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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.

    energy drinkEnergy drinks may be a lifesaver for exhausted parents, but this may have you kicking the habit. Keeping them in the house could be asking for an accident to happen. At least when you look at the numbers of kids being poisoned by the hyper-caffeinated pick-me-ups.

    According to new research on calls to 55 poison control centers in the country, some 5,100 calls were made in a three-year period about Americans getting sick from energy drinks. Almost half of those were children under the age of 6!

    The research -- presented this week to the American Heart Association -- claims those kids often didn't know what they were drinking. Typically the drinks were in the house thanks to a parent or an older sibling, and kids found them in the refrigerator.

    More From The Stir: Energy Drinks: Yet Another Dangerous Substance for Teens?

    But from the looks of the study's findings, even letting your older kids slug an energy drink is not a good idea. When researchers broke down the cases where "major" effects were reported (across all age groups), they found 57 percent of people had cardiovascular effects (abnormal heart rhythm, conduction abnormalities, etc.). Some 55 percent of those with major effects had seizures or other neurological effects.

    With some 400 milligrams of caffeine in many of these drinks, it's no surprise kids are being poisoned: docs say it only takes 100 mg to poison an adolescent, even less for younger kids.

    How do you handle energy drinks in your house?


    Image © iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Brooke ShieldsBrooke Shields loved the mornings best. That's when her mother was still sober as she walked her to school. By the time the afternoon bell rang, Teri Shields would be three sheets to the wind, leaving her daughter to clean up her messes.

    But when the child star turned adult actress and mother of two sat down to write There Was a Little Girl, a memoir about growing up with an alcoholic single mom, she didn't want to pen another Mommie Dearest. If anything, Shields says she wanted to explore the complicated dynamic between a mother who is imperfect and the child who loves her.

    Written on the heels of a New York Times obituary that came perilously close to accusing Teri Shields of pimping her 11-year-old daughter out when she allowed tween Brooke to star as a child prostitute in Pretty Baby, the memoir is a look at how a woman becomes a good mom having grown up with a mother who wasn't always so good.

    The Stir sat down with Shields to find out what it is she hopes she's doing right with her daughters, 11-year-old Rowan and 8-year-old Grier, and how she's doing it in Teri Shields' shadow.

    On why she wrote the book:
    It was after she died -- it was a monumental aspect of that and how public our lives have been. It was a rite of passage for me. I didn't really think that it necessarily merited my telling a story about my mom. I didn't think there would be that much interest, but when [the obituary came out], when that whole experience occurred, I realized that the symbol of that relationship had a bigger reach, not just my mother and my life, but the concept of that dynamic, that relationship ... I thought, I wonder if the story can be a point of departure for a bigger discussion.

    More From The Stir: Jennifer Lopez Shares How Her Kids 'Saved' Her

    Then I had an incident happen with my daughter where I was shocked that my reaction was that I wanted her to look at me the way I look at my mother -- when I spent her whole life trying not to be looked at like that. Those two events were the two stories that I brought in to Penguin and pitched to them. 

    On finding herself after her mother's death:
    I think until you lose a mother, you remain within the context of a mother. Whether you talk to your mother or you don't -- you're still in a relationship to that entity.

    Now when you take it away, you're really on your own, I think for the first time really in your life -- no matter what your relationship is.

    On how her mother shapes the mom she is today:
    Either I'm trying to imitate her or I'm trying to do the opposite of her.

    The only knowledge I have [of how to be] maternal [comes from her]. That's the only model I've ever had. What I appreciated about her humor or her attention to manners or her understanding for protocol and how you get rewarded in the world and the silliness and the creativity. Those are the things that, when I was a kid, I had the cool house, I had the cool mom because she would take us to the Circle Line for a group, she would make all of our costumes. People wanted to come over to my house because my mom would do all that stuff.

    I love that kind of stuff. I love taking my kids to the theater and museums and off-Broadway and all of that sort of odd stuff that a lot of parents don't take their kids to, like Mummenschanz or The Fantasticks or seeing a Broadway musical at age 5. And manners whether it's looking people in the eye or inviting the kid who doesn't get invited anywhere to your house and not being one of the mean girls, avoiding the mean girls, going for the kind people, respect. I think that I learned more from my mother than anybody.

    Brooke Shields There Was a Little Girl On being a better mom than her mother:
    Obviously I'm more organized and I'm neater and I don't get drunk every day [laughs]. I ask questions to my daughters about how they feel.

    I'm not always right, and she was always right. At least, I thought that she was right. My daughters make it very clear that I'm not always right! I think that's healthy. 

    On how sheltered she really was ... and isn't sheltering her girls:
    The problem was I was living a paradox. I was the one who was a virgin until age 22. I never, ever did drugs. If anything I had that reputation.

    They're never going to be able to say you are "do as I say, not as I do" because I never did it!

    I want them to not be so tortured by fear of their sexuality and all of that ... we've already started talking about that. They have to understand their period, and when I say "that's inappropriate," and they ask why, I have to have an answer. What they'll say is, "Moooom, don't say that word, don't talk about it!"

    I say, "If you can't say the word penis, you obviously are not old enough to deal with the concept." They die when you start having the conversation with them. It's funny. Boobies is still a funny word to them.

    On forgiving "bad" moms:
    My mom did the best she could. I may not have been the optimal at times -- as I know I'm not -- but she wasn't capable of any better, and I don't have anger about that.

    I hope that my daughters, whenever they start getting really angry with me, I want them to talk to me and at least understand where I'm coming from and then I can understand them and maybe we can improve a little.

    I hope they read that and say, Oh, wow, we're all just doing the best we can.

    On the most important thing to give your daughters:
    Self confidence, something I just did not have at all growing up. I was sort of exalted, but it didn't come from inside.

    I want to help them hear their own voice. What do you think? What are your feelings about these certain things? Without being too Kumbaya or anything, but just going, Let's look at that. Why? When you ask me should I be skinny, why are you asking me? Is it because other kids are saying it? Is skinny bad? Is skinny good?

    Engaging in these conversations allows them to realize they have their own hypotheses. It didn't occur to me to do that when I was a kid. It was easier to just follow what other people wanted from me, and I got approval from it and she was my whole reason for being. I would just do whatever she said. It never even occurred to me to question it.

    What's your relationship with your mother like? How has it affected your parenting? 



    Images via Chris Henchy; Penguin

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Cinderella First it was limited theater runs of 3D versions of its old classics. Now Disney has a new trick up its sleeve to grab our kids -- live-action re-makes of its animated fare. First it was Maleficent. Now a real live Cinderella starring the likes of Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham-Carter is heading our way, and the first trailer of the highly anticipated film has finally hit the Internet.

    So what is in store for our kids? Take a look:

    More From The Stir: 'Big Hero 6': Should Your Kids See It?

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    OK, so the mice are probably CGI, not real, live rodents, but they're a bit creepier than the animated version.

    On the whole, however, it looks like there's something for the adults in this kids' movie ... which is a welcome change. Blanchett is deliciously evil, and it's refreshing to see Bonham-Carter playing a NICE person for a change. Plus, the message of "have courage and be kind" is one our kids should never stop hearing.

    So be ready, parents. Another wave of princess marketing is headed your way ... and there's likely plenty more where it's coming from.

    What do you think of the studios remaking classic kid films?


    Image via Disney/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    strollerIf you're headed out on a walk with the kids, you might want to opt for a sling instead of a stroller. Child product manufacturer Graco has issued a massive recall on nearly five million strollers in North America, warning parents that 11 of its popular models have a flaw that could cut off a child's fingertip.

    In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that six kids have suffered the loss of a fingertip, while four more have had partial fingertip amputation because of an issue with the external sliding fold-lock hinge. Think your stroller might be included in the recall? Here's what moms need to know:

    1. The models involved include the Aspen, Breeze, Capri, Cirrus, Glider, Kite, LiteRider, Sierra, Solara, Sterling, and TravelMate Model Strollers and Travel Systems. All are single-occupant strollers (so if you have a double stroller, you're in the clear) and have an external sliding fold-lock hinge on each side as well as a one-hand fold release mechanism on the handle.

    More From The Stir: 10 Most Dangerous Baby Products

    2. Strollers manufactured between August 1, 2000 to September 25, 2014 are affected. To find the date (as well as a model number), look for a white label located at the bottom of the stroller leg just above the rear wheel.

    3. The model numbers to look for are:

    Aspen -- 6947MAN, 6954AMB, 7403ANM, 7414BKL, 7453UVB, and 7454WNNBreeze -- 34950, 6904N8, 6904TN8, 6907JUN, 7404M7, 7404TM7, 7433BER, 6904BUG, 6904NV, 6904YL, 6907ZOU, 7404NCB, 7431PUR, 7464CEL, 6904LAZ, 6904TLQ, 6907CYP, 6932AR, 7404P8, 7432PUR, and 7464KSBCapri - Century Branded Literider -- 6901DZ, 6901FRN, and 6901MPCirrus -- 35233, 6956COR, 6956MLL, 7426CUB, 7438JET, 7456NGS, 6919MV, 6956MAC, 7416HX, 7435WNN, 7456GKG, 7463CUB, 6919TMP, 6956MIC, 7416THX, 7438GIN, and 7456MONGlider -- 35206, 6974CYP, 6987FMT, 6S00MRG3, 7441SAV, 7446STA, 7S00SBN3, 1755545, 6974HAB, 6987FMT3, 6S01JAV3, 7441SAV2, 7448WLS2, 7S00WAV3, 1757978, 6983THE, 6987SFJ3, 6S02SFS3, 7441SPT, 7459KYW2, 6937N6, 6984SAR, 6999TRI, 7441FLT, 7445UNN, and 7S00KWD3Kite -- 6837COELiterider -- 1759206, 1834721, 6712NPB, 6903RG, 6927HE, 6942MP, 7304TOP2, 1759753, 1834725, 6712PWC3, 6912GMP, 6927HK, 6955G9, 7305ALB2, 1760521, 1843722, 6712SFT, 6916BLW, 6927LV, 6989N2, 7320UVB, 1761301, 1850503, 6712SNY, 6916BRN, 6927TMJ, 6989Y2, 7321UVB, 1763582, 1852558, 6712SUP, 6916D5, 6927TXB, 6M01TAN3, 7340SSR, 1783222, 1853477, 6712SUP3, 6916F3, 6929B7, 6M02SFR3, 7340SSR2, 1790492, 1876823, 6720THE, 6916HBH, 6929HX, 7003CHP, 7350DOH, 1794240, 34855, 6730BEB, 6916MEL, 6929KY, 7300MAK, 7350DOH2, 1801006, 34939, 6730DRM, 6916P8, 6929WN, 7303BRL, 7360NGS, 1804095, 35635, 6730HMP, 6916RK, 6936HAV, 7303BRL2, 7436GIN, 1809351, 6710JKP, 6827RS, 6916TA6, 6936JAM, 7304GEI, 7436JET, 1809556, 6710JUP, 6903IND, 6927AE, 6938A5, 7304GEI2, 7M00DCF3, 1817150, 6712NAP, 6903JJJ, 6927GP, 6940A4, and 7304HNW3Literider - Century Branded -- 1804730Sierra -- 7487GP and 7487VASolara - Century Branded Literider -- 6965ZOL and 6985CNCSterling -- 6988KER, 7425CLE, 7425OAK, 7428RAC, 7429VL, 7437N5, 7447PAS, 7423RAC, 7425CLE2, 7427AD, 7429HX, 7429WZ, and 7447M7TravelMate -- 6958HAV and 6958TDT

    4. Do not return the stroller to the store. Graco will provide free repair kits to parents who call the company at 800-345-4109 (Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST) or contact customer service via the Graco website.

    5. While waiting for the repair kit, parents are warned that if they use the stroller, they should exercise "extreme caution" when unfolding the stroller, making sure the hinges are firmly locked before placing a child inside.

    What kind of stroller is your child in?Where are they when you fold or unfold it?


    Image © iStock.com/Nikolay Tzolov

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    mom stressedHere's a news flash for you: Moms are stressed. Between the hunt for work/life balance and our kid's other sneaker, finding time to smell the roses just ain't happening. More and more we're told it's our own fault, our own insatiable taste for the perfect life that is making our blood pressure skyrocket.

    Fueled by Pinterest photos of elegant made-in-your-living-room shelving for the baby nursery and every fearmongering study in the media, we have turned ourselves into organic baby food-making, driftwood-headboard-building, GOOPy Gwyneth Paltrow wanna-bes on the relentless hunt for the chimera known as perfection.

    And scolding fingers wagging near our noses are warning us that we need to take a page out of Susan Powter's book and stop the insanity -- ourselves.

    After all, as Karol Markowicz said in the New York Post this week, we are looking in the wrong places as "real perfectionhappens when you aren’t looking."

    And fellow Post writer Kyle Smith, in his follow-up to Markowicz, explained that we'd be a whole lot better off if moms were "more like dads" who "don't give a shit."


    I can just stop looking and stop giving a s--t, and a magical unicorn will poop balance and sanity over my house! GENIUS!

    Except ... someone would have to clean up the unicorn poop. And that someone would probably be me. 

    Let me get this disclaimer out of the way: My husband is a wonderful father. I say this not to score some points for the upcoming holidays, but because he's a man who is wholly committed to raising a happy and healthy human being. He puts our daughter on the school bus every morning before work. He probably packs more lunches than I do. He coaches her soccer team, and if you asked him what a dream Saturday looks like, it would probably involve him, her, and two Xbox controllers. (I'd be on the couch, reading.)

    But if the devil is in the details, my husband is safe from fire and brimstone. He is not -- and never has been -- detail-oriented.

    Case in point: On a recent holiday that father and daughter had off -- while I was working -- they were about to leave the house on an adventure, and I had to stop them. Turning to our 9-year-old, I asked, "Did you brush your teeth? Did you brush your hair?"

    No and no.

    She's 9. You have to ask these things. My husband doesn't. Not because he doesn't believe in dental hygiene, but because it simply doesn't occur to him.

    This is where I come in, why I have to manage the minutiae of our lives. I don't go overboard. I ignored the too-short leggings with stained knees that she'd put on beneath her tunic because I've learned to pick my battles.

    More From The Stir: I Love My Kid Too Much to Get Her a Store-Bought Birthday Cake

    I would even venture to say that it's not Pinterest perfection that I strive for but simple sanity. And I'm often the only one keeping the balls in the air.

    Not because my husband doesn't care, but because when snow hits the ground, his first thought is not, Do last year's boots still fit her? For the record, they didn't. And because he's a good dad, he took her boot shopping -- but only because I reminded him to do so.

    I'm uneasy casting this as a classic Mars/Venus issue, because there are sure to be households where this dynamic is reversed. But it's clear that in most relationships, this dichotomy exists. One parent manages the minutiae. The other leaves them to it.

    This is not a remnant of the 1950s relationship, but a simple difference in our make-up as human beings. Just as it's often said that every relationship has a carer and caree, even modern parental units tend to have the person who manages the details and the one who does not.

    At a recent girls' night, every mother at the table had similar tales of their husbands or boyfriends. These are men who are all good fathers, who get high marks for being involved, modern men, and yet they fumble on the daily details -- the teeth brushing, the diaper bag packing, the "did you go potty before you left the house" assurances.

    Oh to be the parent who doesn't give a s--t. The freedom! I can practically hear it shouting my name, urging me to the couch to binge watch Netflix instead of baking cookies for the bus driver's holiday gifts. 

    But someone has to make the cookies, and if that someone is going to make them, they might as well taste good, right? Maybe a recipe on Pinterest will help.

    And oh, right, someone has to call the pediatrician. Someone has to address the Christmas cards.

    Someone has to give a s--t.

    Our kids certainly don't.

    If left to her own devices, my daughter would never brush her teeth (especially not at night). She would wear clothes that she's long since grown out of to school. And she sure as heck would not get that nasty flu shot.

    She's just a kid! Sure, we're working on responsibilities and independence, and she gets better every day (she fed the dog this morning after only being prodded once), but it's not her job to "give a s--t" yet.

    More to the point, she can only do so much. She can't buy herself new winter boots or pick herself up from dance class.

    She needs a parent who manages the details, one who may turn to the other parent and say, "Can you be at the dance center at 5 on this day?" but who ensures there's someone there. She needs a parent to bake the cookies for the bus driver and the cupcakes for her birthday.

    Could she survive without some of what I do? Absolutely.

    But is our kids' survival all we care about? I thought it was to ensure our kids were happy and healthy, felt loved, and had the tools to one day be successful members of society.

    To turn out a kid like that takes planning. It takes work. It takes getting the details right.

    So, yes, I'm stressed. But someone has to be ...

    Do you think moms should just "stop giving a s--t"? Who is the detail person in your family?


    Image © iStock.com/ArtMarie

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Lori Burke All About That Breast"All About That Bass" is not a song without controversy. Some moms love it, while others think Meghan Trainor is sending a bad message to little girls. But the latest parody of the Top 40 hit is one that will have breastfeeding moms singing along. After all ... it's "All About That Breast" by singer Lori Burke. 

    Take a listen to the newest hit for the nursing crowd:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    OK, the "no bottle" line is a little jarring, considering plenty of nursing mamas use them, but Burke is not trying to start a mommy war here. The singer/songwriter who apparently came up with the pro-mom twist while getting her kids ready for school one morning says she used formula and pumped in addition to nursing the traditional way.

    It was just a lyric that worked! And boy does it ever. "All About That Breast" is sweet and sassy, and that line about La Leche slayed us.

    Which line is your favorite?


    Image via Lori Burke/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Every mom has a different way of raising her kids. From the Tiger Mom who wants her child to succeed to the Free Range Mom who gives her kid lots of independence to the Helicopter Mom who oversees everything her kid does, we’re all trying to do the best we can. So where do you fit in? Take our quiz to find out what parenting style best describes you.

    Every mom has a different way of raising her kids. From the Tiger Mom who wants her child to succeed to the Free Range Mom who gives her kid lots of independence to the Helicopter Mom who oversees everything her kid does, we’re all trying to do the best we can. So where do you fit in? Take our quiz to find out what parenting style best describes you.

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    pregnant woman baby namesLet's face it: even if you are a traditionalist when it comes to baby naming, you don't want your kid having to sit through school with five other boys or girls who have the same name. You want your baby to be special! Unique! And maybe this will help: the most common names in the entire United States have been identified by researchers at FiveThirtyEight.

    More From The Stir: Quiz: What's Your Perfect Baby Name?

    Using Census data, info from the Social Security Administration, and a whole bunch of other data, they say they have narrowed it down to three names -- all of them male. Why not girls? The researchers said, "The distribution of female names tends to be more diffuse (or, to use less statistical jargon, parents tend to be more imaginative when they name their baby girls)."

    High-five to all you girl moms out there for that one!

    As for moms and dads expecting little boys, click here to find out the most common names in America ... so your little guy doesn't end up one of them. 

    How common is your child's name?


    Image via Creativa Images/shutterstock

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Penguins of MadagascarTrying to figure out what movie to take the kids to over the long Thanksgiving break? Penguins of Madagascar is Dreamworks' attempt to get families into theaters over the holiday, cashing in on the following it's built up over three Madagascar films. But before you promise the kids popcorn, know this: Penguins is not a sequel. Which is exactly what the animated Benedict Cumberbatch flick has going for it.

    Based on minor characters introduced in the popular trilogy -- and spun off into their own Nickelodeon show -- Penguins diverges from the story of four zoo animals and their adventures and instead follows Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private, four Arctic birds who spend their days committing capers around the globe. It's during a break-in at Fort Knox that the penguins end up kidnapped by the nefarious Dave (an octopus who has the world convinced he's a philanthropic scientist) and the hijinks ensue.

    Sounds ... crazy? Frenetic? Bizarre.

    It is. And that's why your kids will love it.

    This is not a deep movie. It's not a message movie. You won't walk out with your kids and have a long conversation on the way home about what they've learned. You won't walk out with tissues clenched in hand from that one hit-you-in-the-guts moment where the characters grew as people, er, penguins.

    Penguins of MadagascarYou will, however, walk out with kids who are giggling their little noggins off and repeating ridiculous jokes (my 9-year-old daughter's favorite involved something about moxie and sassy pants).

    Because Penguins is ridiculous, from the moment the film begins to the ending credits. I mean, come on, an octopus who is a scientist? Penguins breaking into Fort Knox?

    It's silly, kid humor for a silly afternoon with your silly kids.

    The humor stays pretty clean, with most of the "adult" jokes focusing on sneaking in famous people's names in ridiculous (have I used that word yet) ways, ie, "Charlize! They're on the ..." You get the picture.

    An extra bit at the end of the movie -- after the credits -- is worth sticking around for ... and hints at either a follow-up movie or yet another spin-off for a minor Madagascar character.


    Will you be hitting the theaters for the holiday weekend? What will you be seeing?


    Images via Dreamworks Animation

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    holiday toyWell, Black Friday is here and Christmas will be before you know it. While Santa is checking his naughty or nice list -- twice -- the kids are taking stock of the hot holiday toys and loading up their own lists. Big this year are a tow truck that claims to drag 200 pounds, Cabbage Patch dolls (yup, they're back), and several animal toys that come to life as "pets" you don't have to feed or clean up after.

    But what's worth spending your money on this year and what will the kids break in two minutes? The Stir asked five kids to test some of the hottest toys on the store's lists for the 2014 holiday season and tell us what they thought.

    Ranging from age 5 to 9, both boys and girls, the kids put the toys through their paces weighing out what lived up to the hype and what was a dud. They shared what they'll keep on their Christmas lists ... and what they'd rather pass on.

    Here''s a look at their findings, along with some helpful tips from moms on what needs batteries, what should be charged before wrapping, and what toys could be substituted for something a little bit cheaper.

    Have your kids asked for number seven this year?


    Image by Jeanne Sager

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Shannon Des Roches RosaShannon Des Roches Rosa isn't the sort of woman you'd expect to see on Capitol Hill, advocating for vaccines for children. After all, when Rosa's son Leo was diagnosed with autism in 2003, the California mom swore off immunizing her kids. Her youngest child, India, was 3 by the time she was vaccinated. And yet, today, at 10 India is fully vaccinated, as is Leo and Rosa's older daughter, Zelly.

    Rosa is the mother of an autistic child who came around to the safety of vaccines. And after allowing fear to rule her life for four years, she's become a vocal advocate for life-saving immunizations, working with the United Nations' Shot @Life campaign, Voices for Vaccines and other organizations to spread the word about vaccine safety.

    As mother of an autistic child, the editor of Thinking Person's Guide to Autism says she feels it's her "ethical duty" to speak out on the behalf of vaccines ... and her son.

    Rosa spoke to The Stir from her California home about why she vaccinates ... and why she refuses to let her son be used as a fear tactic in the war against vaccines.

    Tell us about what was going on when Leo was diagnosed in 2003:
    It was hard because you know ... like most parents in our community, I came from outside the disability community, so I only had negative stereotypes in my head. All the media stories at that time were that autism was the very worst f--king thing that could ever happen to your child and your life was going to be over.

    It's hard because I was so ignorant, basically!

    At that point, what was your thought about vaccines and autism?
    At that point, I believed what the media said. There were so many reports at that time about vaccines causing autism and I didn't know enough scientists and science-oriented people in my own life to really understand that it was all bullshit and it was all manufactured and there were a lot of conflicts of interest.

    This is something that the media really took and ran with and didn't really rely on science either, so I wasn't really alone in my ignorance.

    Initially I believed it.

    I remember reading on your blog that you waited to get your youngest child vaccinated until she was 3. During that time, did you have any fears of your kid getting sick?
    No, not at all. Nobody had ever seen measles or pertussis ... because they'd all been vaccinating.

    It's one of these things -- the irony is nobody knew what vaccine-preventable disease looked like because they'd been protected by vaccines. There was no reason to fear what you didn't know.

    So what made you decide when India was 3 to stop the insanity so to speak?
    So the pediatrician I had when I decided to stop vaccinating took his Hippocratic oath very seriously and he kicked us out of his practice for not vaccinating. In hindsight, I totally respect that.

    We found a new doctor and what I did was I eventually interviewed a few doctors to see if they were OK with having us not vaccinate. The doctor we ended up having -- she was fantastic. Every time that we came in, she would just talk to us about what the risks were and why it might be a good idea, and she would do so in a completely non-judgmental and very informative way.

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

    Combined with the media swinging around to realizing that all of the science underlying the anti-vaccine movement was bunk, after awhile I realized that I was actually putting my kids at risk.

    I started vaccinating, and within a year they were both caught up.

    When you made the decision to change and get kids vaccinated, what was the reaction from other people in the autism community?
    The thing is I tend to hang out with pretty smart, compassionate people. Even thought many of my friends did not necessarily change their minds the way that I did, we were still able to be social and be friends and just to agree to not talk about it -- kind of like politics.

    When did you really start really digging into the science? Was it before you decided to vaccinate India and get Leo back on track or after?
    It was during that time and afterward. There was kind of a time and you can go back and see it -- because I've been blogging about autism and parenting since 2003 -- you can go back and see on my blog where I was like well, maybe there's sort of a risk or maybe we'll just do it slowly. It was definitely a process.

    Did you slow vax?
    Yeah. It's so funny in hindsight. But the turning point is I was lucky enough to meet some autism parents who did understand the science and who were, in fact, scientists. They were nice about it, but they were like, "Oh, Honey, come on."

    Then when Andrew Wakefield had his article that started the whole modern vaccine panic withdrawn -- it was retracted by the Lancet -- that was great because suddenly the media was paying attention.

    Although it was problematic because Jenny McCarthy came out around the same time with her BS, but the media started taking the science perspective more heavily. And now, unfortunately, we've got outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease so the mainstream media has to take it even more seriously.

    It used to be that they felt they had to give it a kind of balance, but that was a false balance because there's science and then there's BS. They don't have equal weight.

    It also really helped in 2011 when the book The Panic Virus came out, and Dr. Paul Offit's book came out, and these really thorough investigations of why all of this was so problematic and how parents are really preyed on using fear and how hard it is to unscare somebody once you scare them.

    There are a lot of studies done showing that once parents have been scared about vaccines, you can give them all the great information you want but sometimes it just make them dig even harder into denialism.

    The thing is that most parents have questions. Really what parents need to do is answer those questions.

    What has made you not just someone who vaccinates her kids but a mom who feels she should be an advocate for vaccines?
    I feel it's my ethical duty because the anti-vaccine community has done so much harm and hurt the confidence in vaccines, especially since I was part of that community for a long time. You realize that you've committed such a grievous error you have to do everything in your power to make up for it.

    How do you feel that being mom of an autistic child plays a role in how people look at you when you talk about vaccines?
    I think for a lot of people it gives me maybe more authority? Because not only am I saying they don't cause autism but my kid is fully vaccinated. I'm not only not afraid of it, but I'm for it.

    It's really, really important for parents like me to be out there on the front lines talking about vaccine safety because none of us want our kids to be sick and die but like I said before, most of us don't know enough about vaccine-preventable diseases to be afraid of them.

    They're just blithely ignorant.

    Nobody wants there to be more outbreaks of diseases to force people to get vaccinated or change their minds, but unfortunately that's what we've seen happening in the last year.

    How does it feel as the mother of an autistic child that kids like your son are used as a fear tactic?
    It makes me furious. Because that's the thing -- our kids already are at a disadvantage because of so much misinformation about autism, and this just makes it worse.

    It makes me really angry that people consider him "vaccine injured" and will endanger their own children when there's nothing behind that at all. There's not scientific reason, there's no medical reason to do that.

    More From The Stir: Vaccinating Your Kid Could Save My Kids' Lives: 1 Mom's Story

    Unless your child has an immune condition, there's no reason not to vaccinate, certainly not autism. There's studies of millions and millions of children that have never been able to establish a link between autism and vaccines.

    That phrasing is pretty important because people will say "you just said vaccines don't cause autism," but no, I said "they've never been able to establish a link, nobody's ever been able to prove that there's a positive link."

    You have to be really careful when you're talking about science. You can't prove a negative.

    Right, how do you disprove whether it's that or something else?
    I tend to look to the experts on this, like Dr. Paul Offit. He says it's always reasonable to have questions about vaccines. The great thing is that these questions can be answered.

    I don't think there are any medical procedures out there that have been tested for safety the way vaccines have. People always say, "show me the safety studies," and I say, "how many thousands of them do you want?"

    When people are scared, there's very little you can do to chance their minds, so what people really need to do is get good information out there and not let them be scared in the first place.

    The line needs to be "vaccines are safe, they don't cause autism."

    Do you vaccinate? Why or why not?


    Image via Shannon DesRoches Rosa

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    little girl eating a cupcake

    My daughter came to me after lunch with a request. "I ate a little more than half of my sandwich. Can I have some cake?" To most moms, this would be an easy question to answer. But I always pause before I wade into a discussion about junk food with my 9-year-old. I have to consider how to answer without using dangerous words, words like "fat" or "calories."

    We don't use those words in our house. More to the point, we don't let those words cross our 9-year-old daughter's lips.

    In a country where 108 million people are said to be on a diet at any given time, often making four to five attempts per year to control their caloric intake to lose weight, it's hard to keep these words out of the conversation. And yet, we're making a concerted effort in our house.

    You see, I have an eating disorder. I've had it since I was not much older than my 9-year-old, and I will have it for the rest of my life. I rarely purge anymore, but the monster is always in the back of my mind, telling me to put a blanket over my thighs because no one want to see that, to suck it in when the camera comes out, to skip lunch today because of the dinner I ate three days ago.

    I've gotten help for my disease, enough help that the monster's voice is reduced to mere background noise in my head most days. But as my daughter gets nearer and nearer to puberty, the worries I've had since birth have begun to get louder in its place.

    After all, eating disorders tend to run in families. By the very nature of having a mother with bulimia, my daughter is at a heightened risk of body dysmorphia.

    Her gender betrays her here, too. While boys can -- and do -- develop eating disorders, females are much more prone to the disease.

    And it can all start with something simple. Focus on fat. Calories.

    According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, some 35 percent of "normal" dieters progress to "pathological" dieting. Of those, as much as 25 percent progress to disordered eating.

    I am not worried for nothing.

    And so the competing voices make a cacophony in my head. "Watch her. Watch yourself. Watch what you say."

    Just a few weeks ago, I realized my daughter was wearing the same pair of much-too-small-for-her shorts over and over (despite repeated requests that they go in the hand-me-down pile). When I questioned her about the shorts, she claimed it was simply the braided belt that she adores that has made parting with this particular pair so hard. Still, I've noticed she's begun to look at the number on the tag in her pants. She's mentioned more than once that she can "still fit into" a size 6.

    I worry.

    More From The Stir: Why I'm Telling My Daughter About My Eating Disorder

    We went to the county fair, and -- like any normal kid -- she begged for deep fried Oreos, funnel cake, and latkes. I quickly calculated the calories in each ... and then scolded myself for it.

    It's summer. It's one day at the fair. A little junk isn't going to kill her. Not when you consider she'd had a breakfast of Cheerios and milk. Not when you consider we'd spent the afternoon walking all over the fairgrounds. Not when you consider she has always been on the slim side. 

    I let her eat the junk because she deserves to be a kid, and because I work hard not to let my eating disorder hold my daughter back.

    Still, I worried.

    I made it clear to her that these are "occasional" foods, not something she can eat every day. That's hard for any parent to teach their child -- the difference between treats and "real" food.

    So how do you do it when you've banned "fat," banned "calories" from your vocabulary? How does one adequately explain what foods are "good" for you?

    It's easier than you'd think. We talk about healthy foods in our house and unhealthy foods. We use words like protein and carbohydrate, talk about vegetables versus sugars.

    We talk about how foods make us "feel" instead of how they make us look.

    We buy things that my have "low-fat" or "non-fat" on the label, but we don't make a big deal out of it. It's just the brand we buy, the same way we always buy a certain brand of dish detergent or laundry soap. And while I do look at the ingredients on boxes, I try to explain that I'm looking for things like "high fructose corn syrup" that manufacturers like to slip in.

    I try to focus her away from the numbers -- be it on the tag on her pants or the calorie content -- but on the quality of food and of life overall. I want her to enjoy exercising, to enjoy eating, to feel good about life and about her body. I want her to be in a routine of eating healthy foods and exercising regularly so she never has to consider fat content or calories at all, never has to "diet."

    One of the beautiful things about kids is that they come into this world a blank slate. They don't have bad habits such as eating too much junk food or sitting around all the time. We get to start them out with healthy routines, with a positive body image. And hopefully -- if we instill those values deep down inside of them -- they will carry through for the rest of their lives. 

    How do you handle the "fat" conversation with your kids?


    Image © iStock.com/stacey_newman

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    So you think you know everything there is to know about Attachment Parenting, huh? After all, you wear a sling and cuddle your baby. Or maybe you think you're not the Attachment Parenting type -- that it's only for moms who keep their kids on leashes and co-sleep until they're 15. But do you really know the facts about this parenting style? Take our quiz to find out.

    So you think you know everything there is to know about Attachment Parenting, huh? After all, you wear a sling and cuddle your baby. Or maybe you think you're not the Attachment Parenting type -- that it's only for moms who keep their kids on leashes and co-sleep until they're 15. But do you really know the facts about this parenting style? Take our quiz to find out.

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    babyIf you support breastfeeding and haven't decided what to do to celebrate Giving Tuesday, a word. The Mother's Milk Bank could use your help! The non-profit that distributed more than half a million ounces of liquid gold to children last year (processing donated milk for nearly 100 hospitals) is seeking donations this holiday.

    But you don't have to pump your milk -- at least not today.

    The Milk Bank is celebrating its 40th anniversary and so they're asking for donations of $40 from breastfeeding supporters the world over to help build up their Express Milk Fund, a project that specifically helps families in need.

    More From The Stir: 7 Ways to Keep Baby Safe When Using Donor Breast Milk

    Every 100 ounces from a new donor provides 400 meals for premature babies whose own mothers cannot not produce, but Mother's Milk Bank shoulders the costs of shipping and processing the milk -- which isn't cheap.

    Want to help? Hit up the donate money section of the non-profit's website. Or check out how to donate milk!

    What are you doing for #GivingTuesday?


    Image via Olesia Bilkei/shutterstock

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Every family has its own Christmas traditions -- be it matching jammies or making cookies -- but there's nothing like settling down with the kids and some steaming hot cocoa to watch your favorite childhood holiday specials. Think you know all there is to know about the Christmas classics on TV? Take our quiz to see how much you really know about Frosty, Rudolph, and the rest of the gang.

    Every family has its own Christmas traditions -- be it matching jammies or making cookies -- but there's nothing like settling down with the kids and some steaming hot cocoa to watch your favorite childhood holiday specials. Think you know all there is to know about the Christmas classics on TV? Take our quiz to see how much you really know about Frosty, Rudolph, and the rest of the gang.

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Mila KunisIt's hard to believe it's been two months since Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher officially became parents. But the actress made her first post-birth appearance on Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show this week with some rather startling -- albeit hilarious -- news. She's leaving what some folks consider to be the hardest part of parenting to Dad.

    Now, now, that doesn't mean Mila is hitting the road and abandoning Wyatt. She is, however, putting Ashton on notice that when the teenage hormones start a roaring, he'd best be prepared! Check it out:


    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    OK, so she's joking.

    Or is she?

    More From The Stir: Mila Kunis' Rant About Dads-to-Be Will Make Moms Swoon (VIDEO)

    Mila was very vocal during her pregnancy about the fact that a pregnant woman does all the hard work ... and her partner should not be taking credit, saying "I'm pregnant." Now she says she's nursing, which means she's likely doing the lion's share of feeding.

    Thanks to biology alone, moms tend to do most of the hard work in the early days -- even when Dad is throwing himself into parenthood -- so telling him he's got to take the reins and do the hard stuff in the teenage years might just be one way to even the playing field!

    Who handles the lion's share of parenting in your household?


    Image via The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    It's the most wonderful time of the year! And between visits to Santa, holiday shopping, wrapping presents, and caroling, you've probably found yourself wondering what classicChristmastoy you are. Seriously, who hasn't? Lucky for you, we've got it all figured out. Take our quiz to find out whether you're a Barbie, a Teddy Bear, or another kiddie favorite. Consider it our gift to you.

    It's the most wonderful time of the year! And between visits to Santa, holiday shopping, wrapping presents, and caroling, you've probably found yourself wondering what classicChristmastoy you are. Seriously, who hasn't? Lucky for you, we've got it all figured out. Take our quiz to find out whether you're a Barbie, a Teddy Bear, or another kiddie favorite. Consider it our gift to you.

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Angelina JolieToday in proof that celebrities really are just like the rest of us, Angelina Jolie has got a parenting problem with a capital P. Turns out the six kids in the Jolie-Pitt clan are interested in tattoos. Make that very interested.

    And why wouldn't they be? Angie has quite a few, including ink she shares with her brother and a tat that lists the geographical locations of each of her kids' birthplaces. So what's the problem?

    Jolie told Radio Times:

    They're already asking me about tattoos How do I say 'No'? It's especially hard for dads and girls. For some reason, men get a little more sensitive when the daughter gets a tattoo. And [Brad] thinks the girls can do no wrong. He's mush in their hands!

    Ah, yes, the "how do I say 'no' to them doing something I myself have done" conundrum! We feel for her.

    It's not an easy one for parents, not even celebrity parents, when your child points out that the very thing you've forbidden is something you have done yourself. They make good arguments, and you have to be fast.

    More From The Stir: Meet The Guy Who Made Angelina Jolie's Year (It's Not Brad!)

    But let's face it: Angie's eldest child is only 13. It's rather young to be deciding on something that will be with him for the rest of his life. She needs to say no, whether it's "easy" to do or not.

    And saying it really isn't quite as hard as she's making it out to be. We adults do plenty of things that we don't want our kids to do, and what we say is this: "If you still want to, you can do it when you're older."

    This way you aren't saying "no" to your kids. You're saying "not right now." It's much the same way most of us treat driving, drinking, voting, and even joining the military.

    How do you handle the tattoo conversation with your kids?


    Image via Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Zoe SaldanaIt will be a very merry Christmas for Zoe Saldana and husband Marco Perego this year! The actress is said to have given birth to her twins at a Los Angeles hospital on Monday.

    The Guardians of the Galaxy star was reportedly carrying two little boys, but the couple has yet to release the gender of their new bundles of joy -- or any baby names. A friend did speak out, however, saying the new parents are "ecstatic" and stated both want a big family.

    More From The Stir: 150 Most Popular Names for Twins

    Looks like they're off to a good start with two babies at once!

    Congratulations to the happy family. We can't wait to hear the names they've chosen for their little ones!

    What do you think would be good names for twin boys?


    Image via Zoe Saldana/Instagram

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Gaby HoffmanShe's one of the rare child stars to disappear into obscurity and then come back to the spotlight without a scandal or a foray into reality TV, and now Gaby Hoffmann has some more good news! The star of Amazon's Transparent and the current box office hit Wild is a new mom. The actress and her boyfriend, Chris Dapkins, welcomed a baby girl -- at home -- last month.

    And in keeping with her down-to-earth attitude, Gaby and Chris opted for a gorgeous baby name that's far from typical for celebrities. Are you ready for this?

    The new little girl is named Rosemary (no word on whether she got Mom's last name or Dad's). 

    More From The Stir: Quiz: What's Your Celebrity Baby Name IQ?

    A little old-fashioned, but absolutely lovely, the moniker is from the Latin ros marinus, or dew of the sea. It was big back in the '40s, when the likes of Rosemary Clooney were all the rage in Hollywood, but has fallen out of fashion. That said, this may be time for a comeback. A lot of so-called "grandma" and "grandpa" names have been resurfacing of late. Jimmy Fallon and wife Nancy, for example, have reached way in the past for both daughters' names, with Frances and Winnie. 

    Interesting to note, Hoffmann's real name is Gabriella Mary -- meaning her daughter shares at least a piece of Mom's name.

    Congratulations to the new family!

    What do you think of the name?


    For more great baby name ideas to find your perfect baby name match, visit Baby Name Wizard.

    Image via Deano/Splash News

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