic and social policy research organization based in Washington, D.C., explained that Greeley's story is typical of American parents who are desperately juggling to make things work. They don't want special treatment, Golden says, they need it:

    Parents who are trying to work at low or moderate wage jobs and raise kids often run into roadblocks where the system just doesn't make sense.

    We've been talking a lot about the middle class and the American dream. And to me, people who are working hard, trying to raise their kids, and on the edge of that middle class life, it should be one of our priorities to help them gain the stability they need to have that life that we all aspire to.

    But what about the roadblocks other folks, without kids, run into? It seems there may be room for improvement on either side.

    Congress recently hashed over a plan called the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 that would have a major effect on all workers, not just those with kids. If it passes, the bill could have employees working unpaid overtime hours beyond the 40-hour workweek. Employees could accrue comp time (rather than time-and-a-half that many American workers depend on), but even that would be up to the discretion of the employer.

    According to Eileen Appelbaum, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, that means it doesn't matter if you have a sick kid, you're taking care of a sick granny, have your own health issues, or just want to have some free time to blow off steam, your "flexibility" would be limited: we're all in the same boat.

    Do you feel like working parents play the "kid card" too often? Do you ask your employer for time off to take care of your kids?

     

    Image via Dave Castleton/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    memorial day traditionsHappy Memorial Day weekend! Do you have your big barbecue planned? Great! So now what are you doing to celebrate the actual holiday?

    America, please don't disappoint me. You know why most of us have Monday off, don't you? So we can actually honor those who have died in all American wars? The brave who gave their lives so that we may live in the land of the free?

    Feel free to scarf down a few burgers and hoist a few beers, but do me a favor and add at least one of these real Memorial Day traditions to the list:

    1. Visit a veterans' home. After the Civil War, the US found itself with a large number of indigent and disabled veterans who couldn't care for themselves or go back to work. The first veterans home was opened in 1864, and since dozens have sprung up to give back to our vets. It's the least the nation can do, but we as citizens can do more. Stop in, visit them! Chat with a vet for an hour or two, bring the kids to say hello, drop off a big plate of fresh baked cookies. Do something to let them know they are not forgotten.

    2. Visit the local veterans cemetery. Some graves are well-maintained by family members, but when there are no living relatives, that chore falls on the shoulders of local veterans groups. Lend a hand by bringing some flowers and helping to beautify a few of the less cared for graves.

    3. Attend a parade. This one's pretty easy, and a big hit with the kids, and it will give the veterans marching a big smile.

    4. Attend a memorial service. Many veterans groups plan these events for the holiday, and they never say no to more participants.

    5. Raise your flag. Some times showing your thanks can be as simple as flying Old Glory at your house. She should remain at half mast until noon, as per tradition.

    6. Honor the National Moment of Remembrance. In 2000, Congress addressed the fact that many Americans simply use Memorial Day as a day to eat burgers. They created the National Moment to make sure our troops are honored. At 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, every American is asked to pause for just one minute to honor the fallen.

    7. Hoist a POW/MIA flag. According to the Department of Defense, more than 83,000 Americans are missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War. Flying the POW/MIA flag reminds people of their sacrifice and their families' too.

    8. Visit a battlefield. Memorial Day owes its roots to the Civil War, and there are numerous sites up and down the East Coast where soldiers laid down their lives for us. 

    9. Watch/Listen to the National Memorial Day Concert. Broadcast on PBS and NPR, this concert on the west lawn of the United States Capitol includes music but also tributes to the men and women who gave their lives for their country.

    10. Share a photo of your beloved fallen soldier/airman/etc. on Facebook or Instagram. It's a day about remembering after all, so share his (or her) story!

    What are you doing to truly honor the meaning of Memorial Day?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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