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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

    road tripDo you ever look around the car and wonder how the heck our parents handled long car trips without electronics? Books are great, but when you've got a kid who gets carsick, movies can be the difference between a pleasant trip and a steady stream of "are we there yet?" The little pink DVD player my daughter has for road trips has been a lifesaver for my husband and me over the years -- especially when we're in bad traffic and need to cut down on conversation so the driver can concentrate.

    But that little magic box is no good to us without a good stock-pile of road trip movies. Need to refresh yours? Here are the family vacation movies you NEED to add to the rotation for upcoming travel:

    1. The Muppets -- Whether you go for the original or the new Jason Segel version, both are good family fun with road trips involved.

    2. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World -- An oldie but a goodie from the '60s, this campy flick sends some of Hollywood's greatest stars on a wild adventure across the US to find some treasure.

    3. The Great Outdoors -- The '80s gave us a pile of fun family adventure flicks, and this John Candy classic one of the best. Rated PG, but beware that was PG in 1988.

    4. Wreck-It Ralph -- This relatively new Disney flick is already a big favorite in our family for its video game references, but it's little Vanellope's dream of being a race car driver that makes this one perfect for a trip on the open road.

    5. Cars -- Another Disney classic with a road theme!

    6. Harry and the Hendersons -- Another '80s vacation classic that gets truly wild when the family car hits an "animal" in the road.

    7. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang -- This '60s musical is good clean family fun in a car that flies!

    8. Bedknobs and Broomsticks -- Another adventure flick straight out of the Disney archives, the kids travel not by car or even train, but flying magical bed.

    9. The Adventures of Milo & Otis -- Let the kiddos follow a lovable pug and his kitty friend as they go on a long adventure over hill and dale, and you'll be at your destination before they know it.

    10. Wizard of Oz -- Maybe you're not off to see the wizard, but every family road trip is a little like a trip to Oz for little ones.

    What is your absolute favorite family road trip movie?


    Image by Jeanne Sager

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Bejarni RivasI've always had an extra dose of respect for the people who turn criminals into the police. It's the right thing to do, but that doesn't mean it's easily done. Take the mom accused of selling her teenage daughter off to a pedophile as debt relief.

    The mother, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of her now 15-year-old daughter, is accused of arranging for 44-year-old Bejarni Rivas to have sex with the child. According to cops, each rape (because that's exactly what it was) would knock $100 off mom's $5,000 debt.

    It took the girl going to a relative, and the relative turning the mother and Rivas in, for this horror to stop. The girl is safe, and Rivas is facing 13 charges for the alleged rape of this child. The mom faces 11 charges for trading her child for debt reduction. The charges range from second-degree rape to human trafficking.

    Turning these people in was the right thing to do. It was the only thing to do.

    But in reality, not everyone would have done it. There's a code among certain families, whereby relatives look the other way when even the worst crimes are going on because "hey, it's family." People have a sick way of justifying not reporting crimes. There's a sense that as long as they don't get involved directly, they're not doing anything wrong

    It takes a strong person to stand up and turn in any criminal but an even stronger one to turn in a family member. They risk not only the retribution that any criminal might exact, but also anger and recrimination from within their own family.

    But in the end, their reward is one that's unmatched. A child is safe from the pedophile who raped her and from the mother who allegedly let it happen. And all because someone was brave enough to speak up.

    Have you had to turn in someone to the police? What happened?


    Image via Montgomery County Police

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    swaddled babyToday in news that will scare new moms everywhere, two moms who ran a California daycare have been arrested. Their crime? The sisters were allegedly swaddling the babies wrong!

    It was so bad that California authorities have charged Nazila Sharaf and Lida Sharaf, both moms who happen to be pregnant with their second children, with child abuse. Coming on the heels of a swaddling ban at daycares across the country, the news is enough to make moms wonder if they should give up on swaddling entirely. Is it too dangerous? Could the popular parenting technique land you in jail?

    The answer is no ... not if you do it correctly. For moms who are unsure, the case points more toward a need to educate yourself on proper swaddling techniques than it does to give up the practice entirely.

    The Sharaf sisters allegedly wrapped the babies in their care very, very tightly. So tightly, in fact, that authorities have compared their technique to the way a boa constrictor envelops a victim. The swaddles at the daycare were finished off with a knot, ensuring the babies couldn't get out of them.

    The moms say they didn't mean any harm. Whether it's true is up to the courts to decide.

    More From The Stir: How to Swaddle a Baby in 4 Easy Steps (PHOTOS)

    Either way, what they did wasn't correct swaddling procedure.

    What moms should be doing, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is swaddle babies loosely, enough so that their hips can move within the blankets. Wrapping a baby so tightly that it inhibits hip movement has been linked to hip dysplasia.

    Moms should also be wary of loose blankets around a sleeping baby. That means not piling on blankets beyond the swaddle blanket, but also checking on baby to ensure they haven't loosened the swaddle so much that the excess is covering the face.

    Finding that your baby is rolling over in the swaddle so they end up face down on the mattress or loosening the blankets so much that they're ending up with a blanket in the face? That's when the AAP doctors say it's time to stop swaddling entirely.

    Do you know how to swaddle your baby correctly? Do you worry you've done it wrong? 


    Image by Jeanne Sager

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Kim Kardashian Kanye WestI'll say this for Ray J. If Kim Kardashian has been having any of those mom-to-be worries about whether she picked the right guy, the R&B singer just answered that question for her. One look at Ray J.'s new music video for "I Hit It First," and daddy-to-be Kanye West is clearly the winner. By a landslide.

    And not just because -- as Ray J so indelicately puts it -- he "hit it" most recently.

    More From The Stir: Kim Kardashian Gives Kris Humphries What He Deserves in Divorce

    Ray J. comes out looking so crazy pants with this stunt that Kanye doesn't have to do ANYTHING to look better than him right now. He wins by default.

    Ray J. is vehemently denying the song is about her, but the "I Hit It First" video makes Kim's ex-boyfriend look like a straight up stalker, from the model who looks uncannily like her writhing in his bed to the hologram of a woman with a Kim-esque booty. And oh, the lyrics. The lyrics, the lyrics.

    Here's just a taste of Ray J.'s taunt for Kim and Kanye:

    I hit it north with her ass going south, but now baby chose to go west

    Pretty clear reference to Yeezy, right? And just in case baiting her current boyfriend isn't enough of a reason for Kim to roll her eyes and never look back at Ray J., he throws in some verbiage that casts an unsettling light on how he treats women:

    No matter where she goes or who she knows

    She still belongs in my bed

    Hey, Ray J., telling a woman where she "belongs" is called being a control freak. And calling her an "it" is just plain dehumanizing.

    The song, which wraps up with a plea for Kim to come back to him so they can make another sex tape, is about as misogynist as it can get, and not going to work for Ray J. 

    That's not just me guessing. Here's the first bit of proof she's not looking back: neither Kim nor Kanye West has bothered to respond to the bait. Nor should they.

    Kanye has got nothing to prove here. He's already got Kim on his arm, and as we all know by now, they're expecting a baby together. The Kim Kardashian we hear from these days sounds genuinely happy, even dropping the m-word after finalizing her divorce just a few weeks ago. That's all on Kanye ... 

    If Ray J. EVER had a chance of getting Kim back, it's over now.

    Do you think Ray J. ever had a chance at getting Kim back?


    Image via Pacific Coast News

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Catelynn Lowell Tyler BaltierraCatelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra have projected a fairly squeaky clean image since choosing adoption for daughter Carly on 16 & Pregnant, but a blast from the past paints another picture of the Teen Mom stars. Turns out both of them have been arrested!

    And here we thought these two bright young things were all about going to college and living on the straight and narrow -- in direct contrast to their law-breaking parents. Could they be more like jailbird co-star Amber Portwood than we knew?

    Probably not.

    The arrest that's got the whole world up in arms today, after being reported in the new Teen Mom Confidential book, was for marijuana possession, and it happened way back in July 2009. Catelynn and Tyler both admitted their guilt, and they got a whopping fine of $253 each.

    Thank goodness!

    More From The Stir: Jenelle Evans' Latest Arrest Gives Her Another Mugshot for the Scrapbook (PHOTOS)

    Listen, I'm not going to say using illegal substances is advisable. I don't want MY kid using them when she's a teenager (or now for that matter). But we're talking about pot here, and not a whole heck of a lot of it when you consider the fine. The Teen Mom stars weren't running some huge grow operation here. 

    They were caught with a little weed.

    Yeah, them and how many kids in America?

    Not to mention the arrest happened in 2009 ... and here we are in 2013 with no further proof that this duo has done anything wrong. It hardly sounds like Catelynn and Tyler are "bad" kids, just normal American teenagers ... which is what choosing adoption really allowed them to be.

    If anything, the real shocker here is that they managed to hide this arrest for this long in a world that's obsessed with Teen Mom gossip. I guess this just goes to show nothing stays hidden forever.

    Does this really change what you think of Catelynn and Tyler?

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    video game consoleVideo games are as much a part of modern kid-dom as peanut butter and jelly. Just about anywhere you go, you're bound to see a kid or three gathered around a little box with a screen jabbering on about mushrooms or racers or some such gibberish (to you anyway). Any guesses what you're seeing there?

    Communication. Aka, social skills. Aka, video game play is no longer relegated to that loner kid in his mom's basement. In fact, if you've got a shy kid who needs to be brought out of his shell, you might want to invest in a game console. Behold the wonder of what it can do:

    1. Common Ground. What does a shy kid need to start a conversation with other kids? That's right, an icebreaker. Pull out a handheld game console on the playground, and kids tend to come a running to see what they're playing. Presto, change-o, they've all got something to talk about.

    2. Online Talk. Some kids just don't open up in person. But put them in front of a keyboard and let them develop a relationship with the written word, and you've opened the door to in-real-life friendships.

    3. Takes the Pressure Off. Have a kid who doesn't really share much about his life with you? Try gaming with them ... and talk while you're playing. Studies have shown kids tend to open up more in environments that are pressure-free where they don't necessarily have to look you in the eye.

    4. Something to Boast About. Doing well in a video game -- where the costs of failure are pretty low -- can give kids a confidence boost which will carry over to real life. We always want to feel like we're "good" at something, don't we?

    5. Multiplayer Game Play. Not only do kids get to talk to their peers without having to be face-to-face with certain games, but multiplayer games also create a camaraderie and a sense of teamwork that often translates over to real life ... especially if they're playing with their real-life peers.

    How have video games helped your shy kid open up?


    Image via Soda O/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Farrah AbrahamMore big news for Farrah Abraham. Her mom, Debra Danielson, has decided to let bygones be bygones. The Teen Mom star's mother has written a letter to her famous (infamous) daughter that should end their very public feud over Farrah's new career in porn.

    Good for Debra. It takes a strong woman to say she was wrong.

    And yes, for those who are out there hemming and hawing, she was wrong to cut her daughter out of her life.

    Debra was reportedly horrified that her daughter had filmed a sex tape. I get it. But she turned her back on her kid when her kid needed her most.

    Oh, it's true that Farrah is technically not a kid anymore. She's 21. And she's certainly made some rather questionable choices lately.

    More From The Stir: Farrah Abraham's Adult Film Is Far From Her Worst Publicity Stunt (PHOTOS)

    Through this whole sex tape debacle, I've had one thought running straight through my head. Her poor parents! Their daughter just went straight from reality star to porn star, and pretty soon the whole world is going to know how their little girl gets down and dirty.

    Put yourself in their shoes. Would you want to talk to your daughter? Or would you be curled up in bed with the comforter over your head, telling your friends to wake you up when the nightmare is all over?

    I know I'd want to pick the latter. But that doesn't mean I should ... or any mom should do what Debra has done.

    Farrah's mom decided to cut her daughter -- and her granddaughter -- out of her life, kicking Farrah out of her home. But as Debra reveals in her heartfelt apology letter, it hurt her in the end. She missed Farrah and Sophia terribly.

    Of COURSE she did.

    As comedian Jim Gaffigan jokes in his memoir, Dad Is Fat, having children is an "incurable condition." You have them, and you never get rid of them. Not even when they're young adults making stupid choices.

    Our kids are going to screw up a lot as they get older. It's part of being human. They're going to do things -- right and wrong -- that we don't agree with. 

    But we can't just cut them out of our lives when it happens. We have to tell them in the most gentle way we can that though we don't agree with them, we still love them. That's the job we signed up for when we decided to become parents. And if we're not willing to follow through, we're going to be hurt as much -- if not more -- than our kids.

    It's nice to see these two mending fences. Farrah's certainly going to need her mom in her life with the onslaught of criticism she's walked herself into.

    What would you have done in Debra's position? Could you ever see a situation serious enough to write your kids off?



    Image via FarrahAbrahamOfficial/Instagram

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    boston bombing suspectsSuspicions that the Boston Marathon bombing plot was bigger than just suspects (and brothers) Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsaranaev could be coming true. The Boston Police Department has announced the arrest of "three additional suspects" today, more than two weeks after the blasts on Marathon Monday killed three and injured more than 100.

    So, is this good news for America? Or bad news?

    Maybe both.

    The identities of the additional suspects are being withheld, although as yet unsubstantiated rumors are running wild that they are college students. The Boston Globe, which had reported an arrest of three UMass Dartmouth students on its Twitter account the night Dzhokhar was arrested, is now once again mentioning a connection between the now infamous student and his peers. A source told the Globe that the people arrested are all students who helped the young bombing suspect after the fact.

    Again, that's unsubstantiated.

    The Boston PD followed up its arrest announcement -- which was made via the law enforcement Twitter account -- with a promise that there is no public safety threat at this time.

    That last police announcement was meant to be reassuring, I'm sure, but it's hard to feel anything close to reassured as we face the idea that the Tsarnaev brothers are not the end of this.

    Have we all thought it? Of course. From theories about what Tamerlan Tsaranev was up to while he was back in Russia and how he relates to the dead Jihadist William Plotnikov to the debate over whether the female DNA found on the bomb belonged to Tamerlan's wife, Katherine Russell, most of us have read the news stories and pondered whether the two main suspects received assistance or were mere cogs in a larger terrorist wheel.

    But I will be the first to confess there was a comfort in the lack of arrests since Tamerlan and Dzhokhar's dramatic takedowns.

    Tamerlan is dead. Dzhokhar is in custody.

    If this was just the two brothers who cooked up this cowardly scheme, we as Americans could go to sleep at night knowing that the bad guys weren't going to hurt us anymore.

    If it was just them, we have only two faces of evil haunting our dreams.

    Additional arrests are inevitable -- be they people who were involved in the before or after of the bombing -- but they're still unsettling. They force us to face our fear that this evil deed was likely part of something bigger than just these two young suspects, two loose cannons.

    These arrests remind us all over again that we don't know what our neighbors, our friends, even our own family members are thinking and doing, that the next terrorist could be walking among us.

    Did you expect this news from the Boston Police today? How does it make you feel?


    Image via FBI

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    diamond pacifierWhen it came time to register for my baby shower, I couldn't believe the massive amount of STUFF that was out on the market for babies. Diamond-encrusted pacifiers? Silk sheets? For babies?

    The baby commerce trap is wide and just waiting to swallow you whole, all in the name of making sure your baby has the BEST childhood ever.

    Sadly, I'm not just talking about the internal debate over whether your baby really needs a warm glow cast on her wipes before they touch her delicate behind (she doesn't). At least your standard wipes warmer won't cost you your firstborn. A hand-crafted Italian leather diaper bag, on the other hand, will set you back more than $1,000 for something your kid will ultimately puke on.

    Think that's nuts? That's nothing compared to a $17,000 pacifier! And I'm just getting started.

    The luxury baby market is chock-a-block with baby products with prices so high you'll be choking harder than a baby who just had her first taste of pureed prunes.

    Check out these over-the-top prices for baby products that would make even Bill Gates raise an eyebrow.

    Would you buy anything on this list?


    Image via Luxury Lamb

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    crime sceneWhen you think of an Army major, what comes to mind? An upstanding citizen? Someone with the utmost respect for rules and regulations? Someone who fights for what's right? Unfortunately none of those match up with the story of foster dad and Army Major John E. Jackson or his wife Carolyn or the charges of child abuse lodged against them in a New Jersey court this week.

    U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman called what happened to three kids in the Jackson home "unimaginable cruelty." The Jacksons are accused of everything from breaking the bones of foster kids in their care to force-feeding the children hot sauce.

    A 22-page indictment alleges the man who served his country in both Iraq and Afghanistan came home to run a home where kids were beaten with a "deadly weapon" and refused food and water to "train" them to behave.

    The two notions are at distinct odds with one another. We honor the members of our armed forces with annual holidays, parents get their kids to send them thank-you letters and boxes of cookies, employers count military service as proof positive that a veteran is a good job candidate. In particular, we tend to think of someone who has been an officer, someone who has risen to a position of power and respect in the military, to be deserving of said respect.

    The John Jackson described in the federal indictment is anything but. That John Jackson sounds like a monster, a man who brought three defenseless children into his home and forced them to live in hell.

    The Jacksons apparently adopted the three foster kids, one of whom died in 2008. They made these kids their own, and then, if allegations are to be believed, they made these kids' lives a living hell.

    That's not the story of a well-respected Army officer. It's the story of a monster parading as a well-respected Army officer, presenting a different face to the world.

    How this case will play out in the weeks and months to come will determine whether these kids will get justice. Carolyn and John Jackson could face up to 10 years in prison per charge if convicted of the 17-some charges against them.

    Whatever comes, it is sure to put a new face on John Jackson the Army Major.

    Would you have expected something so awful to be going on inside the home of a military officer?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Ruby KlokowRuby Klokow spent more than 50 years lying about the death of her 9-month-old, but it finally caught up with her. The mom who killed her daughter in 1957 is finally headed to prison. The 76-year-old Wisconsin resident will spend the next 10 years behind bars.

    It's about time that little girl got justice. Thank goodness her brother was up to it. Yes, it was baby Jeaneen Klokow's big brother who finally turned his mother in.

    What kind of a man turns his mother into police?

    A brave man. 

    A man who knows right from wrong.

    A man who could no longer live with the burden of carrying his mother's secret on his shoulders.

    In 2008, James Klokow told investigators of horrible abuses to him, to his younger brother, and to his sister. He'd been told for years that his sister's death was his fault.

    But when investigators pushed his mother, she admitted she threw her baby onto the couch because she was angry with her son. The little girl's body bounced onto the floor. At the time the death was ruled accidental -- a fall off the couch -- because Ruby Klokow lied ... and police believed her. But it was no fall. No more than the death was the fault of a little boy.

    The length of time it took for this man to come forward only hammers home what a monster his mother was.

    This is the irony of bad parenting. A good mother would never be turned into police by her child because she'd never put herself in a position making it necessary. Bad parents, on the other hand, tend to have a hold on their kids, a way of making them afraid to speak up even after they've escaped their clutches.

    Bravo to James Klokow for breaking through. It may not be the justice people wanted, but 10 years in prison is better than this woman never being punished at all.

    What would you have done in James Klokow's position?



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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    promRemember your prom proposal? When a guy scuffled up to you in the hallway after class and mumbled something that sounded like, "So prom. Would ya?" And that was considered romantic?

    I admit I'm almost wistful for those days. Back when kids were just kids. Before kids started shooting TV commercials, dressing up like Pokemon characters, and making life-sized snow sculptures to convince their crush to attend the big dance.

    Or maybe I'm just jealous that both of my prom proposals were so tame they're pretty much unmemorable (hey, at least I remember their names!). Either way, it has to be said that asking someone to prom has gotten wildl. Just check out what kids are doing these days:

    1. TV Commercial. Baltimore, Maryland teen Lovepreet Aujla paid for a 30-second commercial on his local ABC station to get his girl to go to the prom with him. He took her to dinner and told her to look at the TV. She said yes ... maybe because he said please?

    2. Life-Sized Sign. James Tate made big news in 2011 when the sign with 12-inch cut-out letters that he hung on the wall at his Connecticut high school got him disciplined for trespassing. Sonali Rodrigues was more than willing to be his date to prom, but the teens had to fight for the right to go after his stunt.

    3. Pokemon Proposal. Any time a teenager dresses up as Ash from Pokemon and walks into the cafeteria, it's sure to get kids talking. But a kid named Terry really mixed things up when he accompanied his kooky outfit with Pokemon card confetti, an entourage of cheerleaders, and a sweet prom-posal poem for a girl named Maxine:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    4. Garage Door Opening. Alec Ohlensehlen of Land O' Lakes, Florida and his girlfriend are both Tampa Bay Lightning fans, so what better way to catch her eye than using cards of NHL players to write out the word "prom" with a question mark? Oh, but that's not enough for kids these days ... Alec's creative questions was displayed on his parents' garage door. When it was time to ask, he shut the door, revealing his proposal ...

    5. Dancing Drama Students. Leave it to a California drama student to make his proposal ... dramatic? Isidro Pagdanganan choreographed a lunchtime dance performance for Mikaela Kraus that ended with his message displayed on hand-held cards. The video of the whole shebang has gone viral on Facebook.

    6. Love Balloons. The video starts with a helium high voice announcing, "this is for you, Tina," and you know what's coming ... balloons. But would you have guessed 1,500 balloons taking over a high school hallway to ask her to prom?

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    7. Hallway Serenade. Another viral video comes from Bobby Chin, an 18-year-old from Centennial High School in Ellicott City, Maryland, who got a buddy to play a Jason Mraz song on guitar while he did a prom-posal redo ... a serenade in front of the whole school.

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    8. Today Show. Can it really top going on national TV and convincing Kathie Lee Gifford to help you ask your girl to the dance? Dean held up a sign asking Colleen ... we hope she said yes.

    9. Good Morning America. Not to be outdone by their competitors, the folks at GMA didn't just let Britton Phillips hold up a sign to ask Brooke Carter to prom. They let him get on the mike and voice his request ... while Brooke was on the phone for a live interview.

    10. Up High. Young firefighter Brady McHale took advantage of the ladder truck from his station to surprise fellow senior Franny deMuzio from high up in the air ... outside the window of the school library, several stories in the air.

    11. Oh Baby, It's Cold Outside. But Stephanie Samuelson’s boyfriend, Dan, warmed the Connecticut teen's heart with his 5-foot high snow sculpture simply asking, "Prom?"

    12. Backstreet's Back. What's better? Interrupting class to ask a girl to prom or getting all your buddies to be your boy band backup singers? Just watch:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    13. She's Perfect. Not only did Patrick Ceralde serenade best friend Angelica with P!nk's "Perfect," but he sent flowers to her classes, each with a note that eventually made up the sentence "Will you go with me to ..." Eventually she was blindfolded and taken to the school sound system where he waited with a big poster that read "Prom?"

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Would you let your kid do an over-the-top prom-posal? Which one is your favorite?


    Image via PikaWu/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jenelle EvansHere we go again! Jenelle Evans has come out shooting with both barrels on Twitter, and she's got another celebrity in her crosshairs. The Teen Mom 2 star has let the world know what she thinks of Amanda Bynes' antics of late, and let's just say she is not impressed.

    After public wars with the likes of Snooki and Buckwild's Shae Bradley on Twitter, you'd think Jenelle would have learned by now to keep her trap shut. At least she's strayed away from biting the hand that feeds her criticizing fellow MTV stars, but Jenelle might have wanted to keep this little jab at Bynes to herself:

    @OKMagazine @AmandaBynes dude, she has gone insane. What happened to the sweet lil girl we use to watch? :(

    Erm, pot, meet kettle. Kettle, meet pot! You're both looking awfully black!

    We've all been sad to read the reports on the child star lately. They make her sound like she's really gone off the rails.

    More From The Stir: Farrah Abraham's Mom Starts Acting Like a Real Parent

    But it's not as if Jenelle's life has been all roses and clover either. She's 21, and she's already been arrested more than half a dozen times, the latest for allegedly possessing heroin and domestic violence. She doesn't even have custody of her child -- and from the recent reports, she's behind on child support.

    Gone insane indeed!

    Jenelle has been disappointment personified for Teen Mom 2 fans who've seen her co-stars grow exponentially as people over the past four seasons while she's devolved. The rumors about the show being cancelled -- not surprisingly -- all center around Jenelle herself, and her refusal to straighten out and fly right.

    Sadly, her criticism of Bynes only makes Jenelle sound that much more delusional about her own life and her own mistakes. Until she straightens out, she might want to hold back from passing judgment on other struggling stars.

    What do you think of Jenelle's criticism of Amanda Bynes? Was it warranted?


    Image via MTV

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    young familyI didn't realize I was bucking a trend when I decided to get pregnant in my early 20s. My husband and I just felt like it was time for us. We'd been married for several years; we'd already purchased our home; and we were ready for that next big step.

    But this week an article from Early Mama blogger Michelle Horton, titled, "Are 20-something unwed moms the new teen moms?" has been making its rounds of the blogosphere, and even though I'm a married mom, I couldn't help but nod along. The article acknowledged something I've been feeling for years now, ever since my daughter was born. Starting a family in your 20s just isn't DONE these days.

    When my husband and I go out with our daughter, we tend to be among the youngest parents in the place. It doesn't tend to bother me; I've always been a bit of an old soul, and I can relate just as easily with a mom 10 years my senior as a co-worker of the same age.

    But when you pair the overwhelming number of older moms I meet with the myriad strange comments about young motherhood that I've encountered, I admit it can be isolating. From assumptions that I was a teen mother (I wasn't!) to the idea that I started early so I could be best friends with my child (I already have a husband for that, thank you very much), I wager I've heard it all by now.

    And yet, I wouldn't change a thing. I'm still glad I had my daughter when I did -- just shy of my 23rd birthday. On behalf of young moms everywhere, here's why having a kid in your 20s rocks:

    1. Finances: Imagine trying to juggle retirement with paying for college. I won't. My husband and I have it worked out so we will begin paying tuition just after we finish paying off our mortgage ... and we'll still have time to rebuild our nest egg for retirement.

    2. Biological clock: I never heard it ticking. Starting when we did means I didn't go through a period of wondering if I should get cracking at childbearing. We talked about it, and then we started right away.

    3. Fertility: It took us more than a few months to conceive, but I saw no reason to stress ... I had plenty of time left. I can only imagine what each month that passed with just one line on the stick would have done to me if I were feeling a time crunch.

    4. Family: Having a child "young" when more moms are waiting means my kid is the same age as several of my cousins ... and the relationship blooming between them makes me all warm and gushy inside.

    5. Empty Nesting: Let me be clear, I'm not looking forward to the day my daughter announces she's ready to live on her own. I'd like to keep her around for as long as possible. But I'll admit to flights of fancy about what my husband and I will be able to do when she goes off to college ... and we're still in our 40s.

    6. Flexibility: Already I'm starting to feel what aging has done to my body. I'm not 17 anymore, but I'm still pretty darn good at getting down on the floor to play LEGOs or plop on the grass to watch her soccer practice. There are plenty of women who have bodacious bods well into their geriatric years, but I have a feeling I won't be one of them ...

    7. Energy: This is another subjective thing. Some women have high energy levels no matter their age. I'm in my 30s and already feeling more exhausted than I did 10 years ago. I'm relieved I've been able to give my daughter my more energetic years considering what's inevitably to come.

    8. Career: For some women children can negatively affect their career. For me it was very much the opposite. Motherhood helped me prioritize. Having my daughter inspired me to make some big changes on the career front that made me a happier person -- and a happier mom -- overall. Other moms in my boat have told me they were able to start before their career really got going; they avoided the disruption of a maternity leave at more crucial points in their work lives.

    9. Memory: Plenty has changed since I was a kid in the '80s, but plenty has stayed the same too, from the same teachers to the same playground equipment at our local park. Our 23-year age gap allows me to use some of my own experiences as a kid to be a better mom to her ... experiences that would no longer be relevant if I'd waited.

    10. Her Future: I'm caught between wanting my baby to stay little forever and an intense curiosity about what will happen for my daughter in the years to come. Will she be a writer like me? Go into computers like her dad? Chart a new course entirely? Will she get married? Will she have kids? Whatever happens, I intend to be around to see as much of it as possible, and if I come anywhere close to the life expectancy of an American woman, I stand to see a lot.

    There are cons, of course, and this is not to say that a woman who gives birth in her 30s or even 40s is doing anything wrong. But this is for all the other 20-something moms out there who are feeling alone!

    Are you a young mom? Why do you think it rocks?


    Image via Jeanne Sager

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    not listeningIn news that ranks right up there with the sky is blue, a new survey of grandparents has revealed that most grandmothers are pretty p'o'd that moms are seeking parenting advice in books and on the web. You have to wonder why they even asked. Of course grannies don't want moms going online to get their parenting advice!

    Don't you know grandparents have the corner on the parenting market? If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times. Parents love their kids' grandparents to bits, but if there's one thing they really wish the older generation would do, it's butt out on how to parent their kids!

    Think you're alone? Get a load of what the parents we surveyed said drives them nuts ... and what grandparent advice they're ignoring!

    1. Education -- My kids' grandparent thinks pre-school at age 3 is ridiculous.

    2. Discipline -- My parents spanked me, but my husband and I don't believe in corporal punishment. I caught my mom spanking my child, and when I told her that was unacceptable, she acted like I was criticizing how SHE parented. I wasn't. I just have chosen to do things differently, and I want her to respect that.

    3. Pacifiers -- Between grandparents who think their grandchild is too old for the binky to grands who keep pushing the pacifier even though parents have taken it away, I could fill this post with sob stories about soothers.

    4. Dating -- My daughter's boyfriends are none of my parents' business!

    5. Playmates -- My kids have a grandparent who thinks play groups with other children outside the family take away from time with their cousins. But those cousins are way behind my kids; I'd like for them to interact with other kids!

    6. The Other Grandparents -- Enough with the guilt trips about who sees the kids more.

    7. Potty Training -- I believe he will when he's ready and they really make him feel bad when he doesn't.

    8. Medication -- My parents rushed me to the doctor for every scratch when I was a kid. I've read up on the antibiotic-resistant viruses out there, and I don't like to give medicine unless it's absolutely necessary. My parents make me feel like a bad mom for doing something my pediatrician agrees with!

    9. Speech -- My daughter's grandmother doesn't think pronunciation or grammar are important, but we're really trying to teach her to speak correctly. No baby talk, please!

    10. Friends -- My parents disapprove of my daughter's best friend, but they've spent pretty much no time with the kid. The girl is at my house all the time; I think I'd know if she was a problem.

    11. Kindness -- My mother says I'm a pushover because I believe in talking things out with my kids. She was a "my way or the highway" kind of mom ... and she wonders why we're not close today? I don't want that relationship with my kids when they're my age.

    12. Activities -- My son doesn't WANT to play baseball, OK, Dad? He likes LEGO club, and I'd rather pay for him to do something he enjoys.

    Are your parents too heavy handed with the parenting advice? What do you tell them to butt out about?


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    Glee Wonder-FulIt was all about old favorites on tonight's Glee episode, the last one before the season 4 finale. The New Directions brought back their old habit of dedicating a week to one singer with a Stevie Wonder send-up, and Mercedes Jones and Mike Chang were back at McKinley High to help whip the glee club into shape for regionals. And while they were taking us for a walk down memory lane, the writers decided it was time to let us know what Kurt and Blaine are up to.

    HUGE spoiler ahead!

    We haven't heard much from Klaine since the Mr. Schue wedding that wasn't. Remember? Even though they were broken up, Kurt and Blaine slept together.

    Come to think of it, so did Finn and Rachel. And now it looks like Lima's favorite gay couple may follow Finn and Rachel into another mistake. Remember their disastrous wedding shortly before graduation?

    Tonight, Blaine asked Kurt's dad for his permission to ask Kurt to marry him. And just when you didn't think you could love TV's most understanding papa any more, Burt Hummel said exactly what every Klaine fan out there was thinking: hell to the NO!

    Thank goodness he said it.

    I can appreciate the writers going there in that they're treating Klaine like Finchel, making the point that the desires of gay teenage couples are no different from straight ones. Blaine and Kurt's relationship has made a real difference for gay kids in America.

    But a Klaine wedding is the last thing the marriage equality movement needs. A high school student getting hitched on TV? That doesn't exactly scream progress.

    The previews for next week's finale show Blaine asking someone to be his best man. Here's hoping it doesn't get any further than him asking. We don't need another Finn and Rachel disaster on our hands!

    What do you think of a Kurt and Blaine wedding?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    campingIf the sneezing in the next cubicle didn't give it away, it's finally spring! And you know what that means? Time to plan a family camping trip! Think of it as the perfect way to reacquaint your family with fresh air and wide open spaces after being cramped up together inside all winter long. After the winter you've had with them, you deserve it, Mom! 

    And what's a camping trip without campfire games? Here's the complete list you need to make the weekend worth it:

    1. Glow Stick Ring Toss -- Leave it to blogger Momma Did It to come up with a way to keep the games going at night. She turns glow sticks into rings for a rousing game of ring toss 'round the campfire!

    2. Glow in the Dark Bubbles -- More day-time fun turned nocturnal comes from Crafts 4 Boys, who uses traditional bubble mix with an "interesting" twist at night.

    3. Flashlight Tag -- Played just like the real thing, only you don't touch people with your hands -- you hit 'em with a beam of light!

    4. Charades -- You can play the real thing using the campfire light to illuminate your body or get really creative and make shadows in the light of the fire.

    5. Ladder Ball -- This is a game better played in the day, but it's fun for all ages. The folks at This Old House explain how to build your own "ladder" out of PVC pipe.

    6. Tape Ball -- A game that's great for keeping kids busy, this comes from I'm a Young Women's Leader Now What. She suggests creating a "ball" of tape with prizes in each layer. Players with the ball remove tape as fast as they can, keeping the prizes, while their opponents roll dice to claim the ball as their own.

    7. Scavenger Hunt -- Get them out exploring the woods around your campsite with a hunt designed around the area you're visiting. 

    8. I Spy Nature Style -- What do you spy with your little eye? A pine tree, a squirrel ...

    9. Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest -- All you need is one watermelon and plenty of spitters for a night of fun. 

    10. Stargazer Stories -- See who can tell the wildest story about what's going on in the night sky.

    When do you start camping? What are your favorite campfire games?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Fifty Shades of GreyHave you peeked inside your kid's backpack lately? A Philadelphia mom got the shock of her life when she took a look-see inside her son's bag. Turns out the 14-year-old is reading the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, and you'll never guess who bought it for him.

    His ninth grade teacher.

    Think the educator crossed the line? Maybe not.

    Philip Aidoo says he gave every kid in his ninth grade English class at Eastern University Academy Charter School the chance to name a book they'd like to read for an independent reading project. Then he went out and used his own money to purchase the novels for each kid.

    Maya Ladson's 14-year-old was the only kid who got the E.L. James novel, but that's only because he chose it. 

    The teacher wasn't requiring kids to read the naughty novel -- he was just fulfilling their wishes.

    As a mom, I can see why Ladson's upset. I really do. I don't eeeeeever want my daughter and nipple clamps and ... no, I can't even continue that thought. She's my DAUGHTER!

    And yet, I can't fault the teacher here.

    Hold up, before you get your fists-a-pumping, consider this: no one forced the 14-year-old to read about bondage and ben-wa balls. He chose it. Which means he was probably going to read it anyway.

    The teacher just sped up the inevitable, and he actually got a kid to READ.

    Isn't that what we want English teachers to do? Encourage our kids to read?

    I remember distinctly which books I read in English class that I enjoyed, and which books were a struggle to get through. When our teacher provided us with a long list of novels and let us pick what appealed most to us, I dove right in. I was already an avid reader, and I ended up picking more books than was required (yes, I read extra ... for the fun of it).

    When teachers dictated that we read certain tomes, on the other hand, even this avid reader trudged through them. I can still remember hiding Huck Finn in my social studies book, trying to furiously flip through the pages on the day of our big test because I'd procrastinated that long. Ironically, I LOVED Tom Sawyer ... when I read it on my own.

    Would I want someone buying my daughter Fifty Shades without asking me? Probably not. Before asking a teenager to read the book for a piece here on The Stir, I checked with her mother out of respect for her authority.

    And yet, I read naughty books as a kid, and I felt I had to hide them from my parents. I'm trying to raise my daughter in a more open manner, so she can read whatever she wants but knows she can come to me to talk about the content.

    Just because I wouldn't want someone buying her a book like Fifty Shades doesn't mean they would be wrong to do so ... because it's my job to prepare her for what's inside!

    What would you do if your kid's teacher bought Fifty Shades of Grey?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Heist familyThe story of Brenda Heist reminds me of one of those accident scenes on the highway. Not only can we not look away from the mom who disappeared 11 years ago after putting her kids on the bus in Pennsylvania -- only to be found alive and relatively well in Florida this week -- but we can't help but puzzling over how it all went down. Could a mom really just up and abandon her kids? Could her kids, when they found out mom was alive, really want nothing to do with her?

    That's what's happened to Heist. Years after being declared legally dead, she's back ... and her family wants nothing to do with her.

    Heist's daughter Morgan, in fact, had some pretty harsh words about mom on Piers Morgan last night. 

    The 20-year-old, who was 8 at the time of her mom's disappearance, says Brenda can "rot in hell."

    Who can blame her?

    Brenda Heist wasn't kidnapped. She didn't get sick and go into a hospital for awhile. She didn't go off to serve in the military for awhile.

    Morgan's mom walked out on her and her older brother. She left them thinking their mother had died, but it was perhaps even worse -- she just didn't care to be there and be their mother.

    I wasn't surprised by her reaction or her equally disgusted dad. Lee Heist went through a period where his neighbors thought he'd killed his wife. He was judged in the worst of ways for something he didn't do. 

    If anything, I'm surprised by people who do the opposite. You read stories like this that have happy endings relatively frequently. Family member disappears. Family member resurfaces. And all anyone can say is, "Oh, we're just so happy to have him/her home."

    The ability to let bygones be bygones, to forgive someone for years of heartache and angst, is powerful and confusing all at the same time.

    HOW do people forgive a transgression this grievous?

    HOW do you get over being left? By someone who was supposed to love you?

    Maybe I'm just the grudge-holding type.

    Or maybe there's something to be said for holding people like Brenda Heist at arm's length. They've made their own beds, they need to lie in them now.

    Check out Brenda Heist's family talking about her return:

    Would you forgive Brenda Heist if you were part of her family? Or would you be like Morgan Heist?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    doctor's officeWhen my beloved pediatrician announced he was retiring, I was tempted to go to his house and throw myself on his front steps, begging him to reconsider. It's not just that he was that good, it's that I was terrified of what else I'd find out there. The horror stories parents have shared over the years -- from doctors who never even spoke to their kids to office staff who faked vaccination records -- left me cold.

    What truly shocked me wasn't how many parents have had to "fire" their kids' pediatricians but how many parents admitted they were afraid to fire a doctor. Ladies! Gentleman! Coming from a mom who loved her baby's doctor, let me be the first one to tell you that the relationship between a parent and pediatrician has to be "just right." If it's not, it's time to give them the heave ho.

    Afraid you might be over-reacting? If anything on this list applies, you're not ... feel free to say hasta la bye bye and find a new pediatrician:

    1. She Doesn't Return Your Calls -- It's one thing if you can't get a doc on the phone right away; she's got patients to see. But you should at least hear back from a nurse -- or the doctor herself -- by the end of the day.

    2. He Is Too Old School -- You don't have to be a graduate of Google University medical school to know that a doc who suggests putting bourbon on your teething baby's gums needs to retire.

    3. She Treats You Like the Babysitter -- Translating medical jargon to laymen's terms is one thing, but you didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday. You are a mom or dad who deserves to be treated with respect, not like you're the child.

    4. He's Rude to Your Babysitter -- Sometimes parents have to send kids to the doctor with another caregiver; it happens. But a doctor who can't respect that needs to wake up.

    5. You Can Never Get an Appointment -- Some doctors take on too many patients for their own good. If you're always being turfed to the ER because there are no open appointments, it's time to find someone who WILL see your child.

    6. She's Mean to Your Child -- Bedside manner is everything in pediatrics; kids are already stressed going in for shots, and you need someone on your side to calm your kiddo down. If they can't handle that, it's out the door you go.

    7. He Has a Dirty Office -- If the waiting room is disgusting, you can only imagine the hygiene behind the scenes!

    8. She Doesn't Support Breastfeeding -- It's nice that she will give formula samples if you request it, but if you're refusing it, she needs to take your cue!

    9. He Doesn't Listen to You -- You know your kid, and you know when your kid is acting differently. A doctor worth his salt will listen to your concerns and at least test your child to determine if the symptoms you're noting mean something. If not, it's time for a second opinion.

    10. She Consistently Mis-Diagnoses Your Kid -- Everyone makes mistakes, but when your kid is being pumped full of antibiotics every few weeks for "ear infections" that turn out to be seasonal rhinitis, it's time switch.

    Have you fired your pediatrician? What made you do it?


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