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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

    Kingston Rossdale Gwen Stefani has always been one of my favorite celebrity moms. She has a killer voice, rocking style, and the day her kids' clothing line started showing up in Target ranks right up there on the short list of best days for mothers of little girls who fancy themselves fashionistas. But please, for the love of Mike, would she stop dyeing her kid's hair?

    Every time I catch a glimpse of 5-year-old son Kingston in the news, he has a new 'do in a new hue. Awhile back it was a blue mohawk. This week it's bleach blond. Yikes! Doesn't Gwen know what that stuff can do to a kid?

    Hair dyes can contain everything from coal tar, which has been linked to cancer, to parabens, which have been linked to endocrine system disruption. They fall on the list of "problem beauty products" that non-profit watchdog the Environmental Working Group suggest avoiding, especially with your kids.

    As cute as little Kingston looks, that's enough to scare me out of letting that stuff anywhere near my kid's hair and thoroughly regret the number of things I did to my head as a teenager.

    I'm not trying to be a grinch here. I'm all about creative expression with kids, and the way I see it, hair is one of the best parts of their body where a kid can show off their own style. In a few months time, a bad haircut has grown out. It's not permanent like a tattoo.

    But our kids only get one chance at a healthy childhood. Holding off on the dye doesn't seem that hard to me.

    If they have a colorful spirit like Gwen's kid, there are some safe alternatives for kids. Unlike Kingston's blond dye job, which you can see has begun to grow out, you have to accept that most won't last long. Although I look at it the way I do those wash-off tattoos: the inconvenience is a fair trade-off for safety.

    Squeeze fresh lemon juice on their hair, and send them out in the sun (with a safe sunscreen on the skin, of course!). Try a clip-on of colored synthetic hair. I've also heard you can get non-toxic chunks of colored sidewalk chalk wet, then use it to coat a child's dry hair for "dye" that will last through until they shampoo.

    When do you think kids are old enough to start having their hair dyed?

    Image via Splash News

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    baby nurseryI have joked a time or two with new mom friends that it would be glorious if we could leave the hospital for a few days after delivering a baby just to recover while the nurses in the maternity ward take care of the child. Never again. For one mom in Greece, the joke has become a reality!

    According to reports out of the country that's quickly becoming infamous for financial instability, one new mom didn't have enough money to pay for her C-section. So the hospital decided to hold her newborn baby hostage until she came up with the cash!

    Fortunately someone with some common sense has since intervened and helped the woman being identified only as Anna set up a payment plan for the approximately $1,500 bill so she could leave the hospital with her baby in her arms. But the fact that the threat was made at all makes it hard to imagine ever trusting that hospital, doesn't it? 

    These people are in the business of helping women bring human life into the world? Really? They certainly don't seem to have a handle on what "life" means.

    Babies are not products. Going into the hospital to deliver your child is not like walking into the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk. A cashier has every right to tell you that you can't walk out with that plastic jug until you hand over the cash to pay for it. That's how business works.

    But babies aren't milk jugs. They're human beings. That's why hospitals can't work like traditional businesses. They deal with lives, not "stuff." And yet, this hospital was claiming a baby's life is equal to the cost of a C-section. And here I thought people were priceless.

    What should hospitals be doing when new mothers can't pay their bills?


    Image via nerissa's ring/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Casey AnthonyReady for a time warp? Today marks a full year since the trial of Casey Anthony on charges of murdering her toddler daughter Caylee and all the hoopla surrounding it got under way in Orlando, Florida. Little did we know then that she'd walk off relatively scot-free, thanks to the not guilty verdict that would come in July.

    After that shocker, it's safe to say that most of America (or at least the 88 percent who think she is guilty) are approaching the one-year anniversary of the trial of the century with a bad taste in their mouths. Want to feel a little better? The past year for Casey hasn't exactly been smooth sailing. Here's a look at what she's been up to:

    Got death threats: The response to the not guilty verdict was fast and furious. Her family was even talking about possible plastic surgery at one point just to keep Casey safe.

    Was sold out by her parents on national TV: George and Cindy Anthony sat down for an exclusive with Dr. Phil in September, and put their daughter through the wringer. Cindy Anthony said Casey has "something" wrong with her, while George Anthony said his daughter had likely used Xanax on her daughter so she could go out and party.

    More from The Stir: Casey Anthony Can't Hide From the Person Who Scares Her Most

    Was forced to pay the state: A judgment handed down by a Florida court in September means Casey is supposed to pay up to the tune of $100,000 to reimburse the police for time spent searching for a child she knew had NOT disappeared.

    Was tried again in book form: Assistant State Prosecutor Jeffrey Ashton followed up the not guilty verdict with a book detailing why he thinks Casey should have been sent to prison.

    Got sued: The meter reader who discovered Caylee's decaying body had a lot to say about her lawyers trying to pin the child's death on him ... and he said it in court documents in December asking for money.

    Saw "proof" daughter's death was "no accident" on national TV: Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia, the woman who declared little Caylee's death was indeed a homicide -- the basis of the prosecution's case -- spelled out her findings for TLC early in 2012. It's too late for the jury to change its mind, but the details were certainly damning.  

    Got hacked: Not one but TWO video diaries Casey had put together were leaked on the Internet around the new year, showing a Casey with shorter, blonder hair and a nose ring.

    Saw her rape become national news: When psychiatric evaluations from her time in prison came out in January, so did Casey's confession to a shrink that she'd gotten pregnant with Caylee when someone took advantage of her in an inebriated state.

    Opted for baptism: According to an "insider," Casey was looking to be bathed in the waters of the Lord in March so she could be "closer to Caylee."

    Is being forced out of hiding: She's been laying low for her own protection, but not anymore. The defamation action filed by a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez -- the woman who shares a name with the supposed babysitter Casey once claimed took off with Caylee -- has prompted a court to order Casey show her face to respond to the complaint.

    What were you doing a year ago today? Were you tied to a TV watching the Casey Anthony trial?

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Army dadWho doesn't love a military homecoming video? Seeing a mom or dad surprise their kids after months far away from home serving our country is enough to bring a pinprick or two to the eyes of even the biggest cynic. So how do you possibly make a video more heart wrenching?

    You double it. Two parents who are serving our nation in the United States Army finagling joint leaves so they can come home together to surprise their two kids made me lose it this week. Soldiers Travis and Isela Ulman are an inspiration to all us parents who are trying to do the best we can for our kids. Just take a look:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    I can't quite figure out if I'm crying because their story is so amazing or because I can't imagine two parents both having to leave their kids. I say this with full respect for what the Ulmans and other military couples are doing. I support their choices 100 percent. I just can't imagine being them!

    More from The Stir: Military Dad's 'Superhero' Homecoming Is a Tearjerker (VIDEO)

    I have a hard enough time going away for business -- which is nothing like going into combat, I know -- when I know my husband is home with our daughter. I know she will have the best care. I know she will have a lot of fun. I don't worry about her!

    She will be fine, but I won't. The selfish part of me feels like crap when I leave. I want to be home. With her!

    So just imagine what it's like for couples who are both in the military and both deployed. Even when they have a good support system to love and care for their kids, the strain on these parents has to be immense. And yet, they do it. And they obviously make the most of their moments home. I know I'll be thinking of them the next time I have to go on a business trip, how about you?

    What do you do with your kids when you and your significant other have to be away at the same time?


    Image via WLUK/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jenelle EvansIf their real-life relationship is anything like the one they carry on online, Teen Mom 2 star Jenelle Evans and her new fiance, Gary Head, are in for a rocky road. The couple got engaged just this month. But it hasn't stopped their nasty Twitter wars.

    Gary's spent the week interspersing his pledges of love to the MTV reality star with re-tweets of nasty comments made about her by other Twitter users. Apparently he's bought into the idea that badmouthing your partner doesn't count when you're simply repeating what someone else said.

    I was glad to see Jenelle call him on it, asking him straight out, "Are u seriously talking about me like that on twitter?"

    Go ahead and call me naive, but when you love someone, aren't you supposed to want to protect them from the world's cruelties instead of adding to it? I'm not talking about sheltering your partner completely. The basis of any relationship is trust and honesty. But there's being honest. And then there is being cruel.

    More from The Stir: Jenelle Evans Nude Photo Leak Leaves Nothing to the Imagination

    When you amp up criticisms from the outside world instead of helping your partner deal with them, you're not just "repeating" something someone else said. You're taking your partner's safe place, within the confines of your relationship, and making it unsafe. We depend on the person who loves us most to serve as a source of comfort, not an extra attacker.

    And even when Gary is using his own words, he's not exactly a cuddlebug. Just today he told her to "stop talking stupid" in one Tweet.

    Since Gary claims Jenelle is that "one" person he plans to spend the rest of his life with, he better learn that one of the basic rules of being a good partner is learning to have their back. She's got enough troubles in her life without him adding to them.

    What do you think of Gary and Jenelle's future if he continues to talk like this?


    Image via MTV

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    anti-bullying videoAttention America. Our schools are under attack. Everywhere you look, there are kids who are trying to fight the scourge of bullying. Wait, what? I have that one backward? The bullies are the problem?

    Huh. Then can someone please explain to me why a 15-year-old girl on Long Island just got suspended for creating a video to fight bullying in her school? I would think Jessica Barba would be getting her back slapped by school administrators and her face on a Wheaties box.

    But nope, the school decided Jessica's video was a problem because it "created a disturbance." Oh no, not a disturbance!

    Imagine! Kids in a school talking about why bullying is such a bad thing. Shock. Horror. Awe!

    Are you getting the sarcasm here? Because if you're not, you're probably as dense as the people who got Barba suspended in the first place.

    More from The Stir: 'Speak Up' Bullying Documentary Is a Must-See for Parents & Kids (VIDEO)

    The video, which was posted to YouTube with a disclaimer that reads "This is a fiction (sic) story," also begins with a similar warning that the story is fake, meant to address bullying. That, and the fact that the video shows moments that were quite obviously scripted, makes it particularly hard to imagine what kind of idiot actually called the police because they thought a child had killed herself. The calls could have prompted the school administrators to roll their eyes at the stupidity of their town's residents and engage their students in a discussion about bullying.

    I see this kind of thinking over and over and over again. School administrators ignore common sense, ignore what kids have to say, and just push ahead with their own agenda. They decided Barba was a problem, so they treated her like one. End of story.

    No wonder we have rampant bullying in schools. Administrators are the ultimate bullies! If they actually listened to kids and allowed them to spark a conversation, perhaps kids would be more willing to speak up, to fight the good fight.

    By the way ... Barba told NBC New York she made it specifically for a communications class, to fulfill a requirement that students create a persuasive promo or advertisement. I guess she succeeded, huh? Check out her video:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    What do you think should have happened to Jessica Barba?


    Image via JBCDmv/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Kids found in PortlandWhen I first started looking at the photos of the three kids found abandoned in a shed in Portland, Oregon this week, my eyes got misty. But the longer I looked at pictures police took of the two girls and one boy left in the midst of the northwest city's homeless population, the less I felt like crying. Their sweet little faces have made me angry.

    I'm angry at the kind of person, who takes three helpless children -- cops say the youngest girl may not even be a year old yet!?! -- and dumps them amongst a population known best for mental illness and a disrespect for authority. Making it worse? The homeless people told cops they think the woman who abandoned them was their mother.

    I wanted to give the woman the benefit of the doubt, that she was down on her luck and looking for someone to care for her kids. But that idea went out the window with the words "shed" and "homeless."

    Leaving kids at a firehouse or hospital is well-meaning, even if it's wrong. There are professionals there who can handle the needs of a child.

    Leaving kids at a vacant residence with a bunch of bums, on the other hand? That's criminal. Plain and simple.

    If not actual child abuse, it's got to be negligence. It's cruel and inhumane.

    The youngest child, a girl with short black hair, brown eyes, and two front, lower teeth showing, is estimated to be somewhere between 8 and 15 months old. The other girl is around 2 years old, weights 28 pounds and, has long black hair and brown eyes. The third child, the only boy, also weighs around 28 pounds, has brown eyes and black hair, and seems to be around 3. These kids were the definition of helpless. And they were left in a place where help wasn't likely to be found.

    To prevent spreading more myths about the homeless population, I should be clear: just because someone is homeless does not make them dangerous to kids. But it also does not make them likely able to care for children. The homeless in America are struggling to survive. They often go to sleep at night with little food in their own bellies, so the likelihood that they have extra to spare for some toddlers is slim to none. Their shelter is, well, the name says it all, doesn't it?

    And for single homeless people, drug use and mental illness are among the top three reasons they are in that state. They may not be cruel to those children, but they're also not exactly people who are fit to care for kids.

    Not to mention the homeless population is not known for purposely seeking out the police. These people would be less likely to get these kids to authorities who help them ... making this act seem that much more criminal.

    Police are left now with only the pictures and descriptions of these three children to lead them to their parents. I hope they're identified quickly, both for the kids' sakes and so the person who did such an unspeakable act to three innocent kids can be sent directly to jail.

    What do you think should be done to the person who abandoned these children?


    Image via Portland Police

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Etan Patz missing posterI really want to look at the arrest in the decades old Etan Patz case as good news. I'm sure the parents of the little boy who went missing 33 years ago, only to become the first ever "face on the milk carton" are breathing easier today. But what about the rest of us? Does the confession from Pedro Hernandez really make life easier on the rest of us parents?

    It's a selfish way to look at this whole thing, I know. Etan Patz' parents have been living with the horror of having said goodbye to their little boy one May day in 1979 and then never seeing him again. The pain is theirs and theirs alone. Except, not really.

    The cases of missing kids are what keep other parents up at night. We watch the news, our hearts beating ever faster. Hoping. Waiting.

    We want good news for our own sakes, for our own kids. Because we put ourselves in those parents shoes. We are Etan Patz' parents. We are Elizabeth Smart's parents. We are Jaycee Dugard's parents. Because we know that could have been our kid just as easily as it was theirs.

    And when there is an arrest, a "solution," in a missing child case, we devour the news, hoping for a new clue that we can glean on how to prevent these future horrors. We use cases like Etan's as learning experiences to make our own kids safer. Only this time, we're striking out.

    Pedro Hernandez has given a detailed confession that cops say is credible. They really seem to believe he is the dude who kidnapped and killed the child 33 years ago in Manhattan. But he won't give them a motive. And there's nothing in his past to otherwise explain what he says happened. Hernandez doesn't have a history of pedophilia. And he's a married dad nowadays (although he was a single, teenage convenience store worker at the time of Etan's death).

    So what can we learn from this? Not much. At least not much that won't drive us completely insane. Unless Hernandez reveals more to the police, right now this confession is just another sign that random horrible things happen to kids every day. That's about as far from "comforting" as it gets.

    What do you take away from the Etan Patz case to use in your own parenting? Anything?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    credit cardsThe federal government gives us the fourth Monday in May off to celebrate those who have died for our military. But that's no reason you can't spend Memorial Day weekend hitting the sales too. There's nothing quite as patriotic as boosting our nation's economy, am I right?

    Believe it or not, the money people spend on the first "real" summer weekend is a vital piece of what keeps the economy going. The auto industry alone is counting on this weekend to boost its sales by 30 percent over last year. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't spend wisely: here's a look at some of your best bets to save big on the holiday weekend with free shipping so you don't have to spend money on gas:

    Sears: Patio furniture and grills are 50 percent off with free delivery this weekend. Plus coupon code MEMORIAL10 gets you an extra 10 percent off clothing and accessories, and coupon code MEMORIAL15 gets you 15 percent off jewelry, home fashions and household goods.

    JC Penney: Get free shipping on orders of $50 or more with code JCPSHIP.

    Cabela's: Save anywhere from 20 percent to 60 percent on several hundred items, plus receive free shipping.

    Lowe's: Military members get 10 percent off in-store, and everyone gets free parcel shipping on qualifying orders of $49 or more.

    Land's End: Get 30 percent off everything plus free shipping on orders of 50 percent or more with promo code STAR and pin 5503.

    Bath & Body Works: Use promo code MEMORIAL25 to get $1 shipping on a $25 order or FRAGRANCE50 to get free shipping on a $50 order. Select items 50 percent off.

    Bass Pro Shops: Get free shipping on orders of $50 or more with FREE50

    Kiehl's: Get free shipping with code FIGHTAGE plus Deluxe Samples of Super Fluid UV on any anti-wrinkle defense order.

    Brookstone: Get $5 off and Free shipping on $99 order with code AF5 or $10 off and Free shipping on $149 order with code AF10.

    Snapfish: Get free shipping on an order of $30 or more with code FSMay30.

    Got an good Memorial Day sale tip? Leave it in the comments!


    Image via Images of Money/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Annabel PorathWhen Sarah Porath learned her daughter, Annabel, had a rare chromosomal disorder, she mourned the dreams she'd cherished during her pregnancy. But at 5 1/2, the eldest of the Porath's children is walking and talking, and doing many of the things other kids her age are up to.

    Because even though Annabel has autism in addition to isodicentric 15, the rare disorder that caused a portion of her 15th chromosome to duplicate, the little girl has had what's known as hippotherapy to help her along the way. In other words? This girl so tiny her mom calls her a peanut rides horses.

    And as the Poraths showed CafeMom Studios, its changed the course of her future. Check her out!

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Perched on top of the stately beast, moving around a ring, Annabel's body has moved the way it would if she were propelling herself. Her hips are shifted the way they would if she were actually walking. And little by little, she's being taught a form of muscle memory that has enabled her body to overcome muscular difficulties of her disorder and excel against the odds.

    Good news for Annabel, but good news for thousands of other special needs kids too. Turns out hippotheraphy is a 30-year-old discipline that doesn't just help kids with autism or isodicentric 15, but kids with learning disabilities, cerebral palsy and a handful of other issues.

    Have you tried hippotherapy or something like it with your child? How did it work?


    Want to learn more about fascinating steps parents of special needs kids are taking to improve their kidsl lives? Subscribe to CafeMom Studios' Our Special Life series.


    Image via CafeMomStudios/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Arlington National CemeteryWe've been celebrating Memorial Day for long enough in this country that we should know what it's all about by now. The fourth Monday in May is supposed to be the one day we all come together as Americans to honor all those who have died at war, fighting for our country.

    Sadly, these days it looks more like a day to get drunk and eat a lot of hot dogs in a lot of places around the country. Which is all the more reason to remind people exactly why the federal government gives us a long weekend! And what better way then some stirring quotes about our nation's heroes?

    Because the men and women who have laid down their lives for us over the years deserve something more than a cold can of beer hoisted sky high today, don't you think? Even if it's just the few moments of silence it takes to read through these quotes about what it takes to be a true hero, you can give them that, can't you?

    Or perhaps you'll take it further? Share them (maybe on Pinterest?). Spread the word. Help our nation's heroes be truly honored.

    What are you doing to celebrate the men and women who have died for our flag?


    Image via Tony Fischer Photography/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    strawberry pieSummer may not actually begin until June, but I consider my favorite season under way when the pints of strawberries start showing up at the farmers' market. They make me feel like a kid again, sitting out in the backyard, my fingers stained red from the berry juice. 

    Only now that I'm an adult, I don't have to make do with the berries themselves. Because now I'm actually allowed to bake with them. And if you didn't think the world's best fruit (in my personal opinion!) could be improved upon, you apparently haven't had a slice of fresh strawberry pie.

    I love this pie recipe because it's super easy and 100 percent vegetarian -- unlike most of the strawberry recipes that require you use some sort of gelatin.

    Strawberry Pie (adapted from Edible Brooklyn, via Confessions of an Overworked Mom)


    2 9 inch pie crusts 4-5 cups hulled strawberries, sliced 1 cup sugar juice from one lemon strained 1/8 tsp salt 2 tablespooons flour, heaping 2 tablespoons butter, cut in little pieces


    Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the bottom pie crust in the pie plate.

    In a medium bowl, combine the fruit, sugar, lemon juice, salt and flour and heap the mixture into the pie shell.

    Dot the fruit mixture with utter and gently cover the pie with the second crust. Crimp the edges to seal. Using a sharp paring knife, make 5 small cuts in the top of the pie crust to allow the steam to escape.

    Place the pie in the oven on top of a cookie sheet to catch spills, and bake for 60-70 minutes.

    What is your favorite strawberry treat in the summer months?


    Image via sletvet/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    P. Diddy Justin CombsJustin Combs should be on top of the world right now. P. Diddy's son just graduated from high school with a 3.75 GPA, and an offer from UCLA to play on their Division 1 football team. They've even offered him a scholarship to sweeten the deal. So what kind of world are we living in where a kid like that is getting beat up in the press and asked to give the money back?

    A world where we still put more emphasis on money than we do kids' own abilities. Hey, America! This is why kids are lazy!

    Here's the thing. Justin Combs has a rich daddy. And there are people, a lot of people, who are PO'd that a rich kid is getting a $54,000 scholarship to a state institution when so many other kids are struggling under the weight of student loans. As a mom who probably has less money in her bank account than Diddy has hanging around his neck at any given moment, I'll cop to a little jealousy myself.

    That's why I tell my kid she has to work, and work hard. That's what all kids are supposed to do to get ahead, right?

    But if kids like Justin Combs have to give back their scholarship money, and their parents are made to pay their tuition, we're telling them the exact opposite. What does that say to a child who worked hard to get good grades and excel on the field? It tells them there is no reason to have a work ethic. Because whatever you do, you're judged not on your accomplishments but the size of your parents' wallet.

    Let's flip this, shall we? Imagine Justin was a poor kid with bad grades and zero athletic talent who cut school and did nothing to improve himself. Would you tell a school they need to give him a scholarship because his parents can't pay, and his lack of motivation does not matter? Of course not.

    As parents, it's our job to raise our kids to succeed without us. Once they're ready for college, they must be able to survive on their own merits. The mettle of our character, the size of our bank accounts, all of that becomes moot when we push a child out the doors and into the world. They are their own person, to be judged on what they can do.

    What do you think should happen with Justin Combs' scholarship? Should P. Diddy be paying UCLA?


    Image via SplashNews

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Beyonce Remember Beyonce Knowles, high profile breastfeeding mom and fantastic example for lactating mamas everywhere? Consider that stage of her life over. Blue Ivy's mama showed up as promised at a Memorial Day weekend concert series looking pretty bootylicious.

    And as she told the crowd, the mother of a 5-month-old worked her tail off to get there. But her weight loss secret doesn't exactly jive with the super breastfeeding rep she's gotten since her daughter was born.

    Beyonce told the crowd at her second of four shows that she dropped 60 pounds with constant work on the treadmill and a diet that consisted of lettuce, lettuce, and more lettuce. Brave. Maybe even inspirational. But not a diet plan that any breastfeeding mom should follow, you hear? 

    I don't know how many times I see this happen. A mom decides she is going to breastfeed, but she still wants to lose the baby weight. She thinks she can do them both because hey, don'tcha know, breastfeeding burns calories?

    It's true. BUT, and this is the big ol' BUT, it doesn't burn that many calories. And while it does, a breastfeeding mom's intake should remain somewhere between 1,500 to 1,800 calories at least: much more than a whole lot of lettuce will give you. That poor kid needs something to eat too! In fact, following the type of healthy weight loss recommended for a lactating mother, Beyonce would have only shed about half of the weight -- about 30 pounds.

    I should make it clear that Beyonce may have given up breastfeeding a long time ago. She hasn't been caught nursing in public in awhile. If that's true, that's her choice, and I support a mom's ability to make the choices that best fit her own lifestyle. But that leaves us only two conclusions here. Either she didn't even make it to the six-month mark the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for nursing, or she nursed Blue Ivy while following a dangerous diet.

    She's still a fabulous singer, and probably a pretty great mom. But for moms who are looking to the singer as some sort of fantastic postpartum breastfeeding role model, I think we can safely say that ship has sailed. Just look at her:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    How do you balance weight loss against the need to provide your baby with nutrients? What do you think of Beyonce's post-baby transformation?


    Image via AtlanticCityBeats/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Etan Patz missing posterThere's an old saying in law enforcement. "If you see something, say something." So what happens when you hear something? A confession, perhaps, from Pedro Hernandez, a man who says he kidnapped and killed a little boy named Etan Patz, the 6-year-old whose name is famous as the first "boy on the milk carton"? What do you do?

    Well, if you were a member of a prayer group at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Camden, NJ in the early 1980s, apparently you did nothing. No. Really! Members of the group told The New York Times this weekend that they didn't feel it was "their place" to pass on a confession they allegedly heard from Hernandez during a group meeting decades ago.

    Ahem. I wanted to put this nicely ... and then I realized that these people didn't care about nice when they let a man they thought might be a deranged killer walk right out of their church. So instead I'll be frank.

    Every single prayer group member who listened to Pedro Hernandez' confession should be ashamed of themselves. And then some. Because not saying something wasn't just selfish, it was dangerous.

    Just think: if the folks from St. Anthony's had spoken up, and Hernandez really was the guy (remember, he's confessed but has not yet been convicted), they would have gotten a murderer off the streets, thereby protecting all innocent kids he could ever encounter in his day to day ... kids like their nephews, their nieces, their grandkids. And they would have given Etan Patz' parents some kind of answer, instead of leaving them to wonder for decades what had happened to their child.

    When Hernandez spoke to them, he could have been lying. It's true.

    If they'd turned him in, what is the worst that could happen? A man who confessed to abducting and strangling a well-known missing child in the stockroom of a lower Manhattan bodega would be forced to talk to police about it? If he didn't do it, he could have cleared that up. But if he did ... let's just say that's not a risk I would have taken just because I wanted to stay in "my place."

    What would you have done in the shoes of those prayer group members?

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Zachary ChandUntil you are the parent of a kindergartner, you don't really "get" why parents get all weepy during the graduation ceremony for a bunch of 5-year-olds. There's just something about knowing they've done it, they've completed a whole year at "big kid school" that hits you right in the guts and turns on the waterworks. But the kindergarten graduation at one Florida elementary school just swiped the category for most emotional.

    Ava Chand didn't just get a diploma that says she'll go on to the first grade next year. She got to see her daddy, US Army Staff Sergeant Zachary Chand, for the first time in more than a year. The soldier surprised his new graduate right in the middle of the ceremony by handing over the piece of paper. Take a look:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Add my tears to those in the audience. I couldn't help watching this brave soldier talk about how hard it is to be away from his kids for 13 months in terms of what he misses specifically during the kindergarten year. It's the year when most kids make a giant leap toward independence.

    Suddenly they are spending most of their waking hours away from their parents, and they're doing things that we will never know about. I try asking my daughter about her day sometimes, and it's like trying to infiltrate the CIA. I am never quite able to tell exactly what goes on or who she spends time with. Nearing the end of first grade, I'm getting less neurotic. But during the kindergarten year, my worries were non-stop: is she making friends, is she having trouble with bullies, does she wear her seatbelt on the school bus?

    The kindergarten year marks a line in the sand of sorts between their babyhood and their march to adulthood. We have no choice about letting go when they step onto that bus that first day. We have to trust that it will be OK, just as military parents do when they pack their bags and go off to serve our country. There's a lesson in there, isn't there? Letting go of our kids is hard, but the rewards are wonderful.

    What was the kindergarten year like for you and your child?


    Image via pronews7/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    American flag
    There's something about the summer months that pushes pride in your country to a whole other level. From Memorial Day to Flag Day to July 4 and on and on, there is red, white, and blue as far as the eye can see. But the little flap over an American flag doormat this past weekend is a good reminder that even patriotism can be a taken a wee bit too far by eager homeowners.

    An angry veteran alleged that Lowe's stores were selling doormats with flags on them, a blatant suggestion that people wipe their feet on Old Glory. Snopes has cleared the home improvement giant, but found other sellers who were using the nation's symbol on their doormats. Eww!

    And if you think that's bad, wait until you get a load of the other disrespectful decor I found.

    The flag has been used by American retailers in some truly bizarre ways. I'm talking car seat covers (so you can sit on the flag and spill fast food on it, fart on it ... come on, on long car trips, everyone does it) and dining mats that are made to be spilled on.

    I'm sure most of the people who buy these things are just well-meaning Americans caught up in flag fervor. But do me a favor, will you? After you've perused these awful interpretations of patriotism, think carefully about how you want to use red, white, and blue in your home.

    What sort of Americana have you seen that takes the pride thing far?


    Image via mikebaird/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Military homecoming braves gameWhen I tune into a baseball game, there's one thing I want to watch. Baseball. But like every rule, this is one that has an exception. I am a sucker for military homecomings smack dab in the middle of my innings. And man, oh man, did the Atlanta Braves give us a good one this week.

    They actually managed to make everyone in Turner Field an emotional mess when they followed up a Jumbotron message from Master Sgt. David Sims by having Sims himself jump out of the dugout to surprise his wife and kids. He'd spent 24 hours trying to get there from Afghanistan, and boy did he make it worth it!

    Considering the last time the soldier came home from overseas, he arrived in a Christmas box to give wife Robin her best Christmas present ever, he had to go big if he really want to shock her. And I'll hand it to the Tribe, they reminded us why baseball is America's game. The Braves reminded us that family comes first. Check out how it all went down:

    I think that was worth interrupting baseball for, don't you? It's a nice reminder that we Americans get to enjoy simple pleasures like taking in a baseball game on a spring day because of the people who give up their time with their families to fight overseas.

    What's the coolest surprise you've seen a military person accomplish with the help of a sports team?


    Image via HLN

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Disney WorldSome kids spend their whole lives dreaming of a trip to Disney World. I know I did. I was in my 20s and a mother by the time I made it. So you may be surprised to hear a 9-year-old boy who earned a trip to Disney World was more than willing to give away every kid's dream.

    But Brendan Haas isn't just any 9-year-old boy. He's a kid who heard that many fallen soldiers leave behind young kids when they die while serving our country. And he wanted to give them something special. What could be better really than a trip to Disney?

    I hate to sound like I'm giving an ad spiel for the happiest place on earth, but Haas' plan to give away his trip hit me in a way I didn't expect. I remember dreaming of Disney when I was a kid. With each passing year that we didn't go there, its mystical powers grew in my mind. I just knew that there was magic there, if only I could make it. Every January I'd return to school after Christmas break to see more pictures from more kids who'd made the pilgrimage to kid heaven, and grow more depressed.

    Like it or not, the trip to Disney is a rite of passage. It's a marker for so many kids' childhoods. I don't begrudge my parents anything for not taking us -- they had a lot of bills to pay, and they did what they could for us, including trips to vacation spots closer to home.

    Brendan can't take away the pain that Timothy Steele's wife and daughter are going through since he died in Afghanistan last year. But by giving up something so special for the sake of another kid, he's given a little girl a moment in her life she will always hold close.

    It doesn't get more magical than that, huh? Oh wait, but it does: little Brendan planned this from the get-go. He set up an elaborate "trading up" scheme for bigger and better things, eventually earning a trip to Disney, with the plan that it WOULD go to a soldier's family.

    What do you think of Brendan's gift to this family?


    Image via RichardStep.com/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    jessica simpsonIt's out! It's out! The picture of Jessica Simpson and her darling new baby girl is finally out! And we have it right here for you to get a look at the People magazine cover that's introducing little Maxwell Drew to the world. 

    Hold your horses, we're getting there. But first, we know the real question here is whether the cover rates the $800,000 the singer supposedly got for Maxwell's first photo shoot? That depends of course on how you rate baby photos. Do you want an honest depiction of life with a newborn? Or do you just want to see if the kid is cute or not?

    Considering we have yet to see a celebrity baby photo featuring a screaming newborn, I'm betting it's the latter. So to judge whether People got their money's worth, we've put J Simps' new girl and her cover up against some of the biggies.

    As someone who thinks all babies are ugly from the get-go, even I have to admit Jessica's little girl managed to tug at my heartstrings. But can little Maxi Drew carry a cover like Shiloh Jolie-Pitt? And what about Suri Cruise? When Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise showed her off in Vanity Fair, it was impossible to get a copy. I had to go take a peek at my local library! Little Maxwell has some pretty stiff competition.

    So you be the judge! Here are some of the sweetest celebrity baby introductions to come out on newsstands recent years, and of course the introduction of Maxwell Drew!

    Which new baby magazine cover is your favorite?


    Image via jhv33/Flickr

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