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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.

    using smartphoneMoms, hold onto your smartphones, we're in for another bumpy ride. This time it's a pediatrician who has overtaken the Internet with yet another diatribe about parents who spend too much time with gadgets in their hands and -- in her mind anyway -- too little time paying attention to their kids.

    Sure, some of what Dr. Jane Scott has to say in her now viral essay, "Parents, Put Down Your Smartphones," is worth pondering if you're a parent. But added to other rants of the same ilk that have popped up over the past year or so on the Internet, it's hard not to feel like people like Scott often miss the forest for all the trees.

    Smartphones have changed parenting. Sometimes for the bad.

    But it's time some acknowledge that just as often, smartphones have made life better for kids and parents alike.

    Take, for example, Dr. Scott's description of a recent visit from 2-year-old with an ear infection and his dad:

    Upon entering my examining room, I found father and son sitting together, eyes downcast, each silently scrolling and tapping on smartphones.

    This is where I admit that I've, at times, had my smartphone in hand at the pediatrician's office. I'm a working mom. Running out to get my daughter's pink eye looked at by our pediatrician meant time away from my job, but thanks to my smartphone, I was able to save my sick/personal time for a day when she's truly too ill to get off the couch and I really need to "take a day." Instead, I could answer emails on the go and still be "on the clock." I could provide for my sick kid without risking my employment.

    Pretty significant when you consider 33 percent of parents in America report having to take time off work from their job to care for sick kids that has resulted in lost pay and/or put their jobs at risk.

    Consider that one way smartphones have made parenting easier for parents. Work/life balance may still be elusive, but thanks to the Internet on a handy little gadget that we can cart around, we're that much closer. 

    Not convinced that's evidence that smartphones can be GOOD for parents and kids?

    When Dr. Scott told the little boy he had an ear infection, she relates that the first thing he did was turn to the iPhone and query Siri about ear infections:

    When a child so young turned to a machine for information instead of to his father, it made me wonder: Just how limited was his parents' screen time? What I saw was modeled behavior -- a child who has learned that when he has a question, Siri, and not Dad, is most readily available with an answer.

    In truth, I see some of her concerns. Two seems awfully young to be that familiar with the ins and outs of the iPhone. And as a parent of a 9-year-old who is quickly adopting the typical tween "my parents know nothing" approach, I shudder to think of it having happened seven years ago.

    But there is a flipside that stories like this one so rarely tell, a flipside that I consider to be my ace in the hole even now as I fight that tween attitude. 

    When my daughter asks me a question, I don't have to say, "I don't know" as my parents and their parents before them did. I have the entire Internet at my disposal, right at the tip of my fingers. 

    That's right, when my kid asks me a question, I whip out my smartphone. Scott may surmise that I'm modeling bad behavior for my daughter, but I say it's the very opposite.

    I'm teaching her that being curious about the world is a good thing, and also how to find the answers to her questions.

    More From The Stir: Mom Confession: I Take My iPhone to the Park & Ignore My Kid

    Other times, too, I use my smartphone to share interesting tidbits about the world with her. Last week she was reading a book that featured marmots and asked what they were. I had to Google the little critters to provide an answer. Fast forward to this week, and as I was surfing the web, I came across a video of a marmot licking a Go-Pro camera. I called her over, let her watch, and she has a new favorite YouTube video ... and a much clearer understanding of marmots.

    It's a marvel of the world we're living in.

    I grew up in a small town with a prototypical small town library in the pre-Internet age. If I had a question that my parents couldn't answer, I had to wait for the library to open to look it up. Even then, I had to hope that the library actually had a book on the shelves that contained the answer.

    Often, they didn't.

    For today's children, the answers they will find are limited only by the questions they ask. And smartphones? They have made the Internet immediate.

    Information is always there.

    STILL not convinced that there's enough evidence of the positive nature of smartphone use for parents? How about this bit of information?

    Studies into how kids and parents use cellphones have actually found enhanced connections between the two generations. Kids often feel more comfortable opening up to their parents via text because they're not forced to broach topics face-to-face, and a majority of adults say technology "allows their family life today to be as close, or closer, than their families were when they grew up."

    And get this -- more parents today connect to their kids via cellphone than they do via a landline. 

    Do we need to be responsible with our phones (and our other gadgets) around our kids? Absolutely. It's just plain bad manners to pull out your phone at the dinner table. It's just plain dangerous to walk down the street with your eyes boring holes in the box in your palm while your kids are running wild. It's just plain silly to attend your child's baseball game and never actually look up and see them PLAY baseball. It's just plain sad if entire families spend hours at home together in the same room and never actually speak one word to one another because they're all too wrapped up in something electronic.

    But instead of telling moms they've got to "put down the smartphone" and constantly shaming those of us who make frequent use of technology, how about taking a second and asking yourself why she has that phone in her hand in the first place.

    Do you use a smartphone? How has it helped YOU as a mom?


    Image via © iStock.com/TARIK KIZILKAYA

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    park playground

    It's happened again. A month after a mom was arrested for daring to let her daughter play in a park near the McDonald's where she works, another mother has been slapped with a pair of metal bracelets for leaving her kids in a park to play. Only Ashley Richardson's story is especially heartbreaking.

    According to cops, the mother of four kids ages 6 through 8 was at the food bank picking up something for her family to eat while her kids played. While she was gone, her 8-year-old tried using a toddler swing and got tangled up, which prompted a call to the fire department. When Mom returned, cops arrested her.

    Clearly another case of what happens in America when parenting while poor and black.

    Something tells us Richardson wouldn't have been arrested if she'd been a Mercedes-driving mom who'd done the same thing.

    But then ... the cops still probably would have been called.

    This, ladies and germs, is why helicopter parenting is now so entrenched in our society.

    We are terrified of letting our kids out of our sight, even to do little kid things, lest we end up in the pokey.

    In Richardson's case, she was allegedly away from her kids for two and a half hours and told cops she didn't think her trip to the food bank would take as long as it did.


    Think back to when you were a kid.

    More From The Stir: Mom Thrown in Jail for Letting 9-Year-Old Play at the Park

    Did you ever spend two and a half hours out of your mother's sight? I know I did, often. I grew up on a back road, right next to a river, and yet the neighbor kid and I would disappear for half the day. Our parents drilled us on not going into the water, so there was no fear we'd drowned. They drilled us on not going near the van with the guy offering lollipops or expecting us to help find his lost puppy, so there was no fear we'd be stolen.

    We were allowed to roam, at large, and our parents expected we'd make it home ... eventually.

    And no one said a word. Certainly no one called the police on us.

    The village of parents willing to step in for their neighbors has long since disappeared. Parents are more likely to call 911 than they are to stop, ask a kid what's up, and lend a hand.

    We need only to look at the news to see evidence of this. Mom arrested for letting kid play in park. Mom arrested for leaving (sleeping) kid in (not hot, locked) car. Mom arrested for cursing at kids.

    People don't step in to help. They don't stop to consider circumstances. And they certainly don't give other moms a break.

    Especially not poor moms who are so down on their luck that they're feeding kids from the food bank ... and probably don't have extra cash for babysitters lying around.

    Put yourself in this mom's shoes. Would you leave four kids to play in a park? How long would you leave for?


    Image via © iStock.com/Marilyn Nieves

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    baby bottles

    I stood, back hunched over to protect my throbbing breasts from the pinpricks of hot water in the shower, and let loose sobs that echoed around our tiny bathroom. My husband waited outside the curtain, begging, "Just give her formula. It's okay. You don't have to do this to yourself anymore." Our daughter was less than a week old. I was failing at breastfeeding, and I felt like a failure as a mom, as a human being.

    It would take another week to give up nursing entirely, and I sank into a bout of postpartum depression that would take some serious anti-depressants to beat. I felt completely alone at the time. But according to a new breastfeeding study, I was anything but.

    Researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Sociology have now found a link between breastfeeding failure and higher rates of postpartum depression.

    Conversely, they say breastfeeding success is linked to lower rates of PPD.

    Just another "rah, rah, breast is best" study to throw in with the rest of them and incite another mommy war? Not exactly. You see, researchers didn't just look at breast vs. bottle. They specifically focused on mothers who wanted to breastfeed and their success (or failure) to do so.

    If you want to breastfeed and can't, the study claims you are twice as likely to suffer postpartum depression than moms who planned to formula-feed in the first place.

    Makes sense, doesn't it? If you have your heart set on doing something and can't, it only stands to reason that it will affect your mental health. But there's a stark difference between wanting to, say, be in the NBA, and wanting to nourish your child the way millions of women have done for thousands of years.

    For me, breastfeeding was always the plan. I was breastfed as a child. I watched my younger brother be breastfed. I read books on breastfeeding while pregnant. I got a breast pump, registered for a boppy.

    I was all set to do this.

    Then my daughter was born. The nurses cleaned her up and brought her to me, and I tried to get her to latch, but she wanted to go back to sleep. It was OK, the nurse assured me, she'd wake up and be hungry at some point. They wheeled her away to the nursery so that they could get me down the hall to my room.

    I didn't get a second chance to try nursing that night.

    The next day, when I tried, latching on was a struggle. When I called for help, a nurse who didn't have children of her own and who had never breastfed positioned my daughter at the breast, told me, "If it hurts, you're doing it wrong," then left the room.

    My daughter unlatched, began to scream, and as I tried to get her back on, I felt pain. Taking the nurse's words to heart, I immediately moved her. Again and again and again, my newborn would latch, I would feel pain, and I would assume I was doing something wrong, that my child couldn't possibly get the milk she needed. The latch would be broken. My frustrated daughter would cry, and the cycle quickly became vicious.

    The nurse's parting "tip" was only a small portion of the bad information I got at the hospital, information that I took as solid at the time because I didn't know just how few maternity ward staffers are educated on lactation. In fact, studies since have shown a direct link between common hospital practices and breastfeeding failure rates.

    Those studies came as no surprise to me when I read them and remembered a nurse popping a pacifier in my baby's mouth and -- when I expressed concern over nipple confusion because I was breastfeeding -- told me it was fine. At the time, I took the nurse's word because, hey, she was the "expert," right? Wrong.

    I took the nurses at their word when they told me to wake my sleeping baby every two hours round the clock to eat, too. I brought her home, and every two hours, I tried to feed her, going through the latch on/latch off process over and over and over again as my nipples became increasingly chapped.

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

    Oh, and to complicate this all? The remaining effects of pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel made holding my own child painful. My wrists screamed every time I re-positioned her tiny body.

    But I was determined to make this work. Moms do it every day. I should be able to.

    With no La Leche League in my small, poor, rural town, no lactation consultants at any of the nearby doctor's offices or at my hospital, I smeared greasy ointments on my nipples, rested my throbbing wrists on my keyboard, and I searched the Internet for answers.

    The mothers on most message boards were of little to no help. I'm sure there are plenty of lovely folks out there who would have helped, but I seem to have come upon a bad group. Their overwhelming sentiment? Suck it up, buttercup. You have to do this or else you must not love your child much.

    I got no solid tips, aside from this: your baby may not be eating enough and that's why she's crying; try pumping to increase supply.

    So I did. Every two hours, I woke my baby to feed her. Every other hour, I latched a machine to my breasts and let it squeeze my nipples down tiny tubes, working out whatever bits of milk I could muster.

    I was getting no sleep. I was in pain. And my daughter and I both spent much of that time crying -- often in unison.

    When I finally threw in the towel on breastfeeding and allowed my husband to start mixing up bottles of formula, some of the exhaustion abated.

    The crying did not. I felt trapped in my own home, and yet I feared leaving, had to be begged to actually go farther than the front steps of our porch. I loved my daughter with every inch of my being, and yet I felt like she'd be better off without me. I'd failed to do what it is a mother is supposed to do for her child. My body had failed her.

    I look back and I have nothing but love for the man who convinced me to stop nursing. He wasn't an unsupportive husband who didn't think I should breastfeed. He was a man who saw a wife and a child who both needed help. He helped me get medicine, which, in turn, helped me get through the fog of postpartum depression and back to my daughter, while formula helped her flourish.

    Nine years later, my daughter is healthy and strong, and I'm well past those awful days of constant crying and self-loathing.

    Still, when the topic of breast vs. bottle comes up, I struggle. I feel at times like I'm brandishing a scarlet F on my chest, signaling to the world that I'm not quite up to snuff as a mom.

    Studies like this one are bittersweet. It helps to know that I'm not alone, that my response was natural. But it confounds me that -- nine years after I gave birth -- we still live in a world where a large number of moms are told "breast is best" but not given the proper tools and support to actually succeed at breastfeeding.

    We should do better. We need to do better.

    Not just for the babies but for the moms.

    What was your breastfeeding experience like? Did it lead to postpartum depression?


    Image via © iStock.com/tusquare

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    child holding nose smelly

    It hits you like a freight train. An awful smell that seems to be coming from the general direction of your child. Welcome to the next phase of growing up: developing body odor. You're about to go from buying bubble bath to buying deodorant for your child, and it all happens in the blink of an eye. 

    So is your kid normal? Can they possibly be ready for deodorant when they just learned to tie their shoes yesterday (or so it seems)?

    Well ... yes!

    Typically, body odor can begin to develop as early as 7 years old in girls, 9 years old in boys, as the body hits puberty. Suddenly, your child is beginning to sweat more and sweat specifically from what are called the "apocrine sweat glands," glands in the armpit and groin region.

    "Prior to puberty sweat comes from eccrine sweat glands that usually secrete mostly water and help with cooling," explains pediatrician Dr. Carol Wilkinson, medical director of Kinsights, an advice sharing network for parents. "When puberty hits, apocrine sweat glands kick into action and start secreting an oily substance that bacterial love. It’s the bacteria that naturally grow on our skin that digest this oily substance and leads to the smelly body odor we are familiar with."

    More From The Stir: My 7-Year-Old Daughter Has Already Hit Puberty -- Now What?

    Hence the reason your sweaty toddler didn't stink. But once the body makes that change, there is no going back. It's why Wilkinson suggests parents help their kids combat the underarm odor.

    That means controlling both the bacteria and the sweat. Some tips from the experts to keep your kid stink-free:

    kids body odor

    1. Make sure your kids bathe daily, and make sure they wash ... with soap! "Just standing under the water will not do the trick!" Wilkinson warns.

    2. An extra armpit rinse with a washcloth right before bed (for morning bathers) can do wonders to fight the bacteria.

    3. Wash clothes frequently to fight bacteria. 

    4. Dress kids in cotton and wool clothing, which allows the skin to breathe.

    5. Try baby powder. It can keep the pits dry and help prevent the smell.

    6. Buy deodorant. If the baby powder isn't enough, the next step is deodorant ... but make sure it's just plain deodorant.

    "Keep it simple and mild. Heavy scented deodorant can be more irritating and actually draw more attention than desired. I find that deodorants that are sticks are easier to use than liquid or gels," says Wilkinson. While you're at it, avoid antiperspirants for young kids. 

    "Antiperspirants work by closing sweat ducts using the aluminum. Aluminum can be irritating to some skin," Wilkinson explains. "Also, antiperspirant will make yucky yellow arm pit stains much worse, especially when you try washing it in the laundry. Yellow stained shirts may be worse than sweating armpits ... so deodorant alone may be the best option in the end!"

    Of course, convincing your kids to stamp out the smell might be the hardest part of all ... but it all comes back to good hygiene, says Dr. Wilkinson.

    "Talking to your kids early about why we practice good hygiene will help set the stage later on when it matters. Taking showers frequently, washing clothes, brushing your teeth twice a day, even changing out of pajamas into school or work clothes are all part of practicing good hygiene."

    What are your best tips for keeping the stink at bay?


    Images via © iStock.com/RapidEye; iStock.com/4774344sean

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    family portraits

    When I reached out to a photographer friend to book our family portrait, I had just one request. We needed to schedule an appointment for sometime before the babysitter leaves for college. We didn't need our babysitter to occupy our child or encourage her to smile with funny faces. As a family portrait photographer myself, I've seen it happen, but our daughter is 9 and quite capable of following directions. Instead, we were booking a pre-college shoot because our babysitter needed to be in our family portrait.

    In as in standing in line with my husband, my daughter, and me, smiling at the birdie.

    He made it happen, and the photos are everything I wanted them to be. But as soon as I uploaded them to Facebook, the comments flooded in.

    "Is that M. in your family photo?"

    "Love that you have the babysitter in the photo!"

    "Did you really have your babysitter in your family portrait?"

    It's not your typical family portrait make-up, I'll give you that. But then, ours is not a typical family.

    My husband and I long ago settled on having just one child (for myriad reasons -- but that's another essay entirely). And then a second "child" found us.

    It happened when my daughter was 5. After working part-time and then freelancing, I'd decided to return to full-time work, and I needed a mother's helper to keep my daughter occupied in the summer between pre-school and kindergarten. I asked around and ended up hiring a teenager named M.

    Each day, she would come in the morning, spend the day playing with my daughter, and leave in the late afternoon. My daughter was having the time of her life, and I was happy with the playmate/caretaker who was making my life easier.

    But when summer ended, the relationship between my daughter and M. did not. M. began joining us on family outings, tagging along to my daughter's soccer games to cheer her on, showing up at the town's holiday festivities to help her make gingerbread houses and ornaments. But here's the thing -- she didn't ask to be paid. In fact, she volunteered to come hang out at our house just because ...

    Soon she was jokingly calling my husband Poppa and me Jommy (Mommy with a "J" for Jeanne). Our daughter she dubbed her "Jister" (sister with a "J" for my daughter's name).

    By the time summer rolled back around, there was no question that she'd return to once again act as a mother's helper. I paid her that summer -- as I have each summer since -- but she would regularly hang around after work was over, and as the years have passed, she's spent more and more time with our family. If we were going to a hockey game or even just shopping, the first question my daughter would ask was, "Is M. coming?"

    Usually she did.

    More from The Stir: My Daughter Loves Her Babysitter Too Much

    This busy teenager made sure to carve out time for my kid. And if she couldn't be there in physical form, she was FaceTiming with my daughter or making funny comments on my Facebook wall, texting my husband photos of her cat, or calling us up just to say, "Hey gurl, hey!"

    In the past four years, she has earned a key to our house and a sign on the guest room door that reads "M.'s room" (she did help me paint it, after all).

    To not have her in our family portrait would have been odder to me than it was to folks who were surprised to see her there.

    If I were to walk outside of the situation, I could see their confusion. Why is this teenager this important to our family? And who am I kidding thinking the teenage sitter will be a constant in our lives, even as she goes off to college?

    The worry has crossed my mind.

    But that old lyric from the Broadway show Wicked always plays through my mind when I think about M., chasing away the worry:

    I've heard it said
    That people come into our lives for a reason
    Bringing something we must learn
    And we are led
    To those who help us most to grow
    If we let them
    And we help them in return
    Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
    But I know I'm who I am today
    Because I knew you ...

    My little girl is who she is today because of M. My family is the family it is today because of M.

    Because as much influence we, the parents, have over our kids, we also have to admit that the babysitters we hire are shaping our kids' lives. That's why it's so important to choose a good one.

    I think I did ... and I want a photograph of my family to reflect that.

    How does your babysitter fit into your family dynamic?


    Image via Kevin Ferguson Weddings

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Monica Potter

    June Cleaver. Carol Brady. Marge Simpson. The list of TV moms we all wish were our own is long and varied. And since Parenthood debuted on NBC, it's grown to include Kristina Braverman, mother of three, breast cancer survivor, and the type of candidate for city mayor who will stop everything during a town hall meeting to pass her phone number to a mom in crisis. Kristina Braverman is the mom we want and the mom we want to be, and without actress Monica Potter, there is no Kristina Braverman.

    Like her character, Monica is a mother of three. And like her character, the soft-spoken actress shines on the homefront -- she even has a growing line of home products -- in a way that lifts other moms up rather than making us feel inadequate.

    Parenthood fans who are bemoaning NBC's decision to give us just one more season, and a shortened one at that, have heart: Kristina Braverman is alive and well and living in California. 


    When The Stir spoke with the actress about the final season of the cult hit show and being a busy mom, she called from her personal phone line, not blocking the number. I thought it was an accident until late in the call when she jokingly said, "You have my number."

    Then there was the back and forth that happens when you talk to Monica Potter. You interview her. She interviews you right back.

    Where are you from? How old are your kids? What's her name?

    When I confessed that one of my daughter's favorite songs is "Mrs. Potter," the Counting Crows song written by Adam Duritz about the actress before -- in her words -- they "dated for a minute," she laughed and asked me to videotape her singing it and send it her way.

    Did she mean it? She sure made it sound like it.

    It sure seemed like the woman who stepped off the podium during a mayoral town hall in Berkeley could be this woman on the other end of the phone line, calling for moms to stop stressing themselves out over being the perfect mom.

    So what does Kristina, er, Monica think will happen in the last episode of Parenthood? Why has she suddenly become a Facebook maven, churning out Tuesday tips for busy moms and sharing her own throwback photos on Thursdays, in between cool behind-the-scenes looks at what goes on on set of everyone's favorite show about parenting? Some thoughts from Mrs. Potter:

    On being Kristina Braverman:
    People have asked me how much of myself is in Kristina, and I would say about 90 percent. We've sort of become one person. She's given me the balls to do things ... I hate that word but I just said it! Sometimes I say it, and I just, I don't know ... She's a go-getter, man. I'm the same way. Maybe that's why [Parenthood producer] Jason [Katims] hired me.

    On her favorite Parenthood character:
    Zeek, for sure. He reminds me so much of my dad. I love that man with all of my being. I said to Craig, why don't we do a spin-off, and he started laughing. I said, you know, we can do a show -- a half hour -- where you play my dad. It will confuse people a little bit! But that's OK. I would love that more than anything.

    On her favorite Kristina parenting moment:
    Teaching Max to dance and also when [Kristina] got in the back of the car when they picked [Max] up from the trip. As a mom, those moments ... please. It just reminds you of your own life.

    When I went shopping for Liam -- my middle one -- for his first prom. His first and only prom. It was just one of those moments when you want to enjoy and relish. Those moments are fleeting.

    On her most magical moment of motherhood:
    When the three of my kids are together, and they're getting along, and it's quiet, and we're just having a nice little dinner, and you feel serenity. No one's in a rush to go anywhere. That's why I look forward to the fall and winter. I feel like summer is so busy. I love to make big pots of stuff on a Sunday and make homemade bread even if it doesn't turn out right.

    Having the kids here, watching the Browns game on a Sunday ... and just relaxing with them and hearing them laugh. It's so funny to watch Molly and Danny bicker. I get a big kick out of that. They're so much alike, my 23-year-old and my 9-year-old!

    On being a mom to her 9-year-old vs. her 23-year-old:
    Everything is different [with 9-year-old Molly]. My values are the same; I want them to grow up with integrity, but I was a kid when I was parenting Danny and Liam. I was 23 when I had Liam. I think you go a little bit slower.

    I was always moving with Danny and Liam, always in the car going to auditions and castings and rush, rush, rush, always had this high level of anxiety and gotta do, gotta be, gotta make. I have a drive that will always be with me. I'm very Type A. I like to create and make and figure out and take care of, but I think with age I'm really taking the time to -- as corny as this sounds -- listen to the birds.

    On starting her Mrs. Potter home line (yes, it's a reference to the song):
    It sort of started organically. My father was an inventor. My mother was a homemaker; she was a cleaning lady as well.

    He was always tinkering with things in the basement, creating things, and I was his pal who helped him do all this stuff. Growing up in a household like that, I've always had that drive, that creativity, that gene that sort of stays with you.

    More From The Stir: Dear 'Parenthood', PLEASE Don't Kill Off Kristina Braverman

    I started working on products for the home through my website, a lot of DIY stuff. People kept asking me can you try this, can you help me make this, and I just started to work on some things and we're sort of blossoming into a little business.

    Everything we do is handmade, hand-crafted, and hand-poured. I work with a lot of local artisans and makers in the Ohio area. We're looking to sort of branch out and work with different people in different communities as well to make really good, quality products that people can use and bring jobs back to the area.

    On being a crafty mom:
    When I was first married, I was just 18 and we didn't have a lot of money. [My oldest son] Danny and I would actually do stuff -- as hokey as this sounds -- and we would collect things from outside. We were living in Cleveland at the time, and in fall, we would collect leaves and dry them, and we'd find branches from different types of trees and make wreaths and things like that.

    I still do that today. I have a magnolia tree in the front, and I'm drying the leaves from that and making a fall wreath and glazing them.

    I've always been a crafty kind of a gal.

    On Pinterest stressing out moms:
    It is overwhelming when you look at that stuff. I had to take a step back from it! I do a lot of stuff because I love to do it, but if you start to go on those sites, you start to feel bad about yourself.

    I look at those things, I actually have anxiety. I have anxiety because I feel like I'll never measure up to what those things are.

    You're going to make huge mistakes and fall right on your face. That's something that I really want to stress to people -- especially moms.

    I say you do what you can.

    Order [your child's birthday cake] from the grocery store if it doesn't turn out right. I do!

    I am not Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart. I'm the complete opposite. I love those women; I think they're wonderful, but you have to just allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them and grow.

    On sharing her failures:
    I have made so many things that have just turned out to be so crappy, which I'm going to share because I have photos of them.

    It's not about perfection. There's no such thing. You can try; it's never going to happen.

    I like to share the stuff that worked for me and say what happened -- whether it's a craft or a parenting tip. I'm learning as I get older with parenting, a lot of moms that I know, that I can relate to ... you always feel like you have to put your best foot forward and put on a smile, which you do in life, but I also feel that if you can sort of talk to other moms who are going through the same thing that you're going through, it allows us as women to exhale and go wow, that person is going through this as well. It's not all roses and daisies over there.

    Whether it's a recipe that went wrong, something you did wrong as a parent, something you're learning as you're growing in your own life as a woman ... I like getting older because I'm learning all that.

    On Parenthood ending:
    I am beyond. I am ... yeah. It will allow me to do other things, like I just bought the house I grew up in and I'm going to go back and refurbish that. It's going to be the face of the brand -- and that's great. But I'm going to miss going to work every day!

    I'm going to miss my castmates, my family, my second home.

    I'm going to miss [TV husband] Peter [Krause] the most, and Max, I think. I don't want to ever play another wife on television for someone else. I told him that, and he started laughing and said, "I don't want you to either."

    We've already shot two episodes and because we're only doing 11 -- 13 total but each castmember is doing 11 -- that means I only have nine left.

    I was talking to Jason last week, and I said we should think about maybe doing some more episodes. He was like, I know, and I said, why don't we go shop this somewhere else? Why don't we go shop this over at Amazon or Netflix? You know, Community did it!

    On her ultimate series finale:
    I think super simplistic, you know. Adam and I having a hug and holding hands and life goes on, like nothing is tied up in a pretty bow and finished.

    I think what I'd like to see as a viewer is to know that the Bravermans are still living their lives. I don't think anything should be quote unquote completed or final. I'd leave the door open!

    I don't ever want to see the Bravermans finished, like everything's either great or fixed. That's not what life is. That's not what our show has been.

    What is your favorite Kristina Braverman moment?


    Image via Monica Potter

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Sonia Green family

    They say it takes a village to raise a child. For mom Sonia Green, the global village of parents is helping her protect her children every time they get their kids vaccinated. That's because three of Green's four sons aren't vaccinated.

    They can't be. All sufferers of an immune deficiency called x-linked agammaglobulinemia, a rare condition that affects approximately one in 200,000 newborns, Harrison, Holden, and Davis Green's bodies can't produce antibodies to disease, rendering vaccines ineffective and sometimes downright dangerous.

    But when other kids are vaccinated, their mom says it helps create what's known as a "herd immunity," a sort of security blanket of health for kids like the Green brothers. It's why the law professor is a fierce advocate for the very immunizations that her kids can't get.

    Sonia Green spoke with The Stir about 15-year-old Harrison, 11-year-old twins Holden and Langford (the latter of whom does not have the condition), and 9-year-old Davis, and why it is she thinks the burden should be on the community to keep all kids safe:

    How were the boys diagnosed with an immunodeficiency?
    By the time Harrison was 18 months old, he’d had several ear infections (and had tubes), a number of colds, and had also had a pseudomonas infection in his lip, and a staph infection. He also often got little irritating coughs. We’d tried various doctors and finally sought out an immunologist at Children’s Memorial in Chicago, thinking that maybe it was allergies. It turned out that not only was his body not overproducing the immunoglobulins that cause allergies, it was actually very deficient in those antibodies.

    More From The Stir: Mom Celebrates Each Day She Has Left With Her Dying Baby

    The allergist sent us to the immunologist, and he confirmed that Harrison’s body basically does not make mature B cells, which are responsible for immune system memory. Since this condition is usually genetic, the immunologist tested Harrison and tested me to see if I was a carrier. I am.

    What about your younger sons?
    Knowing that I am a carrier, we tried to conceive our twins using IVF with preimplanation genetic diagnosis. We were trying to avoid having more kids with this condition. We worked with an amazing embryologist in Michigan -- very high tech: a cell from all the embryos was courriered from Chicago to Michigan -- but his tests failed to disclose which embryos has the particular genetic abnormality.

    However, he thought he’d be able to test the embryos for gender and only put in female embryos. This condition is x-linked, which means that in order to manifest it, the person has to be XY (thus, a boy) and have inherited my X chromosome with the defect (so a 50/50 chance for every boy). Girls who have an affected X, like me, do not have the condition, but are carriers. Anyway, the testing went awry somewhere, and we ended up with two boys. When the amnio disclosed that I was carrying males, we had in utero testing done and found out that twin A had the condition. This was confirmed at birth.

    And your youngest?
    When the twins were 6 months old, I got pregnant surprisingly and amazingly the old-fashioned way, and we had our youngest. With Davis, the in utero testing was inconclusive, but he was tested and diagnosed at birth.

    What does XLA do to their bodies?
    XLA basically means that their bodies do not make mature B cells. B cells and T cells together regulate our immune systems: kids with more severe primary immune disease (PID) like those with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID, or “Bubble Boy syndrome”) don’t have T cells or B cells, and thus have no working immune system. My boys have working T cells, which means they can fend off some viruses. Without B cells, however, they do not produce any immunoglobulins, which means several things if they are untreated. Their bodies have no immune system memory, so if they contract something, their body won’t mount an immune response and won’t “remember” to mount that response again, so they could get the same thing many times.

    How is it treated?
    They take a daily antibiotic -- Harrison, for example, is on Cipro, which is pretty hard hitting -- as a prophylactic to keep them from getting sick. They also get an infusion of a medicine called intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) to give them a temporary, partial borrowed immune system. This gets depleted, so they need to rebuild it every 28 days. There is no cure for their condition that is safe and effective, so this is what they will have the rest of their lives, unless things change.

    Even with treatment, they are not at 100 percent. They are still more susceptible to certain viral infections like meningitis, and the risk of a viral infection becoming severe is much higher for them than those with normal working immune systems.

    What's your biggest fear as a mom?
    Meningitis. Viral meningitis. Other viral conditions against which my boys cannot be protected even with their medicines. Also, any unusual bacterial infections that reoccur in the populace. The boys’ IVIG medicine is made from blood plasma of healthy, immunized adults and protects them to those limits. If anything pops up anew or again in the populace, my boys won’t be protected. I’m also worried that people won’t be honest about whether their kids are vaccinated, and that there will be some outbreak in my community.

    How does XLA affect your own sons' ability to be vaccinated?
    At best, the vaccine would do nothing, since the vaccine works because the body remembers the intruder and mounts a response of that intruder strikes again. Without a memory like this, the boys’ bodies would do nothing. At worst, the vaccine could actually make them sick, especially if it were a live vaccine.

    How do you handle encountering unvaccinated kids?
    I have not personally met someone who admits that their kids are not vaccinated. If I did, I would plead my case in person, and would be very clear that my kids could NOT associate with those kids. I will fight for my boys, and would not be afraid to take this to an extreme: not associating would mean no playdates, no “hanging out” together at recess, but even more than that.

    I would ask that the school not put that kid in my boys’ classrooms (not even that of my “healthy” son, since he could become a carrier) or allow those kids to have lunch in the same lunch room as my boys. I would tell the boys’ soccer clubs, band, drama clubs, etc., that my boys cannot be with an unvaccinated child and would put the burden on them to basically exile the unvaccinated child. I believe that societally, there has to be a cost to putting others at risk, and I think that my community would be supportive.

    So, your boys go to school. What was the decision like to send them to school, where they could encounter unvaccinated kids?
    My boys all attend our local public schools. Davis has just moved up to middle school (starts in 5th grade for us) and the twins are in sixth grade there. The middle school has about 500 kids. Harrison is at our public high school which has about 3,200 kids.

    I have to say that it was all much easier when they were in tiny Montessori schools (through first grade) where we knew all the families. We did not consider homeschooling them because our doctor never recommended it, and because we really believe in the importance of social interaction, but we did think about smaller, private schools. Ultimately, though, we went with public schools because we are still in a small (up to high school at least) community with excellent schools, and the district does take vaccinations seriously. If we lived in a state where it was easier to opt out (Illinois requires medical reasons), we might have had to make different decisions.

    What is the response from the school when you make requests about unvaccinated kids being kept away from them?
    Incredibly responsive. Again, it helps that the elementary and middle schools are small, and near our home, and we know the nurses, principals and even the school board superintendent. The high school has been a little less responsive, but I think that schools these days are pretty well set up to handle so many different medical issues that they do have a good system in place.

    What's it like sending your kids to do things where they might encounter sick kids?
    It’s scary as hell. It has gotten less scary with every passing year that I see them staying healthy, but for my comfort level, I need status quo -- lots of vaccinations -- or better. When I hear that there are trends AGAINST vaccination, I’m back to where I was with a 3-year-old Harrison, wondering every day what bug he could catch at school.

    As a family, we’ve definitely had to make choices on how to live our life and who to trust. We are incredibly lucky to have an immunologist whom we trust 100 percent. If she says it’s OK for them to go to school, then that’s what we have to do. It’s definitely a struggle for me to let go, but I have to do what’s best for them. So, we’ve never let them feel like they are sick or “different.” We need for them to stay healthy, but we also really want for them to grow up feeling confident.

    Have you ever noticed a sick kid around your kids and had to spring into action? What happened?
    It’s funny, but this actually makes me thing of all the times I DIDN’T spring into action and wish I had. Before Harrison was diagnosed, we let him play with a girl who was obviously sick, and he got her cold, just much much worse. Even post diagnoses, there have been some times when I’d let it slide, and of course I remember the ones when I did, and my boys got sick.

    When the boys were younger, I would sometimes call a parent and ask that a playdate end early if I saw that a kid was sick. I have asked to move away from people in restaurants and move theaters if they are visibly sick. Once, I asked parents on my boys’ soccer team to let their kid stay home from practice because he was coughing a lot. But, a lot of times I let it go. If I know that a kid has been coughing for a while and is no longer contagious, I’ll let him play with my kids. A lot of parents are also very good about clearing things with us.

    Now that the boys are getting older and making plans for themselves, I have to trust them to know when to leave someone’s house or not hang out with a friend if they see that the friend is sick. It’s tough, but they have to learn.

    Why do you advocate for other kids to be vaccinated when yours can't be?
    I know -- through research -- and believe that vaccines prevent disease. I want everyone to be as healthy as possible, so I advocate for vaccines. Very selfishly though, I also ask that other kids be vaccinated EVEN IF the value to them is nil because it DOES help my kids. A kid who would or wouldn’t contract a condition -- or contract it, but not have it be serious -- regardless of vaccination might not benefit from a vaccine. But, if that same kid contracts something that doesn’t hurt HIM, he is now a carrier and could easily pass it along to one of MY boys, on whom it would have a much worse effect.

    More From The Stir: Meet the Mom Who's Taking on Anti-Vaxers

    My boys are essentially magnets for these conditions, so they are likelier to get them if anyone is a carrier, AND, if they do get them, they are much, much likelier to be very serious and potentially fatal. We rely on herd immunity 100 percent to keep my boys healthy. We have so many friends in the primary immune disease community, and I think there are many others who are not diagnosed. These people -- and others who are immunocompromised, like infants, and chemo patients -- need herd immunity to stay healthy.

    Herd immunity is pretty important to your family! What do you say to parents who say it's not their responsibility to keep your kid safe?
    Best case scenario is when I can explain in person that I am NOT asking the parent to take the primary role, but just to help the many things we do to keep our kids safe. I try to make it clear that if it costs them nothing, then it’s worth doing the good thing. It’s tougher when they place a strong negative cost to vaccinating, but I try to dispel that. I am not asking for anyone to do anything that’s not also in their own kids’ best interest. If they are already vaccinating, then they feel better, I think, knowing that they’re not just protecting their kids but also keeping my kids safe. If they are on the fence, and aren’t convinced that their kid needs vaccines, then sometimes hearing that it could help someone else puts them over the edge.

    I try to make the analogy to putting seat belts on other kids: every parent I know will buckle a guest child before her own if she ends up with more kids than seat belts in the car. I make the analogy to how we all watch extra carefully for kids on crosswalks around schools, and how, as a community, we DO protect each other, and each other’s kids all the time. To me, this is nothing new or different.

    I did see a very hateful comment in response to an interview about how “deficients” shouldn’t use up public resources. There’s nothing I can say to that. Someone who thinks along those lines isn’t someone I’m going to convince, and hopefully I would spot someone that hateful in person and just stay away.

    I think that many people don’t really think about herd immunity these days, and it’s great that we’ve come this far, but I feel like I need to keep us from become too complacent about it.

    How does herd immunity affect your decision to vaccinate (or not) your own kids?


    Image via Sonia Green

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    mom with toddler who has down syndrome

    The diagnosis comes. Your child has what's commonly known as a "special need." So you turn to the experts, to the books, to anything and anyone who can answer the questions swirling through your head.

    But if there's anyone you should be asking how to proceed now that your child has a diagnosis, it's the people who have already walked in your shoes -- the mothers of other kids with special needs. So we asked moms of kids -- moms who have autistic kids, moms who have kids with limb differences, moms with kids who were born with Marfan syndrome, even moms who have their own differences -- for one essential "life tip" they would give to any other parent who is about to embark on the journey of parenting a child with special needs. Here's what they had to say:

    1. Laugh. "Life is so hard. Parenting is hard. Parenting kids with disabilities is hard. Finding things to laugh about makes it not just better, but kind of awesome. Laugh about yourself. Laugh with your kids. Find yourself a goofy pet and laugh at it. When something is so terrible that you say, 'It'll be funny later,' take the time and laugh now. Just like I learned from a motivational board on Pinterest (the best advice always comes from Pinterest): Laughter is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure. Life is an adventure. Treat it as one." -- Jean Winegardner, blogger at Stimeyland and mom of an autistic child

    2. Don't lose yourself. "Everybody always tells you to let people know that your child is not only his or her diagnosis -- that there is so much more to them than their autism, or their extra chromosome, or their cerebral palsy. What they often fail to mention is that you need to make sure that you don't pigeon-hole yourself into that same corner. For the first few years of my son's life, I truly began to lose myself while buried under all of the appointments and evaluations and therapies. It took me a long time to figure out that my entire identity had somehow been overtaken and that I needed to stop and take some time to remember who I was beforehand. Don't forget to continue to find time for the hobbies, friends, and little luxuries you have always enjoyed -- be it a massage or a cup of coffee solo." -- Jamie Krug, blogger behind Jamie Krug, Author and mom of a little boy with autism

    3. Accept that it's OK to get angry. "Try to give oneself a crash course in acceptance of an idea that may be radical to those who are people pleasers or shy -- you will have to take up arms. Those arms will be courage, tenacity, and sometimes sustained righteous anger. As the parent of a special needs child, you are the only person who will speak and fight for your child. You will like to think better of the world. You will be disappointed. This will change your life." -- Leigh Merryday, blogger at Flappiness Is and mother of an autistic child

    graphic about inspiring quotes

    4. Ask questions! "You are your child's best advocate. If a doctor or specialist tells you something that doesn't feel right, ask more questions. Even if it may take more time, visit a different specialist or call different therapists and ask extra questions. Additional research can help you make decisions especially if they are different from a doctor's recommendation." -- Jen Lee Reeves, blogger at Born Just Right and mom of a little girl with a limb difference

    5. Find your safe space. "For every new, uncomfortable, and out of the comfort zone experience we attempt as a family, I need at least a dozen hours in my safe space. With my people. With people who understand that [my son] is just ... [my son]." -- Jessi Bennion, blogger at Life With Jack and mom of a little boy who was a micropremie at birth

    6. Find THEIR safe space. "In hopes of avoiding a meltdown, and because self-harm is not an issue, I leave my kids alone and give them time to self-soothe and gain control over their situation when they are experiencing overload. Because I am autistic and experience these things as well, I know that when someone steps in with the intention of calming or 'helping' me, they are (unknowingly) controlling the situation and doing what they feel is best without taking into consideration what I want or need. For my kids and me, this is seen as an intrusion and causes more aggravation and stress and tends to prompt or intensify the meltdown rather than avoid it. Respect your child’s needs, find out what he or she prefers: A Safe Place? Headphones with music? A walk outside, maybe? It’s important for parents to find out what their child wants instead of what they feel they would want if the situation were reversed." -- Renee Salas, blogger behind S.R. Salas Autism Blog and autistic mom to autistic kids

    7. Think before you speak. "Watch how you talk about your child's disability in front of them, or how you let others talk about it. They internalize more than you may realize." -- Maya, blogger behind MarfMom and mom of two little boys, one who has autism and the other Marfan syndrome; Maya also has Marfan

    8. Get used to waiting. "Be prepared for waiting rooms and doctor's offices with a bag of familiar toys and books or have games that you play each time you wait so the time goes by quickly and your child is less focused on trauma and instead focused on fun. We have played 'I Spy' hundreds of times!" -- Diane Lang, blogger behind Momo Fali and mom of an autistic child

    9. Set a good example. "When people stare at you child, especially disapprovingly, don't bother telling them off. Instead, be an example to them by showing them how you communicate with your child. This takes practice (and patience), but it is the thing that works best for me." -- Laura Shumaker, blogger at LauraShumaker.com and mom to a 28-year-old son with autism

    10. Laugh. What? We said that already? It's that important, folks. "Humor is a very powerful and healthy coping technique that helps release endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. It's also supposed to tighten abdominal muscles though we have no evidence to support this in our own lives. Despite laughing all the time, we still have belly weight left over from our babies (who are now ages 15 and 17 respectively)." -- Gina Gallagher and Patty Terrasi, sisters behind Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid and moms to kids with special needs

    What are your best tips for other parents who have kids with special needs?


    Images ©iStock.com/kali9; ©iStock.com/lilipom

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    number one

    When my daughter was born, my circle of friends changed. There were the old friends but new ones too: moms I met on the playground or at story hour, moms who I ran into at pre-school drop-off. Having kids tends to bring you together. But as many of those friends have gone on to have more kids, just as many of those friendships have fallen by the wayside.

    There's a divide that seems to exist with many between me -- mother of one -- and them -- mothers of many. It's to a point where I simply don't talk about my parenting struggles much, even as other moms pour out tales of trying to wrestle three over-tired little ones into bed.

    I could talk about my exhaustion, about being over-extended and at my wits' end, but with all but my closest friends, I've found I sense a palpable air of disdain.

    "What does she know about hard? She's only got one kid!"

    It's true. I am a one and done mom and happy with my choice too. It fit for my family, just as two, three, four ... or even more fits for others. There are advantages to raising one kid, just as there are to raising many.

    But if there's one myth about raising only children that needs to be busted wide open, it's the idea that somehow my life is "easier" because I stopped after one.

    Motherhood -- be it parenting one kid or many -- is hard. And being a mom of one means dealing with myriad issues moms of many never face: 

    1. There is no built in entertainment. There is no big sister to play cars with, no little brother to throw the ball to in the backyard. Even when you're bone tired after a long day of work, playing with your kid is completely on you.

    2. There is no built-in best friend. It's true, not every child is friends with their sibling, but most siblings share an emotional relationship. At the very least, when a child is angry with Mom and Dad, they have a sounding board in the room down the hall to listen. When there's no brother or sister to listen, that anger has to come out somewhere ... and often it's right at YOU, the parent.

    3. Family "discounts" are a rip-off. Ever heard the term "family four-pack"? We never get the discount! And when the town pool lets entire families get in under one fee but expects us to pay extra for our only to bring a friend, it's hard not to notice the disparity. 

    4. No chance to chill out. When the second baby comes around, parents know what they're doing. They get to relax and enjoy things a little more. For those of us with one kid, on the other hand, we carry the stress of everything being new to us all the time, plus the stress of knowing we only get one chance to get this right.

    More From The Stir: 10 Reasons It Stinks to Be an Only Child

    5. We're constantly badgered about our choice. "When are you having another one?" "What do you mean you aren't having another one?" "It's not fair to your daughter not to give her a sibling!" "Clock is ticking, why aren't you pregnant again yet?" The questions and demands made of one-and-done families are rude, invasive, and constant. For some reason saying you're having an only child is tantamount to saying "I know you know more about my uterus, sex life, financial status, and marriage than me, so ask me anything!"

    6. Our kids are constantly questioned about our choices. Nothing irks me more than when someone stops my daughter to ask her, "Don't you want a little brother or sister?" For starters, no, she doesn't! She has never asked for one and, more to the point, has specifically told me at various times that she's glad not to deal with certain things her friends with siblings do. Secondly, it's an adult decision, and it's pretty low of you to try to put it on a little kid's shoulders.

    7. There are no siblings to make things "fair." A child psychologist once told me that assigning chores in households of two children or more is typically made easier because one child sees that their sibling is doing something and the "fairness" factor pushes them to act as well. In a house with just one kid, the only child doesn't see another kid taking on feeding the dog or putting dishes in the sink ... and it's a much harder lesson to teach. The same goes for just about everything else in the household -- from limits on toys to what sort of clothes you're willing to purchase. There's no "fair" line drawn in the sand, making the arguments -- and your job to hold the line -- that much harder.

    8. We're constantly worried about our only children being judged for, well, being only children. Sure, every parent worries about their kids. But even when we're sure we made the right choice, and even though science is largely with us on the notion that only children turn out A-OK, there remains a society-wide perception that we are spoiling only kids or turning out anti-social freaks. Like any other parent, we just want what's best for our kids, but the myths about only kids are daunting ... and tend to follow even the most well-behaved, non-spoiled, wonderful kids in the bunch.

    9. There's no strength in numbers. Send two kids out for a bike ride 'round the neighborhood, and you at least have the sense that one will look out for the other. With only kids, you just have to trust that they'll be OK. At times, parents of only children are singled out as being the worst of the helicopter parents. It's an unfair assessment of a group that practices a wide range of parenting practices, but this is one concern that may explain it.

    More From The Stir: 8 Surprising Scientific Facts About Only Children

    10. We spend a lot of money and just barely reap the rewards. Oh, dress she wore once, we hardly knew ye ... and there's no little sister to get at least one or two extra wearings out of it. In fact, when the annual "it costs X amount of money to raise a child to adulthood" figures come out, parents of one are faced with the notion that most of the expenses cited in the figures are actually evened out across multiple kids. You only have to buy one house, for example, or one family health insurance plan -- regardless of the number of kids.

    So there you have it. Being a mom of one is .... not all unicorns and glitter. But it is absolutely right for me.

    Have an only child? What's your biggest struggle?


    Image via © iStock.com/Sean_Warren

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    child playing with dough

    Sensory play. It's a term that's becoming better known as more and more kids are diagnosed with various special needs in America, special needs that make them more prone to crave sensory input. They want to touch things, to feel things, to squish them between their fingers and actually get a tactile sense of the world around them.

    So how do you satisfy their cravings? How about some crafts designed for your little sensory seeker?

    Moms from around the blogosphere have created some fun projects for kids with various special needs, and we've rounded up the best of the best. From colorful paints to put on bathroom walls to fizzy dough they can sink their hands into, there's plenty of play ahead for your family.

    Crafts for Sensory Seekers

    How would you use number four?


    Image ©iStock.com/dcdp

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    little girl covering her eyes

    When I found out I'd given birth to a little girl, my first thought was that my husband would be thrilled to get "his girl." My second was one of relief: someone whose "parts" I get! I can do this!

    Indeed, it made those first few diaper changes easier. It's bound to make conversations about tampons and bras easier too (all in good time). But there's one area where I've struggled. What is my daughter supposed to call the female body parts that we share?

    I know the technical terms. Vagina. Vulva. And despite early hesitance to do so, I've taught them to my now 9-year-old daughter over the years.

    But at 9, she doesn't refer to her vagina or her vulva. Sometimes she says "crotch." Sometimes "cha cha." 

    Go ahead. Laugh. But it's her body. Is it so wrong for her to use silly euphemisms to describe parts of it?

    Sex educators warn that parents need to teach kids the "right" words for their anatomy lest we make kids feel ashamed of certain parts of their body. I wholeheartedly agree.

    It's why my 9-year-old owns Is It Normal, a pretty frank book about the body and the reproductive system. It's why I've told her that babies come out of a mom's vagina (most of the time, anyway!), given her a basic talk on menstruation to prepare her for the inevitable, and why she will get the full talk on birth control in a few years (she's only 9, so no, we haven't covered the IUD yet, y'all).

    More From The Stir: 8 Mom-Approved Books on Puberty That Kids Will Actually Like

    I'm pretty sure that what we've told her has had an impact. Just a few months ago, a little boy showed her his penis, and she marched immediately to us -- her parents -- with a horrified look on her face and cried, "C showed me his penis!" She used the correct term, and she was not afraid to speak up. Stressful as the situation was, I was heartened to know she'd listened to my many speeches about boy private parts and girl private parts, about privacy and saying "no."

    We aren't hiding anything from our daughter. We aren't destining her to teenage pregnancy or an STD by not arming her with the realities she'll need to survive as a female.

    Still, she doesn't use the word "vagina" when describing her own body. Still, we hear euphemisms.

    Still, I'm unperturbed.

    Because the idea of teaching our kids about their bodies is to make them knowledgeable and comfortable. And from my observation she's COMFORTABLE using euphemisms about her private parts, as comfortable as she is calling her underwear "unders," poop "brown stuff," and flatulence "farts." To her, those words are normal. They don't make her feel that her female body is shameful. If she did, I doubt she'd be so willing to march stark naked around our house on a daily basis.

    I suppose I could force her to be more technical, but I confess that even as I'm comforted by the idea that she's comfortable with her body, I'm also a little confused by the insistence of late that our kids must use medical terminology in order to be comfortable with who they are.

    More From The Stir: 7 Ridiculous Reasons Women Give for Wanting a Daughter

    The argument I hear most often is that kids don't have "silly names" for the elbow, so why have them for the private parts?

    Fair enough, only ... Americans have plenty of "silly names" for body parts. Ever said "butt," "tummy," or "tootsie"? Do you say your ulnar nerve and humerus hit when you bang your arm or do you say you hurt your funny bone? And when was the last time you told a teenage boy to pull up his pants as his "gluteal cleft" was showing?

    Face it -- we all use silly words. So long as we know the "right" ones to use at the "right" times, we all do OK.

    What words do your kids use to refer to their private parts? Do they know the "real" terms?


    Image via © iStock.com/emholk

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    girl raising hand in classThe year I turned 16 was a big one. I got my driver's license. I got in my first car accident. I dated my first boyfriend. I broke up with my first boyfriend. I started dating the man who would become my husband. And I graduated from high school. The latter is something I don't often talk about. What do you think when you hear "graduated from high school at 16 years old?" Dork? Nerd? Super geek? I've heard it all in the years since I skipped the second grade.

    But looking back on a childhood of always being the youngest kid in the class, of always being the smart kid who skipped a grade, I wouldn't change a thing.

    You don't meet a lot of people like me anymore. Not in a day when 11 percent of kindergartners have a delayed start. Red-shirting, a term stolen from sports, has become de rigueur for parents who are hoping to give their kids a competitive edge by keeping them home for an extra year to help them mature.

    I grew up in the 1980s -- well before red-shirting -- but still, pushing a child ahead a year was not a common practice, particularly in a small school district. The fight to make my jump from first grade to third was one that many in the educational community remember to this day. Since I moved back to my small town post 9/11, I've become the woman parents refer to when skipping a grade is bandied about, the woman they turn to to ask, "should I skip my kid?"

    My answer?

    It depends. Are you ready to support your kid now for long-term success? Can you handle some tough times for rewards down the road? Can your child?

    I'm honest with parents. It's not easy being the kid who skipped a grade. At times I carried the "smart kid" label around my neck like an albatross.

    More From The Stir: I 'Redshirted' My Kindergartner & Never Regretted It

    It didn't help that I have a big mouth, and I was unable to sit on my hands and not answer questions. I often wonder if things would have been different if I was shy, uneasy about putting my two cents in on everything. Would the kids have been more welcoming to this interloper? Treated me more like a new kid, and less like that little kid who just ignored protocol and jumped up the ranks?

    Would it have been better if, as a fourth grader, I'd kept my mouth shut when a couple kissed onscreen during a film about the American Revolution, rather than let loose the, "Ewwww" expected from an 8-year-old girl?

    Those were the tough years. Third. Fourth. Fifth. Sixth. I had friends. But I got a bra later, was OK'd to watch "naughty" movies later, was playing with dolls longer. I was never quite like them, always the little kid.

    There isn't much science on the effect skipping a grade can have on kids because it happens so rarely, but scientists studying babies born in the summer have noted they tend to struggle in school because they're often the youngest in their classes, making them targets for bullies. My birth month wasn't the problem here, but I encountered much the same issues as an August-born kid in a school with a September 1 cut-off. My classmates were often more mature than I was because they'd had time to get that way, and it marked me as "different."

    But the scientists who have studied summer-borns have noted that the age gap issue lessens as kids get older, and it did for me as well.

    It was in the seventh grade when I was pushed -- again -- into a program that would put me ahead a year (for those keeping track, I was essentially two years past my age group), when I really hit my stride. In a small class of just eight kids taking both seventh and eighth grade courses, so that we would be ready to tackle ninth grade the next year, I found my place. We were all smart. Advanced. Different.

    In a year, everything changed.

    I bonded with the "different" kids, the kids I'd spend much of my time with for the remainder of high school. Because of the structuring of the special program I was in -- by the end of seventh grade, we'd completed two years worth of coursework and began to work one year ahead -- I was put into classes with a lot of students who were two full years ahead of me, and I made a lot of friends. By the time I was 15, the bulk of my friends were high school seniors and I, a junior, was facing an option to hop ahead yet another year, to graduate early.

    I was tempted. Graduating at 15 was something special, something I could dine out on forever. It was an accomplishment that none of my elementary school critics could take from me.

    But I didn't even have my driver's license, couldn't even get it in my state. I knew I wasn't ready to leave home just yet and go to college. I stayed in high school one more year, taking college courses and pursuing a school-to-work internship that would thrust me into journalism and change the course of my life. At the end of that year, I was ready to graduate, ready to leave home, ready to make my own decisions about who I would be.

    More From The Stir: Why Starting Kindergarten Early Is a Good Idea

    I won't deny that in skipping a grade I was forced to grow up faster than my peers. Being with older kids day in and day out forced me to give up on the vestiges of childhood at a younger age. I did many things I probably wasn't prepared to do simply to fit in.

    At times, the pressure of keeping up good grades and being a success was so immense that I couldn't keep up. I spent a good portion of my teenage years bingeing and purging in a battle with bulimia that I will likely never fully kick.

    So why don't I tell parents a flat out no, don't skip your kid?

    Because being the kid who skipped a grade was one of the best things that ever happened to me

    It empowered me. It made me realize that I could handle not just the more advanced coursework but constantly being a fish out of water. It forced me to work hard -- much harder than I was working as a first grader to whom everything came naturally -- and to actually earn my good grades. It made me a fighter who could roll with the punches.

    So if you have a child who is sailing along in school, a child who could really use a challenge, and you're considering whether it's wise to let them skip a grade, I say know what you -- and they -- are in for, but don't be afraid. Your kid might surprise you.

    How do you feel about red-shirting kids or pushing them ahead a grade?


    Image © iStock.com/gilaxia

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    woman in labor

    Picture it. You've waddled your pregnant self into the maternity ward, huffing and puffing and ready to blow the house down. The nurse takes a gander down below, and yup, you're dilating and definitely in labor. So how soon can you get an epidural, you ask?

    Not yet, they say. It's not time. You think you're ready, but you're not. So when will it be time, you try not to scream at the condescending face that just told you that you don't know your own body?

    Turns out, the habit in many hospitals of making moms wait until they're at least 4 or 5 centimeters dilated before acquiescing to her request for pain meds may be wrong.

    A new study by the Cochrane Review -- an independent non-profit that makes assessments of various health care interventions -- has found the best time to give a mother an epidural is when she asks for it. Yes, even if she's in the early stages of labor.

    More From The Stir: 5 Myths & Realities About Epidurals

    The researchers took a look at nine different studies on pregnancy and pain relief and found no "clinically significant differences" between moms who had an epidural "early" and those who were made to wait until after the 5-centimeter mark. That means no higher risk of C-section, no higher risk of forceps or suction or other intervention to assist with delivery.

    Basically? They've just told doctors to finally listen to women ... because it turns out we actually do know a thing or two about our bodies and what we need.

    More From The Stir: Cervical Dilation From 1-10: Are You Ready for Delivery?


    Folks, not every woman will want an epidural. That's fine. If you want to go unmedicated or perhaps choose another route for pain relief, good on you. But when a mom does request the pharmacologic pain relief method the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists calls "the most flexible, effective, and least depressing to the central nervous system," she should feel like she's being listened to ... and not pushed off with some nebulous talk of the perfect time.

    Because the perfect time? It's her time. 

    When do you think a mom should get an epidural?


    Image © iStock.com/bluefox42

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    my name is

    There are few parenting decisions that can stir up as much contention as the name parents give their children. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about baby names. But when Kim Sarubbi and her husband Carl Abramson welcomed their first and second children to the world, they gave them the same last name: Sabr, a name they made up by combining some of the letters from their own respective surnames. When it was time to welcome baby number three, the couple assumed they'd give little Camden the same last name. 

    They never imagined they'd find themselves in the midst of a lawsuit -- and a national news frenzy -- over their child's last name. But that's just where they are. Sarubbi and Abramson have not been allowed to give their child the last name they made up. The State of Tennessee Department of Health actually issued a birth certificate for Camden under the name "Camden Abramson," and the state is refusing to make the change.

    It's putting the question of a parent's right to choose their child's name into serious question.

    In a press release sent to The Stir by the ACLU, which is supporting Sarubbi and Abramson's federal lawsuit, ACLU-TN cooperating attorney Carolyn W. Schott of Sherrard & Roe PLC noted, "Parents have a fundamental right to make decisions for their children. Naming our own children is not only a very personal decision, it’s also an act of free expression, protected by the U.S. and Tennessee Constitutions.”  

    Hard to argue with that, right? Ours is a country where people can name their kids after Apple, Hashtag, and dozens, nay, hundreds of other questionable things. And Nevada and California, the states where the Sabrs' older kids, Alex and Maya, were born, allowed the hybrid moniker without so much as an eyebrow raised.

    And yet, the Tennessee Attorney General issued a statement back in August, around the time of Camden's birth, telling parents in the Volunteer State that their only options for baby naming are mom's last name, dad's last name, or a hyphenated option.

    But is this really fair?

    A mom's last name doesn't reflect the father's involvement. A father's last name doesn't reflect the mother's (especially not if mom kept her maiden name -- as Sarubbi did), and a hyphenated name can become cumbersome for a child, especially when the parents' surnames are long like the parents in this case. The latter can become an even bigger issue when two crazy kids with hyphenated last names meet, fall in love, and decide to make kids of their own. Then what happens? Do we require a kid to become Susie Jones-Smith-Johnson-Schmidt?


    The fact of the matter is last names have been "made up" for centuries, often by our own government. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants reportedly had their last names "Americanized" when they came through spots like Ellis Island and met inspectors who either could not understand them or did not care. Other folks made the changes themselves, often to assimilate better (or so they thought) into the culture.

    In the case of the Sabr children, isn't that what's happening? Their parents aren't going to saddle them with a mouthful like Sarubbi-Abramson, and instead are trying to give them something easy to spell, pronounce, and fit on a lifetime of government forms. They're trying to make them assimilate into modern America, where it's become increasingly common for parents to have different last names.

    Instead of giving them a hard time, the State of Tennessee might remember that, more often than not, parents know what's best for their kids.

    What is your feeling on "made up" last names for kids?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    mom reading to her daughter

    Chapter books. Two words that are harder on parents than one would expect. Sure, we're proud when our kids "graduate" from picture books, but all too soon we know they won't need us to come into their bedrooms at night for a bedtime story.

    I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to give up that special time at night without a fight. And according to the experts, you shouldn't either. Even when your kiddo is zooming through chapter books, it turns out they still need Mom or Dad to read to them at night.

    "As children become proficient readers, they begin to place an emphasis on comprehension. While this is extremely important, children may overlook proper reading expression," explains Laura Bailet, PhD, operational vice president of the Reading Bright Start! program at Nemours Children's Health System.

    More From The Stir: 10 Fun, Fabulous Book Characters That Every Little Girl Should Meet

    That's why it's crucial for parents to continue reading aloud to their bookworms.

    "As a parent or caregiver, reading aloud continues to provide a model for good reading practices in fluency, inflection, and rhyming," Bailet explains. "It also serves as a great opportunity to introduce new words/meanings and texts beyond their reading level."

    Makes sense, doesn't it? And yet, some two thirds of parents of kids 8 and under admit they don't read to their children every night.

    If your child bristles at the idea of being read to, Bailet suggests a little role reversal. Let your child read to you, and ask them questions about the author's purpose in including certain storylines or characters. Query them on unfamiliar words and discuss important topics. You can also try switching back and forth between parent and child from chapter to chapter or night to night.

    Still struggling to keep bedtime stories fresh and exciting (hey, you've been doing this for years!)? Maybe this will help: The Stir asked parents, teachers, and even a few librarians to suggest the very best chapter books for reading aloud to kids and to explain why they're worth adding to your kids' bookshelves (or at least hitting the library for a copy).

    Some tackle tough subject matter that's best for kids to encounter with a little adult guidance (although they're all kid-appropriate). Some have historical references that might need to be explained to kids. And some? Well they're just plain fun to read out loud!

    chapter books to read aloud to kids

    Have you read #18 to your kids yet? Which is your favorite?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Gwyneth Paltrow

    Gwyneth Paltrow is nothing if not a lightning rod for criticism. Apple and Moses' mother need only open her mouth for the attacks to begin, and let's face it: it's hard not to scoff at a woman who coins pretentious phrases just to avoid admitting she's getting divorced like the peons. But the latest flap over Paltrow dubbing herself a working mother has little to do with the actress herself and much to do with the way moms in America are divided.

    Paltrow used the words to describe herself at a Democratic National Committee Fundraiser about equal pay, citing her status as a "working mother" as reason the cause is close to her heart. Fox News' Greta Van Susteren responded with a scathing blog post calling Paltrow out as a "tone deaf actress" and insisting the mother of two's nannies and million-dollar paycheck make her anything but a "working mom."

    Semantics, anyone? Susteren admits that, technically, Paltrow works and has kids, but then wades into a rant about wealth and assistance that comes off as, well, pretty tone deaf about motherhood:

    Literally she is correct (she is a mother and does movies and gets paid) but she does not get it. She is tone deaf!

    I don’t know about you, but I do not define ‘working mother’ as a woman with nannies and who makes millions of dollars each year. That just is not a ‘working mother to me.’

    I appreciate that she wants women to have equal pay for equal work — I agree with that of course — but a woman with nannies (or who can easily afford them) and millions of dollars just is not a ‘working mother’ to me.

    Yes, Greta, most working mothers in America do not have millions of dollars. But let's face facts: all mothers are in different situations.

    Some of us stay at home. Some of us stay at home and babysit the occasional kid for a little extra cash. Some of us stay at home and work. Some of us work outside of the home. Some of us have family members to chip in as caregivers. Some take kids to a daycare center. Some have a stay-at-home spouse. Some have nannies. Some cobble together a system by which we work odd hours and never see our partners so someone is always with the child.

    More From The Stir: I Feel Guilty Leaving Work for My Kid

    Does that mean we are different people at our core? That our worries and concerns about our children are different or less or better, depending on our situation?

    Does having a nanny make someone less worried that their kid will get bullied at school? Does having family members who watch their kids mean a mom gets to complain less about missing out on the school play because she has to work?

    Of course not.

    And splitting hairs like this does nothing more than pit mom against mom, make some moms feel "less than" because of the way their lives work.

    Clearly Paltrow is at the center of this attack because A) she spoke at a Democratic event, and van Susteren is a conservative TV pundit, and B) she has made some rather silly comments in the past that make her an easy target.

    But cutting a mother down for having advantages doesn't pull up moms who don't have them. And this notion that women like Gwynnie aren't "working mothers" simply because they have some privileges that others do not is -- unfortunately -- a pervasive issue in the trenches of the so-called mommy wars.

    We see it in the park, where mothers try to play the "who's got it worse game" and on the Internet where mothers deride others for their choices and, yes, their privileges.

    It comes from both sides. On the one hand, you have some (not all) stay-at-home moms knocking working mothers for not sacrificing enough to stay home. On the other, you have working mothers telling the stay-at-home moms not to complain because at least they don't have to work. And then there are the myriad insults in between, all boiling down to: "I have it the worst, and I don't care what you say, because I'm not listening, nanny, nanny, boo, boo."


    Motherhood is hard. And it's made harder by the incessant need to break each other down to build ourselves up.

    Fact: some moms have advantages others do not. Some have the ability to be at home with their kids all the time and not have to worry about paying the bills. They're still moms.

    More From The Stir: 8 Reasons Being a Working Mom Is Good for Your Kid

    Some work but have plenty of money and freedom to make choices about when to take on a job or when they can bring their kids with them. They're still moms.

    We don't "turn off the mother" in us based on our circumstances -- financial or otherwise. Not even Gwyneth Paltrow.

    What do you think the definition of "working mother" is?


    Image via @Parisa/Splash News

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Zoe Saldana

    The good news just keeps on rolling in for Zoe Saldana. First there was the actress' pregnancy announcement, right slam bang in the middle of promotion for her blockbuster flick, Guardians of the Galaxy. Then the news that she and husband Marco Perego were expecting twins. And now? The gender of Saldana's twins is out.

    Word has it the Book of Life star is having ... two -- count 'em, two -- boys!

    More From The Stir: 13 Surprising Scientific Facts About Boys

    How cool! That house will be absolutely brimming with snips, snails, and puppy dog tails pretty soon if the wives' tales are to be believed.

    Of course, not everyone wants to know the sex of their baby before delivery, but when you're having twins, it's got to make it a whole lot easier to plan. And having twins of the same sex has to make that planning a tad easier. Your kiddos can share much of the clothing and anything else that's typically gender specific, cutting the cost (if not the stress) back a tad. 

    Meanwhile it seems carrying boys makes Saldana crave some cupcakes -- the actress Instagrammed a photo of a Magnolia Bakery (you know, the place made famous by Sex and the City?) bag with a caption that read: "Absolutely obsessed with #MagnoliasBakery - of course lately I have my reasons, but #WTF! It's just so good."

    Did you find out the sex of your baby before delivery? Why or why not?


    Image via Pacific Coast News

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.


    Oh Pink. Just when we didn't think we could love her any more, the "Just Give Me a Reason" singer comes out with a funny parenting story on The Ellen Show to make us fall even more head over heels. Turns out Pink's daughter, 3 1/2-year-old Willow, has a bit of a potty mouth.

    And her mama thinks it's pretty darn cute. Just get a load of her talking to Ellen DeGeneres about Willow dropping the f-bomb:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.


    Go ahead and judge her if you must (because, Internet ... ), but it IS pretty darn cute when little kids curse. And gosh darnit, it's nice to hear from a mom who can just laugh about her kid not being perfect all the time. 

    Think about it ... they, themselves, are cute. The words they're saying are ridiculous. And when you put the two together, well ... it's normal to get a fit of the giggles, or at least to have to cough a few times to make sure you don't let your kid hear you guffaw.

    More from The Stir: 25 Fake Swears Parents Use in Front of the Kids

    Of course, you then have to deal with all the aftermath of teaching them that some words are not appropriate for them to say and all that fun stuff. Parenting, right? Sigh.

    Pink admits right here that she's not encouraging Willow to curse ... it just ... happened. But if you can't laugh and just appreciate how goofy kids are the first time your toddler curses, then you need to lighten up a little bit!

    What is the first curse word your child ever said? How did you react?


    Image via The Ellen Show/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    egg freezing

    It's being hailed as a win for women. Tech giants Facebook and Apple are now offering egg freezing as an employer-covered employee benefit, making them the first major employers in America to offer the service for non-medical reasons. Yay! A chance for women to have their career cake and take a bite out of motherhood too! What's not to love?

    Well, for starters, how about the very fact that women are forced to delay motherhood in order to get a solid footing in the work world because of backward policies that lag behind most other industrialized nations?

    More From The Stir: I Feel Guilty Leaving Work for My Kid

    According to statistics from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the US Family Medical Leave Act -- the umbrella under which maternity coverage falls -- is only applicable to 60 percent of our work force. Then that 60 percent gets broken down even further. Only one quarter of US employers offer fully paid maternity leave (for any length of time), and one-fifth of US companies offer absolutely no leave ... paid or unpaid.

    Of 21 industrialized nations reviewed by the Center for Economic Policy Research, the US is one of only two that guarantee mothers NO paid time off after birth (Australia is the other). 

    And of course, women still face a 22 percent gender wage gap. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, female full-time workers made only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2013. Meanwhile, childcare costs in America have nearly doubled since the late 1990s (even when you take inflation into account), and in every region of the United States, average child care fees for an infant in a child care center are higher than the average amount that families spent on food. Is it any wonder the overwhelming burden of paying for childcare alone drives women out of the workforce, creating the very issues of delayed career that this egg-freezing policy is being hailed for addressing?

    More From The Stir: 8 Reasons Being a Working Mom Is Good for Your Kid

    And yet, instead of addressing these critical issues, we're celebrating the fact that companies are now paying for women to go through a painful procedure so they can work harder and delay their motherhood dreams even longer?

    To that point, it also must be noted that egg freezing is not easy on a woman. It requires at least a week of daily injections of fertility drugs that cause your hormones to go haywire, plus going under sedation (always risky) for a harvesting process. Afterward, there are all the side effects that come with having had a surgery -- pain, limitations on exercise, etc. That's just one cycle. Typically doctors will call for multiple cycles in order to get "enough" eggs to ensure they have enough viable candidates for IVF down the road.

    The financial burden may be covered by an employer, but the emotional and physical ones lay heavy on a woman. And we're supposed to cheer that this will ensure women aren't driven off the career path by motherhood?

    When women could simply be given better job security via parental leave policies that are akin to the rest of the industrialized world? When our nation could treat childcare like it is treated in most of Europe, where it's provided through publicly funded programs, often free of charge?

    If major corporations want to really provide for their female employees, they could guarantee paid maternity leave for mothers -- a move that studies show is beneficial not just to moms but to employers and to the nation as a whole as moms who have paid maternity leave and a job to return to are both less likely to end up on public assistance and more likely to return to the workplace.

    If they really want to provide for female employees, they could use the sort of monies they'd put into an egg-freezing plan and create subsidies for childcare.

    If they really want to provide for female employees, they could provide sick days to the 38 percent of private sector workers who have none, forcing many of the 80 percent of moms who take time off every year to care for their sick child to go without pay.

    One third of all parents in America with a child under 6 currently fear losing their jobs if they take even one day off to care for a sick child. If they really want to provide for female employees, companies could enhance workplace flexibility, taking advantage of technologies that allow the American worker to work from home, especially on days when a child is sick.

    On the other hand, if a corporation really wants to show its female employees that they're valued, they can end the practice of constantly changing schedules, providing working mothers with consistent schedules around which they can plan for childcare.

    It's time America -- and American employers -- stop treating motherhood and mothers like a barnacle on the underside of a ship to be scraped off and dealt with via ineffective and often callous methods. It's time motherhood is recognized as what it is: the creation of our next generation of Americans and American workers.

    Even child-free-by-choice CEOs start out as children with mothers who gave them a start in life. Shouldn't that start be the best one we can possibly give? Not one that has to be delayed because it's inconvenient to the rest of the world?

    What do you think employers should be providing? Egg freezing? Daycare? What?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    homeworkOK, show of hands: who helps their kid with homework? Come on, 'fess up! A national survey conducted in 2013 found some 60 percent of parents struggle with their kids' homework, which means a whole lot of us are pitching in. Maybe pitching in a little too much. Like this dad who got caught red-handed by his kid's teacher ... and posted her smack-down on Reddit.

    The father, who goes by chestypants12 on Reddit (we can't make this stuff up, people), was helping his son with a word scramble when he supplied a word that most little kids probably don't know. Check it out:

     dad caught

    Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

    Oh, who are we kidding? It's happened. I'm not one of those moms who does her kid's homework, and I know it shows (see also poorly formed clay models of army ants in the third grade diorama). I do, however, know what it's like when the kid is sitting there whining that they can't figure #10 out and they reeeeeaally need help. Saying no is ... challenging?

    More From The Stir: My Third Grader's Homework Is Too Hard for Me

    But a little word to the wise: staying strong is for the best. Not only can you avoid the red-penned note of derision from your kid's teacher, but you'll be raising a smarter kid in the long run. One who actually knows to go back and look at their vocab list to figure out which word is which.

    'Fess up: what's your worst homework helping sin?


    Images via © iStock.com/Michael Luhrenberg; Reddit

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