A viral post about winter carseat "chaos" is an important reminder not to judge parents.

Every parent has felt the piercing gaze—or received the unsolicited advice—of the world's Judgey McJudgersons.

While it shouldn't be the case, judgment seems to go hand in hand with modern parenting. What babies and kids eat, where they sleep, how they behave, what they wear, etc. appears to be fair game for every sanctimonious bystander's opinion.

I once answered my door holding a sleeping six-week-old baby in my arms, just to be met with the mail lady's tut-tutting admonition, "Ooooh, you're gonna spoil that baby." Thanks, Marge.


Parental judgment is an issue. And as one mom on Facebook recently pointed out, it's unfair because times have changed, the rules are different, and best practices are constantly being updated.

In a viral post, a mom reminds us that a small child without a coat likely means parents are simply doing their best to keep their kid safe.

Nicky Campbell recently took to Facebook with "a winter PSA" to the Nosy Nosertons who judge parents when they see a baby or toddler without a coat in cold weather.

"If you’re out and about and see a parent with a baby/toddler who isn’t wearing a coat, pleeeeease don’t assume that parent is some kinda monster who doesn’t care if their kids freeze," she wrote.

A winter PSA to anyone who hasn’t had a baby in the last 5(ish) years:If you’re out and about and see a parent with a...

Posted by Nicky Campbell on Tuesday, November 27, 2018

"New car seat guidelines avidly warn against children wearing coats in car seats—and this makes it really challenging for caregivers (particularly those with multiple small children) to get kids out of the house then in the car then out of the car again and into the destination," she continued.

This is the freaking truth. Bundling a toddler in a coat is a feat in and of itself. No one in their right mind is going to put on a toddler coat's to walk to the car, then take it off to put them in the carseat, then put it back on to walk into a store or school or wherever, only to take it off again when the kid gets too hot.

"Seriously it’s chaos," Campbell continued. "And since there’s not a great commercial product to solve this issue yet, everyone comes up with their own solutions. Some use blankets. Some use lots of warm layers/hats/gloves. Some (God bless them) do the coat-shuffle at every stop and decided their kid would survive the 12 second walk from the car into Best Buy without the bubble coat. So what I’m saying is, cut parents some slack. We’re trying. And we’re doing everything we can to make sure our kids are warm while maintaining what’s left of our sanity. Thanks 🙏."

Yes, it is actually less safe to put a child in a harnessed carseat with their coat on.

A lot of older folks—and some younger ones as well—seem to be under the impression that carseats and coats are a non-issue because we all survived our own childhoods. But tales from times when these carseat safety guidelines didn't exist aren't proof that it's safe.

The no-coats-in-carseats guidelines have actually been around for a couple of decades, but these kinds of changes take a while to catch on. Now we have visual proof for why they exist now, however. Check out this video that shows how much slack even a relatively thin winter coat actually produces (keeping in mind that in the force of a crash all of that padding will compress to basically nothing):

The bottom line is that we need to cut parents some slack and assume that most parents are doing their best.

Statistically speaking, the most dangerous thing parents do is put their kids in a car, so any way we can make it safer is a good thing. Kids aren't going to get hypothermia if they go without a coat in the cold for the minute or so it takes to go from a warm car to a warm store, nor are they going to be harmed by huddling under a blanket in their carseat as opposed to being strapped in in their coats. So if you see a wee one without a coat, relax and be thankful that their parents are conscientious about carseat safety.

When we know better, we do better. And by now we should all know better than to judge a parent unless they are actively, blatantly harming their child. There are a millions ways to raise healthy, happy kids, and we're all just trying to do our best out here.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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