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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

    Alicia SilverstoneMaybe Alicia Silverstone is a parenting role model after all. The Clueless star certainly had the Internet in an uproar earlier this week about her bizarre baby bird-style feeding method of her little boy. But she braved the paparazzi anyway and walked out head held high with little Bear Blu in his sling this week, breastfeeding the 11-month-old right out in public.

    You go girl! I stand by my critique of pre-chewing her son's food, but darn it if I don't respect her a little more for this move. And not just because the slam at public breastfeeding that the Superficial paired with its reveal of Silverstone's other favorite feeding practice is absolutely ridiculous.

    The site, which is known for gossip not parenting advice, smacked Alicia as "one of those weird bonding moms who does whatever earthy fad she reads about at Whole Foods like rubbing starfishes on you and your child’s faces to transfer emotions or some equally dumb shit." 

    Ah, yes, because allowing a child to drink the milk that nature has created specifically for them is a "fad." I sucked the big one at breastfeeding despite my valiant (and heartwrenching) attempts to make it work, but I'm nothing if not a fan of the movement to make sure moms know this is not a trend. It's a scientifically proven method that's actually stood the test of time (in direct opposition, actually, to pre-chewing your child's food, which technology has improved on with knives and food processors, and which medical experts tell you is dangerous and unhealthy).

    It's responses like the Superficial's that hurt breastfeeding moms, that keep celebrity moms like Silverstone indoors, afraid that they're going to be picked on for doing what's best for their baby. The fact that she said "eh, what the heck, I'm doing it," and walked out there, head held high, baby cuddled close and, yes, having a snack "from her boobs" (god forbid we call them breasts ... gotta make it sound sexier than it is, huh?) makes me respect this mom big time as a role model. 

    It's not that I agree with everything she does -- far from it. But I respect a mom who believes in her parenting methods and doesn't let anyone else's opinion make her feel like she's "less" of a mom. It's a lesson every new mom could use.

    You're going to encounter a lot of people telling you what to do and what not to do, so many conflicting opinions that you could go insane trying to follow it all. But if you just hold your head high and follow your instincts, do what YOU know is right, you're child is going to get a lot better mothering!

    How do you handle criticisms of your parenting? What have you changed because of them?

     

    Image via Mark Coggins/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Leah MesserGood news for Leah Messer means bad news for the Teen Mom 2 fans who have been holding out hope that the young mom would reconnect with ex-husband Corey Simms. Messer and boyfriend Jeremy Calvert aren't just rumored to be engaged. They're moving full-steam ahead on two of the biggest relationship game changers there are.

    These big changes put Corey's tweet about how sad he is to be single in a whole new light. It looks like his little girls -- twin girls Aleeah and Aliannah -- may be calling Calvert stepdaddy sooner rather than later. So what's up with this teen mom?

    First off, Messer and Calvert -- who have been through some major drama in the past few months between a pregnancy and a subsequent miscarriage -- have made the jump to pet ownership! Easter must have come early because each of the girls now has their own little chicks that Jeremy and Leah picked up for them. I am always uneasy about people buying chicks because they're so cute ... forgetting they grow up into not-so-cute chickens, but the video of the twins getting to know their new pets is so stinking cute even the grumpy animal advocate in me couldn't help grinning:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Aww! It's nice to see the little girls looking so happy and healthy, isn't it?

    Of course, adding animals means you need more space in your home. Enter major relationship move number two. Leah and Jeremy are busy house-hunting these days.

    That's right. They're doing it together, which ought to make Corey feel more than a little put out. If you remember, Leah ignored his request that they put off moving and went out on a housing search with her stepdad during the last season. Just including Jeremy in the process speaks to a much happier, healthier relationship for this couple than the one we saw on Teen Mom.

    What do you think of these major moves Leah is making? Do you think she and Corey will ever get back together?

     

    Image via MTV


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    autismAs if the mystery that shrouds the autism diagnosis process wasn't scary enough, there's some fresh news on the autism front that will scare the pants off of you. The CDC has issued a new report, and the numbers of kids on the spectrum just jumped. Again. Big time!

    We've gone from 1 in every 110 kids falling somewhere on the autism spectrum to 1 in 88 8-year-olds with an autism diagnosis. That's a 23 percent jump, people! And we still have no real clue what is doing this to our kids!? And yet ... there's good news for parents, if you know where to look.

    I know that doesn't seem true right now. We have an epidemic on our hands. Go ahead and call me an alarmist, but numbers don't lie.

    There are now more children being diagnosed with autism than there are babies being born with a congenital heart defect -- the number one birth defect in America. There are more kids with autism than there are kids with cancer! And all gets scarier when you consider the total jump in the number of 8-year-olds on the spectrum is up 78 percent in the past decade (in 2000 and 2002, the CDC estimated there were just 1 in 150 kids on the spectrum).

    So how can we parents sleep at night? We can cling to the good news right there in that report. First, and foremost, this isn't necessarily a rise in kids developing autism so much as it is better diagnosis. That means kids who were falling through the cracks before are getting the services that can make a major difference for kids on the autism spectrum.

    And just as important: the more people who have a certain disease, the more attention it gets. Today's report has already elicited demands from some major organizations with influence in Washington -- including the Environmental Working Group -- to push Congress to pour more money into research to help parents find answers. Because these kids, and their parents, need our help. And the more they get, the better our kids will be. 

    How many kids do you know on the autism spectrum?

     

    Image via Horia Varlan/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    GleeMan oh man, I am one confused Gleek today. When Glee ended its last episode in February with a texting and driving PSA Quinn Fabray's cute little Beetle bug in a spectacular car crash, followed by the news that we would not find out the answer until April 10, I was madder than Sue Sylvester after she found out the New Directions were getting their own movie. But now that I've seen the trailer for "Big Brother," the spring premiere, I am really mad. NeNe Leakes going off on Sue Sylvester mad!

    Was that Dianna Agron I spotted? In the trailer? Sitting up in the choir room, right next to Artie, looking fine?

    Here, you be the judge. Skip ahead to the 31-second mark. Go ahead, I'll wait:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    I was right, huh? Ladies and gents, that right there is what we call a cliffhanger fail.

    We all knew they weren't going to kill off a major character, especially not after Quinn finally recovered from being all crazypants and trying to get Beth back, straightened out her life, and was headed for Yale. But for the integrity of the cliffhanger ending and to reward us for living through those horrific last few moments of the February episode, goshdarnit, the least they could have done was keep up the charade! That is, after all, what a cliffhanger is supposed to be for, people ... to leave us, um, hanging?

    Now maybe this is a trick. They're showing us in this trailer, but maybe Agron won't actually get to sit up and talk for a good long time (she can make some easy money by lying in a coma for a few episodes ... Rachel won't mind singing over her, I'm sure). Fine. There are still surprises, I'm sure.

    But knowing Quinn is alive, for sure, kind of ruins the credibility of the cliffhanger, don't you think? Enough to make us boycott the spring premiere to make up for the torture that didn't have to be?

    Eh, who am I kidding. I'll be sitting in front of the TV at 7:59 on April 10 with popcorn in hand.

    How are you feeling about the trailer? Annoyed or just relieved to have Quinn back where she belongs?

     

    Image via GleeonFox/YouTube


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Gretchen Crooks
    When we are little kids, we ask why because we want everything to make sense. But the older I get, the more I'm realizing some things are so disturbing there is no explanation. And in cases like that of Noah Crooks, the 13-year-old who police say tried to sexually abuse his own mother, then shot her to death, I don't think I want an explanation.

    Mental health experts are calling the shooting of Gretchen Crooks "out of the norm" for human behavior. Usually when there's sex abuse among kids, they say, it's juvenile on juvenile. And matricide -- mother readers will be happy to know -- remains rare.

    Call me crazy, but I think I'm OK leaving it right there. I'm OK with "out of the norm." Why? Well, let's talk about the Noah Crooks case, shall we?

    Gretchen Crooks was a 37-year-old mother of two living in Iowa with her husband and son Noah. She was a nurse with a bachelor's degree who was working on her master's degree. That son, Noah, is 13. He's an eighth grader who played the sax and was recently accepted into a college program to learn Chinese.

    They sound like a very normal family. Except that police say Noah tried to sexually abuse his mom, then took his .22 caliber gun and shot her before calling 911, calmly (they use the word stoic) announcing that he'd shot her.

    If that were "in the norm," folks, what the heck would that say about our country? Really?

    I'm not saying I don't want the experts to figure out what happened to this kid and his mom. My heart breaks for the dad here and Gretchen's remaining son; they need answers and closure.

    But this is one of those stories in life so disturbing that it's simply impossible to put into the context of everyday life and try to make the answers fit. I think we can bypass why and go straight on to hoping it remains "out of the norm." Here's more on the case if you're curious, including why he's being charged as a juvenile:

    What in life have you given up on trying to find the answer to and just accepted that some things will never be explained?

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    copMost TV sitcoms are so ridiculous that the idea of having them re-created in my kid's school leaves me under-impressed ... to say the least. But the real-life 21 Jump Street type situation at a California high school has me -- and I'd imagine plenty of other parents -- saying, "Yes please!" Turns out baby-faced undercover officer Alex Salinas took 12 kids into custody for drug charges during his stint as a "student" at Exeter High School.

    When I saw 12 -- as in a dozen -- I had one of those "OMG, I feel old" moments and wanted to fan myself. I can't imagine a dozen of these scumbags hanging out with my daughter.

    I wasn't born yesterday. I'm fully aware that there are teenagers doing drugs, and that there are kids buying at the local high school. They were there when I was a kid (although, I swear, either I was clueless or kids in my neck of the woods really were content with pot instead of going into the hard stuff territory), and they're there today.

    But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

    We already have school resource officers in my neck of the woods, generally state troopers who pop into the schools, try to get friendly with the kids, and find out what's going on. Problem is, they wear their uniforms, so kids know from the get-go that they're the po-po. From what I understand (I know some of the officers personally), they still get tips, and they follow up leads, and it's worth it. Sounds good to me; the safer, the better, right?

    I send my kid into a school building to get an education. That's it, y'all. So I was a wee bit confused by complaints I saw around the web about police departments following a 21 Jump Street kind of policing style. It seems parents are concerned about big brother watching their kids.

    And I get that. I do. But if a cop is going to be nabbing my kid on something and expects that the charges that will stick in court, it means she is doing something that I don't want her to do! I hate to say it, but if you're scared of cops in the schools, you might want to look at your parenting ... are you worried about big brother or are you worried about what your kid is doing?

    Would you be comfortable with a narc in your kid's school? What would you do if they nabbed your kid?

     

    Image via davidsonscott15/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    easter eggsEvery year, I dread Easter. Not because of the chocolate or even the jellybeans (nom, nom, nom). It's cleaning up after the whole Easter egg dyeing process that just sucks the fun out of the holiday for me. But 2012 is going to be the mess-free Easter for me!

    That's right. None of that old-fashioned dippin' and dyein'. I am going full-on, easy, breezy drip-free egg decorating. Care to join me? Here's the plan!

    1. Stickers. The kid likes to put them on the doors. And the walls. And the toilet. So gosh darnit, we're going to use them in an appropriate place this holiday!

    2. Silk ties. This is an oldie but a goodie taught to me by an older woman in my community, and a certain home-making maven approves (ahem, rhymes with Bartha Pewart). Best part, folks? There are no paints. Repeat after me: no paints. Yeah, you're sold too, aren't you? We have the whole process, step by step!

    3. Markers. What do you mean you don't have any of these? You have a child, do you not? Good. So listen to me: these are amaaaazing. On pumpkins. On eggs. On anything but the wall of my hallway where a certain child has written her name (so glad the nursery school teachers shared that little gem).

    4. Glue and glitter. Seriously, people, how did I not think of this before? I have a 6-year-old daughter who does not think there is anything that cannot be improved with glitter (well, she's kind of right). So you take that hard-boiled egg, you roll it in glue, then you roll it in glitter and ... voila! Genius! Not "totally" mess-free, but glitter is a lot easier to sweep up than food dye, right?

    What's your mess-free Easter trick?

     

    Image via woodleywonderworks/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    school busBig yellow school buses represent a lot of things to me. The first day of school. Finally being cool enough to sit in the back with the "big kids." Learning naughty words (and the proper way to use them). But you'll forgive me if I never thought "school bus" and "ability to outrun a tornado."

    One of those big, bulky behemoths designed to cart a bunch of yelling kids around? For real? Yes, folks, for real. A school bus driver outran a tornado in Indiana by putting her pedal to the metal and just going for it. Let me repeat that. Angel Perry outran a TORNADO to save her life and the lives of all the kids on that bus.

    A tornado. As in a twister. As in one of those violent rotating columns of air that pick up houses like they're toothpicks. I think my mind might be spinning as fast as the wind in Henryville, Indiana that day! I consider myself a safe driver, but I get rattled when a big-wheeler blows by me on the highway. That's got nothing on the wind of a violent killer storm. That would stop my heart!

    Just imagine it. Angel Perry didn't have a Ferrari or even a Pontiac. She had a big, bulky bus. The kind that makes you think "slow and steady." And she had to get all 36,000 pounds of it, plus almost a dozen kids, back to the school, which was three miles away, before the tornado picked them up and smashed them to smithereens. It's like Sandra Bullock in Speed but without sexy Keanu and without the ability to just stop filming at the end of the day because it's all fake, there is no bomb, and everyone will be just fine.

    I don't think they teach you that when you go to driving school. Even if bus drivers get training for handling a vehicle that large, they don't get "handling a vehicle that large at the speed it takes to outrun a tornado" training.

    And the amazing thing is, Perry did it. She got all those kids off the bus and into the school building with three minutes to spare before the now-empty bus was picked up, flown across the road, and smashed into a diner. Check out the video of that thing in action:

    So, what do you think? Will you ever look at a school bus or a school bus driver the same way ever again? Me neither!

    What memories do the words "school bus" bring to mind for you?

     

    Image via wheany/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Patricia Prue Allen Prue
    Of all the disturbing details in the case of murdered teacher Melissa Jenkins -- and there are many -- the connection between the Vermont mom and the people police say killed her is one that's hard to shake. It appears Jenkins went to see Allen and Patricia Prue because they told her they had car trouble. She wasn't just an innocent person going about her daily business who was brutally murdered; that would be bad enough. 

    But Allen and Patricia Prue are accused of killing a woman who gave up a portion of her day because she thought they needed her. Melissa Jenkins was a Good Samaritan, a helper, the kind of person who goes out of their way to help someone else.

    Pardon the slightly rhetorical question, but who does that? I know the answer is a sick, depraved person. Obviously. We are talking about murder.

    But let's set murder aside. We live in a society where there are people who help, and there are people who take advantage. They're unlikely to go as far as killing, but still, they are users, people who thrive off of getting something for nothing and abusing the goodness and decency of good-hearted folks like Melissa Jenkins, a woman who could have told the Prues, "I'm sorry, but my 2-year-old son is tired, why don't you call AAA?"

    She didn't. She left her nice, safe home and went to help her former plow guy because that's what nice people do. And police say it got her killed while her 2-year-old watched!?

    But who does that? What kind of person sits down and ponders, "Hmmm, if I had a problem, who would be the first person I could call and expect they'd actually show up?" ... and doesn't treat that person like gold? Because they are some of the best people our society has to offer. We should be treating them like the princes and princesses they are.

    We all know someone like Melissa Jenkins. She's the person you can call at 10 p.m. and say, "Hey, listen, my wife's car broke down, and I have to go pick her up, but I don't want to wake up the kids. Can you come babysit?" And she comes. She's the person who misses a meeting and is added to three committees because everyone in the room knows she will just nod her head, roll up her sleeves, and ask, "What can I do?"

    We understand the Melissa Jenkinses of the world because they are who we want to be. Good. Kind. Loving. We all love the Melissa Jenkinses of the world because they make our worlds a better place.

    How anyone could hurt someone like that is too confusing for me to make sense of it. How about you?

    Here's more on the Melissa Jenkins' case:


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    April Fool's DayWith each April 1 that passes, I am coming to realize that April Fools' Day will never be as fun as it was back in high school. By the time they're teenagers, kids have enough imagination to devise pranks that are truly over-the-top. And only teenagers have TIME to waste setting up elaborate jokes that will result in five seconds -- tops -- of "getting one over" on their subject.

    The problem of course, is we, the parents, end up being that subject! We get short-sheeted. We get tape on the kitchen sprayer and plastic on the toilet seat. 

    And now for the good news! 

    Teens who pull pranks on their parents are dumb enough to share the evidence on YouTube these days ... so you can prepare yourself. Because kids these days are mean!

    No parent of a teenager wants to hear they're about to be a grandparent. Just don't get caught out like this dad did:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Remember what I said about the amount of TIME teens have on their hands? You might want to keep that in mind when you open the bedroom door in the morning ... you might find a whole lot of water out there! Hopefully your kids will stop there ... unlike this poor guy's pranksters:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    A word of advice, Moms? Do not take your kid's word on anything they say to you this weekend ... especially not a plan to give up on college:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Go ahead. Forbid your kids from getting a puppy. They will get back at you:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Don't think your college kid is a drug addict? Then you shouldn't exactly trust them when they call with word that they're being kicked out of college:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Ah, teen drivers. So reckless. Such jerks when they call their parents on April Fools' Day:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    What pranks have your kids tried to pull on you? Help your fellow parents so they don't get caught out this April Fools' Day!

     

    Image via erix!/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jenelle EvansAll the good news in court must be getting to Jenelle Evans' head. It's been a whole few days (!?) since the scandal-plagued star of Teen Mom 2 got off the hook on charges of cyberstalking a former roommate. So how is she celebrating?

    How else does Jenelle celebrate good news? By stirring up new trouble for herself! Evans and new boyfriend Gary Head have proven she hasn't learned her lesson about smart cyber etiquette with a steady stream of particularly vicious Tweets directed at former friend Victoria Rhyne ... a girl Teen Mom watchers might remember.

    Most of us know Rhyne as Tori. Remember? The childhood friend who invited Jenelle to move in with her, only to get into a fistfight with Evans in her bedroom on camera? If that's how Jenelle repays her for her hospitality, it's probably no surprise Tori sold a story about her former friend to a tabloid.

    That's what seems to have started the Twitter war, although Rhyne, who goes by the handle @Vkillemm, says she told Evans she was trading stories for cash from the get-go. Whether that's true or not, it didn't stop hours of public assaults from Head and Evans spilling intimate details of Rhyne's sex-life, saying they hoped she'd die (that was Gary) and claims that she'd traded on her friendship with Evans to get money for drugs. The assaults ended when Rhyne requested the duo stop tagging her online.

    There was never a sign that Jenelle was doing anything illegal, but if she wants to put these kinds of issues in her past, she needs to make two major concessions. One: pick better friends! Tori is not exactly blameless here, and Gary is far from a good boyfriend if he's the kind of guy who would publicly voice a wish that someone dies. Two: keep your nose clean ... coming off of not one but TWO arrests for alleged cyberstalking, one would think she'd steer clear of anything that has even a whiff of controversy. Of course, if she did number one, she might not have such trouble with number two.

    How long do you give it until Jenelle is in legal trouble again?

     

    Image via MTV


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    rock climbing babyI was watching the latest video of a baby doing something that has the parenting world freaking out -- rock climbing in this case, and yes, I know, but we'll get to that in minute -- when it hit me. Nothing really prepares you for the day your sweet, innocent, fragile little baby starts climbing everything like they're part monkey and your house is a jungle.

    Oh sure, you babyproof the heck out of your house because people have warned you about this kind of thing. But what you should really be doing is taking some kind of anti-heart attack supplement for the day you walk from your bathroom into the living room and find your wee little snookums on top of the TV. Mind, you just left the room 3.9 seconds ago to grab those organic teething tablets out of the medicine cabinet, and she was on the floor gnawing on a teether when you left.

    So what does this all have to do with that rockclimbing cutie in his diaper?

    Because people are going absolutely bananas over how scary this is! It seems their hearts just can't take it. So, with that in mind, let's roll the videotape, shall we?

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Hmm. OK, so most of us don't have a literal rock climbing wall in our living rooms (or wherever this is). And I would hope there was something soft for this kid to land on, or an adult with arms outstretched below. But on face value of this video, I just can't get too up in arms about this one. My heart got enough of a workout when my little climber was this age!

    Real babies go from cute and content with sitting still to climbing everything in sight. For awhile there, my daughter thought I was put on earth simply to serve as her jungle gym. I would get a pudgy little foot in the eye at least once an hour. And I seem to recall peering out the window at a birthday party one day to see that my cousin's teeny weeny little cutie had somehow managed to climb up with the big kids and gone through the window of the clubhouse at the TOP of the swing set.

    Kids climb. And they climb high! It's what they do. And somehow our hearts survive it.

    What have you caught your kid climbing?

     

    Image via VarcityMediaConcepts/YouTube


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    wiiWhen you marry a video gamer, you realize you will probably raise video gaming kids. It's inevitable. What you don't realize?

    One day you will realize that those video game consoles taking up space underneath your TV are the best friends you can always count on. Learn to use them wisely, and those gadgets and gizmos can make you a saner,  nicer, kinder parent. Seriously. Just look at the evidence:

    1. Mommy and Daddy Time Outs -- Oh, you thought I meant the consoles were for the kids? They are. But the average age of gamers has been creeping up in recent years. Did you know 29 percent of people over 50 play video games? And women over the age of 18 actually represent a heftier portion of gamers than teenage boys? Mom (or Dad) spending a half hour blasting some aliens or dancing to a workout game can be all the difference between cranky, screamy parent who needs to de-stress and nice, friendly parent who has had some much-needed me-time.

    2. Road Trips -- When you marry a man whose parents live 15 hours away, you learn to love the handheld game consoles for getting you through those long drives to Grandma's house. You tell me what you'd rather hear from the backseat: "Moooooooom, are we there yet?" or "Mom, this is so cool, I just got to the next level!" Just make sure you buy games that are complicated enough to last a long time!

    3. Rainy Days -- Say what? The kids are bouncing off the walls, and you can't get them to calm down. Breathe in. Breathe out. And set up one of those games where they have to use their whole body,  not just their hands, to get that energy out!

    4. Snow Days -- The kids hear "school is cancelled," and start cheering. You hear "no school," and all your plans to fix the leaky toilet, run some laundry, bake the cookies for the bake sale ... go out the window. Unless ... yes, parking them in front of their video game console for an hour while you race around the house is perfectly acceptable if it means saving yourself from tearing your hair out wondering how you'll get it all done.

    5. Education Station -- What? From a video game? I'm not saying you abandon the books here, folks, but scientists have found that gaming can boost brainpower. Instead of stressing all the time about ways to make them better at school, use something they love -- the video game system -- to bring smarts to them. Pick out educational games that make learning fun. And focus on the action-based games that science says helps train their brain to make good decisions.

    Spill it. How do you use video games for YOU, the parent?

     

    Image via Soda O/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Bruce WillisNews out of the Demi Moore camp has been pretty sad for the past few months, so how about something good? Demi's ex, Bruce Willis, is a daddy again! His wife, Emma Heming, delivered a baby girl over the weekend!

    That brings papa Bruce to a total of four -- count 'em, four -- daughters. That's a lot of estrogen chez Willis! But while it's business as usual in the gender camp, this little girl's name makes it pretty clear she is not a Bruce and Demi production.

    So what did Emma and Bruce name their more than 9-pound (yikes!) sweetie?

    Mabel Ray Willis!

    Wait a minute here. Mabel? What happened to quirky names like Rumer, Scout, and Tallulah? His older daughters all boast monikers memorable for their uniqueness.

    But Mabel is, well, it's so ... old-fashioned! Not that that's a bad thing necessarily. I've noticed naming trends are somewhat cyclical, and the so-called "old lady" names are coming back. I know at least two moms with little girls named Beatrice, and there are more Mollys than I can shake a stick at (sorry, it seems my phrasing has gone back a few generations along with the names).

    I'm just surprised when parents follow on particular naming pattern through a series of kids and then suddenly change it up. Even with a second marriage, and Emma putting in her two cents on the name of her little girl, I'm hoping Bruce had at least some say in the matter. Then again, maybe the "offbeat" names were all Demi's doing and Bruce wanted to go traditional all along!

    Either way ... congrats to the new family!

    Did you start with a naming pattern with your older kids and then throw everyone for a loop when you changed?

     

    Image via Alan Light/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Alex Herr Sage herrThe thought of taking my 6-year-old mountain climbing makes me want to crawl back under the covers, preferably with a brownie. But then, my daughter is not the child of a famous mountain climber. And my daughter did not volunteer to go peakbagging at 5 years old, trying to reach 48 of the giant peaks in the New Hampshire's White Mountains.

    Patricia Ellis Herr's daughter has. Volunteered that is! Alex Herr accomplished the feat of reaching the summit of all 48 of the 4,000-plus-foot mountains by the time she was 6, becoming the youngest one of the youngest ever to manage the task. And let's be clear here. 

    Alex Herr wasn't being carried on her parents' backs. She joined the Four Thousand Footer Club on her own two feet. To be honest, just typing that makes me tired (where is that brownie?). But it also leaves me feeling guilty.

    When Trish Herr's new memoir, UP: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure, was sent my way by her publisher, my first thought was "cool!" followed quickly by "not my daughter." It was -- in part anyway -- an honest summation of my daughter's personality. She has a mind that can work its way around intricate geometric designs. She has a comfort with who she is that I envy. And she has a stubborn streak I attribute to German heritage on both sides that could serve her well in a courtroom one day.

    But she is not a "let's go climb mountains" kind of girl. Quick to anger or frustrate, she's perhaps the polar opposite of the patience needed to ascend mountains on your own two feet. When she wants to take on something particularly onerous, I confess I am hesitant because I foresee the meltdown. I've been known to head her off at the pass rather than deal with the probable frustrations.

    Today, thanks to Alex Herr, I sit corrected.

    In a book powered by the kind of moxie that I so want to instill in my daughter, Trish Herr has recounted the process, from the day she first learned what peakbagging was (think bagging in terms of "having this one in the bag" or marking each peak off a bucket list) to her first trek with then 5-year-old Alex and beyond.

    Anticipating potential controversy, Trish chose to begin the book with one of the most harrowing ordeals of the adventure, getting caught in a freak electrical storm with not only Alex (5 at the time) but also 3-year-old daughter Sage. She uses the unpredictability of the weather to couch her entire argument for her daughter's extraordinary task. They were as prepared as could be; weather reports never showed it coming. They were like any other family out for a hike.

    And there it is. Families hike with kids all the time. So why not hiking a lot of mountains, spread out over time with your 5-year-old daughter? Break a gargantuan task into bite-sized pieces, and it can be accomplished, even by little people.

    It's a lesson we can all use. Perhaps not about mountain climbing. But trusting our kids, even at 5 or 6, that they can do what they set their minds to, that the biggest of challenges can be brought down to a level that the smallest of people can master:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Be honest: what's your first reaction when your kids want to take on massive projects? Would you allow them to take on an adventure like scaling 48 4,000-foot mountains?

     

    Image via CrownBooks/YouTube


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    steering wheel'Tis the time of year when plans for big family vacations are kicked into high gear. But a horrific motor home tragedy on a highway in Kansas this past weekend is a sad warning that a favorite for family road trips isn't always the best thing for a family. The Kerbers already lost their patriarch just five years ago, and now five more members of the family are dead.

    Pauline Kerber is now mourning four of her children and a daughter in-law, while she and 12 other people in her freightliner motor home are in a hospital. Some of the widow's family, including many of her 12 children, were listed in critical condition. Such a horrific tragedy ... and all because the gigantic motor home they used to transport 18 family members home from a motocross race was in an accident.

    Giant family road trips are as American as baseball and apple pie. And it seems like everyone has that dream of one day affording an RV so they can take off and see the country. But those things scare the pants off of me, and the Kerbers' accident is a prime example.

    The cause of the accident, which ended with the huge motor home flipping off a bridge and into a ravine, is still under investigation. I don't know the Kerbers' situation, and I'm not going to cast aspersions here. They may have had plenty of experience and used all the right precautions. But that doesn't mean we can't try to learn from what happened and make other people's trips safer.

    Police say 17-year-old Adam Kerber, one of Pauline's surviving kids, was driving. Maybe he was an experienced driver, or maybe he was like way too many Americans who buy one of these vehicles and thinks, "Oh, sure I can drive that!" If you're going to buy a motor home, for goodness' sakes, invest in a driver course and check in with your state's DMV. Certain states actually require a different kind of driver's license to take the wheel of something this big because it's not as easy as hitting the brake and the gas. 

    I'm also betting the police will be spending a fair amount of time trying to figure out how many people in the Kerber's vehicle were wearing seatbelts. Again, I'm not saying the family did anything wrong. But seatbelt laws for RVs vary from state to state. In Kansas, it seems they require only the people in the front seat wear them, and people ages 4 to 14 be belted in in the back seat. Technically that means at least two of the deceased were legally allowed to go without a seatbelt, as were many of the injured. But "legal" doesn't always mean safe, and I happen to know more than a few RV folks ignore them completely because they can't be seen by the cops through the walls of the RV. Scary, huh? Please let this be a warning to you NOT to be one of those people.

    My heart breaks for the Kerber family today, to have something as special and wonderful as a family vacation end in such tragedy.

    How do you feel about vacationing in a motor home? Ever done it?

     

    Image via jonas_foyn/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    alex wilsonBeing different is part and parcel of being a kid with cerebral palsy. But for Alex Wilson, being different has come to mean being ignored. In a photo that has gone viral on Facebook, Wilson is the boy in a wheelchair placed a full set of bleachers away from his school's choir.

    Mom Arla Jan Wilson originally posted the photo to her Facebook page with the disclaimer that she doesn't like to vent. But the sad photo, so simple and yet so startling, has become a lightning rod for parents across the nation who are more than happy to vent on Alex's behalf. What happened at the multi-school choral performance at the Georgia high school was wrong. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon.

    Being separated and singled out from their peers is "normal" for these "different" kids. Just last week, a 5-year-old girl in Texas with the same diagnosis as Alex -- cerebral palsy -- made national news because her school was trying to force her into a wheelchair rather than allow her to use the walker that her doctors have said can help keep her mobile and allow her to function more like her peers.

    The more these kids try to show they can do things that fit the so-called norm, it seems the more they're pushed back into the box they just punched their way out of. It's a double whammy if there ever was one.

    Take Alex. His mom's Facebook "rant" (I put it in quotes because it sounds more like a good mom advocating for her child!) notes that chorus is one of the activities her son can take part in. His disability doesn't hold him back from singing. That's what makes the choral director's insensitivity -- he claims it was an "oversight" that Alex was abandoned and left alone in front of the entire crowd -- that much more heartbreaking.

    Kids with special needs don't "just" need support to help them along with their daily tasks. They need to be recognized as people, human beings who deserve to do the kinds of things that their peers can do too, who are just as good and just as important. These kids should not be ignored. And thanks to the photo of Alex that's spreading like wildfire today, thanks to parents who are "ranting" on the Wilson's behalf, there's a clear message to school choirs like the one in Atlanta, Georgia that abandoned him: this is not acceptable.

    Will you share Alex's story today to help fight for kids like him?

     

    Image via Facebook


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Taylor SwiftIt was supposed to be the most magical night of Kevin McGuire's young life! He had a date to the Country Music Awards, and her name was Taylor Swift. But (surprise, surprise) it turns out even country music superstars are no match for childhood cancer. Taylor was in Vegas, but he was stuck home in New Jersey.

    McGuire is the teenager whose story sparked a Facebook petition to convince Swift to attend his prom, and he seemed to have it made in the shade last month when he got the better offer of being her date to the CMAs. Almost made you forget that he got the dream date because he was suffering from a disease that strikes thousands of kids every year, didn't it? Getting kids' cancer into the news with stories like Kevin's planned trip to meet Taylor is good for the cause. But they're not the reality. 

    Parenting a kid with cancer is much less glamour, more dealing with a rough week of chemotherapy, low blood counts, and a 103-degree fever -- the very stuff that kept Kevin home in New Jersey. It's the reality of cancer that meant Kevin watched her accept entertainer of the year from inside a New Jersey restaurant instead of sitting beside her when the news was announced. It's a harsh reality that at 18, Kevin is on his second battle with leukemia.

    Oh, I know, I'm bringing down all the happy today and ruining your awards show buzz. I love a good celebrity story as much as the next mom. And Taylor certainly deserves kudos for trying. She even made sure to call him on the phone on her busy weekend to make up for the broken date.

    It's just that I live in an area where there are a lot of kids with cancer. A lot. Every time I turn around, there's another fundraiser for this family or funeral for that child. And it gets to you. It was because of the death of too many of these kids in my community that I started shaving my head every year to fight childhood cancer with the St. Baldrick's Foundation (yes, if you've read anything I've written over the years, you've heard me beat that drum, and I'm going to KEEP beating it until we lick this thing).

    I really wish I could say that everything was trumpets and roses and benevolent celebrities doing good deeds for these families. But being a teenager with cancer is a lot more doing your homework with an IV in your arm and trying not to miss too much of your favorite TV show because you were in the bathroom throwing up from the chemotherapy. Poor Kevin McGuire had a good reason for standing up Taylor Swift: reality.

    What is the reality like for the kids you know who have suffered through cancer?

     

    Image via 1035 WEZL/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    international borderTell me if this makes any sense to you. A dad from Mexico successfully petitioned U.S. Customs and Border Protection to reverse their plan to bar him from entering the country to attend the funeral of his 10-year-old son. That's right. At first the US government was going to keep a father from saying goodbye to his little boy who died in a house fire.

    What ... jerks! I know immigration is a hot button issue in America, but it's stories like Fidelmar "Fidel" Merlos-Lopez' ordeal that make me wonder if we're losing more of our humanity with every bit of red tape the government throws over our borders.

    Let's talk about facts for a second. Damien Lopez was just 10 years old and living in Pennsylvania -- legally I might add, with an American citizen for a mom. His dad was an undocumented immigrant in the US at one point, who came to this country as a teenager. But Fidel left the country voluntarily and has been working to return legally to join his American citizen wife. Hey, kudos to him for trying to do the right thing, right?

    But while he's been out of the country, tragedy struck. A fire killed the boy as well as a cousin, aunt, and 7-month-old half-brother. Now, when I hear a child died, my first thoughts go to the parents. I'd say that's because I am a parent, but fact is, it's always been that way. Kids are not supposed to die, m'kay? It's against the natural order. I can't help thinking about this Fidel Lopez. He's already thousands of miles away from his child. He's already been denied the chance to say goodbye in life.

    And then some paper-pushing rulebook-following butthead had the audacity to try to tell him he couldn't say goodbye in death either? What kind of human being does that? This is what comes of taking an issue -- in this case immigration -- and bogging it down in so much legalese that we lose the ability to treat human beings with humanity.

    I know. It's over. They let him in. Halle-friggin-lujah!

    But people, why the heck didn't they just do that in the first place? Why did he have to put up a fight to be greeted with a little human compassion? I feel like we hear these inhumane stories all the time -- like the little girl who was being denied the chance to enter the country to donate bone marrow to a 5-year-old relative who was going to die without it. You don't have to break rules in order to make people's live easier. You just have to follow them judiciously.

    If you were in the department of homeland security, what would you have done when you saw the Lopez case come across your desk?

     

    Image via HeyRocker/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jenelle EvansIs it just me or does watching Teen Mom make you feel like being a teenager was a thousand years ago? Take Jenelle Evans. Latest news from the gossip rags is the mother of little Jace is absolutely desperate to get breast implants.

    Wants I can understand. I am a card carrying member of the teeny tata club, and sometimes it's a drag. But desperate? When you have college to finish and your mother still has custody of your son because you're not up to taking care of him? Oh, and dare we mention your legal troubles of late?

    In light of all that, desperate for new boobies just seems a wee bit ... I don't know ... dramatic? The claims come from "sources" other than Jenelle, and she's made fun of fellow MTV reality star Farrah Abraham before for getting implants (on the show!), so who knows if this one is actually true or just kind of sort of maybe possibly something that she might have said.

    More from The Stir: 'Teen Moms' Leah Messer & Jenelle Evans Make the Worst Decision on MTV Contract

    Point is: these are the kinds of things we hear about from these mothers all the time. Everything in life is AWFUL! Horrible! Catastrophic! The world is going to end!

    They certainly make for dramatic television. But they're a big fat reminder that these kids are still kids! Teen parenthood is hard as heck, and I don't envy these kids one bit. But even the teen moms on this show have relatively first world problems, especially when there are grandparent babysitters ready and willing to step in. In Jenelle's case, she doesn't even have to be primary caregiver of her own child!

    Parenthood or not, at this age, most of these "stars" haven't had enough life experience to being putting molehill-sized matters like so-called "droopy breasts" in perspective against mountainous ones. And Jenelle may be the worst of the bunch. Her (admittedly naggy) mom, Barbara, so much as breathes around her, and Jenelle is off on a rant about how unfair the world is to little old her.

    If Dr. Drew wants to do these girls a big favor during one of his sit-downs, he could give them a lesson in prioritizing. Boobs that don't "droop" come somewhere after regaining custody of the child you brought into this world and somewhere before resurrecting a love affair with Reefer Kieffer (because here's hoping that one never happens).

    Where do you think breast implants should rank on Jenelle's agenda?

     

    Image via MTV


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