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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.

    Khloe Kardashian Rob KardashianBy now we all know that Kourtney Kardashian's belly is full of baby number three. So who is going to be the next K kid to give Mama Kris a baby to cuddle? Here's a name that probably wasn't on the tip of your tongue: Rob Kardashian.

    But maybe it should be! Baby bro Kardashian dropped a mysterious tweet about spending the July 4th holiday with his "son." Don't bother hitting up Rob's Twitter; he's already deleted the bizarro comment, but he followed it up with this equally strange comment: 

    [code]

    Those who know me know I play and I do NOT have a Son. Y'all got my mama emailing me asking if I have a Son lol goodness hahaha. GOODnight

    — ROBERT KARDASHIAN (@robkardashian) July 4, 2014
    [/code]

    Er, way to spin the blame on that one, Rob!

    Naturally everyone is wondering what the heck Rob is up to, but here's one theory: in typical baby brother fashion, he's feeling left out of the fold. Kourtney's on baby number three, Kim's got North West, and even Khloe may or may not be working on making French Montana a papa.

    Can you blame him for getting a little broody?

    Then again, who knows ... maybe there's some secret love child out there, and Rob's testing the waters to see how fans will react. With this family, one never knows!

    What do you think Rob meant by his tweet about his "son?"

     

     

    Image via Khloe Kardashian/Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Victoria WilcherThere's yet another twist in what has become known as the KFC hoax story. Remember the family of the 3-year-old who'd been mauled by pitbulls, the ones who claimed a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Mississippi kicked her out because of her scarred face? Wait, of course you do! This case just can't stay out of the news. Well it turns out Victoria Wilcher's family will not be getting some of the donations set aside for the little girl after all.

    The KFC corporation was holding firm on its offer of $30,000 for Victoria's medical bills -- even after an investigation revealed the little girl was never actually kicked out of one of its restaurants. Pretty noble of them?

    Well Victoria's parents have turned them down.

    "We didn’t feel it was appropriate to accept it after everything KFC has done," a family lawyer told the Clarion-Ledger, a local newspaper. The family has suggested the funds instead be donated to a foundation run by Dr. Frank Stile, the plastic surgeon who offered to operate on Victoria's injuries. 

    Stile is also sticking by his promises to Victoria, and he has a fundraiser for the toddler on his foundation website. What's more, the approximately $100,000 raised on a GoFundMe site for the child will still go to the family and is expected to be put in a trust for Victoria.

    There are a lot of mixed emotions when reading about this story. It appear the real perpetrators of the hoax were Victoria's aunt and grandmother -- although it's hard to tell what her parents' involvement was, if any. These people played with people's hearts and violated their trust.

    More From The Stir: 4-Year-Old Kicked Out of Restaurant for 'Offensive' Shirt

    The fact that they are getting any money is a little hard to take.

    But.

    And this is a big but, folks.

    BUT, we have to remember that a 3-year-old has been hurt. Her scars are the real thing; she really was mauled by a bunch of dogs. She's been through hell.

    So while it's good to see someone finally show a wee bit of integrity and turn back that money from KFC, it's hard to begrudge a little girl some free surgery, isn't it? She didn't perpetrate a viral hoax. She's just a toddler! A hurt toddler.

    And every one who has ever dealt with a set of jerk parents who somehow managed to raise a really nice kid knows ... kids aren't at fault for their families. They're just stuck with them.

    How do you feel about the Wilchers turning down this money? Should they be able to get their hands on ANY of it?

     

    Image via Victoria's Victories


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Banned Facebook photoRemember the Coppertone baby? She ran across a beach with a doggy behind her, pulling her bathing suit bottom down to bare an itty bitty butt cheek? The advertisement might have been everywhere once upon a time, but it seems Facebook would not approve of the old-fashioned ad today. After all, the social media site just threatened to ban a mom for posting a photo of her 2-year-old daughter's bottom being bared in a similar fashion.

    The irony? Jill White posted the photo of one toddler pulling down another little girl's bathing suit bottom -- and baring her butt -- on the Coppertone Facebook page! 

    Someone apparently reported it, and Facebook removed the photo, sending the mom a warning.

    White, a photographer from Hickory, North Carolina, has become the topic of national news after relating the story to her local TV station. She says Facebook told her she'd be banned for life if she reposted the photo of her toddler after they removed it, so instead White has put up a version with a smiley face icon blocking view of her daughter's tush. Check it out:

    [code]

    [/code]

    Offended?

    Would you be if the icon weren't there?

    Really?

    There have been a rash of these banned photos of late, between the mom kicked off Instagram awhile back for the "shirtless" photos of her 20-month-old and the mom similarly banned from Instagram for her "nude" photo of her toddler showing off her belly button.

    The notion that there is something "wrong" with these photos is ludicrous at best. There's nothing sexual about children. Period.

    But what's really startling is how moms seem to react every time these stories end in the news. There are a lot of "well, pedophiles are looking" comments and a whole lot of mom shaming.

    Talk about fearmongering!

    Moms? Dads? Yes, there are pedophiles out there. But here's a not-so-scary statistic for you: researchers estimate that pedophiles account for only 4 percent of the population.

    Too many, of course. But still. Four percent. That means 96 percent of Americans are not looking at children with lascivious intent.

    What's more, it's important to note that a pedophile who "looks" at a photo of your kid on the Internet is not necessarily going to hurt your kid. In fact, researchers have found that kids who are abused by predators who tracked them down online tend to be older kids who were engaged in chatting with the pedophile -- not innocent babies whose moms photographed them in innocent positions and posted about them online.

    Is it freaky to think of a creep looking at your kiddo online? OF COURSE IT IS! But the fact is your kids are at a much higher risk from the people they know than they are some stranger seeing their (innocent!) photo on the Internet. Only 10 percent of abused kids are abused by a stranger, while 30 percent are actual family members!

    So maybe we should stop focusing on (innocent!) photos of kids online, hmm?

    What do you think when you see photos like this?

     

    Image via Jilly White Photography


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    common car seat mistakes

    Here's a scary statistic for parents: car crashes are the leading killer of children 1 to 12 years old in the United States. Here's another one: some 70 percent of car seats are installed improperly. Never want to get in a car with your child again? Don't worry ... as confusing as those car seat manuals can be, we've got the answers to your biggest questions about safety seats.

    The experts have weighed in on parents' biggest mistakes in the backseat -- and how to fix them!

    1. Only reading the car seat manual. The car seat manual should be read, and adhered to, but did you know it's not the only one? "The car has its own rules," explains Lorrie Walker, training manager and technical advisor for the Safe Kids Buckle Up Program. Walker suggests pulling out the directions for your seat as well as read up on what your vehicle manufacturer has to say about car seat installation to make sure you're following both sets of guidelines.

    This also applies when moving your seat from one family car to another. Not every vehicle is the same, she warns, and you may have to make adjustments to installation for safety's sake when you make the switch.

    2. Assuming every seat belt fit is safe. If not in a car seat with a harness, kids should be wearing seat belts, but they need to actually fit kids the "right" way in order to protect them.

    If your child is using a seat belt -- with a booster seat or without -- the lap portion of the belt must sit low on the hips rather than across the stomach or somewhere on the legs. The upper portion should come across the chest and rest on the bony shoulder, Walker says, not on the neck and not be placed under the armpit.

    3. Turning a rear-facing child around too soon. It may seem like turning your kids around so you can see their faces in the rear-view mirror is safer (not to mention easier on you), but there are good reasons for holding off ... the longer, the better.

    "It comes down to simple, anatomical development of a child," says Allana Pinkerton, global safety advocate for Diono. "The vertebrae does not fuse together until a child is between 4 and 6 years old. Frontal, crash impacts are strong enough to damage the spine on a young child."

    Scary stuff, and that's not all.

    "If your child sits close to the seat in front of them, their head and legs can hit the seat hard enough to cause a brain injury or broken legs and feet," Pinkerton warns. "Rear facing is safer in all types of collisions."

    So when can kids finally make the turn?

    No sooner than 2 years old, for sure, but check your car seat manual (ahem -- number 1 above). Some seats can accommodate a larger toddler in rear-facing mode.

    car seat mistakes4. Not tightening the straps enough on a seat. Yes, it's inconvenient having to loosen and tighten those suckers every time you get your kiddo in and out of the car. But it's one hassle you need to deal with if you don't want your child flying out of the seat in a crash. So how do you know what's "tight enough"?

    Pinkerton says parents should do what's known as the "pinch test."

    "Once you have snug down the harness, take your index finger and thumb and try lightly grabbing the harness up at the collar bone," she says. "You don’t have to dig down into the harness; just see if you get a fold in the webbing. Do not check for a snug fit at the chest clip. This will give you a false sense the harness is too loose and you might over-tighten the harness, making your child very uncomfortable, leaving red marks on their skin."

    5. Thinking state laws are the safest. Of course, you need to follow state laws. But often they're just not enough! "The law of physics has overtaken the law of each state," says Walker.

    What she means by that is this: your state may say your child is big enough to "graduate" from a safety seat, but it really comes down to what's safest for the child. If your kiddo's seat belt doesn't fit the way Walker describes in number 2, they still need that safety seat -- no matter what your state says.

    6. Not adjusting the car seat as kids age. Many safety seats cover an age range, but as your child grows within the seat, you need to make some changes! One of the biggies? Adjusting the shoulder straps for your forward-facing child.

    Shoulder straps should always begin above your child's shoulder -- never below -- says Walker. Most seats have different slots for the straps, so parents can move them up as a child gets taller. If your child's shoulders are above the highest slot, it's time for a new seat!

    7. Not moving the chest clip. That little doohickey isn't just there to look good. "It helps position the harness so that they stay on the child’s shoulders," Pinkerton explains. After hooking the clip, slide it up so it's level with your child's armpits for a proper fit.

    8. Picking a car seat by age. Take two 2-year-olds and put 'em side by side. What are the chances they'll be the exact same size? Slim to none? So why would you think a car seat manufacturer -- who has never met your kid -- would know how big they are at any particular age?

    The age guidelines are a general guideline, Walker says. The more important numbers to look at are height and weight. So if your child is 8 and still weighs just 40 pounds (for example), you shouldn't put them in a seat that's for 8-year-olds and kids who weigh at least 50 pounds.

    For help gauging whether your child is in the right seat for their size, the government has a handy tool!

    9. Assuming hand-me-down car seats are safe. Hey, every mom loves a freebie, but sometimes you're just asking for trouble. Pinkerton suggests assessing the following before accepting a used car seat:

    Has it been involved in a crash? Is it on the recall list? Has it been stored in a climate-controlled area? Did the child who rode in it have lice and has it been thoroughly cleaned?

    If you've got a used seat, and you want to see if it's safe, check with the manufacturer for recalls. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has a hotline for parents to call to check on recalled seats.

    10. Using LATCH and a seat belt to secure a car seat. If one is good, two are better, right? Wrong! According to Walker, car seat manufacturers only test seats with one method of securing a seat in place. They want to make sure the seat can withstand a crash with just one because not every car has both in place.

    Picking both methods, Walker warns, could "compromise" the safety of a seat.

    "Pick the one that works best for you!" she tells parents.

    Have you made any of the mistakes on the list?

     

    Image ©iStock.com/zer05; ©iStock.com/ZekaG


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    newborn babyHow's this for a sunbeam of light on a dark day? A mother who lost a baby to miscarriage, then underwent treatment for the miscarriage, found out she'd been carrying twins ... and the twin survived the pills Michelle Hui took to clear her uterus after her miscarriage! It doesn't get much more miraculous, folks!

    The whole thing happened back in 2012, but Hui's story has only now gone viral -- along with photos of her, her husband, and their three kids. That includes 18-month-old sweetie Megan, who held on for dear life in momma's womb.

    It's a wonderful story.

    But it's one that highlights an uncomfortable issue for pregnant women: the ultrasounds we count on to find out information about our baby are not always 100 percent accurate.

    See, it turns out Hui had no less than five scans -- count 'em, five -- and was continuously told she had miscarried. It wasn't until after she'd taken medication and was going in for a D&C that doctors found the remaining baby. Fortunately, Hui went on to have a normal pregnancy, and Megan was born in February 2013.

    How could this happen?

    It's rare. So rare that her doctors say they've never heard of it -- especially the bit about a baby surviving the abortifacient that Hui took after her miscarriage. 

    This shouldn't send moms into a panic.

    But it bears noting that the scans that didn't detect the baby may not be that unusual. In fact, a study released in 2011 claims that ultrasound guidelines could lead to as many as one in every 23 women being told they'd miscarried when they were still pregnant!

    Just a little something to keep in mind when you start itching for more ultrasounds ... it might not be worth it!

    How many ultrasounds did you have during your pregnancy? Did they pick everything up?

     

    Image via © Mareen Fischinger/Corbis


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    pregnancy massageBack pain and pregnancy. They go together like oil and water, and yet anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of pregnant women will get a crick in the back while they've got a bun in the oven. So what's a mama-to-be to do? Three words for you: get a massage.

    But here's betting you've got three words to answer back with: is it safe?

    The answer is ... well, it's a little complicated. So we checked in with Dr. Mary Lynn, an OB/GYN at Loyola University Health System, for the skinny on massage during pregnancy -- when it's safe and when to steer clear.

    Should you check with your OB/GYN before getting a massage?

    Although massage is generally safe throughout the nine months of an uncomplicated pregnancy, don't book your session without checking with your OB or midwife.

    "There may be conditions of pregnancy where it is best to avoid a massage," Dr. Lynn warns. Your doctor can tell you if a massage is a complete no-no or advise you on specific conditions to avoid.

    If a doctor OKs a massage, how can it help?

    "It can be therapeutic in many ways for patients," says Dr. Lynn. "For patients with anxiety during pregnancy, it can be a great relaxation tool. It can also be helpful for patients having neck pain or back pain in pregnancy -- once your doctor has evaluated that it is safe."

    What's more, Dr. Lynn says there's pain relief to be had during labor from massage!

    Do you need to tell your massage therapist that you're pregnant?

    This is a must, says Dr. Lynn. You should pick a massage therapist who is familiar with pregnancy massage, and you should have a massage specifically designed for pregnancy.

    So how does a massage for pregnant women differ from that for any other person?

    "It's mainly the positioning that differs," Dr. Lynn explains. "In pregnancy, it's best to avoid being positioned on the back or on the abdomen during a massage. There are some specialized massage tables made specifically for pregnancy that can be used too."

    Are there any places on the body where moms shouldn't be massaged?

    According to Dr. Lynn, part of clearing a massage with your health care provider is talking about any localized pain. "These areas should be evaluated by her doctor before she has a massage," the OB/GYN explains.

    "There are some trigger points on the ankle and wrist that may result in cramping in pregnancy, so these areas are best avoided," she adds. 

    Did you get a massage while pregnant? What did your doctor advise?

     

    Image via © Aurelie and Morgan David de Lossy/cultura/Corbis


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Baylor FredricksonIf you've spent any time on Facebook in recent weeks, you've probably seen it -- a photo of a little boy in his baseball uniform with a wide grin and a plea to please help this child. The plea comes from Michael Lewis, a famous author and Baylor's old Little League coach. The boy is Baylor Fredrickson, an 8-year-old boy from California with leukemia whose family has been unable to find the bone marrow transplant he so desperately needs.

    Because Baylor isn't just a kid who needs a bone marrow transplant. He's a child of mixed ethnicity who desperately needs a bone marrow transplant ... and mixed race donors -- particularly mixed race Asian donors -- are rare on what's called the donor registry, a group of volunteers around the country who have allowed their DNA to be gathered in case they can help someone in need.

    The Stir talked to Baylor's mom, Shari Fredrickson, about what it means to have a child who has become the face of a health crisis facing many Americans, and how people can help kids like Baylor by becoming living donors of bone marrow.

    The Stir: Tell us a little bit about Baylor.

    Shari Fredrickson: Bay loves LEGOs, Minecraft, and is really interested in Greek mythology, Nerf guns, and cooking. 

    How was Baylor initially diagnosed with leukemia? What were the signs?

    The only signs we had that there was an initial problem was he was tired a lot and that he had normal cold symptoms constantly (runny nose, cough ...). A friend suggested I have him tested for food allergies because he had developed alopecia (small bald patches on his head). He said maybe what he was eating could be the cause. We had a blood test completed to test for allergies.

    Luckily, the doctor also added a full blood panel to be tested. The next day the doctor called saying to get him from kindergarten right away and take him straight to Children's Hospital. Another blood test confirmed our worst nightmare, leukemia.

    Bay was diagnosed in 2012 with AML (acute myeloid leukemia).

    How was it treated at the time?

    He went through four rounds of intense chemo and was in remission for almost two years.

    What was it like when you found out the cancer was back?

    After being in remission for so long, our day to day life finally got back to "normal." In January, Bay caught a virus, a normal virus; however, our routine blood exams were showing signs of his (blood) counts trending down.

    We were told this could be caused by the virus. We were told to wait ... again trending down.

    This went on for three months. Finally a bone marrow aspirate was ordered to rule out a relapse. Turns out, he had indeed relapsed and the only thing that would save him would be a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. We knew what this meant. We knew our lives once again would be turned upside down. That Bay would not be able to continue second grade, that our [11-year-old] daughter [Maddie]'s life would be turned upside down also.

    We were heartbroken and devastated.

    What was the process from there?

    We knew finding a bone marrow match would be tricky because ethnic make-up is a very important part in finding a match. Bay's dad is German, and I am Japanese.

    Maddie was tested?

    The best bet for a good match would be from either someone that was Asian/Caucasian or his sister. Unfortunately, there is only a 25 percent chance of siblings matching. Maddie was not a match. We turned to the national bone marrow registry and the international registry. Both came up with no matches.

    Why is it so difficult to find a match for Baylor via the international and national registries?

    There are only 7 percent Asian donors on the registry and 4 percent mixed Asians. Finding a match is said to be like finding your unrelated identical twin. There is a chance, but it's extremely rare.

    Baylor Fredrickson
    What have you done since?

    So far we have used social media as best we can to reach far and wide to get the word out. We know there are hapas (mixed race Asians) out there, we just need them to know about Baylor's story and hopefully register to be a prospective donor.

    Bone marrow drives have been set up at events and locations all over the world (Canada, Germany, Japan). In the US, people that have heard Bay's story, that live outside of the Bay Area, have taken it upon themselves to learn how to hold a bone marrow drive in their areas (Salt Lake City, Denver, Seattle, and Baltimore to name a few).

    What's it like to have your son become the "face" of an issue like this?

    No one expects to be "thrown" into something like this. After learning how disproportional the numbers of mixed Asian donors were compared to other ethnic groups, we felt telling Bay's story could help many understand how important it is to be counted. We couldn't be prouder to be a part of something that could potentially help save many lives.

    What can people do to help?

    If people would like to help, they can either find a bone marrow drive near them or go to Asian American Donor Program (AADP) for a free home kit to be sent to them. You will need to be between the ages of 18-44 and in good health.

    If you know of a largely Asian populated area or event, you can be trained to hold your own bone marrow drive. The AADP would be happy to talk to anyone interested.

    What is going on for Baylor in the meantime?

    Baylor has just finished round two of his chemo treatment while he waits for a transplant. A bone marrow match would be the best option for him; however, a match has not yet been found.

    What is the prognosis?

    No matter what happens, we will continue to push forward trying to get as many Asians/mixed Asians on the registry as we can so this doesn't happen to anyone else. This shortage can be fixed! This shortage can go away if more minorities can step up to make a difference.

    You never know if someone you love, or even YOU, will need a bone marrow transplant one day. Please help if you can.

    Thank you!

    ***

    Although Asian Americans are in high demand, you do not have to be Asian American to become a living bone marrow donor. For more information on joining the Donor Registry -- regardless of your ethnic background -- visit Be the Match. All it takes is a swab of your cheek to have your DNA entered into the registry. Patients' DNA is then put through the system for potential matches. It costs nothing for you -- even if you are matched to a patient in need.

    Baylor says thank you ...

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Have you joined the registry yet?

     

    Images via Michael Lewis; Shari Fredrickson


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    applying sunscreen to childHow do you pick the sunscreen you're going to use on your kids? If you go for convenience every time, you might want to rethink your summertime routine! Consumer Reports has come out to warn parents who are using popular spray sunscreens to put those cans down immediately ... and don't pick 'em back up!

    The watchdog isn't the first to tell parents to steer clear of the products. The American Academy of Dermatology has been saying it for years. And the Environmental Working Group has also issued warnings about the sprays that tend to be a little easier on parents when it comes to applying sunscreen to wiggling toddlers. So what's different about the Consumer Reports warning?

    Well, for starters, they're following up on an announcement last month from the Food and Drug Administration that the government is finally taking a look at possible dangers from the sprays. What's more, Consumer Reports has actually removed a sunscreen from its well-regarded safe list because of the concerns over what chemicals kids are breathing in when their parents use a spray.

    More From The Stir: Putting Sunscreen on a Toddler Is Worse Than Having a Root Canal

    Hello, Moms and Dads, how much more warning do you need to can the cans of this stuff?

    Spraying down a child is much more convenient than having to hold down a squirmer who is screaming bloody murder because you're "torturing" them with sunscreen. And hey, you get to keep your hands clean!

    But just as we've seen with rear-facing car seats, sometimes the convenience just isn't worth it ... not when it puts our kids at risk.

    Don't want to worry about what you're putting on your kids when they go out in the sun? Check the Environmental Working Group's annual safe sunscreen list for something non-toxic for your kids' skin.

    And if you absolutely must use one of the sprays, the folks at Consumer Reports suggest spraying it into your hands, then rubbing the sunscreen into your children's skin.

    What kind of sunscreen do you use? A spray? A stick? A lotion?

     

    Image © iStock.com/jtyler


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Kinsley Grace GrabAmanda and Peter Grab have taken to throwing monthly birthday parties for their baby. No, they're not spoiling their 5-month-old. Or maybe they are, but it's only because they never know when it will be their last chance. Kinsley Grace Grab was born with spinal muscular atrophy or SMA.

    Doctors can't tell her parents if the baby girl with bright blue eyes and a tuft of blond hair will live for months, for weeks, for days. SMA is fatal. There is no cure.

    And as Amanda told The Stir, "Nobody thinks it can happen to you, but it CAN," she said. "It happened to us."

    In fact, type one SMA is the leading genetic killer of children under age 2. According to the non-profit Families of SMA, the motor neuron disease is considered rare, but it's fairly common -- 1 in 6,000 babies born are affected, and about 1 in 40 people are genetic carriers.

    It takes two genetic carriers of SMA coming together to make a baby with SMA.

    Peter and Amanda Grab were both genetic carriers.

    But they didn't find out until after their newborn daughter began struggling to breathe, after they'd gone to three different pediatricians and two neurologists to find out why their little girl struggled to move.

    "She was really weak," Amanda says of Kinsley in her first month. "But everybody kept saying, 'Every baby progresses on their own.'"

    The emergency room nurse and her US Navy husband knew better. They pushed for answers, answers they finally got from the doctors at the Naval hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia.

    The neurologist who diagnosed Kinsley with SMA told Amanda, "I can't promise you a week, I can't promise you a month." The disease could take her at any time.

    The Grabs have learned that two parents who carry the SMA gene have a 50 percent chance of having a baby who is also a carrier, a 25 percent chance of having a baby who is totally unaffected, and a 25 percent chance of having a baby with what Amanda dubs "full blown SMA."

    "Kinsley unfortunately got that 25 percent," Amanda said. "And my first thought was why? What did we do wrong?"

    The couple thought they'd made the right decisions. They'd graduated from the same high school in New York, and Peter had gone straight into the US Navy. He served a tour in Afghanistan and rose to the rank of petty officer, second class. Amanda went to nursing school and got a job in the emergency room. They married. They bought a house in Virginia, near where Peter is stationed. They decided to have a baby.

    Healthy and in their 20s, they saw no reason for genetic testing. Because Amanda had worked at a specialty center for care and treatment of kids with significant disabilities during nursing school, they did opt for pre-natal screenings, but no abnormalities were revealed.

    And then came Kinsley, a little girl who filled a hole in her parents' lives.

    "A year ago, Peter and I were expecting her and so excited for the future," Amanda said. "Now we are excited for every minute we have with her and dread the future without her. We are trying to do everything possible to make her happy. We have a lifetime without her to be sad ... right now we will celebrate her life."

    So in between doctor's visits and fittings for a bipap machine, in between surgeries, and in between constant wakings throughout the night to suction their daughter's lungs so she can breathe, Amanda and Peter throw birthday parties. They sing songs. They blow bubbles and let her try ice cream and hot fudge.

    They try to fit a lifetime into whatever time they have left.

    "We are trying to stay positive not only for her but for us as a couple," Amanda admits. "We have been through a lot. July 22 will be our three-year wedding anniversary. We have been through two seven-month deployments in that time, the last deployment being Afghanistan. I would take the stress of deployments any day over this."

    Looking back, she questions their decision not to have genetic tests before conception, but the Grabs' decision is fairly common. More than half of all pregnant women undergo some sort of pre-natal testing, but there is scant reporting on parents choosing genetic testing before conception.

    Facing the future without their daughter, Amanda has been forced to consider what her family will look like.

    "I just can't picture our future without a baby," she says, wistfully. But at $20,000 for the sort of IVF that would test embryos for genetic abnormalities -- not covered by insurance -- whether they will ever try again for a baby is uncertain.

    What is certain is their commitment to preventing other families from having to say goodbye to their babies.

    "We want people to be aware this CAN happen to you," Amanda said. "It's one in 6,000 babies.

    "We know that this is going to make us a stronger, and we pray that others will hear our story and reflect on their family dynamics and cherish their time together more," she added. "This has definitely slowed us down, to appreciate the now."

    For more information on SMA, research efforts toward a cure, and what it means to be a carrier, visit Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. For more information on the Grabs, visit Give Forward.

    Did you have any testing done before conception? What was it for?

     

    Images via Amanda Grab


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    badass breastfeederWhen Abby Theuring first named her blog TheBadass Breastfeeder, it was a bit of a joke. But the name certainly fits a woman who has become the center of a national debate over breastfeeding your toddler and your baby both -- at the same time.

    Abby's son Exley is 5 weeks old. Her son Jack will be 3 this month. And the former social worker from Chicago is not ready to wean either one. But when she said so on her blog, in an article boldly titled "I Will Not Wean My 3-Year-Old," the Internet debate began.

    The Stir asked this badass mama to share how she plans to tandem nurse a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old, and why she's glad her story is spreading:

    Where did the nameThe Badass Breastfeeder come from?

    Before the blog and Facebook page, I was a part of a mommy Facebook group. I shared a breastfeeding photo of Jack and me in there one day and got a crash course in breastfeeding politics. Some people said it was gross to share that pic, that it is a private moment and I shouldn't share pics like that. Others came to my defense and it was a whole dramatic scene. This motivated me to start my own page dedicated to sharing breastfeeding photos.

    When I shared this idea with my friend, she said, "You should call it The Badass Breastfeeder." It sort of suits my personality.

    How did you become such an advocate for breastfeeding and moms in general?

    By total accident! At the same time as the idea came to create the Facebook page, I became interested in blogging. I had just decided not to return to work and began to write about my experiences as a new mother.

    I had a difficult time getting started with breastfeeding. I was told to supplement with formula to help build my supply, which is terrible advice, and I spent about two months trying to save my breastfeeding relationship. The amount of research I did and the amount of dedication that I showed during that time were a total surprise to me. I fought so hard. I didn't know I had that in me.

    More From The Stir: Mom Who Gave Birth in the Wild Shares Her 'Earth Birthing' Experience

    Also through that research, I learned about Attachment Parenting and felt a deep connection to it. I felt like all of my struggles as a new mom were being validated. I just kept writing and writing about this transformation that my family was going through and people identified with it.

    After a while, so many people were following that I sort of naturally adjusted to this "advocate" role. The job that I had left was as a social worker. I think it's something that just finds me.

    Let's get personal -- when did it hit you that you were going to be nursing Jack and Exley at the same time? Was it a conscious plan or just something that happened?

    It was totally planned. Even before getting pregnant, I had seen pictures of women doing it and it just seemed so beautiful and intimate. I thought that it seemed like a great way to help adjust to a new sibling. I got my mind on it and really wanted to succeed at it.

    Jack had always nursed frequently, and I was fairly sure that he would nurse through my pregnancy and still be nursing once a new baby came. It seemed like a great way to continue to meet his needs, to remain close and form a new bond as our family grew.

    Was there ever a moment when you said, "Hey, what the heck am I doing?"

    ALL. THE. TIME.

    About halfway through my pregnancy, I began to experience nursing aversion. A very intense feeling of irritation and creepy-crawly while Jack was latched on. It's physical, emotional, psychological. It's quite difficult to deal with. Some days were good, some bad. I stuck it out in hopes that it would subside when the baby was born. It's still here. I still have good days and bad.

    Jack has increased his nursing since the birth of Exley. I think it's a natural reaction to the adjustment to our new family member. I feel strongly that continuing my breastfeeding relationship with Jack is the right thing for my family, but it's a really big struggle right now. We are working hard on creating some boundaries so that my body can relax and rest. If it were up to Jack, he would nurse all day!

    So why are you doing it anyway?!

    It's something that has always been a big part of Jack's life. I don't feel it is the right time to wean him. We are all going through such a huge adjustment, I think it would do more harm than good to switch it up so drastically right now. We are making progress together, and I can tell that Jack and Exley are drawn to it.

    They are the most settled and relaxed when they are both latched on. It really is helping them bond.

    Abby Theuring tandem nursingI love how you said it's "not pretty" when you're feeding both boys. So real! What's the biggest challenge to nursing a toddler and a newborn?

    For me the nursing aversion is the biggest struggle. I have to be careful to monitor my own emotions so that I don't get too touched-out or overwhelmed. After that just finding a comfortable position. It's not nothing having three humans stuffed into a chair!

    It's definitely real life doing all this. There is no way to fake it for the camera when there is a bouncing toddler nearly crushing the newborn who has no control over his own body. One day I was nursing them both when my husband walked up to me and handed me a plate of food. You have no hands free when you are tandem nursing. I looked up at him and said, "You're f--king kidding me, right?"

    What's the biggest joy?

    Seeing Jack and Exley getting to know each other, watching them explore each other. Jack likes to do the Itsy Bitsy Spider finger walk up Exley's leg to his arm over his head onto my head and down his own body. It's really adorable.

    Or Exley will get his fingers all tangled into his mouth and break the latch. Jack will watch him and pull his hand away so he stays latched on.

    Now for the nitty gritty ... how are you making it work? Any good tips for other moms?

    Just know that sometimes you are going to feel that you aren't capable of making it all work. It's OK to feel that way. It's no reflection on the quality of work you are doing. It's just crazy madness some days.

    We've decided it's OK to totally give up on a day. We'll just stay in our pajamas, watch TV all day, eat ice cream before dinner, have dinner on paper plates, and call it a day.

    I can't chase this imaginary perfect mother ideal. It makes me crazy. I have no idea how I am making it work. Oftentimes, I feel like nothing works. I guess you can only take it one moment at a time, and when that falls completely apart, just know there is another one and try again.

    Some things I have been trying are creating boundaries with Jack. I make sure to have food and drinks available to him all the time. I am trying to create more of a schedule for him so that he is not just hanging on my boob endlessly. Also getting out of the house. This is only helpful if you have a frequently nursing toddler. Otherwise, I might suggest lots of pillows to try to find a comfortable position!

    What is the reaction like when you're out with both boys? Any bad?

    I have only had two boys for a month, but I have tandem breastfed in public several times and no one bats an eye. I have never had any negative feedback nursing in public. It's so unlikely that will happen.

    How about good?

    I've had lots of "good job mama!" "way to go!" "you rock!" type comments. It's really online where the negativity prevails. In real life, humans often treat each other like, well, humans!

    Why do you think people have responded to your story of breastfeeding both boys?

    I think it's because it involves so many controversial aspects all wrapped into one. Nursing a toddler, tandem nursing, nursing in public are all things that everyone seems to have a strong opinion about.

    Also, there are so many moms doing this, but it's not something that you see very often and some even hide it. I think people get excited when they see someone doing things similar to them. It's validation.

    If another mom asks you if she should do what you're doing ... what do you say?

    I say "hell no." The only way anyone is going to be happy and at peace is by figuring out what is right for them and doing that. I want to help women explore all of the options since we are generally only presented with a couple of ways to do things. I want women to have all of the information. And then they can make the decision for their family about what is best.

    Empowering women is not about telling them what to do. It's about helping them figure out what is best for them and giving them the confidence to do exactly that.

    Are you a badass breastfeeder? Share your story below!

     

    Images via Abby Theuring


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    thermometer in hot carHow do you leave a child in a hot car? It's a question every parent has asked at one time or another -- usually sparked by a headline about a child dying in a vehicle somewhere in the United States. Lyn Balfour has asked the question too. She's asked the question about herself.

    The 13-year veteran of the US Army, member of the Army Reserves, and mother of five -- including three children 6 and under -- left her son Bryce in her car on March 30, 2007. By the time she realized her mistake, her 9-month-old son was dead.

    After being charged with his death and later being found not guilty, Balfour has became a fierce advocate for educating parents on these accidental tragedies. She spoke with The Stir about the day her son died, and what kind of mom leaves a child in a hot car:

    Can you walk me through that day?

    This particular week, my husband had accidentally backed into my sister's car in the driveway, so her car was in the shop and she was using my husband's. So, he was riding with me to work, and I was dropping him off first and then the baby ...

    This particular week, my son Bryce had been really fussy. He had a bad head cold, wasn't sleeping well because he couldn't suck on his pacifier at the same time, so he kept waking up.

    The first three nights of the week, I had gotten up with him the majority of the night, and I was exhausted. That last night, my husband agreed to get up with him, but then he couldn't find his pacifier in his bed. Bryce went ballistic, woke up completely, and then I got up, was up with him for another hour and a half to two hours.

    That was about 5 o'clock in the morning. I had to be up at 6:30 in order to get ready for work. I didn't actually get up until 7:15 because I was exhausted.

    The initial thought in my mind was just to call in, stay home with Bryce because he was just very lethargic, he wasn't being normal because he was really tired too. But I had appointments that day -- at the [Judge Advocate General school in Charlottesville], students were graduating and I had no way to call the students that I had appointments with. I was like, you know what? It's Friday, I've just got to get through today and I can sleep tomorrow.

    That particular morning, Jarrett got Bryce ready. He went to get in the vehicle, but before I came outside we were talking about a spare car seat that we could not get into the car correctly. He had been in the car seat for a couple of weeks, but it just wasn't sitting as secure as we felt it should be so we took that car seat out and put it in his old car seat.

    That particular day, he said, "When are you going to get the car seat put in?" I said, "Put it in the car today, and I will go to like the fire department and get them to put it in correctly at lunch time."

    He put the spare car seat in the car behind the front passenger seat in my field of view, and that car seat was empty. The other car seat, which is the car seat Bryce was in, when he put him in he put it behind my seat, the driver's seat.

    On the way to work ... we don't remember hearing him. We don't remember talking with him or him cooing or anything like he normally would. We just assume it was because he was really tired.

    I dropped my husband off, and shortly after that I got a phone call from work, from a co-worker. It was the first sergeant of the school very upset because we were honoring a fallen soldier from Iraq, his family was supposed to be coming in from California and the tickets had not been purchased through the travel agent that the military uses.

    That was my area of responsibility -- I was transportation officer for the JAG school. I immediately got on the phone, started making phone calls, called the family that was waiting at the airport, talked to the gate agent, said please don't let the plane go, this is very important for this family to get on the flight.

    Is this while you were still driving?

    Yes, when I was on my way to work.

    In my mind, I'd already made a stop, baby's dropped off. I passed right by where I would normally turn left to drop Bryce off to daycare.

    Before I got to work, I got things resolved. I got ahold of the travel agent, they paged the tickets, everything.

    I got to work, got out of the car and went into work like normal...

    I get a phone call about 10:30 in the morning from the babysitter asking how Bryce was doing that day. The problem was I didn't get the phone call because she called my personal cellphone because the Friday before she had gotten a brand new cellphone and didn't have any of my work contact information in her phone.

    That was communication failure number one.

    The second thing was that in her file in her home she had all our contact information, my work cellphone number, my work office number, my husband's work office number but she just naturally assumed -- because it had happened in the past -- that I stayed home and he wasn't feeling well.

    She didn't think to continue to communication, not thinking that he was accidentally not dropped off.

    What time frame was this when she made the call?

    10:30 in the morning.

    I wasn't in the office when she called, but around 2 p.m., I pulled my cellphone personal cellphone out of my purse and I saw a missed call from her.

    She had called me twice that morning. She called that first time and left a message and then she called again. It said missed call, but it never told me there was a message available.

    At 2:30, I saw the missed call, I called her back, and I left her a message. She'd taken her other daycare kids to McDonald's as a treat, and around 2:30 she was still out ... So, I called and left a message ... she called me back when she saw a missed call from me at about 10 to 4.

    I was just walking out of my office because we'd been given an hour out early. She asked me how Bryce was doing, and I was like "what do you mean?"

    I didn't understand. I said, "Did Jarrett pick him up early?" not thinking that he didn't have a car because I had dropped him off.

    She's like no, he's not here. She began to panic because I was so adamant that he was there.

    Then, she turned around and she's like, "No Lyn, you didn't drop him off."

    The whole morning flashes through my mind, and I can remember dropping him off. I can remember having a conversation with her. And that memory never happened. That conversation never happened. 

    At this point, I panic. I ran to the car because I couldn't believe there was a possibility he could still be in the car and then I saw him in the car.

    When you found him, what did you see?

    He was in the backseat, he was hooked in, and he was not responsive. He was not breathing.

    Lyn Balfour

    What did you do?

    I started screaming and said, "Please somebody call 911!" And then -- even though I was extremely hysterical -- it's kind of hard to explain but my military training kind of took over.

    I unhooked him, pulled him out of the car, ran around to the other side of the car, laid him on the ground, and started CPR.

    What was the temperature that day?

    The high that day was 66 degrees.

    Do they know what that translates to in the car?

    I don't recall specifically what the temperature was in the vehicle -- they took the measurement at 4:30 in the afternoon, but I think it was around 100 degrees. It was too hot for the child to be in the car, obviously.

    It was only 39 degrees when we left the house that morning ... he probably passed away later in the morning or early afternoon because it was so cold that day, but on an 80-degree day, a child can die in 30 minutes or less.

    The degrees once you turn off a vehicle can go up 10 degrees every 5 minutes, and children under a certain age do not have the type of temperature control that adults have. 

    Obviously you're very educated about this now, but before this happened, did you know any of this?

    No. And the thing now, which is why I'm an advocate, is because when they told me they couldn't save him, I said to myself, "How can I forget my kid? I can manage $47 million for the US military with every penny accounted for, and I was awarded a Bronze Star for those efforts, but how can I forget my kid? How can a loving, responsible, detail-oriented parent forget him, something so precious, something so valuable?"

    I started educating myself and doing research on why it was possible and how it was possible.

    The more research I did, the more I learned ... we have educated ourselves on babyproofing our home, but we do not educate ourselves on babyproofing our vehicles and that's what we need to do.

    Unlike some parents I was absolutely blessed to have the opportunity to hold my son one last time and tell him goodbye, and I made a promise to him that no matter how painful it would be to go through my story over and over and over again if just one parent listens and understood about the dangers and educated themselves and took the prevention measures for vehicles ... his death would be worth it.

    It would be worth losing a child to save 100. No parent wants to feel like I do every day, to be responsible for your own child's death

    While you were there holding him, who responded?

    The police and ambulance arrived.

    What happened then?

    They took over; they're more professional than I am.

    They wouldn't let me ride in the back of the ambulance while they were working on him, but I rode up in front with the driver, and I called my husband and told him he had to get to the hospital right away because there was an accident, I forgot him in the car.

    He didn't really understand because I was hysterical.

    They took him into a room and were working on him while I was in the waiting room of the hospital and one of the doctors came in and said it wasn't looking good. I started praying to God to just take me.

    Then maybe about 10 minutes later ... it seemed like a lifetime ... they came in and told me they couldn't save him.

    I was hysterical, and all I could think of was how am I going to tell my husband that I killed his son?

    What happened when your husband did get there?

    The first sergeant of the school told my husband the news. She is a pastor at a church, and she was probably the best person to be able to tell him.

    He came in and he was really upset and he was crying. I told him I was so sorry I forgot him.

    They probably would not have let us see him and I don't even know if I would have been in the state of mind to ask to hold him one last time, but my husband said, "I want to see him, I want to see my son."

    So, they escorted us into the room to see him one last time.

    It was completely unbelievable and shocking to have to leave that hospital without him.

    When you left the hospital, did you go home or were the police already there?

    I got to go home, but the lead investigator on the case, they interviewed me at the hospital. I don't remember that at all.

    That was on a Friday. I didn't talk to the police again until they arraigned me. That following Monday, I woke up and my mom and everybody got down there on Saturday and Sunday. They recommended that I get an attorney. I called a couple of attorneys to see what I would need to do.

    The interesting thing was the lead investigator on the case walked in to the hospital that same day and told the first responders on the case, "OK, you guys go ahead and write your statements because we're going to charge her for everything you can."

    He had not spoken to me and he had not spoken to my husband when he made that statement. So he already had his pre-formed opinion that I was guilty and they were going to go after me, and he was the one who set the tone for the case....

    Nobody ever gets arraigned on a Saturday unless you're slapped with handcuffs and taken to jail, but they waited until the day of my son's funeral on a Friday to tell me they were arraigning me on charges the next day. Forty minutes after my son's funeral was over, I was at my house and the attorney I had spoken to, they called her and told her that I was going to be arraigned the following day.

    I was really upset, and I was just like .... we're not going to be able to put our lives back together as a family, we have to go immediately into defense mode. My son died on the 30th of March. My husband left on the 21st of June to deploy to Iraq as a government contractor for 18 months in order to cover my attorney fees which ended up being $126,000.

    What was the charge?

    The initial charge was second degree murder and felony child abuse and neglect. They later amended that dropping the abuse and neglect and reducing the second degree to involuntary manslaughter.

    Here in Virginia, it says willful act or admission. That was not the case. I didn't knowingly do that.

    How long did the whole thing drag out? Did they put you through a long trial?

    He died in March; I was charged the following week. The trial was like the 28th of January 2008. 

    What was it like trying to grieve your child's death and on the other hand you don't know what's going to happen?

    My perspective on it's a little different from other people. The thing I was worried about was my family -- my husband, my son who was at the time 14. That's who I was worried about, that's who I was stressed about it. 

    My husband was getting ready to deploy, my son was trying to deal with the loss of his only sibling and his mom was facing 10 to 25 years in jail.

    The thing is, I've been to a lot of place in the military that a lot of people, you see and experience things, like Bosnia. You talk to war victims and people who have gone through devastating things. I've been out in the middle of the desert during Desert Storm, and I had to go to the bathroom in a hole that I had to dig and bury.

    Going to jail and sitting in a jail cell with three meals a day to me is not hell, and that's what I don't think that prosecuting attorneys and them ... they don't understand.

    When they punish you for a crime they think you committed, it's supposed to be a deterrent, but how do you deter someone from accidentally forgetting your kid?

    This has happened to a mathematical genius. This has happened to a NASA scientist. It has happened to a pediatrician. It's happened to numerous university professors. It's happened to the poor. It's happened to rich people. It's happened to middle class. It doesn't matter.

    I explain to people who try to tell me they couldn't be that irresponsible, I was one of those parents. I had heard stories about that happening, and I said that could never happen to me, I'm not an irresponsible parent, that's got to be somebody who didn't do the right thing. That cannot be me.

    I have found out it absolutely can be me, and that's why I educate. 

    The reality is our brains don't differentiate between a child, a purse, a cellphone, a pair of glasses. It doesn't matter.

    How do you tell parents to get past that though? If parents are stuck on that idea of "I'd never do that to my child," how do you get them past that and into actually being proactive?

    If people say they can never do it, I give them examples:

    I know plenty of people who take medication every day. If you didn't take that medication but you swear up and down that you did, it's call mis-remembering.

    If that's happened to you, you can forget your child.

    If you've ever driven anywhere, and you can't remember how you got there, that's a function of your brain going on auto-pilot. If that's ever happened to you, you can forget your child.

    I give these examples because people will say, "Oh, that didn't happen to me, that didn't happen to me, OH, wait a minute, that has happened to me."

    If you've ever forgotten your cellphone, your pager, your wallet, your keys, your sunglasses, and you swear you know where you put them but they are not there, and you find them in a completely different location, you can accidentally forget your child.

    Do you think these examples you've found out about and this research has helped you forgive yourself?

    Well ... that's an interesting question. I don't feel like I need to forgive myself. I do acknowledge and have to deal with the responsibility of forgetting my son.

    But I feel like parents that do this intentionally -- they leave their kids in the car and they go somewhere, like one parent, a veterinarian, she has to deal with the fact that she went into the house and got distracted on the phone and forgot her son was in the car. She has to deal with that. That to me is like I feel you have to ask for forgiveness.

    But for me, when I got out of the car that day, my son was exactly where he was supposed to be.

    What I have to come to terms with, and this is what is really hard for me -- because my son usually took his first bottle in the morning at the babysitter's. Because it was so cool that morning, at some point at time he woke up because he was hungry and was in the car by himself.

    That's what I have to deal with -- not being there for him.

    There's nothing to forgive, but I will be accountable, I am absolutely accountable for his death. That's what I have to deal with. Can you say that that's forgiveness or not forgiveness? I don't really know. But for me the problem is that I should have been the type of parent that knew  about these dangers and made sure there were steps in place to prevent that.

    It sucks. It sucks every day.

    It's something that you have to live with.

    I'm accountable every day. I miss him every day. He would be 8 years old today. I'll never see him grow up. I'll never see him graduate from school. I'll never see his children.

    How did your family move on? How did things work with you and your husband?

    He was angry for awhile but not necessarily at me. He was angry because our son was gone and there was nothing he could do about it.

    Unbelievably he and I became stronger and talked about it and learned to work through it and he knew it was an accident. He knew I would never leave my children in the car, not even for a second.

    It was hard for awhile to talk about him without crying. I do feel like it was a blessing in disguise that my husband was deployed except for coming home for the trial.

    He was not home for any of that, so I feel like it was beneficial that he was out of the country so he didn't have to go through that.

    How did you decide to try again, to have kids again?

    Again, it's about love and trust. He knew I would never intentionally hurt one of our children and we just didn't not try.

    The interesting thing that happened was he was going to be gone for a year and a half to Iraq. Originally it was just a year ... my husband is seven and a half years younger than me, so when I had Bryce I was 31, and so I wasn't getting any younger so to speak.

    We knew he was going to be gone for a year, and we talked to a counselor, we talked to our pastor and said when is an appropriate time to grieve? When is an appropriate time to have another baby?

    What our pastor said and what our counselors said was when you feel like you can, there's nothing wrong with trying. 

    Bryce passed away in March. We ended up getting pregnant with Braiden in September/October, somewhere around in there.

    We talked about it, and I asked him if he wanted to try, and I think that was part of the healing process -- that he was so willing to have children with me, even though we were hurting and we were grieving the loss of our son.

    That for me was the most telling part of it, that he forgave me.

    I do think that Braiden's birth helped us to continue to heal because it pulled us away from the loss that we felt

    By the time Braiden was born, had you been found not guilty?

    Yes, the trial was only like three days.

    Teddy Bear in CarYou have different ways you talk to parents about recognizing they can be at risk, but what do you actually tell parents to DO?

    The best tool that I can provide to them is to go to the Kids and Cars website, and what I tell them is to get in the habit of babyproofing your vehicles ...

    Put a stuffed animal in the vehicle, and always, always, if you have one or 50 children, if there's a child in the car, put that animal up front with you or put something in the backseat that you're going to need when you get out of the car. I don't like that idea as much as the stuffed animal up front because you can forget your cellphone that you need and you remember 30 minutes later ... and you're in the same situation.

    We've started a campaign called Look Before You Lock, so you ALWAYS get in the habit of opening the back door and looking before you lock the door.

    How do you deal with the criticism and with being so public?

    Because I made him a promise, and nobody can judge me more than I do myself. Nobody. It doesn't matter what they say, the harsh things. I've been told you need to be locked in a hot car and allowed to die the same way your son did, you need to have your uterus ripped out, you should never be allowed to have children again, the list goes on and on.

    But none of them know me. They don't know anything about the type of person I am, what type of a mother I am.

    If you don't know the type of person I am, how can you judge me?

    Do you take extra steps to protect your kids from being left in a hot car? What do you do?

     

    Images via © iStock.com/Kameleon007; iStock.com/Ekely


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    grocery store childWe hear often enough that it takes a village to raise a child. But some people seem to take that a little too literally. Take the supermarket cashier who slapped a customer's 4-year-old son for throwing a bag on the ground.

    Mom Selina Johnson sounded off about the incident on social media. Her complaints seem to have lost the cashier -- a woman in her 50s -- her job on the checkout line. And they've opened up a debate about unruly kids in public ... and who has the right to discipline them.

    The cashier allegedly told Johnson's son she would smack him if he didn't do as he was told. Then -- to mom's horror -- she came out from behind the register and carried through on the threat.

    Of course, Johnson's kid could have been acting like a holy terror here. We've all seen it happen: a brat is throwing a tantrum in public, and you have to fight everything inside of you not to say something.

    But you do ... fight it, that is.

    You fight the urge because it is not your place to discipline a stranger's child, but most of all not your right to put your hands on someone else's kid.

    Granted, there are times where you say something to someone else's kid. That's the idea of the global village -- parents in a community chipping in to help one another out. When you spot your friend's son riding his bike without a helmet, you tell him to get that thing on. When your bestie's baby girl smacks another kid on the playground, you take the shovel out of her hand and tell her in no uncertain terms that hitting is not allowed.

    On very rare occasions, you may even find yourself disciplining a stranger's child -- say a kid is running out in the street, you don't see the mom, and you yell, "STOP NOW!"

    Again, you say something. You do what we're always telling our toddlers to do -- you use your words!

    More from The Stir: Mom's Touching Post to Stranger at the Grocery Store Goes Viral

    But using corporal punishment on someone else's child? That's a no no. Period. 

    It doesn't matter how bratty the child is. It doesn't matter how angry they've made you. And it doesn't matter if mom is right there or a million miles away.

    Putting your hands on someone else's children (aside from the obvious, grabbing a toddler as they're just about to run into the street) is crossing a line that can't be uncrossed.

    Put yourself in this mom's shoes. Would you be OK with someone doing this to your kid? Have you ever done it?

     

    Image © iStock.com/RapidEye


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    baby in poolNow we've heard everything. A breastfeeding mother was kicked out of a pool the other day. But in a twist on an old story, Rebecaa Hough wasn't shamed for baring her naked breasts. She was warned that 10-month-old Max might vomit in the pool.

    Hey, you know what they say about waiting to swim after eating! In fact, Hough was warned she shouldn't just leave the pool to nurse her baby, but that she then had to wait half an hour before returning Max to the pool.

    Sounds an awful lot like someone was trying to skirt the laws protecting breastfeeding mothers, doesn't it? The incident occurred in the UK, after all, where nursing moms are protected under equality laws.

    But is this something we really should be concerned about? Babies up and puking up all their breast milk? At 10 months?

    Maybe at a few weeks old, when moms are still trying to figure out whether baby is crying because he's hungry or crying because he needs cuddles, whether he's sucking because he needs milk or sucking because it's comforting, this could be construed as a "problem." Many moms have overfed their babies in the early days because they're still trying to get a handle on their baby's cues.

    More from The Stir: Disgusting Breastfeeding Images Are Important for Us All to See (PHOTOS)

    But if your baby is regularly vomiting after eating, there's a problem!
    Of course, babies may spit up -- even at 10 months old. But typically spit-up is a little dribble, no more than what a nasty teenager would bring up if they hocked a loogie into the pool ... and really no more disgusting than the pee most toddlers let loose when they're swimming (didn't want to think about that, did you?).
    So let's be real here -- is the slim chance that a baby may or may not throw up really a reason to kick a mom out of the pool? Or should these pool folks just back off?

     

    Image via © iStock.com/markcarper


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    baby breastfeeding airplane

    Ask any breastfeedingmom why nursing rocks, and she'll tell you "have boobs, will travel." So when it comes to taking a family vacation, a breastfeeding mama should have it all covered, right? Well, for the most part, yes! But if you're going to be taking an airplane somewhere, and you're going to be nursing a baby while traveling, there are a few things you need to do beforehand.

    Been too busy packing up the whole family for your next trip to really pay attention to what you'll need to do to breastfeed on an airplane? Don't worry, the experts have you covered.

    1. Buy your tickets wisely. You can breastfeed anywhere on an airplane, but Diane L. Spatz, a professor at the PENN University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, suggests booking a bulkhead seat if possible. These are the seats located right where the airline separates its "classes," and typically there is more legroom for mom to get good and comfy.

    Bulkhead already booked?

    Corky Harvey, co-founder of The Pump Station & Nurtury, tells moms who want a little bit of privacy to book a window seat. "I can turn toward the window while the baby latches and then relax back into my seat," she explains.

    2. Talk to the flight attendants when boarding. "I am always much happier to be on a plane with a breastfeeding mom! Breastfeeding is so much easier, and babies are so much happier when they are breastfed," says Spatz, a member of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses. That being said, there have been instances in the news of moms being hassled for nursing on airplanes, so Spatz suggests speaking up beforehand.

    "Some uninformed people may not be comfortable with a mother breastfeeding on an airplane because they have not been exposed to breastfeeding at all," she notes.

    Fortunately, most airlines support breastfeeding, and you have that to your advantage. Not to mention, public breastfeeding in the air is covered by state protections for nursing moms.

    3. Wear loose, comfy clothing. For your sake -- and baby's -- wear something that will make for a fast and easy latch. The faster you can get situated, the faster your baby will settle down ... and you won't be "that" mom of "that" baby on the airplane.

    breastfeeding airplane travel4. Nurse on take-off and landing -- if baby's awake. "[It] causes the baby to swallow," Harvey explains. A registered nurse and lactation consultant, Harvey says swallowing "will help equalize the pressure in the ear and decrease the chance the baby will experience ear pain."

    But don't force baby awake just to nurse during these times. If they're able to sleep through, they're likely not in pain. Let a sleeping baby sleep!

    5. Check TSA breast milk guidelines. If you're pumping, the TSA will allow you to bring only a small amount of breast milk through security, and there are screening procedures required. If you don't want your milk X-rayed, you must say so before screening begins. Knowing your rights -- and the rules -- can help you get through security faster.

    More from The Stir: Flying With Baby: 5 Tips for Packing an Efficient, Lightweight Carry-On

    6. Pump before you board! That is, if you're pumping. Relieving your engorged breasts will make you more comfortable, but if the flight is over three hours, you will likely have to pump again (or nurse), Spatz warns.

    If you plan to do so on board, check well in advance to see if your flight has electrical outlets. If not, Spatz suggests purchasing a battery pack for your pump.

    7. Bring wipes or extra pump partsand hand sanitizer. "Recent tests have shown that the drinking water in one in 10 airplanes is contaminated by coliform," Harvey warns.

    Freaked out? You should be!

    According to Harvey, coliform is a broad class of bacteria that is in the environment, including the feces of humans. And if it's there, e. coli may be too.

    So you'll want to avoid cleaning your breast pump in the airplane bathroom. Instead some manufacturers make pump wipes that you can bring along -- or you can bring parts to switch out.

    And even if you're not pumping, you're going to want to use hand sanitizer on your hands before you touch baby.

    What are your best tips for breastfeeding on an airplane?

     

    Images ©iStock.com/RyanJLane


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    dosing medicine with spoonIt's midnight, you have a sobbing toddler in the grips of some serious teething pain in your arms, and you can't figure out the right dose of pain relief medicine for your kiddo. Feeling desperate? You're not alone.

    A new study of calls to poison control has revealed some 10,000 come in every year over liquid medication dosage errors. Turns out parents are unwittingly overdosing their own kids on common medications.

    A LOT of parents.

    The study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates 41.1 percent of parents make an error in measuring what their doctor has prescribed to their kids.

    That's closing in on half of all parents screwing up on dosing out their kids' medications!

    Some of the concerns come down to sheer stupidity (hey, if the shoe fits!) or at the very least a lack of attention being paid to the dosing descriptions. Researchers found parents seem to use teaspoon, tablespoon, and milliliter interchangeably, despite the fact that these measurements are very different.

    Ahem, parents? You may not actually be smarter than a fifth grader!

    The other problem? A ton of parents seem to think the kitchen spoon is just as good as one of those little dosing cups at measuring out medicine. Unfortunately, not all spoons are the same size, and parents who opt for that old-fashioned method are putting their kids at major risk.

    The AAP is calling for a standard system, whereby every single medication for kids is dosed out in milliliters, with the hopes that parents won't get confused.

    More from The Stir: 13 Items Every New Mom Needs in Her Medicine Cabinet

    Hey, it could work. The rest of the world uses the metric system quite well.

    Then again, we could just ask parents to use a little common sense ... and actually read directions on their kids' medicine. After all, we're not talking about an IKEA bookshelf here. We're talking about our children's health.

    You don't wing it when it comes to your kids' health. You read the darn instructions, and you use the darn dosing cup. And if you can't figure it out, talk to the pharmacist. That's what they're there for. There are no stupid questions ... not when your child's health is on the line.

    Do you have a hard time dosing your kids' medicine? Is it time for a change?

     

    Image via © iStock.com/_Ella_


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Birth photography

    Use the words "birth photography" to any mom, and you're bound to get one of two reactions. Either moms are enchanted by the idea or more than a little freaked out about having someone with a camera catching such an intimate moment. 

    Ask a photographer, on the other hand, and the reactions are much the same: birth photography, as Laura Eckert says, is addictive. Eckert is the woman behind New Creation Photography, an Iowa photography studio, but she's also the mom behind the wildly popular Birth Photography Facebook group, a place where folks like her share images of magical moments inside the delivery rooms and bedrooms where babies come into the world.

    Why would anyone want a camera in the room in one of the most personal moments of their life? Well, when you ask Eckert, the better question is why not?

    "We take photos of all the milestones and events in our lives, big or small, from hiring a wedding photographer to taking your own iPhone photos of what we're eating for lunch," Eckert told The Stir. "Why wouldn't you want beautiful and tastefully captured images from one of the biggest days of your life?

    "Birth is SO much more than just that moment."

    Some moms are easily convinced about birth photography -- they're fine with a camera in the delivery room. But why not just let your partner do the honors? Well, says Lindsay Dever, a former nurse turned photographer, your partner is supposed to be there for you -- not to capture the birth.

    Pond didn't hire anyone to man the lens when she gave birth, and she regrets it.

    "[My husband] did capture certain images I wanted, but during my Cesarean, he was attentive to me and less interested in photographing the first breath and first moments," Dever recalled. "Some of the photos were out of focus, and the worst part was that his camera had accidentally put in images size in email mode. All the images were basically ruined. If we ever have another baby, I will insist on hiring a professional!"

    Moms like Dever are behind a bona fide trend. In fact, these days, hiring someone to snap your birth is so popular there's even an actual association of birth photographers with members all over the globe.

    As Eckert explains, it's not just about getting photos of baby, it's about capturing your own memories.

    More from The Stir: 10 Strange & Unrealistic Stock Photos of Pregnant Women

    "A lot of times, moms who are really in-the-moment in their birth don't have a lot of memories of exactly what went on during their labor. Seeing their birth photos really helps fill in the gaps as they 'relive' their labor and delivery through the eye of the camera," Eckert says, "not to mention the baby getting the chance to relive their own birth sometime down the road!"

    Not sold on whether or not birth photography is for you? The Stir asked some of the top folks in the business to share some of their most beautiful images -- and the stories behind why it is they do what they do.

    Number 10 is such a magical photo -- would you pay to have one like it?

     

    Image via New Creation Photography


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Christina AguileraHear that sound? That buzz is the Internet going on and on about the raunchy cakeChristina Aguilera supposedly ate at her baby shower. But while all eyes were focused on that cake, we noticed something a tad disturbing.

    What the heck happened to XTina's baby bump? The Voice judge just posted a photo to Twitter this week of son Max protectively cradling her belly, calling him out as the world's best big brother. But then came the photo of Aguilera with her cake at a baby shower that supposedly happened on Saturday ... and no belly.

    Did somebody actually Photoshop away a pregnant woman's belly? Is this how far we've come, America?

    Here, do a comparison.

    This is the photo Aguilera posted on Monday:

    [code]

    Max already protecting mommy & his little sister! He’s the greatest #maxthegreatpic.twitter.com/F85cSkLDN0

    — Christina Aguilera (@xtina) July 14, 2014
    [/code]

    And here, the supposed photo of Aguilera at Saturday's shower, tweeted by a fan's account:

    [code]

    Okay so this is THE funniest baby shower cake ive ever seen! @xtinapic.twitter.com/ZdBS7PVeVX

    — Courts (@BreatheXtina) July 15, 2014
    [/code]

    The face is the same, but something's missing, don't you think?

    No matter how you slice it, Aguilera could not have made her own bump disappear, which means what? Is the photo a fake? If it is, why would they purposely choose a not-pregnant Aguilera photo to pair with a baby shower cake?

    And if it is really her holding that cake, what the heck have they done with her stomach?

    It's really hard to suss out exactly what happened here, but the sad thing is ... it wouldn't be a terrible shock if this was a Photoshop job, if someone decided a "thin" version of Aguilera was somehow better, even at a baby shower.

    Society doesn't respect pregnant women.

    Not their needs. Not their purpose. And certainly not their bodies.

    At the Oscars just this year, Fashion Police co-host George Kotsiopoulos actually took aim at Chris Hemsworth's heavily pregnant wife, Elsa Pataky, poking fun at her "beer belly." The poor woman was nine months along with twins, and she looked amazing. But all someone could think to say was something snide?

    And let's not get started on the fat shaming directed at Kim Kardashian over and over and over again during her pregnancy with North West. The woman couldn't move without someone claiming they'd spotted some cellulite.

    Celebrities bear the brunt of this because they're the public faces, and as such, these brutal attacks happen out in the public eye, but don't kid yourself -- mainstream American moms are internalizing it. An estimated 30 percent of pregnant women in our country don't gain ENOUGH weight during their pregnancies.

    OB/GYNs are now forced to contend with pregorexia and other eating disorders at a time when women should be focused on giving their bodies as much love as possible, not denying themselves food and exercising themselves to death. And the grocery store checkout lines are littered with magazine headlines promising to help you lose the baby weight in no time flat, paired with photos sporting impossibly taut tummies of postpartum celebs -- celebs who have oodles of dollars to spend on nannies and personal trainers and don't have to worry about returning to work after just six weeks at home with their newborn, photos that are often, yes, Photoshopped. 

    So what happened to Christina Aguilera's baby bump? Who knows ... but if someone Photoshopped that photo, we can't say that we're surprised.

    Disturbing. Creepy even.

    But sadly ... true.

    What do you think of the photo? Where did Christina's baby bump go?

     

    Image via Twitter


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    father and daughterBefore this week, the song "Rude" by Canadian band Magic was just a catchy tune playing on the radio in my car as I shuffled my daughter from one summer vacation moment to the next. Then a father named Benji Cowart decided to respond to "Rude" with his own version in a viral video being hailed as a "perfect" response to the song about a young man asking for a girl's hand in marriage only to be turned down by her dad. The father of one 11-year-old girl has had everyone from morning TV hosts to Internet writers fawning over him for his "adorable parody."

    To everyone who has "liked" and "shared" Cowart's video, I have one question: are we listening to the same song?

    When I listen to this father, I don't hear an anthem of proud fatherhood. I hear a man who is just as misguided as the members of Magic about girls and the power they have over their own life decisions.

    Take this sample lyric from Cowart's parody:

    If you marry her anyway/marry that girl/I’m gonna punch your face.

    Wow, so if his daughter makes a decision he disagrees with, his first response is to get violent? And this is society's version of "adorable"?

    More From The Stir: Good Dads Don't Need Sons

    As the mother of a daughter, Cowart's song makes me cringe. And the pats on the back he's getting at every turn make me that much more uncomfortable about my little girl's future in our patriarchal society. How can I tell her that she will be able to go off and be who it is she wants to be when society is telling her that her Daddy still calls the shots?

    When society is telling her that one of the biggest life decisions she can make is still subject to a man's approval?

    I'll give Cowart this -- he finally made me listen to the lyrics of both songs after weeks of the original barely registering as I drove around, and I find them both abhorrent.

    The Magic tune is misogynist in its own right. Just look at the lyrics:

    Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life? Say yes, say yes.

    No, young man, you can't "have" a girl. She is a person. No one gets to own her -- not her father, and not you.

    That Magic has cloaked their objectification of women in catchy guitar riffs doesn't soften the blow of their chauvinistic attitudes.

    But Cowart's version is perhaps more troubling, as is the widespread acceptance of its message. His instant response to the notion that his wishes for his daughter might be ignored is not to talk wistfully about watching our kids grow up and change. That's what a good dad of a little girl would do, but no, that's not what Cowart's song is about. Cowart has chosen, instead, to thump his chest in true caveman fashion and issue a violent challenge to the other man who dares sniff around his "property."

    Someone needs to invite this dad to the 21st century ... for his daughter's sake. 

    Watch Cowart's video below -- do you find it "cute" or "cringe-worthy"?

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

     

     

    Image via © iStock.com/john shepherd


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    corkboard map

    The summer is flying by and college is right around the corner. Didn't expect it to sneak up on you quite so fast, did you, Mom? Well, you can sit around sobbing and eating pints of ice cream or you can get busy ... dorm DIY is all the rage, and, well, it may be your last chance to get out your glue gun and do something with your kid for a good long while.

    Remember when you used to sit down at the dining room table with crayons and butcher paper and waste away an entire afternoon? Ah, so long ago. Now your kids are all about their cellphones and trying to convince their university of choice that Keurigs are so much safer than hot plates.

    But if your teen is obsessed with having the coolest dorm on campus, you're in luck -- because we've rounded up 10 of the blogosphere's coolest crafts for college dorm rooms.

    From homesickness cures to secret cellphone spots, there's something for everyone ... even a few things you might accidentally forget to pack and end up using yourself.

    10 Do It Yourself Dorm Room Decorating Ideas

    Check out #7 and 'fess up -- would you be able to part with that thing after you made it?

     

    Image via CRAFT


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    mom driving a carEvery mom has that moment when they realize something they thought was just part of parenting makes them different. For me, it's the car. I have a problem letting my daughter get into a moving vehicle with just about anyone, save for my husband and me. She's 9 years old, and I can count on one hand the number of people allowed to drive her to and fro.

    Until recently, I thought this was pretty normal. Who lets their kid get in a car with just anyone?

    A lot more parents than I realized.

    Go to the town park, and I see little ones my daughter's age and younger pile out of the backs of cars, their teenage sitters climbing from the driver's seat. Sign your child up for a sport, and suddenly people you have never met are asking if you're interested in carpooling.

    And -- perhaps scariest of all -- log onto Facebook and read status after status from parents putting out calls for babysitters, "drivers preferred."

    More and more, I get the sense that parents are less concerned about who is chauffeuring their kids than they are about getting the dreaded task off their plate.

    Even thinking about it gives me agita.

    My teenage sitter has been with me since she was 13 and is -- by now -- more like an extra daughter than the hired help. I trust her with a key to my house and my daughter's heart.

    Still, there's no way she's getting behind the wheel of a car with my daughter in the back seat. Not even now that she's 18.

    If I'm more cautious than most, I have cause to be.

    Mine was a rough pregnancy with not one but two hospitalizations due to hyperemesis gravidarum (aka extreme morning sickness). But the scariest day of those long nine months wasn't the first time my husband had to rush me to the emergency room to be hooked up to IV fluids.

    It was the day, still in my first trimester, when my husband, my belly, and I were in a car accident.

    I can still remember unclipping my seat belt, pushing past the airbag, opening my car door, and screaming at the top of my lungs at the driver who'd failed to yield the right of way at a stop sign, "Nice stop at the stop sign ... and I'm pregnant!" before collapsing in sobs.

    We'd been on the way to my OB/GYN when a truck driver pulled out in front of us, and when I called my doctor's office, they said they'd move my appointment to later in the afternoon. They didn't seem too concerned about the baby inside of me, but between calls to the insurance company, my work, my husband's work, and the various other folks who have to be notified after a car accident, I chewed the cuticles of my thumbs and forefingers clean off from worry.

    In the end, the fetus (it was too early to known gender) was fine, and I was sent on my way, but I've never quite shaken that fear that something could happen to my daughter in a car.

    Maybe it would be easier if the statistics didn't feed into my fear.

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "Motor vehicle crashes are theleading cause of death for children of every age from 2 to 14 years old." Got that? We're not talking 16-year-olds who just got their licenses. We're taking kids my daughter's age.

    And it's not just fatalities. An average of 693 kids are injured EVERY DAY in car crashes in America -- to varying degrees. Those numbers don't even account for all the other dangers -- from frontovers to backovers to trunk entrapment to power window issues -- that hurt kids in cars every day.

    I'm not naive enough to think I can protect her from all of the above. The car crash during my pregnancy is evidence enough that you can't control the other drivers on the road. But I know, at least, that when my husband or I are at the wheel, her seat belt is securely fastened, her booster seat properly installed, that we're following the traffic laws, and that we have enough experience in the driver's seat to act defensively if something unplanned arises.

    If I can't say all of the above, for sure, about you, then you are not going to drive with my child. Not even if you are the beloved babysitter.

    How about you? Who is allowed to drive with your child in the car?

     

    Image via © iStock.com/Krystian Nawrocki


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