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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

    crime sceneMoms aren't supposed to hurt their kids. It's not a law so much as a general rule of life. But a South Carolina mom was arrested this week and charged with doing the very worst thing a mother can do: killing her own kids. After Suzanna Simpson allegedly shot her children and husband (who is clinging to life in a hospital), she turned the gun on herself ... but couldn't go through with it.

    What kind of mother kills her kids? In Suzanna Simpson's case, it would seem a "model" one.

    That's what a spokesman from her kids' school district called her. She was an active volunteer at the elementary school 7-year-old Carly and 5-year-old Sawyer attended.

    She had no criminal record.

    There were no domestic violence calls to her home.

    Her kids were well-liked and well-behaved. 

    And now Suzanna Simpson is charged with two counts of murder and attempted murder in the deaths of her own children.

    How?

    How do we rectify the image of a "model" mom with a cold-blooded killer who murders her own children in their beds? With a woman who kills her children and then wants to KEEP ON LIVING?

    My mind tells me it happens all too often. My heart is still insisting there must have been signs, there must be a good reason for this.

    As if there could ever be a good reason for killing your children? Of course there isn't. Never. Ever.

    But we look at the description of Suzanna Simpson and the story that's unfolded in her South Carolina town, and we're left wondering where we draw the line between good and evil. If a "model" mom with model kids can go 'round the bend, are we all just walking a tightrope between the two? Is there any clear line? 

    Could you imagine a model mom snapping like this?

     

    Image via CarbonNYC/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Ariel CastroOh for the love of Mike. Ariel Castro, alleged kidnapper and all around sicko (allegedly), is upset, y'all! Set to plead not guilty, he can't believe that American thinks he's a monster. In fact, he wants us all to know that he loves his daughter dearly. Wait. Isn't this the daughter delivered by kidnapping victim Amanda Berry during her nearly 10-year ordeal, locked up in a house in Cleveland, Ohio, with two other women who were also being held against their will?

    Yup, that's the one! The way Castro's lawyer, Craig Weintraub, tells it, we should all be ashamed of ourselves for demonizing his client. And fellow attorney Jaye Schlachet went even further!

    Said Schlachet:

    I can tell you that Mr. Castro is extremely committed to the well being and positive future for his daughter, who he loves dearly. And if people find that to be a disconnect from what he's alleged to have done, then the people will just have to deal with it. We just know how he feels about his little girl.

    Disconnect? That's putting it mildly, folks.

    I know a lawyer's job is to spin a tale to get their client the best deal, but telling the world that a man loves a child conceived during an alleged rape is hardly convincing.

    That's like a serial killer announcing he's just donated a large sum of money to charity and expecting us all to forgive him for the series of bodies he's left in his wake.

    One right does not undo a mountain of wrongs.

    Does Ariel Castro love his daughter? Probably somewhere in that head of his, he does.

    But most criminals love their kids. That doesn't keep them out of jail. It doesn't make their crimes less heinous.

    As it stands, Ariel Castro is facing charges of kidnapping and rape. And with Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight standing here able to talk about the horrors that went on in that house, he's not going to be able to run and hide. He's going to have to face the charges against him and put up the best defense possible.

    Loving his kid isn't going to be enough.

    Do you believe Castro loves his kid? Does it MATTER?

     

    Image via Cuyahoga County Sheriff


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    miracle quadrupletsIt's amazing what a change in perspective can do for you, isn't it? The idea of having four kids at once terrifies one and done me. But for a British couple who just made medical history, having quadruplets born from just one embryo is a miracle.

    And the truth is, even one and done me can't help but read Christine and Justin Clark's story with the biggest grin on my face. Miracle indeed!

    The Clarks spent nine years struggling through infertility. When they decided to go the IVF route, they had just one embryo implanted. And bing, bang, boom, Christine was pregnant ... with four babies.

    The chances are roughly around one in a gazillion (OK, not really, I just made that up ... but they're really, really, really, really, really slim -- give or take a few reallys). Quads tend to come from multiple embryos -- and they're usually of both genders. Not here -- one embryo split into three, and another split into two, and all four are girls. The Clarks, of course, are over the moon to have daughters Darcy, Caroline, Elisha, and Alexis.

    I would be too.

    Yes, I know, I said the idea of four babies at once fills me with dread. But that's because I have decided to be one and done (for myriad reasons). But if I were the Clarks, I'd be jumping for joy.

    It's all about perspective.

    This is why I hate when people criticize my only child. It's why I'd never criticize someone for having more. What works for one family doesn't necessarily work for another, and vice versa.

    The Clarks' amazing story just goes to show that. Four babies -- for them -- is a blessing.

    Because sometimes miracles really do happen!

    Quick -- four babies at once -- what's the first thing that comes to mind?

     

    Image via rosmary/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Kids Should Never Wear to SchoolIt seems like at least once a week, a story crops up in the news about a school trying to enforce a dress code that's a little out-of-control. Calling kindergartners' skirts out for being too short (when they're wearing tights!). Banning long hair on little boys.

    They make me as crazy as any mom. But if I had to be honest, I feel for school administrators. Because for all of us parents just trying to apply common sense to how we dress our kids, there are the parents who go off the rails.

    Take, for example, the mom who lets her 6-year-old wear high heels to school. I shouldn't have to tell you that's inappropriate, but apparently it has to be said.

    Yes, there are dress codes that treat our kids like they're going to prison instead of school. There are dress codes that sexualize little kids and seem to slut shame girls

    But there is also a reason schools have dress codes. It's called idiot parents.

    If you're not one of them, you probably wouldn't send your kid to school in just about anything on this list.

    What would you add?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Farrah AbrahamReady for more proof that Farrah Abraham is nutters mcgee? The Teen Mom and recent porn star has started a Twitter war with former co-star Catelynn Lowell over -- get this -- who is the better role model.

    Ohhhhh, ohhhhh, ohhhhh. I needed that laugh, didn't you? Go on and just let it out!

    Let's forget, for just a wee second here, how sad it is that young girls in America have such slim pickings for role models that they'd be turning to reality television. Because, really, that just depresses the ever living hell out of me, and I can't go there right now. 

    More From The Stir:Farrah Abraham Wants to Share All the Dirty Details of Her Life With Her Daughter

    I'm too busy trying to wrap my head around Farrah Abraham the "role model." But that's just what she said she was -- while slamming Catelynn's weight in an interview with US:

    I know what jealousy looks like. I am trying to be a role model for the other Teen Moms. I try not to knock them down; I try to better them. Catelynn has a weight issue and I don't say harsh things about her to hurt her self-esteem.

    So how has this role modeling worked? Let's just do a quick run down, shall we? Farrah Abraham has:

    1. Shot a porn film

    2. Gotten a DUI

    3. Waxed her 3-year-old's eyebrows

    4. (Allegedly) dated a guy for the sole purpose of getting back on reality TV

    5. Released a memoir detailing her sexual romps with her boyfriend as a teenager ... in her sister's bed

    6. Admitted to serious drug use

    7. Gotten thousands of dollars worth of plastic surgery

    Am I missing anything? Oh yeah! The fact that she was a pregnant teenager! If that's role model material in America, I'm packing up my daughter and heading out. Now.

    Granted, Catelynn was likewise a pregnant teen. But after placing daughter Carly with a family in an open adoption, Catelynn has been a vocal advocate of both birth control and adoption. She's also kept her nose pretty clean.

    If it's her or Farrah for my kid, you can guess who I'd pick.

    Although, come to think of it ... Farrah's story is useful to parents in America. I would have no problem with sharing that list with my daughter as a "what not to do with your life" warning.

    How about you?

    Is Farrah a role model for young girls in America?

     

    Image via Farrah Abraham/Twitter


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    ShakiraPoor Shakira! The judge ofThe Voice has only been a mom for four months, and already she's learning the lesson we all must face: you can't have it all. The new mom of little Milan has announced she's quitting her job on the popular singing competition, leaving room for Christina Aguilera to return to the post.

    But XTina has nothing to do with the Latina sensation's departure from the judge's chair. That's all Milan's doing.

    Said Shakira of her decision to leave The Voice:

    I really enjoyed The Voice, but I also have a musical career and I'm also a mother now and my poor baby's so tired flying such long distances. He already has more miles than any pilot. So I think I have to give him a little break, and we'll see what happens in the future.

    And so it goes. You try to make baby and work come together, and everything blows up in your face.

    Been there. Have the sympathy to prove it.

    I cut back to part-time when my daughter was born -- a 30-hour part-time that included just two days of daycare. I was trying to do as much as I could to spend time with her and still make enough money to put food on the table. And in some ways it was fabulous. She had adventures that most kids will never experience.

    But in so many other ways, it just plain sucked. Ever been on the phone with a famous singer doing an interview, looked down, and realized that your baby has taken off her diaper and begun painting with ... well, you know ...? I have.

    I didn't get a heckuva lot of sleep in those days -- even after my daughter started sleeping through the night. I was always hunched over my computer late into the night, catching up on work I couldn't possibly get done with her awake.

    Looking back, I don't see any other options for my family. We were trying to make ends meet, and that was how we cobbled together a life.

    But when moms like Shakira confess they can't make it work either, I have to admit I feel a little bit better about my own struggles. It wasn't just me! I wasn't a failure! I was just a normal working mom who couldn't do it all!

    Pheww.

    Load off.

    It's not that I need a celebrity to validate how I feel, folks. But there's something to be said for looking at the lives of people who have a ton more money than we do, and more opportunities, and recognizing that if they can't do it perfectly, then no one can.

    And there is no SHAME in that!

    So Shakira couldn't do her dream job and give everything she wants to give to motherhood? Good for her for recognizing it, and deciding to prioritize her son.

    Because that's the one thing we do have control over: deciding what (or who) we want to prioritize.

    How do you make peace with the fact that there is no perfect balance?

     

    Image via Shakira/Twitter


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    school deskIt's never easy finding out your child is being bullied. As parents, we're supposed to be their protectors. But just how far do you take the mama bear role? For Jill Trahan-Hardy, being her daughter's advocate has translated into attending school with her 11-year-old every day, shadowing her in the halls like a bodyguard.

    Moms and Dads, has it really come to this? Do we really need to give up our own lives to keep our kids safe?

    I respect Trahan-Hardy for what she's trying to do. She says administrators at Earl Haig Public School in Toronto, Canada, didn't do enough to keep daughter Harley Campos safe from her tormentors. The girl's bullies got a day and a half suspension for a recent stunt, but otherwise the school's suggestions come off more as punishments for Harley than anyone else.

    They've suggested making Harley eat lunch alone in an office or having the girl transfer out of the school entirely.

    Awful?

    Of course. But is it any worse than having your mother breathing down your neck all day long?

    Let me say once again that I respect Trahan-Hardy for pulling out all the stops to keep her kid safe. If more parents took bullying seriously, we might be able to really put a dent in this epidemic.

    And yet, the idea of having my mom shadowing me in school makes me want to quote a movie popular in my school days: "There goes your social life."

    How do you act like a normal kid when you've got your mom sitting RIGHT there? How do you chat with your friends? Get a boy's attention? Find yourself?

    Trahan-Hardy may be keeping her kid from getting her @ss kicked, but she's not exactly making it easier for the 11-year-old to deal with other kids. She might even be making her kid more of a target, as she's now the kid whose Mommy is her bodyguard.

    Try shedding that reputation as you head into high school. Kids don't tend to forget things like that. And they hold it over your head forever. Trust me. People still bring up the time I accidentally made a goal for the other team in youth soccer (I was 7 or 8?).

    This is the conundrum for parents. When do we have to let our kids fight their own battles?

    I say it's when our intrusion will hurt the child more than anything their peers can do. We can't follow our kids everywhere they go forever ...

    Do you think this mom is right? Would you shadow your kids at school to keep them safe?

     

    Image via phi1317/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    John DoeFinally some good news in the ongoing war against child pornography. Photos of an alleged child porn producer known only as John Doe were released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations department earlier this month in a plea for the public to help nab a man abusing a little girl. And they've caught him! John Doe has been arrested thanks to tips from the public!

    Well ... and thanks to his own stupidity. The dude actually showed his face on an alleged child porn film! Thank goodness.

    Good prevails! Evil has been extinguished!

    Or one bit of evil, anyway.

    The arrest follows a rather bizarre break in the child pornography case. Videos of John Doe (whose identity is still being withheld until his first appearance in federal court) and his alleged victim -- a girl who appears to be between 7 and 9 years old -- were actually found in Denmark. But Danish authorities noticed something odd: a Frito-Lay Rold Gold bag of thin pretzels. The bag of treats is sold only in the United States -- which prompted them to send the videos to ICE. ICE, in turn, released the photos and ... voila. 

    The alleged sicko is now in custody.

    We've all seen enough episodes of Law & Order: SVU to know it doesn't always work out so neatly. In fact, most of us have seen enough episodes of the NBC drama (and others like it) to feel like we're in an unwinnable war. One site gets taken down, and another pops up in its place. One child porn producer is arrested, another steps in to ruin the lives of innocent children.

    In some ways, it's true. According to a National Juvenile Online Victimization Study, 40 percent of arrested child pornography possessors had both sexually victimized children and were in possession of child pornography. In 2008 alone, Internet Watch Foundation found 1,536 individual child abuse domains online, more than half of which were housed here in the US.

    For parents, it can sound hopeless.

    But it's not.

    Just look at the fate of John Doe. He screwed up royally. He let his face be seen on camera. He left clues to his whereabouts.

    And the public stepped up when we were needed most. Someone told on him, and the good guys moved in. 

    The facts of this case may be hard to stomach, but make no mistake, this is a win, America. We did it. We got a bad guy off the streets.

    Now let's move on to the next one.

    Did you examine these photos when they came out to see if you knew John Doe? Were you expecting him to be captured so quickly?

     

    Image via ICE


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    teen mom 2 castPop quiz time, Teen Mom fans. Which teen parent racked up the most arrests of anyone on the show? Here's a hint: it's not Jenelle Evans. And since we're talking teen parents, you can't count Tyler Baltierra's dad Butch in there either.

    Go ahead ... take your time.

    Did you guess Adam Lind? Aka father of Chelsea Houska's daughter Aubree?

    The 21-year-old reality star is currently in jail, serving out a 90-day stint for driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license. He's allowed out to go to work, but that's it. And according to details dug up by Sean Daly and Ashley Majeski, authors of the new book, Teen Mom Confidential: Secrets and Scandals From MTV's Most Controversial Shows, this isn't Lind's first brush with the law. Far from it.

    In the past years, Chelsea's ex has been arrested ... wait for it ... 35 times!

    More From The Stir: It Takes a Village to Keep 'Teen Mom' Jenelle Evans in Line

    And here we could only come up with nine mugshots for Jenelle, including her latest pop for alleged heroin possession. Home girl might not be the most mixed up parent in the bunch after all!

    How Adam has evaded serious jailtime before now is anyone's guess, especially considering there were several times when a judge suspended jail sentences, provided he kept his nose clean ... only for him to go out and re-offend not much later.

    Most of the offenses are related to driving and/or alcohol, but the way Adam has dealt with many turned them into something more serious. Take a speeding offense in June 2008. He was clocked going 89 mph in a 55 mph zone at 2 a.m. But then to make matters worse, Adam didn't bother showing up for his scheduled court date!

    Let me just say it again: Chelsea is so much better off without this guy!

    Were you surprised to hear Adam had been arrested more than Jenelle? Who did you think it would be?

     

    Image via MTV


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Stephanie RedusWe've had more than a few "tried to sell the kid on Craigslist" stories floating around the Internet in recent years. Way too many, if you ask me. But there's something about the latest mom charged with trying to adopt out her 3-year-old son via a Craigslist ad that's a bit unusual.

    The mom, Stephanie Redus, doesn't sound like your typical jerk mom who would use Craigslist to offload a kid because she doesn't care. I can't get truly enraged at her. If anything, I read the Texas mom's story and I felt ... pity.

    The pangs of sympathy don't excuse what she's accused of doing. You just don't put your kid up for adoption on Craigslist, people. Who knows what kind of sicko is out there, just waiting to pounce?

    That said, read what Redus' allegedly posted online:

    Hi, I’m trying to adopt out my three year old son. I’m not in a good place in my life and don’t feel like I can care for him properly, but I don’t know where to start. If you or know anyone who is interested in caring for him please let me know. I’m a single mom and can’t do this. Thanks, Desperate.

    Does that sound like a mom trying to make a quick buck? A mom who really doesn't give two craps about her kid? Notice she repeats the words "care (or caring) for him" twice in there.

    Call me a sucker, but Redus sounds ... like a fairly good mom.

    Hey, I said fairly. She is charged with trying to arrange a Craigslist adoption.

    But I should probably also tell you that Redus is pregnant.

    Does that make you feel more sympathetic?

    Me too.

    It's HARD out there for parents who are feeling overwhelmed. There are "safe haven" laws, but in most places, they don't extend much past a baby's birth. Even finding a good babysitter to watch your kid for a few hours so you can get a handle on things is tough in this economy. As a recent report shows, the price of childcare has DOUBLED in the past 25 years.

    Parents struggling with toddlers (or older kids) either have supportive family and friends to help out or ... what? Who will come to their aid when they're swimming as hard as they can and feeling like the undertow keeps pulling them in?

    If we really want to put an end to the "kid being sold on Craigslist stories," maybe we need to look at why they keep happening.

    So yes, we punish these parents who turn to Craigslist ... and we do something about the total lack of resources for struggling single parents out there.

    That is how we make society better.

    Do you feel sympathetic for this mom's plight? What do you think should be done with her?

     

    Image via Lake Houston Police


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Kathreen RicketsonOh, my heart hurts today. The mom blogging community has lost one of our own: Kathreen Ricketson, better known on Twitter as WhipUp, is gone, as is partner Rob Shugg. And the couple's two children saw it all -- their parents drowning, rescue workers trying desperately to revive their mom, to no avail.

    Those poor kids. Can it get much worse than that?

    Ricketson was on a cross-country family adventure in her native Australia, an adventure the mother of two and blogger behind sites Action Pack and Whip Up was chronicling for a book. According to news reports, she and Bob went in for a swim, and their 10-year-old son, Orlando, is the one who sounded the alarm that his parents were drowning. He reportedly went into the water to join his parents and saw them face down.

    Orlando and his 13-year-old sister, Otilija, then had to stand there and watch it all go down, from their mom being pulled to shore and folks doing CPR to emergency workers searching the water for their dad.

    There are some things kids should never see. Their parents' dead bodies top the list. At least not like this, not in the throes of death under tragic circumstances. 

    But we never really get to choose this, do we? There's more time to plan when a parent is sick, more chance to talk to your kids about what is going to happen and whether you want them to be there in your final hours. Even letting kids in to an open casket funeral allows for planning -- you can sit the kids down and talk to them about what THEY want.

    Not everyone wants to remember a loved one that way. And for kids, well ... it's hard enough for a 13-year-old and a 10-year-old to deal with the loss of a parent. These kids lost two, very suddenly, very tragically. And they didn't have a choice about seeing (or not seeing) how it all went down.

    Our hearts go out to Ricketson's and Shugg's kids today. I can only hope that they'll be able to look back at their mom's blog and see how much she loved them and loved doing things with them.

    Already the blogging community has set up a way to help the kids:

    Enquiries can be directed to Julie McMahon via email to procrasticraft {at} gmail {dot} com or mailed to PO Box 370, Dickson ACT 2602 Australia. There are also directions on how to make contributions straight to the bank over at Whip Up.

    Were you a Whip Up or Action Pack fan?

     

    Image via KathreenRicketson


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    photos of mom breastfeedingScore one for breastfeeding moms! A photo center that refused to print a picture of a mom breastfeeding her baby because of a "nudity" policy has backed down. And it gets better! Because of the struggle Kayla Andre's husband went through to get a photo made of his wife and baby for Mother's Day, Wal-Mart is changing its policies.

    Wal-Mart the company, that is, not just the one Wal-Mart in Edmonton, Canada, where Kayla's photo got the clerks up in arms! Sounds like a win for moms to me!

    OK, yes, the Andres went through something ridiculous. Kayla's husband had a gorgeous photo of her and their baby that shows mom looking adoringly down at her kiddo. You could see some of her breast, but the nipple was in the baby's mouth, and it's clearer than clear what is going on.

    Mom is feeding baby.

    Period.

    There should have been no question of indecency here.

    Buuuuuuuut, and this is a big but, every time one of these cases crops up, I have to admit there's a tiny part of me that is glad. Not for what the mom (or mom and dad in this case) has gone through, but for the aftermath.

    Every time a breastfeeding mom's struggles make the news, we chip away at society's backward notions about breastfeeding and sexuality. Every time a breastfeeding mom encounters a jerk at a big company, we see corporations forced to step up and do something to save face.

    In the case of Wal-Mart, the company has apologized, and this photo center fiasco has paved the way for a new company policy that will be added to the guidelines for photo center employees. It will SPECIFICALLY protect breastfeeding moms.

    That can only be a good thing.

    Do you see an end in sight for breastfeeding moms struggling to break down the "sexy" barrier to societal acceptance?

     

    Image via Sadie Hernandez/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Angelina JolieIt's been a big week for something near and dear to moms' hearts. Literally. Actress Angelina Jolie set off a firestorm of debate this week over testing for the BRCA gene, aka the "breast cancer gene," when she announced she'd not only been tested, but she'd undergone a double mastectomy too.

    It's a move some are calling brave, others stupid, while still others have been empowered by the celebrity mom's announcement to come out and talk about their feelings about whether or not women really need to know what could happen to their bodies decades into the future.

    So should moms be rushing to their doctors, begging to be tested so they know if they need to prepare their kids for the worst?

    Maybe. That's exactly why Jolie faced the scary test. The actress and mother of six explained in The New York Times this week:

    I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.

    There's no question moms want to do what's best for their kids. But is gene testing always a guarantee of that?

    S.E. Smith got the test. She has the gene. But as she explained on X.O. Jane, she's not as lucky as Angelina ... she can't afford the double mastectomy:

    When you’re uninsured, which I am, a preventative double mastectomy is often out of reach, assuming you could afford the genetic testing to tell you one might be a good idea in the first place. This isn’t like choosing between a trip to Hawaii and a new computer ... 

    For now, all I can do is hang my hopes on the slim percentage that I won’t get breast cancer, knowing that if a tumor develops, it’s not like I can afford to treat that either.

    Smith isn't the only one who's been tested and found that the answers aren't as simple as Jolie's "cut them off" approach.

    For The Stir's Sasha Brown-Worsham, the genetic test was a burden off her shoulders, but a negative result doesn't mean the daughter who lost her mother to breast cancer as a teenager is "safe":

    I don't know my destiny. I'm still high risk and I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. But I do know that the gene mutation I believed I had for so many years is not in my body. So I'm grateful. Grateful for my health right now and grateful for the hope this little test has given me.

    Brown-Worsham still comes down on the side of the test. But not everyone does.

    Writer Florence Williams -- who has two grandmothers and a great-grandmother who died of breast cancer or ovarian cancer and is therefore considered a higher risk for breast cancer -- didn't get tested ... because it just wasn't in the cards. As she explained on Slate.com this week:

    Using the models, tests and screens made me feel like I was doing something, but ultimately, they’re not terribly meaningful. It’s not even very helpful to know your magic risk number for breast cancer. Most women with lots of risk factors will never get breast cancer, and many without the big risk factors will get it nonetheless. In other words, many of the standard risk factors (early puberty, late menopause, obesity, older maternal age, obesity, smoking) are fairly useless. The reason is that we still don’t know really know what causes breast cancer.

    It seems there is no easy answer. Technology has brought us to a new point in history, but it still comes down to personal choice.

    What would you do? Would you get the BRCA test done?

     

    Image via Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    little superheroThe biggest hero of this week isn't big at all. He's just a regular 5-year-old from North Carolina. When Caleb Taylor woke from a nap in the backseat of his mom's car, he saw her having a seizure, and like any true superhero would do, he unbuckled, leaped forward, and managed to steer the car off the road and turn it off.

    Naturally, the little boy has told reporters that he'd like to be referred to as Batman in the future.

    Whatever you say, Kid, er Batman. You deserve it! Caleb's mom, Sandra Taylor, is OK thanks to her son's quick thinking. A passerby called 911 and helped the little guy out at the scene until emergency workers could come.

    The Taylors' story gives us a happy ending to a long and not necessarily happy week (seriously, I wrote about a mom putting her toddler up for adoption on Craigslist this week ... and that wasn't the WORST news of the week). It makes me want to grab this adorable little superhero up and cover him with kisses ... which is pretty much why most 5-year-old boys hate moms like me.

    But it's more than that.

    Caleb's story is one of those in-your-face reminders that sometimes our kids are going to surprise us.

    It's not always by leaping to our rescue. More often it's something far simpler ...

    A few weeks ago my daughter came home with a random plastic bag in her backpack. I was confused, until my husband explained that she'd spotted it on the ground near her dance center and wanted to bring it home to put it in the trash ... so no animals would be hurt by it.

    Did she save my life? No. But it made me grin. She did something without being told out of the goodness of her heart ... because the lessons I'm working so hard to impart ARE sinking in!

    Little Batman is a pretty incredible kid, but behind him must be two pretty great parents. They're doing something right here!

    Have your kids ever surprised you in this way? What happened?

     

    Image via TobyOtter/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    patriotic country songsAlright folks, do you know what today is? You should! It's Armed Forces Day, aka the one day of the year that we take the time to celebrate our troops.

    Oh, you thought that was Memorial Day? Or maybe Veterans Day? Nope ... those are both national holidays with a military bent, but they're also both reserved for folks who have left the military. But today is the one day when the active duty military get their (very well-deserved) due.

    A bona fide holiday since 1949, when Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days, this is the one and only day our hard-working troops get to celebrate THEM.

    And what better way to honor them then with some quotes about what it is they sacrifice for every day? And who has said it better than the country singers who make it a point to pay tribute to our military on a regular basis?

    Here are some of our favorite patriotic quotes from our favorite country singers to pay tribute to the men and women who are fighting every day to keep America free. 

    Feel free to pin 'em on Pinterest (check out The Stir's military board) and share them with a soldier you love!

    Who are you paying tribute to today?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager

     

     

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Mad Men Roger SterlingThere's just one word to sum up tonight's episode of Mad Men. OK, not so much a word as an utterance: huh? The goings on at the as-yet-unnamed Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce/Cutler Gleason and Chaough mash-up made for some of the trippiest television yet. Don Draper even admitted he was, gasp, FEELING things! 

    Only one thing could make that happen.

    Getting Don Draper -- and most of the staff at SCDP/CGC high as a kite!

    Yup, Don's had plenty of sex over the years; so it was time to introduce the drugs portion of '60s living (no word on when rock 'n roll is coming .. although we still have a year to go in Mad Men time until they hit Woodstock).

    With the folks at Chevy not doing much other than taking Ken Cosgrove on (life-threatening) joy rides, things are getting pretty desperate at the TIME/Life building. So Jim Cutler decides he's got the ticket: his special doctor, who comes in and shoots a "proprietary" blend of vitamins and an, ahem, stimulant, into the buttocks of Don, Roger, Stan, and pretty much everyone else on staff so they can get their creative juices flowing.

    The effect is to make Don even harder to figure out than ever ... although we did get a peek into why old Dick Whitman ended up having such a problem keeping it in his pants. Our boy lost his virginity semi-unwillingly to a prostitute. A prostitute who was something of a mother figure to him. Oy.

    So much explained in that moment... right up to his creepy stalking of Sylvia Rosen (who is still making him feel all those icky emotions even though they're technically broken up). How can he really form proper relationships with women after a start like that?

    But if the drugs explained Don's trip down the rabbit hole and the wacky antics at SCDP...whatever you want to call it, they didn't quite cover the "huh" moment that was Sally Draper waking to find a random black woman in her dad's apartment claiming to be her "Grandma Ida." Another mother figure for Dick Whitman? Geez, we're losing count here!

    The stranger rummaging through the cabinets seemed to know a fair amount about Don, but what she was doing in his apartment and why she went with "grandma" instead of "old family friend" is still up in the air. But it's clear she's more than just your garden variety home invader by the way Don reacted when he heard about her -- fainting right there on his own floor.

    Or maybe that was just him coming down off that shot in the hiney?

    Either way, something tells me we haven't seen the last of "Grandma Ida" or of the emotions Don dragged up during his weekend-long bender.

    He promised the creative department, "There is an answer that will open the door" to the perfect pitch for Chevy, but maybe Matthew Weiner's going to throw us a bone ... and he really meant he's close to the answer that will open the door to whatever version of himself he has locked down? Hey, a girl can dream.

    What was your reaction to this episode? Did you say "huh" at least once?

     

    Image via Michael Yarish/AMC


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    IAmerican flagn Aurora, Colorado this weekend, a family woke up to a sea of flags on their front lawn. The American flags were a tribute to Sgt. Ryan Baum, an Army Ranger who died exactly six years ago. Baum's community was telling his parents they haven't forgotten.

    It's a message we don't hear enough in America. Oh, sure, we throw parades on Memorial Day, and we cry at military funerals, and we buy those little fabric poppies from the VFW. But is that enough?

    What are we telling our veterans, our active duty, the families of our fallen, when we go back to our daily lives?

    It's been six years since Sgt. Ryan Baum was shot by a sniper in Iraq. People cried at his funeral, and a grateful nation said thank you six years ago. But his sacrifice didn't just up and disappear when the mourners went home.

    Baum was still gone. And six years on, the flag tribute thought up by his sister, Mande Nantkes, to surprise their parents meant just as much, if not more, as the people who were there when he actually gave his life for his country.

    More From The Stir: 8 Patriotic Quotes to Honor Our Troops on Armed Forces Day

    Because they cared enough to stop what they were doing and remember ... six whole YEARS later.

    This is the tightrope we walk as Americans. We can live our daily, normal lives in no small part because of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. We don't have to think about them at every moment. That's their gift to us.

    And yet, how many Americans recognize that gift and do something to thank the giver? How many of us just shut off after the holiday is over, the homecoming celebrated, the fallen mourned?

    Can't we do more? Shouldn't we?

    A front lawn blanketed in flags was a small gesture from the folks in Aurora. It didn't take long or much money. But it meant everything.

    Are you inspired to do something? What?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    teen momHUGE news Teen Mom fans! The rumors that we'd never see our favorite mama drama are proving to be just that: rumors. The show isn't cancelled after all. We're finally going to see young moms and their kids on MTV again ... and soon.

    Pheww!

    We knew that at least a portion of Teen Mom 3 was shot, with 16 & Pregnant stars Alex Sekella, Mackenzie Douthit, Katie Yeager, and Briana DeJesus. But when word started leaking that MTV would not be renewing Teen Mom 2, there was plenty of buzz that the four girls' stories would end right where we last saw them.

    Not so. MTV confirmed to The Stir last week that there's no exact airdate for Teen Mom 3 yet, but there is definite movement. The folks at Teen Mom Confidential have gotten word that the show will begin airing in August, likely in the time slot vacated by Teen Mom 2 (that's Monday nights at 10 p.m. for those of you who DVR).

    More From The Stir: Farrah Abraham Should Stick to Doing Sex Tapes & Leave Our Daughters Alone

    Douthit confirmed on Twitter that she's in New York City this week. Gannon's mom didn't just leave Oklahoma for a vacation. She's in the Big Apple specifically to work on the show because although the bulk of the shows are shot in the girls's individual hometowns, the after-specials, reunions shows, and voiceover work all happens at MTV's headquarters in mid-town Manhattan.

    The recent high school graduate has been joined by her co-stars and Teen Mom alum Maci Bookout, host of many of the after-show rap sessions.

    As for the fate of Teen Mom 2, who knows. It sounds an awful lot like MTV is committed to moving on, and we can't wait to see what these new girls have to share with the world. Hopefully they've learned some lessons from the stars of the previous two versions of Teen Mom!

    Will you be watching Teen Mom 3? Who is your favorite cast member?

     

    Image via MTV


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    hot temperatureAs much as I love the spring, the spike in temperatures always gives me chills. I know what's coming: we're about to see a rash of "baby dies in hot car" stories in the news. That's just what happened in Texas the other day. A baby named Victoria Marks died in her mom's car, right outside the elementary school where Vibha Marks is a teacher. And now mom is under arrest.

    That poor mother.

    Heck. That poor father!

    The man just lost his daughter, and the mother of his child is facing a charge of abandoning a child with serious bodily injury. The temperature on Friday in Dallas, Texas was 84 degrees. The temperature in that car? Likely much higher.

    That little girl died tragically, and her dad's life was just turned upside down by someone who he should have been able to trust. 

    I'd wager one of the hardest parts of being a co-parent with someone is letting go, allowing them to take control of certain aspects of your child's life. I trust my husband with our daughter implicitly, but ... I'll be the first to admit that I'm a control freak. He doesn't do things wrong so much as he doesn't do things the way I do them, and it's hard not to stick my nose in there.

    Does he have her best interests at heart? Of course. Would he purposely do anything to put her in danger? Of course not. But I'm her mother, and as her mother, I worry about her. I worry about her even when she's with the only other person in this world who cares about her as much as I do.

    This is what little Victoria Marks' dad has to deal with right now. Not only did he lose his child, but he lost his child when she was supposed to be under the care of the other person in the little girl's life who should have cared for her most.

    Is there a way to forgive that? I really don't know.

    If there is, he's a stronger man than I.

    What are your thoughts on this case? Has your co-parent ever done something that made you feel like you couldn't trust them with your child?

     

    Image via jessica mullen/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    soldier dad surprises daughterWho doesn't love a military homecoming video? Grinches? Well, even their hearts will grow a few sizes once they catch what a soldier dad returning from Afghanistan did to surprise his 9-year-old daughter at a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game the other day.

    Lt. Col. Will Adams knew his daughter deserved a little something special after putting up with life without Daddy for nearly two years. So he arranged for Alayna to throw out the first pitch at the Major League Baseball game. And then he put on a uniform ... but not the one he wore to fight insurgents in Afghanistan. Just watch:

    Ohhhh. Her face! That's a girl who loves her daddy!

    I've been trying to figure out why I can't stop watching this video, and it finally hit me. Here's a dad who gets what his kid has been through.

    Yes, the homecoming is a big moment for him; he's spent nearly two years far away from home in the middle of a warzone. But his third grader has put in her time too. She's missed bedtime with Daddy tucking her in, and walking across the street with Dad's hand to hold. And while the soldier's sacrifice deserves to be celebrated and marked, so does the child's.

    But it takes a really good Dad to remember that!

    Why are YOU obsessed with this video?

     

    Image via Tampa Bay Times


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