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Pot Stirrers.

You can find them in various social circles from grade school on up to college and beyond.

Pot Stirrers are easily identifiable, although they establish themselves in a deceptively innocent way. Often the instigators, Pot Stirrers can be found at the center of any drama. Friends who stand beside them are vulnerable to unsuspecting betrayal as they could easily become the next target of their attacks.

Pot Stirrers seem to always have something to complain about, and they are in constant need of validation and attention. They will do just about anything to get either.

Pot Stirrers aren’t malicious, but they can be manipulative and self-serving in how they engage with their friends, often setting little fires of he said-she said and fanning the flames into a wildfire of conflict among peers. They are skilled at weaving webs of connections that brilliantly display solidarity with the subconscious motive of leading the pack and staying in the spotlight.  

This dynamic grows risky during the middle school years, when girls are exploring new friendships, growing in awareness of the world, and trying to figure out their place in it. Middle school girls develop a tight network of friends during those early adolescent years. Peer groups are often the most important part of their lives. If there is a Pot Stirrer in the group, the social dynamic can become harmful, dysfunctional, and futile.

Pot Stirrers often have a loyal band of friends, who will forever come to their rescue, because no one likes to see their friend hurting. The Pot Stirrers are not always fully aware of their manipulative techniques, but possess an uncanny skill of raising a call to arms for any perceived bruising or wound inflicted upon their reputation and, ultimately, their psyche. Their stirring often leads to messy mayhem.

“Support your sisters!” is something we urge our daughters to do – a principle we can all value. We embrace backing up and standing up for the rights of others, while taking the necessary steps to help those in need.

Herein lies the problem: Sisters can get pulled into the muck of the stirred pot and often can’t see the passive, self-serving motives of the Stirrer. This can cause shifts of alignment among those involved and fracture friendships within the group. Whatever the issue might be, friends are forced to take sides, and the truth gets buried in the rubble.

This gets dangerous.

If your child is a compassionate care taker, who easily gets pulled into helping other people with their problems, I urge you to equip her with the knowledge of the Pot Stirrer’s ways. The kids most vulnerable to getting pulled into the pots are the ones who may be gullible and easily deceived as they trust quickly and give freely to their friends. This may become detrimental to their own mental health because they often don’t realize the grip the Pot Stirrer has on them.

Help your child become aware of her role in friendships like this, and empower her with ways to detach and honor their own self-preservation. The last thing you want is to watch your own kid get thrown under the bus, or possibly worse.

If your child is continually manipulated by a Pot Stirrer, she may be denied the liberty to develop her own individual identity and thus be less likely to pursue new friends and healthy relationships.

We’ve all experienced this type of friendship in one way or another. Pot Stirrers are an inevitable part of all our lives, and it’s up to us to be aware of the dysfunction that can develop with these types of friends.

I vividly recall being sucked into the pot with a friend, who flew into my life and quickly started a storm of emotional drama within my group of friends. I adored her and naturally believed her and wanted to help her resolve the conflicts with those who, she claimed, had hurt her. After months of trying to affirm her ongoing complaints with the other friends in the group, I slowly began to realize the divide she had caused among us all.

Other friends identified her manipulative behavior long before I did, because she convinced me that she was the victim. I was finally able to recognize her destructive behavior and the impact it was having on my own mental health and decided I needed to end the friendship. It wasn’t easy to do, but I knew being friends with her impeded my other friendships. Her needs were dominating my life.

A hard life lesson to learn, and one I wish I’d learned sooner.

This isn’t to say that we must end all friendships with Pot Stirrers. That was the best decision for me in my own circumstance. It’s most important to recognize the Pot Stirrers in our lives and remain vigilant in protecting our own mental health and friendships. We must teach our children to do the same.

There is a fine line between friendship and foe with a Pot Stirrer. Although we never want to promote judgment or exclusion, we must encourage our kids to be socially aware and teach them how to care for themselves while caring for others. It’s an excellent life skill to master.

Loving difficult people can be difficult. And Pot Stirrers need our love.

But in loving difficult people, we must sometimes make difficult decisions for the sake of our own well-being. Learning to set and keep healthy boundaries is one of the greatest lessons we can teach our kids as they mature and dive deeper into various relationships.

Help your kids become aware of these traits in Pot Stirrers so they can develop a better understanding of the dynamics that can play out in some friendships as well as the pressures of social group thinking.

If kids can identify the dysfunction and danger with these kinds of people, they will be more equipped in dealing with them as they grow older and the stakes get much higher.

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It's a girl for Chanel Iman!

Iman and her husband, New York Giants football player Sterling Shepard, welcomed their daughter into the world on August 10 and called her Cali Clay Shepard. "You were worth every push [and] every contraction," the proud mama captioned an Instagram photo of the happy family.

The popularity of the name Cali has declined since the name peaked in 2014, when it was ranked 201 on the Social Security Administration's list of the most popular baby names. It's since fallen to 288. (The alternative spelling made popular by a character on Grey's Anatomy, Callie, ranks higher, at 188, but also peaked in 2014).

The popularity of her name may be waning, but little Cali herself is already very popular online. She's four days old and her Instagram account already has 7,600 followers.

It makes sense that Cali is already active on Instagram (well, her parents are active on her account) as her mama announced her pregnancy on the platform back on Mother's Day.

Congrats to Iman and Shepard on baby Cali's arrival! We can't wait to see more beautiful baby pictures on Instagram. 🎉

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Most moms claim to be wine's biggest fan but often admit to knowing little about what's what (or even how to buy wine they like). And while you don't have to be a sommelier to buy a great bottle of vino, having a few wine smarts in your back pocket can mean the difference between a substandard cork pop and the perfect sip.

That's why we partnered with the wine pros at Winc, a subscription service that creates and curates wine from all over the world, to develop this simple primer that will help you identify the flavors you like best—and get them delivered to your doorstep.

Where to start

The simplest place to begin is between red and white.

In general, most people have an idea if they prefer one or the other, which is why Winc lets their members start the selection process with that simple question. Red wines tend to be more full-bodied, higher in tannins (more on those later), and are typically served at room temperature or slightly chilled. Whites are often lighter, crisper, and are typically served chilled.

But the great thing about the wine world is that there are always exceptions to the rule, which is why Winc refines monthly suggestions based on user feedback. "If you enjoy the wine and want to understand why, go on our site and look at how earthy it was, where it's hitting on the flavor scale to help you learn more about your palate," says Brooke Matthias, Winc's Director of Product.

Light vs. Full-bodied

Remember those tannins we mentioned? They're a naturally occuring compound in grape skins, seeds, and stems that give wine a more dominant, heavy flavor. (Think about steeping a tea bag for too long. That bitterness? That's essentially the same effect tannins have.)

While some people dislike the drying sensation tannins cause when drinking wine, they also help create wine that marries well with food because the wine won't disappear on your palate after eating something meaty or fatty.

If you're looking for something lighter, reach for a wine with a higher acid content. Acidity can be compared to tartness (think of biting into a lemon wedge) and typically produces the same "puckering" response of drinking something slightly sour, like lemonade. In wine, it tends to give your pour a crisp, clean sip without a lot of aftertaste or heaviness on the tongue.

Sweet vs. Dry

Many newbie wine drinkers often prefer something with a sweeter taste until they've had a chance to diversify their palate, but sweetness in wine isn't the same as sweetness in dessert.

"There's a difference between residual sugar and something that has a higher fruit concentration," Matthias says. "A lot of people think their wine is sweet, but it's actually fruity. And just because it's high in fruit flavor doesn't mean there's residual sugar content in the wine."

Sweet-tasting wines often taste strongest on the front of the tongue (where the majority of sweet-sensing taste buds occur). Drier wines can be either higher in tannins (for a more bitter flavor) or higher in acidity and tend to have less fruit concentration.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Of course, the best part of figuring out which wines you prefer is experimentation! That's where Winc comes in.

When members first sign up, they take a flavor quiz to determine their current taste preferences. From there, Winc puts together a customized box of four wines based on your preferences—and delivered right to your doorstep. (Note: Someone 21 years or older must be present to sign for the box.)

With each monthly delivery, you can look up your wines to learn more about what you like about them (are they earthy? fruity? full-bodied?) and rate what you like best. Those ratings help Winc's experts to carefully select your future deliveries to cater to your specific palate.

Prefer to take charge of your own destiny? Winc also lets you sub in bottles of your choice (the perfect opportunity to try the wine with the cool label or the funky-sounding name).

With each delivery, you get a more and more personalized experience targeted to your own taste buds—and learn more about what makes your perfect pour. Now that's something we can raise a glass to.

And just for Motherly, enjoy two complimentary bottles (a $26 value) when you order from Winc. Happy shopping, mama!

Currently, Winc does not ship to Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Utah.

This article is sponsored by Winc. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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In many ways, having a baby in Alaska is much the same as in Alabama: All babies need food, love and care. And all parents are responsible for navigating the life transition. But the expense associated with welcoming a baby? That sure does vary widely based on where in the United States the baby is born.

After assessing 26 key metrics—including infant care costs, child care centers per capita, delivery charges and more—data analysts from WalletHub determined Vermont is the most ideal state to welcome a baby in 2018.

On the other end of the spectrum, parents in Mississippi were disadvantaged by the state's higher infant-mortality rates and lower distribution of midwives or OB-GYNs per capita. (Although folks in southern states generally saved the most on average infant-care costs.)

"If local authorities want to attract families in their area—and for a host of societal reasons, it would behoove them—they should continue to strive for greater public safety and more family-friendly environments," Jeff Wallace, a business advisor and assistant professor at Snow College, tells WalletHub.

To make the rankings as credible as possible, the experts at WalletHub divided the 26 measures into four categories: cost, health care, baby-friendliness and family-friendliness. Then each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing favorable conditions, such as low costs or better delivery outcomes.

While the list is focused on the best places to have a baby, experts who weighed in on the findings said there are much longer-term implications. "Children are more likely to be successful when they grow up in communities that feel safe, have families that are connected to each other, and offer support services if the family needs them," says Steven Meyers, Ph.D., Director of Undergraduate Psychology Programs and Initiative for Child and Family Studies at Roosevelt University. "Local authorities can establish these as priorities when they decide how to allocate resources."

Here are the 10 states we should look to for examples:

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