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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.

    Ashton Kutcher Conan O'BrienAshton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have gotten a lot of flack for their daughter's "unusual" baby name. Folks have said baby Wyatt Isabelle is going to scare parents off of naming their boys Wyatt because (in a nutshell) what celebrities do with their babies becomes a "rule" for everyone else.

    So you may be wondering why the heck the celebrity couple gave their little girl a name most commonly associated with boys. Was it a grand plan to subvert some sexist practices? An "eff you" to the establishment? Not. So. Much.

    Papa Ashton showed up on Conan O'Brien's show this week and admitted naming baby Wyatt was ... a fluke:

    I just started listing off anything and everything that I saw. ... Then I was like, "All right I've got a really dumb idea. What about Wyatt?"

    Apparently Mila said yes, and, well, the rest is history! Wait, Ashton says it better:

    [code][/code]

    Sorry to all the folks who thought there was some deeper meaning there! But let's be real here for a second: this happens a LOT more than you'd think. You argue and argue and argue and then one name just ... works!

    What name "worked" for you?

     

    Image via Team Coco


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    sick childTurn on the TV news, and chances are you'll hear a lot about Ebola. What parents aren't hearing about -- and should be paying attention to -- is a strange illness with polio-like symptoms that's hitting American children. Called "acute flaccid myelitis," the disease is cropping up in kids across the United States, and it has CDC doctors mystified.

    So what is acute flaccid myelitis, or AFP? According to the CDC, it's a disease causing paralysis, mostly in kids, that's similar to that experienced by polio patients. Or what WOULD be experienced by polio patients if America hadn't been polio-free since 1979 (thanks to vaccines).

    The term acute is used because it comes on suddenly, and flaccid comes from what it does to the limbs -- making them weak.

    Some -- but not all -- patients with the condition have shown symptoms after first doing battle with enterovirus, the other disease making its way through the pediatric population in America at the moment. Although AFP is not new, it's possible the spike in kids showing symptoms could be related to enterovirus ... but again, doctors aren't sure!

    More From The Stir: Enterovirus vs. Cold vs. Allergies: How to Tell Which Your Kid Is Suffering From

    So how many kids has this affected? Hard to tell. Ten kids were hospitalized in just about one month in Colorado -- from August 9 to late September. Other figures say about 57 kids have been sickened in total in America, but it's hard to tell if that's accurate. The CDC reports note that acute flaccid myelitis has not been a "reportable" disease in any American state -- meaning kids could have it, but there was no reason for doctors to notify their state health departments. That changed in late September. The CDC is now asking all health care workers to report AFP cases so they can get to the bottom of this scare.

    As for parents? The CDC has this advice to keep kids safe:

    1. Make sure your kids are up-to-date on all their vaccines, including polio, influenza, measles, and whooping cough.

    2. Make sure your kids wash their hands frequently, but especially before touching food and after going to the bathroom.

    3. If your child displays "problems walking or standing or develops sudden weakness in an arm or leg," go to your doctor immediately.

    Have your children been sick this fall? What was it? 

     

    Image © iStock.com/RapidEye


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Hugh HefnerWhen you have a new baby, you can't wait to show the little one off to your nearest and dearest. Kendra Wilkinson Baskett is no different. The former Playboy bunny gave birth to baby Alijah this past spring, and she just couldn't wait to show her off. Of course, when you're Kendra, your nearest and dearest are a little on the ... different side. You know where this is going, don't you?

    Yup ... Kendra Wilkinson took her two kids to the Playboy mansion so she could introduce her baby girl to Hugh Hefner. Even more surprising? Hugh Hefner is actually kind of adorable with a baby. Check out the clip from her show, Kendra On Top:

    [code] [/code]

    Hugh Hefner coos at babies! And it's not totally creepy! Who knew?

    More From The Stir: Kendra Wilkinson Shares First Photo of Her Sweet Baby Girl

    Not that Moms should be lining up at the doors to the Playboy Mansion with their babies in their arms, of course, but we all have that one creepy relative who we're not so sure is really a great role model to have around our kids ... but sometimes they surprise us.

    But then, looking at a baby, it's hard not to want to be on your best behavior.

    Who in your family were you surprised to see actually react well to your baby?

     
     

    Image via Kendra On Top


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    scary halloweenEvery year there's a debate over parents dressing their kids up in Halloween costumes that aren't terribly appropriate for kids. But there are kid costumes that aren't terribly kid-friendly and then there are kid costumes that are just plain terrible. The Ray Rice domestic violence costume that popped up on Instagram this week falls decidedly in category number two.

    The photo that's made the rounds of the Internet shows an unidentified child dressed in the disgraced Ravens running back's jersey. That would be disturbing enough, considering the video of Rice allegedly beating wife Janay that got him booted from the NFL makes him anything but an appropriate role model for children, but there's more. In the child's hand is a doll, which he seems to be dragging by the hair. Take a look:

    More From The Stir: Halloween Costumes for Little Girls Scare This Mom to Death

    [code]

    Yesterday - Little Kid Goes As #RayRice For Halloween #smh#cps http://t.co/tuLwBtdiCm… … pic.twitter.com/zlYI9cfeO5

    — Terez Owens (@TerezOwens) October 27, 2014
    [/code]

    Disgusting.

    Making light of domestic violence is never appropriate. But somehow having a child do so is even worse.

    Some folks are saying that this child likely doesn't know the whole Rice story, and that may be (heck, we hope so), but in instructing this child to drag the doll by its hair, the parents have taught this child that it's "OK" to treat a human being that way. After all, dolls are typically stand-ins for humans. Kids play act with them, and we direct them on proper treatment. To tell a kid specifically to "drag this doll by its hair" may not be the same as telling a kid to do so with a person, but it's pretty darn close.

    More From The Stir: 7 Inappropriate Baby Halloween Costumes

    What's more, this kid is going to look back at photos from Halloween and start to ask questions. Who is Ray Rice? What's with the doll? How do you explain that to your child without glorifying domestic violence? You can't.

    This costume also speaks to the entire culture the child is being raised in. If the parents think domestic violence is funny, then what messages are they sending their child every other day of the year about the treatment of women? About the treatment of other human beings?

    We shudder to think ...

    What is the worst Halloween costume you've seen on a kid?

     

    Image © iStock.com/Petoo


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Sexy Mom Halloween CostumesEvery Halloween, thousands of moms climb the front steps of porches around the country with their kids only to be asked, "What are you dressed as this year, Mom?" Because being a Mom who drags her kids around town for two hours and then deals with them being up until midnight on a sugar high isn't good enough? Harumph! But wait, there may be another option. Enter ... the Sexy Mom Halloween costume!

    Because what's sexier than the woman who drives the carpool, makes lunch, and delouses the lice-ridden elementary schooler? That's the thought Suzanne Fleet, the hilarious mom blogger behind Toulouse & Tonic, had when she started noticing that just how ridiculously far costume makers go to "sex up" Halloween.

    "There's no getting away from 'sexy' versions of anything and everything! I saw a Sexy Ebola Nurse costume this week," Fleet told The Stir. "The skirts are short, there's cleavage ...

    "But the funniest part of the sexy costumes to me are the photos," she added. "All the models are giving porn faces. 'Oh, I'm so surprised -- how did that camera get there.' And 'Don't mind me, I'm just seductively licking this soda off my finger.' And then it came to me. What would be my sexy 'mom' costume and how would I pose? It was like a eureka moment. "

    More From The Stir: Parents Dress Little Boy as Accused Wife Beater Ray Rice for Halloween (PHOTOS)

    Fleet turned to other mom bloggers to help her create a series of "sexy mom Halloween costumes," each with a photo more ridiculous than the last. The results were a hilarious collection of moms dressed up as "50 Shades of Laundry," "In the Line of Doody: Potty Training Mom," and more.

    And then ... it went viral. Moms everywhere aren't just laughing but creating their own sexy mom shots.

    "It's obviously touched something in people because the response has been overwhelming," she noted. "There have been a few comments like 'horrible' and 'sexist,' but honestly, most of them seem to have been from men who clicked through looking for actual sexy costumes (LMAO) or people who just don't get satire. Far and away, most people get it and have loved it."

    Fleet herself is a going to be dressed as Buttercup from The Princess Bride (her 2-year-old is Westley!), which means these costumes are still available ... check 'em out (and check out her Facebook page after Halloween for more hilarious holiday photos).

    #4 is hysterical! Would you dare?

     

    Image via Toulouse & Tonic


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Lena DunhamWhen actress and director Lena Dunham was accused this weekend of outing herself as a sexual predator in her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, her response was one many a mother has thought over the years. Dunham says she was not molesting her younger sister when she took a peek inside 1-year-old Grace's vagina. She was just a "weird 7-year-old." Is it any wonder her mother, Laurie Simmons, didn't fluster when one of her daughters told her the other had something in her private parts?

    Yet that's what seems to have gotten the folks at Truth Revolt, a conservative website claiming Dunham abused her sister, truly upset about the Girls' star's book. Take a look:

    More From The Stir: My Daughter Can Call Her Vagina Whatever She Darn Well Pleases

    One day, as I sat in our driveway in Long Island playing with blocks and buckets, my curiosity got the best of me. Grace was sitting up, babbling and smiling, and I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina. She didn’t resist and when I saw what was inside I shrieked.

    My mother came running. “Mama, Mama! Grace has something in there!”

    My mother didn’t bother asking why I had opened Grace’s vagina. This was within the spectrum of things I did. She just on her knees and looked for herself. It quickly became apparent that Grace had stuffed six or seven pebbles in there. My mother removed them patiently while Grace cackled, thrilled that her prank had been a success.

    According to Truth Revolt, which shared this excerpt under a heading that claims "Lena Dunham Describes Sexually Abusing Her Little Sister," this is the "most disturbing" passage in Dunham's book.

    Way to (try to) throw every mother in America into fear mode, TruthRevolt!

    But what's truly telling about this excerpt isn't what Lena did but how Simmonsreacted. She didn't fly off the handle at her daughter for being a child. She investigated and dealt with the actual situation at hand: her older child curiously investigated her sister's body; her younger child stuffing something into her body as kids are wont to do (in ears, in noses, in vaginas ...)

    According to the folks at the Safer Society Foundation, a non-profit that's dedicated to ending sexual violence, the following are all NORMAL behaviors for kids ages 6 to 12: 

    Questions about relationships and sexual behavior, menstruation and pregnancy. Experimentation with same-age children, often during games, kissing, touching, exhibitionism and role-playing. Private self stimulation. u ncommon: Adult-like sexual interactions, discussing specific sexual acts or public self stimulation.

    Sound familiar?

    What Lena has described is within the realm of normal child development, and her mom's reaction was spot on.

    Mothers know our kids. We know when something is "off," and when something is just a child being a child.

    And how we respond makes all the difference. We don't want to scare our kids off of being curious or make them uncomfortable with the human body. We need to teach them boundaries, certainly, but we can do that without treating normal child-like behavior as a sign of deviancy.

    More From The Stir: When Toddlers 'Touch Themselves': How to Handle It

    The fact is, yes, children can sexually abuse other children. But it's exceedeeingly rare.

    What's not rare is for children to be curious about the way the world -- including the human body -- works. Often that means investigating on siblings, cousins, or little friends. As parents, it's up to us to then step in and have a talk about privacy and private parts, to tell kids that they need to respect their siblings (cousins, little friends, etc.). If something does feel off, then we certainly should take our kids to a specialist for help, but at the end of the day, we have to remember that our kids are usually just being ... kids.

    Has your kid ever pulled a "weird 7-year-old" stunt like Dunham's? How did you respond?

     

    Image via Allan Bregg / Splash News

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    stay at home momAmerica, we have a problem. President Barack Obama was giving a speech in Rhode Island recently when he let slip that stay-at-home moms end up earning lower wages when they return to the workplace because of the decision to stay home with the kids. Anyone seeing the problem here? Anyone?

    The conservatives are saying it's that the commander in chief has no respect for mothers because, holy moley, he said something negative about women staying home with their kids. Which is a load of hogwash. No, really. Just take a gander at what the president actually said:

    Sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.

    An attack on stay-at-home-moms?

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

    Nope. A commentary on the fact that women are penalized for being mothers? Absolutely.

    Here's a fast fact for you: only one third of American adults say it's best for kids if mom doesn't work outside the home at all. The rest of them say a mom should be able to work -- whether it's part-time or full-time. And when Working Mother surveyed stay-at-home moms, they found more than half would prefer to be working.

    So why are women staying at home full-time? Eighty-five percent of married moms who are staying at home say it's because of childcare concerns (including costs), and 64 percent of cohabitating moms said the same. And no wonder when childcare costs the average family MORE than the cost of food! What's more, in a Pew survey, some 6 percent of moms were at home not because they wanted to be but because they were unemployed.

    Simply put: staying home is NOT a choice for many moms. And yet, staying home does cost a mom -- literally. 

    While becoming a father was recently shown to up your earning potential by some 40 percent in a City University of New York study, the same study showed a 49 percent wage gap between the sexes. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that time out of the work world will not only reduce the amount you're paying into the social security system (and will eventually, hopefully, recoup) but also reduces the time spent climbing the ladder ... and the salary chain.

    What's more, being a mother means having a harder time FINDING a job. A study at Cornell University found that mothers are rated significantly less competent and committed than child-free folks, receive about $11,000 less in starting salary offers, and make about 5 percent less per child. Oh, and less than half of moms get callback interviews as compared to folks who don't have kids.

    Still think Obama is just being a meanie who is attacking mothers?

    The fact is, moms should be able to choose between staying at home or working. Absolutely.

    They shouldn't, however, be forced into staying at home because of outrageous childcare costs or be discriminated against if they do choose to stay at home.

    Check out the president's speech:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Do you work or stay at home? Why did you choose what you're currently doing?

     

    Image via © iStock.com/SolStock

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Jennifer Lopez kidsOn the surface, Jennifer Lopez is an American success story. Raised by a poor family that scrimped and saved to send their three girls to Catholic school, Lopez has worked her way to a successful singing and acting career, producer credits, and a net worth said to be in the ballpark of $315 million. But Lopez is the first one to say she's made mistakes, and she's determined to make sure son Max and daughter Emme don't make the same ones.

    In her new memoir, True Love, Lopez credits her now 6-year-old twins with saving her life, even as she reveals a paralyzing lack of self-esteem that dragged her through three marriages and subsequent divorces and a very public broken engagement from actor Ben Affleck. What was missing all those years?

    Turns out it was love ... but not the romantic kind.

    The Stir sat down with Lopez to find out how loving her children helped her even as she divorced their father, Marc Anthony, what kind of kids she hopes she's raising, and why she's not a "hoverer" as a mom.

    On why she says her kids "saved" her:
    If it wasn't for me having children -- I waited a long time to have children -- it really changed my whole perspective on love, life, the world, and made me a better person. It helped me grow.

    They made me re-examine life and love. Because I love them so much, because of the unconditional feeling you have for a child, because of the feeling I had for my children when they were born immediately -- and how I wanted to protect them and take care of them -- it showed me what love should feel like, what it's like in its purest form.

    More From The Stir: Alyssa Milano on 'Project Runway,' Helicopter Moms & Having 2 Kids

    That made me re-examine some of the relationships in my life and what I had been doing for a very long time and what I had been accepting as true love. They made me realize if I didn't take care of myself and love myself in the way that I love them, then how could I ever have a great relationship? You have to love yourself before you can share that with somebody else.

    On finding strength as a single mom:
    It's not that you don't want their dad in their life. You do, but you just want to feel like it's not that you're not enough. You ARE. You can be whole on your own.

    On not letting her kids make her mistakes:
    I want to give them a sense of self, that they're good on their own, no matter what, that whoever comes along is supposed to add to their love and happiness that already exists inside of them. That's my main goal as a mom.

    That's what I struggled with, that's what I learned in my 40s. I want them to know it from now.

    On what kind of mom she is:
    I'm just a very loving mom who wants them to be aware of the world around them. I want to teach them by example. I work hard; you have to work hard. 

    I try to be charitable, so they know they have to be charitable because they're growing up more privileged than I was. I want them to be loving, I want them to be generous, I want them to be kind.

    True Love Jennifer LopezI want to raise a good man who respects women in my son. I want to raise a woman who's independent and her own keeper but still capable of sharing that love when the right person comes along and knows how to treat her.

    I'm not a hoverer. Obviously I work a lot, so I have to kind of let go. Sometimes I worry about the silly things -- I was telling my nanny a few days ago, "Just watch that they don't hit their heads! Max is doing the jumping thing now."

    I'm awake thinking, GOD, I hope he doesn't bang his head! But you have to kind of let go and say, "I know they're going to be OK, everything's going to be fine." You have to believe and have faith that they have angels too.

    On not letting her daughter be affected by how the media focuses on Mom's body:
    When I grew up, I grew up with a bunch of Puerto Rican women, so our bodies were what they were. There was never any shame in anything. I noticed that about my mom. It was always, "This one has a big butt," or "This one's chunky," but nothing was ever talked about in a negative way.

    Fat wasn't bad. Skinny wasn't bad. It was all fine.

    I think that's how you have to be -- not put ideas in their head of what's better than the other, just "you're fine." Just be healthy, take care of yourself.

    I'm more worried about her eating right, knowing what it is to eat healthy, knowing what it is to take care of yourself and exercise and not be caught behind a computer. Be very well balanced is more my focus with her. I know she will have influences in the outside world, like people picking her apart, but hopefully she'll be like me, because of how I was raised, that stuff doesn't bother me.

    I know that I'm more than that, and I hope to give her that sense right now.

    On what she hopes her kids see when they look back at her book and her life:
    They help make me better. Their love saved me and they understand that last night in the book, that's the key to life. That's one of the major things you need to know. If you love yourself, you'll be able to take good care of yourself. That's all I want for them: when I can't take care of them anymore, they take care of themselves, that they love themselves enough to take care of themselves and that they helped teach me that.

    What mistakes from your past are you working to prevent your kids from repeating? 

     

    Images via Ana Carballosa; Penguin Random House


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    kids playing soccerWhen I signed my kid up for soccer at 4 years old, I did it with full knowledge that she was joining a league that gives every kid a turn and every kid a trophy. And despite having been raised in the '80s, long before kids were taught that they're all unique, special rainbows, I was fine with that. They're just kids. Shouldn't they learn that the idea is to have fun, not be the "best"?

    I think that. Most of the other parents in our "everyone's equal" AYSO league think that. But it's not the message society is sending our kids.

    Take a child in a sports uniform anywhere but the field (or diamond), and the first words out of an adult's mouth are, "Did you win?"

    My daughter has been asked this in the grocery store, in restaurants, and at gas stations. The questions generally come from strangers, but not always.

    Either way, they set my teeth on edge. How does one teach a child, "it doesn't matter who wins or loses as long as you all have fun," in a society obsessed with winning?

    More From The Stir: How to Keep 'I Quit' Out of Your Kids' Sports Playbook

    How does one teach a child there is nothing "wrong" with "losing" a game so long as you tried your hardest if people always want to know about the winner? Because that's a secondary message you send a child when you ask if they won their game: that it's not OK to lose.

    I don't care if my daughter wins a game. Maybe it's because I'm not nearly as dedicated to sports as my husband, who has not only coached (or assistant coached) our daughter's team the last five years running, but is also a blogger for an English "football" team.

    Or maybe it's because I have no delusions that my child is the next Mia Hamm or Brandi Chastain. She enjoys soccer, certainly, and asks every summer to attend soccer camp to enhance her skills, but I signed her up for the sport more because I wanted her to be forced to actually share with other kids (she was only 4 her first year, after all), to try to kick-start a life-long love of exercise, and to give her some socialization time with other children her age.

    It's worked. She loves soccer the way a 9-year-old should. She has fun kicking a ball around the yard, and she doesn't get stressed out when the ball comes into her team's goal more times than it does the other team's.

    She rolls with the punches -- at least on the soccer field (what happens over homework is another matter).

    The fact is, even if she had the sort of talent that could take her to the Olympics, I would still want her to be a child for as long as possible. Hers is a generation of kids being forced to grow up even faster than any before it, and I want her to hold on as long as possible to fun and frippery, because the big world out here is scary.

    And young children, children her age, don't "need" to win. They "need" to do their best and enjoy themselves.

    So, isn't winning fun? Don't kids love to get the higher score?

    Sure they do. But when researchers sat down and rated what actually makes sports enjoyable for kids, they found that "winning" ranked 48th on kids' lists: which means there were 47 OTHER things that ranked higher, including good coaching and trying hard. And of late there has been a lot of pushback from both the medical and coaching communities about how hard parents are pushing kids -- and the drawbacks.

    It's these sort of parents I'm up against ... and the sort of folks who make comments in the supermarket.

    I understand that these adults are showing an interest in a little girl, and I'm sure folks will tell me that I should be grateful for that. But I'm not asking them to ignore my child. I'm asking them to consider what it is they're asking before they ask it.

    There are plenty of questions that come to mind -- not related to winning:

    Who did you play today?

    What position do you play?

    DID YOU HAVE FUN TODAY?

    All questions that are innocent, harmless, get a child talking, and yet steer clear of the sticky topic. They're questions, too, that focus less on the outcome of the game and more on the game itself.

    Because that's what we parents are hoping our kids are learning about: the intricacies of playing a game ... and having fun while doing it.

    Do people ask your little athlete "did you win?" How do you react?

     

    Image via Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    autismEvery year, it seems, the CDC comes out with a new warning about the number of autism diagnoses in America. In the past few years alone, we've gone from one in 110 kids being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder to one in 88 and now one in 68. So what's going on? Is it something in the air? The water? Is it pesticides or BPA?

    Or is it something much simpler -- and much easier for parents to swallow? Could it just be that doctors have gotten better at diagnosing and reporting kids with autism spectrum disorders?

    That's what researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark think is happening. In a study published in JAMA Pediatrics this month, the researchers contend the hike in autism rates in that country is due in no small part to better diagnosing and reporting by doctors.

    More From The Stir: 10 Quotes About Autism That Go Beyond Awareness & Into Acceptance (PHOTOS)

    And while they only looked at Danish kids with autism, it only stands to reason that this would translate to the diagnosing and reporting practices in other developed countries.

    Here in the US, for example, studies have shown the increase in autism awareness has translated to parents taking their kids in to the doctor earlier and getting earlier diagnoses (and early intervention services that can help their kids greatly). And researchers at Stanford posited in 2011 that kids who were once being diagnosed as "mentally retarded" are now getting better -- more accurate -- diagnoses somewhere on the spectrum, meaning doctors are doing better by children.

    Last year, the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the Bible for clinicians released by the American Psychiatric Association), also grouped disorders once considered "separate" from autism onto the spectrum -- which had to have an affect on the number of diagnoses of kids "with autism."

    It all leads parents back to the conclusion the Danish researchers made in their study: there likely aren't that many more kids with autism. There are, however, likely more kids with autism who are actually being diagnosed correctly. And that can only be a good thing in terms of getting them the services they need.

    What do you make of this study? Do you think this is the reason autism is on the rise?

     

    Image via © iStock.com/ktaylorg


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Saira BlairFor some teenagers, the freshman year of college is time to finally break free of their parents' rules and par-tay. Not Saira Blair. The 18-year-old freshman at West Virginia University just became America's youngest state lawmaker -- and she ran much of her campaign out of her dorm room.

    The Republican beat Democrat Layne Diehl, garnering 63 percent of the vote to the 44-year-old attorney's 30 percent. Not bad for a kid who only got the right to vote on July 11. Not bad for a kid in a generation often called out for spending too much time on their smartphones and not enough time gaining smarts.

    In her campaign, Blair talked about her youth as an asset, and when you consider the way much of society bemoans "kids these days" and blames millennials for being particular apathetic and irresponsible, it's nice to see the electorate didn't discount her for it. Even though she was 17 during the primaries!

    More From The Stir: 2014 Election Results Are a Disappointment for Women & Families

    In fact, the delegate-elect, whose father is a state senator, pointed out in an interview with Teen Vogue earlier this year that the older generation of politicians wasn't doing anything for the youth -- and it's hurt her state as a whole:

    I don't see how I could possibly hurt anything by being young and coming in with a fresh perspective. West Virginia's population hasn't grown since 1980, and if we continue to stay where we are, we're not going to keep young people in the state.

    Sometimes kids really do know more than the grownups!

    Check this girl out:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Would you let your child run for public office? How old would they have to be for you to encourage them?

     

    Image via Fox News


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    pregnant manThey're rare, but every once in awhile, you hear about a "pregnant man" who is going to deliver a child. The most famous, of course, is Thomas Beattie, a dad who made headlines for carrying three children to term. Beattie is transgender, and much has been made about whether transgender men should get pregnant.

    Finally, science comes to the rescue. A new study out in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology is being called the first of its kind for looking at transgender men who have borne children. And no, it's not just a study of Beattie. There were 41 men in the study, and the docs estimate there could be thousands of trans men getting pregnant every year.

    So what's it like to be a pregnant transgender man in America? The findings were mixed.

    There are reports of increased depression, issues with public perception, and difficulty finding medical practitioners who will care for them. Some were even turned away entirely by doctors when they sought prenatal care.

    Only half of the men surveyed said they had prenatal care. Shocking when you consider how important that is for babies!

    There is some good in there -- while for some trans men feelings of gender dysphoria are increased, that wasn't true for all. And when the admittedly small study looked at those who had used testosterone in their transition process and those who hadn't, they found "no difference" in pregnancy, delivery, or birth outcomes.

    But those outcomes would be a lot better overall if doctors would just treat the patient better from the get-go.

    This study is aimed at giving practitioners better information when they care for transgender men who are pregnant. Hopefully it will mean more -- and better -- care for the babies too.

    What do you think of transgender men getting pregnant?

     

    Image © iStock.com/Bies


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    little girl on scaleI used to worry that having a mother with an eating disorder was going to put my daughter at a disadvantage in this world. For years, I worried that efforts to teach her to love her body rang hollow coming from a woman who has never been able to come to terms with her own. Nine years on, somehow, I've done the impossible: my daughter doesn't use words like "fat" and runs around our house half naked without a second thought.

    But now I'm more afraid than ever. Because now my little girl is fast approaching the tween years and slowly but surely the influences of the outside world are encroaching on the safe bubble her father and I have built. She hears popular songs, sees billboards, fashion ads ... messages everywhere depicting an impossible as the "ideal" woman, thrusting "thinspiration" in her face.

    Try as we might, we can't keep it all out.

    As a mother, it's terrifying.

    Terrifying because we are the parents, we are our children's first teachers, but we are not always enough. Just take a look at a shocking image I saw on Facebook this week, an image of a girl surrounded by ripped out pages from some fashion magazines:

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    The message below in Spanish warns parents about how they talk to their daughters about weight, advising them to only speak of how the body works, not of fats and calories.

    More From The Stir: 7 Truths About Eating Disorders Every Parent Needs to Know

    It's a good message, but if the photo it accompanies tells us anything, it's that what we say is not all that our kids are hearing.

    And you don't have take some slick ad agency's photo as truth. Science will back it up.

    When researchers from Harvard Medical School looked at the rates of eating disorders in girls in Fiji, they found the girls exposed to television were 60 percent more likely to display abnormal eating habits than those without TV. Another study in 2001 determined girls with eating disorders often use fashion magazines as a sort of "how-to" to guide themselves to impossible standards of thinness.

    As a teenage bulimic, I remember reading the likes of YM and Seventeen religiously, and never finding anyone who looked like me on the pages. There was no chubby nerd with frizzy hair and a flat chest.

    So I ate and puked and ate and puked and threw away my babysitting money on all the products promoted on the inside of those magazines promising to give me sleek, sexy locks.

    And at the end of the day, I was a slightly thinner girl with frizzy hair and a flat chest, one who was spending some two hours a day over a toilet bowl.

    It was a long time ago, but it's never left me. Even as a mother of a 9-year-old girl, I slip back into old habits at times and find myself over the toilet bowl, trying to make the hatred for myself go away.

    Despite medicine, despite therapy, I can never go back to those happy go lucky days of my childhood when my body just ... was.

    My daughter still loves herself.

    But for how much longer? How many years, months, weeks, days ... do I have before something breaks?

    According to one study, as much as 9 out of every 10 teenage girls "hates" her body.

    How do we compete with that as mothers and fathers?

    Sure, we can tell our kids (because boys can also have eating disorders, it must be noticed) over and over and over again that they're perfect and beautiful. We can stress healthy eating and exercise until the cows come home. We can -- and have -- ban fashion magazines and their ilk, but we can't outright ban every form of media.

    More From The Stir: 'All About That Bass' Is Sending Dangerous Message to Our Daughters

    The billboards will still be there. The songs will still play as you walk 'round the mall.

    And so all we parents can do is try. Try our best. And hope ... hope for the best.

    What do you tell your daughter about her body?

     
     

    Image via Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    dear santaIn a move that shows it's getting harder and harder to find places where we CAN take our kids, employees at a Dillard's department store at the Mall at Wellington Green, Florida, are in hot water over a sign that appeared in the little girls' clothing department recently. A letter to Santa, the sign asked the jolly man in the red suit to bring a "slim body" this holiday.

    And that's not all. The sign propped up near the young girls' clothing advised Santa not to "mix up" his delivery like he did last year:

    Dear Santa,

    Please give me a big fat bank account and a slim body.

    Please don't mix those two up like you did last year.

    This was in the children's section of a department store ... because what little girl doesn't need to be served up a dose of materialism and an eating disorder while holiday shopping?

    More From The Stir: Image of Little Girl Cutting Her 'Fat' Belly Sends Powerful Message

    Perhaps the most frustrating piece of all of this is that the sign was put up in the children's section. Anywhere else in the store it would have been upsetting -- after all, Santa is an icon of childhood, and the message is not child-appropriate.

    But parents purposely take their kids into the children's section because, well, that's a place for kids! As such, you don't expect to encounter messages -- or signs -- that don't sync with childhood.

    You're supposed to be able to let your guard down in the children's section of a store, not to have to worry about what the kids are going to see or hear, at least not in the way we do in every other corner of the world these days.

    The Dillard's in question has apparently removed the sign after public outcry, but the sad fact remains that it's becoming harder and harder to keep our kids ... kids.

    What do you think of the placement of this sign? Does it upset you?

     

    Image © iStock.com/Stacey Newman


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Alex From TargetIf you haven't heard of Alex From Target, er #AlexFromTarget, yet, allow me to introduce you. Alex Lee is a 16-year-old who went to work at his after-school job one day and -- thanks to a teenage girl who uploaded his photo to Twitter -- became a viral meme.

    The Internet adores him. Ellen DeGeneres has had him on her show.

    And if he were a girl, we would be outraged.

    Oh, sure, there would be plenty of folks out there drooling over a picture of a 16-year-old "Alexandra," the hot checkout girl at the SuperTarget. But mothers of daughters everywhere -- moms like me -- would be outraged that a 16-year-old girl was being objectified by the Internet, reduced to nothing more than a hot piece of ass. We'd call them out for being lewd and rude, and we'd be absolutely within our rights to do so.

    Internet? I'm the mother of a girl, not a boy, and yet ... I'm objecting to the response to "Alex," not "Alexandra," because if I don't, what does it say about how my daughter could be treated?

    Alex Lee seems to be a very nice young man, at least from the profile in The New York Times that dubbed him a "sweet kid." It described his jump from 144 Twitter followers to more than 100,000 (a number that's since gone up five-fold) and the young girls showing up at his workplace to giggle and take his photo.

    But it's not the fact that Alex plays soccer or that he kindly shares his food with his girlfriend that has the paparazzi clamoring, has advertising deals being proffered.

    It's because Alex is -- to quote countless Twitter and Tumblr mentions -- "cute," "adorable," "yuuuuum."

    And as a good feminist and mother both, I object.

    I object to treating a 16-year-old boy -- however willing he might be -- to nothing more than his looks. I object to a world where we're finally (finally!) realizing that our daughters are more than some T&A but still find it OK to treat our boys as such.

    Equality doesn't mean swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction, folks. It means finding the happy medium. And treating a 16-year-old boy like he's nothing more than a sum of his parts is no middle ground. We feminists don't "win" anything when it's a young boy being treated poorly.

    If anything, society loses, because this is what we've done to a child. We've made his looks into something to be celebrated and taught a child (yes, 16 is still childhood in America) that what's inside doesn't matter but what's outside does .... hot damn!

    If we're honest with ourselves, any kid -- even a "hot" 16-year-old boy -- should be off limits. And the #AlexFromTarget meme should bother us too. Because that's what equality means, that's what protecting our kids means.

    Check him out on Ellen -- now imagine he's a girl. What changes?

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

     


    Image via Alex From Target/YouTube


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    baby weightAsk a mom how her new baby is doing, and she's sure to rattle off a series of numbers: baby's weight at birth, baby's weight now, and so on. But a new study claims the way doctors use a baby's weight to determine health may have a major flaw.

    It turns out those growth charts doctors use to tell a mom if her infant is at risk of health complications don't take into account the ethnicity of a baby. Considering genetics play a major role in our body size -- just ask the kid of a 5'3" mom who topped at 5'4" -- the one-size fits all approach to baby weights just doesn't work.

    More From The Stir: Child Growth Charts: What Those Percentiles Really Mean

    When doctors at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto looked at a million babies, they found 16 percent of the babies of Asian immigrants were considered too small for their age based on Western charts. But when those same babies were compared to health charts of babies in Asian countries, 6 percent were perfectly fine!

    And before you write this off as a Canadian problem, it turns out similar studies of the US charts have found the same issue.

    What's the big deal? Doctors put a lot of stock in weights because they help determine how a baby is thriving. Babies considered "too small" are often kept in the NICU, but that could be completely unnecessary and delay mom/baby bonding.

    Not to mention the added stress on new parents. Just ask any mom who has gone to the pediatrician and been told her baby is "failing to thrive" how it feels to see the numbers on that scale!

    But if this study tells us anything, it's that our babies are all different, and the way doctors approach them should be too. So next time your doctor warns you that your baby's weight is a problem, ask if they've taken your family's background into consideration. It could take a major load off your mind.

    How big was your baby at birth? Where did he fall on the charts?

     

    Image © iStock.com/vasina


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Zaundia KlingbielZaundia Klingbeil and husband Enoch were two weeks away from becoming approved as foster parents when the call came. A woman was pregnant, and she wanted to place her child for adoption. Would the Klingbeils be interested in adopting the baby girl?

    After 13 miscarriages, including the loss of twins at 18 weeks gestation, Zaundia Klingbeil said it was God playing a role in her life. She fell to her knees, thankful. But then came the questions: after the medical bills from all those miscarriages and numerous fertility treatments, could the couple afford adoption?

    And then an idea. Zaundia could sell her wedding ring.

    "Material things can't come to the grave," the Fargo, North Dakota, mom tells The Stir. "I told my husband, 'I'd much rather have a hand holding a baby without a sparkle on it than an empty hand with a sparkle on it.'"

    Not an easy decision, but one that's been making waves ever since.

    Zaundia put an ad up on a local garage sale site two weeks ago, and news began to spread. Soon she was getting calls from local media -- and eventually an offer from a local business, High Point Networks, to match donations (up to $8,000) to a GoFundMe site, a site that soon went viral. 

    The Klingbeils are the latest in a wave of would-be parents who have turned to the Internet to help fund their adoption, but it's a choice Zaundia makes clear was not her first choice.

    In fact, adoption was not the couple's original plan. They welcomed son Elias 11 years ago and thought another pregnancy would be easy. But it wasn't. Zaundia's menstrual cycle has never been regular, and in more than a decade since welcoming their first son, they've encountered hurdle after hurdle -- from miscarriages to early deliveries. In March 2011, Zaundia was only 18 weeks pregnant when she delivered sons Ezekiel and Lucas. Both boys died.

    "With all the other miscarriages, it was hard, but I still felt like I was the mom of one," she said. "After we lost the twins, I felt like I was a mom of three but with only one child."

    Although the Klingbeils got pregnant again in 2014 and lost the baby before ever hearing the heartbeat, it was the loss of the twins that Zaundia says was really the last straw.

    Enoch Klingbiel
    "We look at it as if we were able to do that, able to give our children back to God, we obviously have a lot to give," she recalls.

    That's when they started the process to become foster parents, with the hope that they could one day adopt a foster child. "Ultimately, we were just praying that God would give us the right child," Zaundia explains.

    The call for the Klingbeils to adopt couldn't have come at a more complicated time. Not only were they in the midst of the foster care approval process, but they were moving into a new home in Fargo. Still, the call was an answer to their prayers. To protect the privacy of the biological mother, Zaundia will only say that it came from the friend of a mutual friend and that the woman in question is pregnant with a baby girl who has some health issues.

    More From The Stir: 21 Celebrities Who've Adopted Kids

    The Klingbeils had already signed up to foster children with special needs, so that did not present a problem. What did were the finances. Enoch works as a HVAC contractor, and Zaundia had been working at a nursing home, but she had to leave her job to be able to travel at a moment's notice to the delivery of the baby -- which could happen any day now -- and be home with the newborn.

    Adopting a child via an agency could be around $13,000, Zaundia found, and that didn't address the costs of improving their house to meet home study requirements or the various fees of out-of-state adoption. 

    That's when she floated the idea of selling her wedding ring and decided to create an online fundraiser. She get the GoFundMe goal at $8,000, although folks familiar with adoption costs have since told her she should have gone higher. Covering the paperwork for an out-of-state adoption alone is in the neighborhood of $1,500. 

    Funding adoption online is becoming more common, but it isn't a choice that comes without its critics. About 10 percent of people who have visited her GoFundMe site have been negative, Zaundia says.

    "People have asked, 'If you don't have money to adopt, what makes you think you have money to parent?'" she noted.

    Her answer is simple.

    "Just because you make payments on a house doesn't mean you can't be a homeowner. With adoption there isn't a payment plan; it's all up front."

    Besides, whatever monies the GoFundMe draws above and beyond adoption expenses -- including fees such as airfare to travel out of state to the location of the child's birth -- will be put into a fund to cover medical expenses for a girl who Elias has named Elise Grace, names that mean "God's oath" and "gift from God."

    "If we had saved all the money we spent on miscarriage and fertility treatments, we'd probably have enough for two or three adoptions," Zaundia said, "But you never know what's going to happen in life."

    Because of the offer from High Point, Zaundia should be able to keep her wedding ring, and the viral nature of the family's Internet appeal has given them something a little extra: she is printing out the positive comments on the GoFundMe site and on a Facebook page about the adoption and will make a scrapbook for little Elise to read in the years to come.

    "Before she's even born, she's touched so many people," Zaundia says. "I want her to see that."

    What would YOU give up for a child?

     

    Images via Zaundia Klingbeil


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    vaccineIt doesn't matter if they're pro-vaccines or against them, when it comes to shots during pregnancy, many moms are leery. The experts won't let us eat soft cheese or take medicine for a headache, but they expect us to let someone shoot us full of who knows what? Maybe this will help.

    The Journal of the American Medical Association has issued a study that says the Tdap vaccine -- also known as the whooping cough or pertussis vaccine -- is safe for pregnant women. The study looked at more than 123,000 pregnant women in California, 21 percent of whom got their Tdap shot after the Golden State became the first in the country to recommend Tdap be routinely administered during pregnancy back in 2010.

    According to their findings, the shot was not associated with an increased risk of pre-term birth, small birth weights, or an increased risk of hypertension or pre-eclampsia.

    More From The Stir: Taking Anti-Depressants While Pregnant: Is It Safe?

    It's not all golden. One concern was highlighted: there was a slight increase in the risk of a mother developing a condition known as chorioamnionitis, an inflammation of the membranes that surround the fetus -- but the margin was slim. Of the moms who got the shot, 6.1 percent were diagnosed with chorioamnionitis compared with 5.5 percent of women who skipped the vaccine. That's pretttttty small, folks.

    Researchers say this proves the vaccine is safe and supports a recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that all pregnant women get the vaccine in order to pass the immunities on to their babies. The best time for the shot, according to the CDC, is between the 27th and 36th week of pregnancy, in order to provide the best protection for baby after birth.

    What do you think of vaccines during pregnancy?

     

    Image © iStock.com/Capifrutta


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    taking photoIt's the sort of photo most moms have somewhere -- a picture of her little kids doing something strange and silly. But when Jenna Andersen took a photo of her 4-year-old son and 21-month-old daughter sitting in her bed, playing with a vibrator, recently, she decided to post it to Instagram. And that's when the controversy exploded. Children? Playing with sex toys? On the Internet? Outrageous!

    Take a look:

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    In the five days since the photo went up on Andersen's Instagram account, there have been a slew of negative comments, postings to message boards about calling child protective services, and blog posts taking her to task for ruining her toddler's future.

    As Mommyish writer Aimee Ogden warned Andersen, "Can you imagine going to middle school as 'that kid whose mom took a picture of you with a Hitachi jammed into your eyeball'? I can, and it’s horrifying. Sure, kids are going to find something to pick on a kid about no matter what -- but does it have to be such ripe fodder?"

    OK, I'm as wary of making my kid a bully's target as anyone, but can we just back up a second?

    More From The Stir: My 8-Year-Old Daughter Still Sees Her Dad Naked

    For starters, it's a sex toy (and one Andersen says she does not use). Admission of their existence will not cause your child's head to explode. Most parents are a little embarrassed when their kids find them, and if a kid actually knows what it is -- Andersen's kids think this is a magic robot -- they may be grossed out. But as far as I know, there's no cited case of spontaneous combustion because a child has learned their parents do dirty things to one another. 

    Second, the photo is not of Andersen's kids pleasuring themselves with said vibrator. They're playing with it in a purely innocent way.

    And that's funny!

    Funny in the way that most ridiculous moments on YouTube involving kids are funny. Because right now, the kids have no clue what it is they're doing, and OMG, if they knew. Teehee.

    Will they one day find out? Sure. Probably. Maybe. The Internet, as we always hear, is forever, but as of right now, there are nearly 2,000 photos on Andersen's ThatWife account. Who knows how many more will be there for the kids to sift through by the time they're old enough to do so.

    How many photos from your childhood have you never seen because you just don't have time to go through the old negatives Mom has in the attic? The same -- believe it or not -- goes for our kids.

    One day they may look at our Facebook or Instagram accounts, but surely they won't have time to look at it ALL.

    And what if they do?

    SO WHAT?

    Why must everything a mother puts on the Internet become a debate about a forthcoming existential crisis?

    Are we raising a generation so fragile that we can't expect them to recover from a few silly photos from childhood? That they won't be able to recognize the difference between being a silly little kid and being a teenager or a grownup?

    If that's true, we should probably all throw in the towel because we're failing our kids.

    How do you feel about the photo?

     

    Image © iStock.com/7maru


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Alyssa MilanoLeave it to Alyssa Milano to make the best comment yet about Kim Kardashian's "Internet breaking" butt photo. Milano has had two photos featuring daughter Elizabella breastfeeding go viral in recent weeks, but as many proud nursing moms have learned -- society can be pretty mean to moms who are just feeding their kids.

    But while nursing moms are still dealing with photos of themselves being reported to Facebook by critics on a regular basis, the photos of Kardashian's naked derriere were everywhere ... and no one batted an eye. Or, as Milano put it:

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    Wait! I don't get it. No disrespect to Kim but... people are offended by my breastfeeding selfies & are fine with her (amazing) booty cover?

    — Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) November 12, 2014
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    Milano was quick to follow up the tweet with another in praise of Kardashian's photo, so it's clear she's not bashing the reality star. Instead she was making a much-needed comment on society's confused attitudes regarding public nudity in this country.

    Breastfeeding, an act that's both natural and useful, garners moms comments like this gem left by a man on Milano's Facebook when she first shared a photo of little Elizabella having lunch:

    Dude .do you not understand its weird what the hell is wrong with you..aint noone wanna see your child sucking the milk out of your breasts....not cool your making me eant cereal

    Meanwhile the Kardashian photo is OK to grace a magazine cover -- and be featured on countless websites and TV screens without being censored -- because it's what ... sexy? Art? A chance for men to ogle a woman without the annoying baby getting in the way?

    More From The Stir: Alyssa Milano on 'Project Runway,' Helicopter Moms & Having 2 Kids

    Talk about a double standard!

    If it's OK for a woman's nude behind to show up on a magazine cover, to be featured on TV news and countless other spots without being censored, then it's sure as heck time to stop yelping every time a baby eats in public.

    What do you think of Milano's comments? Agree? Disagree?

     

    Image via milano_alyssa/Instagram


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