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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

    Alanna GallagherIt's been said that no news is good news, but that's hardly the case for residents of Saginaw, Texas, where the body of 6-year-old Alanna Gallagher was found in the middle of a street earlier this week. The little girl's death has prompted a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of her killer, but so far cops look like they're grasping at straws. And what they have to say to residents is hardly comforting.

    Right now, the police in Saginaw say that Alanna's murder is likely an "isolated" incident. Which means ... what, exactly?

    Well, it should mean that parents in Saginaw can stop worrying that their child will be the next targeted by a killer, the next child to be found in the middle of the street hog-tied and wrapped in a trash bag. I know that would be the very first thing I'd be worried about: was my child safe? Could I let her out to play in our yard as Alanna did, as most normal 6-year-olds do?

    But is it really possible to feel good here? To let your kids play as they did before this horror visited the town?

    An "isolated" incident indicates the cops in Saginaw think they know why this little girl is dead. But the reward, the news that no one has yet been ruled out as a suspect, the lack of news on motive ... all of that makes for cold comfort for the residents of Saginaw. As a police spokesman told the press of the person responsible for Alanna's death:

    Any single person in this area is a suspect.

    That would indicate that the killer who brutalized a little girl on her summer vacation walks among them, is someone who may well have been around their own kids. Maybe (hopefully) they will not kill again, but what other risk could they represent to the kids of Saginaw?

    Even Alanna's own parents haven't been ruled out as suspects. Reporters noticed a number of odd items being taken out of their home -- from a four-pack of toilet paper to Wal-Mart bags and colored tape -- by cops. They might well be clues, clues of nothing good ...

    If something untoward happened to this girl in her own home, neighbors will no doubt be beating themselves up, wondering if they could have stepped in, if they should have seen something and said something.

    Really, there is no good news here.

    The cops no doubt want to make people in Saginaw feel less anxious, but the mother in me says that will never happen. Isolated incident or not, this will haunt people up until Alanna's murderer is caught and beyond.

    Would you be worried for your kids if you lived in that town?

     

    Image via Saginaw Police


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    baby nurseryWhen I was pregnant, my to-do list was long. At the top: get the baby's room ready. Because every baby must have a nursery, right?

    Weeeeeeeell, actually, there's pretty much nothing to prove that babies need their own room. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the thing that will make the manufacturers of all that baby STUFF cringe in fear.

    A baby does not need his (or her!) own room.

    You can park your kid's crib in a closet (a well-ventilated closet of course!), and no one will be the worse for wear. Or, heck, you could even room in with your baby until they're no longer technically a baby. Thousands of parents do it every year, and it works out just fine for them.

    I realize that this sounds a wee bit hypocritical considering I just admitted that the baby nursery was my biggest "to-do" when I was pregnant. But this is the benefit of hind-sight: you are embarrassed by what an idiot you once were!

    My daughter is now 8, and I realize that she didn't spend a whole heckuva lot of time in her room when she was a baby. She slept in the same room as my husband and I for quite some time, and then later used "her" room solely for naps and bedtime.

    She was too little to sit on the floor and play with toys alone; she did all of that in the living room. We probably used the changing table in there all of a handful of times (because the floor, the couch, my bed, etc. were all so much more convenient). And considering the sheer amount of laundry I did at that point in her life, most of her clothes spent most of their time in a basket rather than her dresser.

    Oh, and all that cutesy nursery decor? It's already gone because while it was adorable, it was really my taste, not hers. By the time she was old enough to care about decor, she wanted things her way!

    I hate to admit this, but looking back on the nursery we created, I feel like a rube. We wasted so much time! Not to mention money!

    And for what? So we could say we had a baby nursery?

    It's a great bedroom for her now that she's a little girl, but looking back, I realize I could have saved myself plenty of time, money, and worrying about getting the baby's room done if I'd just faced the truth: babies don't need their own rooms.

    Do you agree? Do you think a baby needs his or her own room?

     

    Image via dennis/Flickr

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    holding handsRight now, my daughter has a lot of boy friends. Notice the space. Boys are her friends. They have playdates in our backyard and giggle over popsicles. As a mom who remembers all too well how painful the drama with girlfriends can be, I'm glad she enjoys her friendships with boys. But I'm not exactly holding out hope that this will last forever. One day my daughter will begin to date.

    The way it looks now, she will likely date boys (although if it's girls, her father and I are fine with that too). I'm not ready yet, but I'm getting there. But before any boy comes a'knockin', he might want to prepare himself ... we've got rules for dating our teenage daughter:

    1. No means no. Her father and I have been teaching her that she has the right to say "when" ever since she was young enough to be out of our sight. And she has my full permission to knee you in the nuts if you don't listen.

    More From The Stir:When Teenagers Make Out in Public, Moms Should Intervene

    2. An open door means an OPEN door. Not a door that isn't locked but is technically closed. Not a door that is so close to closed that you can't see in (but you could push open). Open. Period.

    3. Condoms are not optional. I'm not an idiot; eventually my daughter will have sex. Hopefully it's later rather than sooner. But no matter what she's using for protection, you're using something too, buddy.

    4. There is such thing as too much PDA. You will want to kiss. Hug. Hold hands. I get it. I was young once. But if you're groping my teenage daughter in public, she will be in trouble, and I will be telling your mother.

    5. Keep your hands off her neck. I'm not just talking about violence (this should be a given). I'm talking about the boys who walk around the mall with one hand wrapped 'round the back of his girlfriend's neck. My daughter is not a dog; she does not need a collar.

    Rules for dating my daughter6. Don't honk. You have two hands and two legs. Use them to get your hind end out of the car and walk to the door when you're picking her up.

    7. Don't break curfew. If she breaks curfew, even if it's your fault, she will be in trouble. If you "lurv" her so much, you won't want her to get in trouble, will you?

    8. Don't lie. To her. To me. To your parents. Everyone is much more likely to forgive if you just start with the truth.

    9. She's smart. Get over it. Her father and I have worked hard to make sure she knows her smarts are valuable. We're not going to let you convince her she's nothing more than her pretty face.

    10. She's comfortable in her skin. Let's keep it that way. If you're not attracted to all of my daughter, and you want to pick apart her weight or chest size, hit the road Jack, and don't you dare come back. She doesn't need you to tear down her self esteem.

    Follow these, and I promise I won't let my husband pull out the "I've got a shotgun and a shovel" line my dad used on him. Well ... maybe ...

    Do you have rules for the boys who date your daughter? What are they?

     

    Image via spotlessfall/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    car left in hot sunIf you're like me, you probably don't make a habit of peering inside other people's cars, but after reading this, you just might change your mind. A Georgia mother has been charged with a series of crimes after she allegedly made her 5-year-old son hide under a towel so she could leave him in the car while she went shopping. It was an 89-degree day, and Mary Amber Moore's little boy was left in a car parked in direct sunlight with the windows rolled up tight.

    I don't think I need to tell you what could have happened here if it weren't for a nosy passerby.

    Moore's son was found crying in the unlocked but sweltering car by a good Samaritan who called 911. He told officers his mom had made him hide in the car so no one would see him.

    If it's true, what Moore did was much worse than a parent who accidentally forgets his or her child in the backseat. This sounds like she knew that what she was doing was wrong, and she did it anyway.

    Thank goodness for that passerby.

    It isn't a stretch to say she (or he) saved that child's life. A hot car left in the sun on a 90 degree day takes just 10 minutes to reach 109 degrees, literally becoming an oven. That kind of temperature can kill a child and has. 

    But this little boy got lucky. This passerby cared. They obviously had to do some investigating to find this kid hidden under the towel, and they did the right thing.

    I've never been put in a position like it, but I'd like to say I'd do the same.

    Would you?

    I'll admit it's hard to know what to do.

    Do you leave the child in the car and go inside the store, have an announcement made? Do you take the child out of the car and do the same?

    People are so unpredictable, you never know if the child's mother or father is going to lash out at you for stepping in, and you don't want to be accuse of trying to kidnap the child.

    But what are your other options?

    Do you stay with the child, watching them through the window and call 911 on your cellphone? Do you get them out of the car and call 911?

    Calling the cops puts a buffer between you and that angry parent, but it carries its own risks -- you are now the person who got a parent in legal trouble. And who knows why the child was there? Was it an accident? An innocent mistake? Or were you dealing with a mom like Moore?

    You could stand there and debate the issues with the adults for hours. Your discomfort. The parents. But at the end of the day, none of it matters. The safety of the child matters.

    So, yes, I'd be that nosy passerby. I'd get that kid out of the car, and I'd let the chips fall where they may. Better a kid who's alive with a mom who is mad at me than a kid who is dead ...

    Have you seen kids left alone in hot cars? What did you do about it?

     

     

    Image via SubZeroConsciousness/Flickr

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    cellphoneI tend to take a hard line on discipline. I cheered when a dad found stolen goods in his kid's room and turned the little thief in to the cops. But a woman who took unusual steps after she found the cellphone of a teenager in her ransacked car has me wondering if I'm a little too hard.

    Eliza Webb could have called the cops immediately, but the woman who works with high schoolers had a hunch the phone belonged to a teenager. So she didn't.

    Instead, Webb wanted to talk to the kid and his parents and see if she could figure out how to deal with his bad behavior without ruining his life. As Webb told the Seattle Times:

    I think bringing the police and courts into something like this can have long-term, devastating consequences for kids.

    She's right.

    Get the cops involved, and you're talking about giving a kid a record, a record that could follow them for the rest of their life. 

    Sometimes, that's necessary. Sometimes, it's overkill.

    So how do you know the difference?

    More from The Stir: 6 Sneaky Parent Tricks to Keep Your Teen in Line

    In Webb's case, she ended up meeting with the kid and taking him and his teenage accomplice door-to-door in their neighborhood, apologizing to neighbors for breaking into their cars and returning the items they'd stolen. The teens also have to write a letter of apology that will be read at a community block party. Having to own up to what they'd done and doing it face-to-face surely made an impact on those kids, maybe even more of an impact than standing in a courtroom with a judge and prosecutor who represent The Man.

    As a mom, I'd like to think I would have turned my kid in to the authorities if I found out what they'd been doing. But this ... this doesn't seem like such a bad option either.

    I can't help but wonder: is this the difference between a parent disciplining and a stranger punishing a kid?

    Do we as parents have to be harder on our kids than strangers? Can strangers teach the lesson we need to teach with strength by showing compassion?

    I'm not suggesting that we turf our disciplining to other people -- I'd much prefer my kid never end up hurting someone else and ending up in a position like this -- but the "it takes a village" mentality of parenting certainly seems to have worked here. And it can work in most situations; if people show a little common sense when dealing with miscreant teenagers.

    You don't ALWAYS have to call the cops. Sometimes the lessons are much more profound if they're dealt with on a human level.

    Look at Eliza Webb. She didn't let the kids "get away" with breaking into her car. But she didn't turn to the cops either. Good for her. Good for her for doing her part in the global village and helping shape the next generation.

    If only more people were like her.

    Perhaps it's a little hypocritical to want a little forgiveness from strangers that we ourselves won't give our kids. But one thing I've learned over the years is that kids tend to take things better from someone who is NOT their parent. Other people simply don't HAVE to be as hard on our kids to get them to shape up.

    Put yourself in these parents' shoes. Would you want someone calling the cops on your kid or dealing with it as Webb did?

     

    Image via DeusXFlorida (2,093,896 views) - thanks guys!/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Prince William Kate MiddletonIf you're not on Kate Middleton birth watch already (as if there's anyone out there who isn't anxiously awaiting the royal bundle of joy), here's another reason to get excited! Pretty soon we'll get a look at a whole new side of Prince William: Wills, the royal dad! And it's already sounding like he's going to be channeling his lovely mom more so than his pops when the royal baby makes her (fingers crossed) arrival.

    That's right, Prince William has no interest in "traditional royal father" roles. He's going to be a modern dad.

    According to a source close to the royal family, Prince Charles wasn't a diaper changing kind of guy, but the Duke of Cambridge sees himself as an equal partner to Kate, and that means Prince William will be shouldering equal parenting duties:

    He’ll expect to have sleepless nights and take a hand in changing nappies. He’ll be very hands-on -- and that means from Day One.

    And here I didn't think the prince could actually get any sexier! But as a mom, let me tell you, there is NOTHING sexier than a man who loves his kids and is willing to do anything to show it.

    My husband is one of those men. An only child, he'd never changed a diaper before our daughter was born, but he dove right in in the hospital. He was rapt watching the nurse teach us how to give her a bath and his big manly hands would cradle her head so gently, I sometimes got tears in my eyes.

    OK, so maybe I was a little bit hormonal?

    The point is, dads like my husband, dads like Prince William plans to be, aren't the future of fatherhood. They're today's dads, dads who aren't the bumbling idiots you see on the average TV sitcom, dads who understand that it isn't just the kids who need their fathers to be present; it's the moms. Moms need support, and we really do recognize when a guy is pulling his weight.

    Prince Charles may have followed the traditional royal roles in never changing a diaper, but look where all those traditional roles got him in marriage.

    Kate Middleton is lucky. She has a husband who was raised not just by her father-in-law, but by her mother-in-law too. Something tells me Prince William is not going to let his wife ever encounter the struggles of Princess Diana.

    And if a PRINCE, the future KING, can get a little baby poop on his hands, there's absolutely no reason any other man out there can't do the same for HIS baby ... and his partner. Ya hear that Kanye?

    Do you find it inspiring that Prince William is going to shoulder equal parenting or is that just something you'd expect from a dad in 2013?

     

    Image via lwpkommunikacio/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Kailyn Lowry Teen Mom 2It's hard to believe it's been more than three years since Kailyn Lowry first showed up on MTV as a pregnant teenager expecting her first child on 16 & Pregnant. Even harder to believe? Kail's first episode of Teen Mom 2 aired in January 2011! She's come a long, long, long way since then ... which isn't exactly making some of the show's fans happy.

    A photo that's making its way around the Internet slams Kail for her exorbitant spending. As the photo's caption points out, it's hard to see her as a "struggling" teenage mother.

    More From The Stir: Jenelle Evans Is Talking Marriage ... Already?!

    Kailyn is using an iPhone in the photo, and the caption refers to her wearing name brand clothes and sporting a Louis Vuitton bag on the show as well as using a Vera Bradley diaper bag. Not exactly the stuff a broke teenager has, right?

    Well, Kailyn had explanations for the costly items on Twitter -- noting that the diaper bag was a baby shower gift, the Vuitton bag a fake, and saying she mostly shops at Target.

    Her answers should be enough to shut down this particular line of criticism. But should she even have to go there?

    Kailyn is not a teenage mother anymore.

    She's a woman in her 20s, a married woman with a job and a husband who likewise works a good job (for the United States military). She isn't struggling anymore, and it's because she's done what she needed to do to pull herself up by her bootstraps. She has worked for the ability to buy herself an iPhone!

    Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2 have been good at showing American kids that it doesn't pay to have unprotected sex and end up as teen parents, and its stars have sort of been the anti-role model for kids in America. But that doesn't mean they need to spend the rest of their lives screwing up and exemplifying what could happen to teen parents just to scare our kids. They're reality stars, not characters. Reality stars are human beings.

    Human beings grow. They change.

    For their kids' sakes, heck for their own sakes, it's good for these girls to grow and come into their own. That may be what actually makes them real role models -- teen moms who didn't let it hold them back.

    What do you think of Kailyn's spending these days?

     

    Image via Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    playgroundI'm not one of those moms who believes she can take her kid everywhere. My daughter doesn't belong in bars or a super upscale restaurant. But when we're out at a family-friendly establishment, I expect the people around us to keep things relatively PG.

    The question is: what do you do when adults are acting like jerks in front of your kid? Should you get up and move to protect your child ... or is it OK to tell someone that their behavior isn't acceptable in front of my kid?

    This may ruffle some feathers, but I'm going to say it's number two.

    Notice I'm not talking about bars and fancy restaurants. If my kid doesn't belong there, I don't expect folks to curb the adult activity for her sake. I'm the jerk for bringing her there.

    But when you decide to pick a family-friendly place to hang and you can't control yourself, well, I have no problem telling you to clean up your act. What kinds of activities am I talking about? How about the following:

    1. Smoking: There is nothing that bugs me more as an asthmatic and a mother than someone who smokes at a playground. Go puff on your cancer stick inside your car if you really need a fix that badly (just make sure there are no kids inside)!

    2. Cursing: I don't mean one f-bomb. We're all guilty of saying things we shouldn't once in awhile. But if every second word is the f-bomb, you could at least drop your voice to library level.

    3. PDA: A peck on the lips is one thing. Dry humping your partner on a park bench beside the playground is just not cool.

    4. Fighting: Taking kids to a concert and having a fight break out on the lawn is scary. What if one of those people falls on your kids?

    5. Kid Bashing: There's no reason my child should have to listen to a litany of reasons you think she's stupid, ugly, or a waste of air. If you don't like kids, don't go to the park on a hot summer day and sit by the monkey bars!

    Have you ever had to speak up for your kid in public? What was the situation?

     

    Image via crabchick/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Leah messer calvert teen mom 2Well, it's official! Leah Messer Calvert has quit her job at a tanning salon! The Teen Mom 2 star says she's going into business ... for herself.

    How's that for not letting being a Teen Mom define her?

    Leah was working as a manager at TanFastiq, a West Virginia chain of tanning salons and spas, but she recently stepped down from her job. Only it's not to be a stay-at-home mom to her three girls -- as some fans suspected. She revealed on (where else?) Twitter that she'll be opening her own salon soon because it's "better for [her] family."

    More From The Stir: Jenelle Evans Is Talking Marriage ... Already?!

    Leah may be right. Being a business owner can be a lot easier on a parent; you can make your own hours instead of having to bear with a schedule set for you. Especially with baby Ali's doctor's appointments to consider, flexibility is something Leah needs in her life.

    But her decision to strike out on her own represents even more for Leah as a reality star. It looks like Teen Mom 2 will get a season 5, but the show can't last forever. Even if Jeremy does make good money as a pipeliner, he has lost his job in the last year, proving they can't live on his money alone.

    The Teen Mom girls need to be thinking about what they're going to live on long after the MTV money stops rolling in, and Leah is just doing what co-stars like Kailyn Lowry have done: ensuring their future will be successful long after the cameras are gone.

    What do you think of Leah going out and starting a business?

     

    Image via Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    padlockA mother and father in Pennsylvania are charged with locking their 6-year-old twins in their room and starving them for years in yet another case that makes you wonder why some people even choose to become parents. One of the twins escaped earlier this year and was found wandering in his neighborhood by a Good Samaritan, weighing just 30 pounds and covered in bruises.

    The discovery chills me to the bone. But almost as chilling is how easy courts are going on the children's parents ... or at least one of them.

    Their mother, Roxanne Taylor, faces several charges, including aggravated assault and child endangerment. She still has her day in court, but the boys' father, Edward Bucholz, has already been convicted. He pleaded guilty last month, and reports indicate he faces just two to four years in prison.

    That's it.

    Four years.

    Less time than those kids have been on the planet. Less time, it seems, than those children have been treated like prisoners, locked away in a filthy bedroom with a potty chair, with a window that opened onto a 7-foot drop to the ground.

    In four years, neighbors of Taylor and Bucholz say they've only seen those kids two times. When they were rescued, the little boys were said to be covered in feces and sporting stomachs distended like children who'd been starved for a significant amount of time. Although they're 6 years old, the starving boys were functioning on just a 2-year-old's level.

    They've had at least four years of childhood stolen from them, and their father isn't even facing more time in prison for making it happen?

    The eye for an eye code isn't exactly practical in America, but it's cases like this that force you to question whether we're hard enough on our criminals. Here two kids were brought close to death by a person supposed to love them, their childhoods stolen, and the perpetrator could spend less time in jail than they did locked in their bedrooms.

    What do you think would be an appropriate punishment here?

     

    Image via lizjones112/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Caylee AnthonyPeople have made some pretty bizarre discoveries at garage sales over the years, but a Florida woman's recent find sounds more sad than anything. The woman claims to have bought some of toddler Caylee Anthony's belongings at a yard sale being thrown by the dead girl's grandparents, Cindy and George Anthony.

    Christian Werner has got video to prove she was there, that the Anthonys, parents of the infamous Casey Anthony, who ranks right up near the top of the "most hated moms in the world" list, were selling off teddy bears, a kids' backpack, and other toys. The way she tells it, the Anthony family is a disgrace for parting with such precious items at a yard sale.

    That's just a wee bit ridiculous. Not to mention presumptuous!

    Werner has said she could understand the couple selling off Casey Anthony's stuff, but not little Caylee's belongings. She "will never understand how they could part with these things at a yard sale!"

    I'm sure she doesn't understand what it's like to have your daughter charged with murder, your family's life ripped open and criticized by the world either.

    But that's what happened to the Anthonys. Since Caylee's death, five years ago, they've had to deal not only with grieving her loss, but facing the fact that their daughter was not the person they thought she was, and do it all in the public eye.

    It's been two years since Casey got a "not guilty" verdict, and while she's still battling things in the courts, the big story is more or less over for George and Cindy Anthony. They didn't kill little Caylee. They should be allowed to get back to living, to find some sort of closure over their ordeal.

    For some of us, closure can only come of divesting ourselves of the material items that link us to a traumatic time. Keeping someone's bedroom as a shrine for decades is how some of us deal ... but not everyone, clearly not the Anthonys.

    And so what if they chose a yard sale to get rid of her teddy bears and luggage? Would throwing her toys in the trash be a better option? Would that meet this woman's approval or would that simply open up a whole different can of worms?

    Can Cindy and George Anthony ever really be allowed to move on?

    Or is America holding them responsible for their granddaughter's death too?

    Check out the video from the sale:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    What do you think of the Anthonys' yard sale?

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    sick dayMoms! Dads! I have had a revelation! I got sick this week (because yes, moms get sick too). So what did I do?

    I let the babysitter take care of my kid.

    Yes, there. I said it. I am the mom who is home and not working who still lets a sitter take care of her kid! And you should too. 

    All right, let me back up. With two working parents, summer vacation in my house means spending a lot of money on childcare. A LOT of money. I'm always looking for ways to cut that bill. So when I ended up with a stomach bug on Monday night that was still going strong on Tuesday morning, a part of me wondered if I shouldn't cancel the sitter.

    It would save us money. And I only hire the sitter to hang out with my daughter because I'm WORKING. So I practically had to cancel, right?

    Heck, I was all set to call the sitter when the bug moving around in my stomach did a back flip, and I put the phone down.

    I couldn't do it. I couldn't cancel the sitter. It was going to cost me money, yes, but I was sick as a dog, and there was no way I was going to have the energy to go pick my daughter up from soccer camp.

    Fast forward to today, and I'm feeling at least a little bit better (the stomach has settled from doing backflips to a tame tango), and I don't feel guilty. At all.

    Hiring a sitter to take care of my kid was probably one of the smartest parenting decisions I've made in a long time. Examine the evidence:

    1. Sleep. I got it. Actual, honest-to-goodness shut-eye. There was no crawling out of bed to make the kid lunch, no bleary-eyed shuffle to the fridge to pour her milk, no trying to sleep with a TV blaring in the background. Every need she had was dealt with ... by someone OTHER than me.

    2. Attention. She got it! There was no crabby Mom moaning for her to turn down that blessed TV, no Mom ignoring her excitement over making a goal during soccer camp, no sitting bored and alone in the living room for hours at a time. She had someone to play with for an entire afternoon.

    3. A Clean House. We always live in a state of organized chaos, but things really tend to get out of control when I'm sick. She pulls all her toys out, and I don't have the energy to tell her to put them away. I make her lunch but don't have the energy to clean up after myself. The worst part is that just as I'm starting to feel better, I find myself having to waste my new-found energy on putting our house back in order. Not this time. The sitter actually helped her clean her bedroom yesterday!

    4. Quarantine. Sharing viruses may be a big part of being a big, happy family, but I'm sick (no pun intended) of the cycle of being sick. Letting the sitter care for my kid yesterday meant a lot less mom/kid contact ... and so far, although my daughter has complained of some slight discomfort, she seems to have escaped the full blown stomach bug. 

    5. Stuff Gets Done. Being sick tends to mean all your plans for the day go out the window. For me, they did. My daughter, on the other hand, still got to have her regular day. She went to soccer camp, cleaned her room, even got a haircut last night (thanks to the sitter's hairstylist mom).

    Would you hire a sitter to watch your kid when you were sick or would you feel guilty spending the money?

     

    Image via surafire/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    new babyIt seems like the whole world is on royal baby watch right now. We know Kate Middleton and Prince William will welcome their firstborn soon, and you know what that means. Time for the new mom to get a hearty helping of advice!

    Snooki has already weighed in with a tidbit about throwing on a tiara and makeup so you can work it, girl! But what else should the Duchess of Cambridge keep in mind when the baby comes? Allow us to offer a bit of advice, mom-to-mom:

    1. Don't let the Queen bully you back to sleep. Her "baby" is going to be 65 this year!

    2. Don't let the baby wear the crown jewels to bed -- babies need a bare crib!

    3. If you must read the tabloids, you might as well read them aloud. Babies don't care what you're reading to them; they just want to hear your voice.

    More From The Stir: Prince William Won't Make Same Parenting Mistakes His Dad Did

    4. Before she teethes on the tiara, make sure there are no loose jewels. Can you say choking hazard?

    5. It's perfectly fine to pick up a dirty pacifier and lick it before popping it in the baby's mouth. But if you dropped it at Harry's pad, you might want to use bleach instead.

    6. If Camilla insists on popping by, hand her the baby and tell her to make herself useful. A girl's gotta get a shower in somehow.

    7. Ignore Pippa's bodacious behind. It took nine months to put on that babyweight, and you take all the time you need taking it off.

    8. Keep an eye on the Prince of Wales and the bacon around the grandbaby. No English breakfasts until at least six months, Gramps!

    9. It's a good thing you like re-wearing outfits. You'll be doing it a lot in the months to come (but you might want to use one of those big castle mirrors to check the shoulder for baby vomit before going out).

    10. Make sure that silver spoon doesn't have lead in it before it goes in the baby's mouth.

    What's your advice for the royal couple?

     

    Image via audi_insperation/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    water fightI think I speak for most parents when I say none of us really want to think about our kids having sex. But unless your kid has plans of becoming a priest, chances are pretty darn good that it will happen one day. So how are you going to deal with it?

    Have a birds and the bees talk (or 12)? Buy them some condoms or book an appointment with the gyno? Tell them to go watch clouds in the park or blow some bubbles instead of knocking boots?

    Go ahead, guess which suggestions came from the, ahem, interesting list that a Christian school recently gave its teenage students detailing healthy alternatives to having sex.

    They had good suggestions! For 6-year-olds ...

    More From The Stir: Sex Talk With Our Kids Should Start Right After Potty Training

    It seems the folks at the Caloundra Christian College in Queensland, Australia didn't study their audience before developing their abstinence message. Their "101 things to do instead of doing it" reads like a how-to bore your teen to tears.

    Check out the the actual examples of what they want horny teenagers to do the next time they're feeling a little randy.

    Which is your "favorite"?

     

    Image via SteveCoutts/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Dzhokhar TsarnaevAlleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev was in court today, showing his face to his victims in public for the first time since being captured in a boat in a Watertown, Massachusetts backyard in April. Arraigned in a Boston courtroom today, the 19-year-old reminded Americans that he isn't going to make it easy for us to put the horrors of Marathon Monday behind us. He's going to drag this thing out.

    Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty today in a courtroom packed with victims and some of his sisters. He answered all charges against him, including weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and bombing of a place of public use resulting in death. His plea means the case is going to trial ... and the American people are going to have to pay for it.

    You see, Tsarnaev's defense is a public one. That means that taxpayers are footing the bill, and part of today's court proceedings included instructions from the judge that his lawyer draft a defense budget -- which will have to be approved.

    We all have the right to a defense, and it's clearly stated in our Miranda warning that if you cannot afford one, one will be provided.

    But it's hard not to feel dirty at the notion that Massachusetts taxpayers who are still reeling from the devastation of Marathon Monday will have to pay for this man's defense.

    Law or not, it comes off as yet another "screw you" to our nation, doesn't it?

    First two guys who received welfare benefits thanks to hard-working American taxpayers were charged with terrorist acts against America. Now one of them will get to use money from hard-working American taxpayers to defend him against alleged terrorist against ... against America.

    If nothing else, it's frustrating.

    Frustrating because the alleged bomber has allegedly already confessed to detonating two pressure cookers filled with explosives and shrapnel near the finish line of the April 15 marathon. 

    Frustrating because while he may have pleaded not guilty today to killing three and wounding more than 260, police say he confessed in the hospital shortly after being arrested. Not to mention we learned just a few months ago of a manifesto of sorts the younger Tsarnaev letter is said to have written out on the wall of the boat where he hid in Watertown before his capture. That note is alleged to include an admission that he and brother Tamerlan killed innocent people because the "US government is killing our innocent civilians.”

    Because these crimes are federal, there is the possiblity that the death penalty could be on the table (even though there is no death penalty in Massachusetts). No doubt a not guilty plea is Tsarnaev's attempt to save his backside, and we don't know what his attorney, who's represented the likes of Gabby Giffords shooter Jared Lee Loughner and the Unabomber, has up her sleeve.

    What we do know is that this plea is a promise that things will drag out for months. Tsarnaev's next court date won't be until September 23.

    Closure isn't coming any time soon for these poor families.

    What do you make of the not guilty plea?

     

    Image via Boston Police Department


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Catelynn Lowell Tyler Baltierra Couples TherapyTeen Mom stars Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra may have joined the cast of celebrities on VH1's Couples Therapy to strengthen their relationship with professional help, but on the season's fourth episode, we got a look at what Tyler will be like if his career dreams come true. Asked by the show's celebrity therapist, Jenn Berman, to call one another on their "bulls--t," some of the stars opened up to each other on what they think they've been doing wrong in their relationships.

    Tyler, in particular, wasn't holding back. He had some pretty harsh words for Girls Gone Wild creator Joe Francis and his treatment of girlfriend Abbey Wilson.

    Tyler challenged Joe tonight on how he talks to Abbey, telling him flat out that he's domineering and overpowers his girlfriend. He was right, and he wasn't the only one to say it -- rapper Chingy was also pretty vocal.

    Still, it was pretty gutsy of Tyler, the young kid on the show, to stand up to a guy like Joe -- a guy who can be rather domineering. 

    The moment was one of the few to feature the Teen Mom couple; at least in any big way. The problems between Joe and Abbey and Flavor Flav and girlfriend Liz have continued to dominate the sessions, leaving us with only sneak peeks of what's to come for Cate and Ty.

    But we are getting to get a picture of how much Tyler has grown since his Teen Mom days and where he's headed. He's not afraid to step up and say what has to be said! Even when Joe tried to brush it off as a big joke; Tyler jumped back in and continued to call him out before finally ceding the floor to Berman ... who made the same point Tyler was making.

    Tyler is really good at zeroing in on the really big issue, and he's just as good at sticking with it, even when people are arguing with him. That's a gift! 

    Tyler started college to become a counselor back in his Teen Mom days. He's allowed acting, public speaking, and shooting reality shows to allow him to deviate off course, but he's clearly got the knack for it. He was made to do this.

    All it takes is watching him on camera, being a pseudo-therapist, to see it.

    Who knows. This stint on Couples Therapy could do more than just help Cate and Ty redirect their relationship; it could redirect Tyler to his destiny.

    What do you think of how Tyler steps into therapist role?

     

    Image via VH1


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Julia MerfeldA Michigan mother of two is behind bars on attempted murder charges after she allegedly hired a hitman to kill her husband because it would be easier than getting a divorce. It's a story so unbelievable you'd have to see it to believe it. And you can! The mom was caught on tape with an undercover cop posing as a killer for hire!

    And if the video proves to be legitimate, it doesn't appear Julia Merfeld was thinking much about her kids when she decided death was easier than divorce. All she cared about?

    How fast she could move her girlfriend in ... and how "unmessy" the murder could be so it didn't scare the girlfriend off. Take a look:

    Ex-prosecutor: Wife's murder plan 'cold'

    Did you catch the part where Merfeld said it would be "easier" to do this than face the judgment of the family or break her husband's heart? How about the part where she said her kids were going to have a rough time knowing Daddy was dead?

    Oh, wait, you didn't catch that last part? That's because it wasn't in there.

    The couple's young kids were reportedly in New Jersey with relatives when these encounters were videotaped, and it seems it was out of sight, out of mind for mom. This mother of two was allegedly going to have her husband knocked off and move in a new girlfriend, and somehow her kids were going to have to just ... get over it.

    Of course, realistically, that wouldn't happen. The death of a parent is tragic for kids. Add in a home invasion and murder, and the kids could very well spend the rest of their lives in a state of constant unease, never sure if their own home was safe. Violent crime doesn't just hurt a victim; it hurts their immediate family too.

    A divorce, on the other hand, might be uncomfortable, but let's just get rid of the elephant in the room right now: it doesn't kill anyone. No matter what happens, divorce is something you CAN get over. So can your kids. They can go on to live happy, productive lives.

    But from the looks of this video, Julia Merfeld wasn't thinking about her kids. She wasn't thinking about her husband either. She wasn't thinking about anything but herself.

    What do you think of this woman's plan?

     

    Image via police


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    baby art tourWhen I heard the Toledo Museum of Art was giving tours for babies, I was tempted to roll my eyes. A 2-month-old? At an art museum? Do 2-month-olds even know what art is? Do they even care?

    But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I was that mother who walked her baby daughter through the store and described everything. I got more than a few strange looks for babbling away at a baby in a carrier who was too young to even pick her head up, but talking to her was the best (and only) way she was going to learn language.

    The truth is, there are a lot of things you can -- and should -- be doing with your baby from day one that might sound a little surprising.

    Do you do everything on the list? What else have you found yourself doing with your baby that you never would have thought of before kids?

     

    Image via Toledo Museum of Art


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Farrah Abraham at rehabWhen Farrah Abraham entered rehab, we were holding out hope that the Teen Mom was ready to right her path. Oh were we wrong. So, so wrong. Not only does it look like Farrah was kicked out of The Lukens Institute in Palm Beach Gardens early, but it appears she planned her rehab stay around a sex expo!

    So much for the better choices Farrah said she wanted to make when she signed up for the (less than) two-week stint in rehab!

    The length of time someone is in rehab tends to depend on what the facility suggests and/or what a patient can afford. Lukens advertises a two-week to one-month program. Farrah didn't reach either goal, although she was supposed to be there at least two days longer ... and she's claiming she completed the program.

    It's becoming clear just why Farrah chose an in-and-out rehab stint: the Teen Mom star turned porn star will be appearing in Chicago at the Exxxotica sex expo.

    The expo opens on July 12.

    She entered rehab on June 30.

    You do the math.

    It sounds like Farrah just wanted to put in some face-time at rehab before she got back to peddling porn. And you know what else it sound like?

    It sounds like a PR move, not a commitment to changing her life.

    The sex expo may not have anything to do with her alcohol issues, but sadly Farrah is headed right back into the ego-fueling world that has created her problems in the first place. The porn industry is not a real world, and this hype over her fame (and her body) is not going to sustain her for life.

    More From The Stir: Kailyn Lowry Gets Slammed for Something Every Mom Wishes She Could Do

    What Farrah really needs to do if she wants to cut the negativity and make good choices is to back out of the limelight. She needs to find something stable and life-sustaining, something more like her restaurant and food goals of a year ago (could it be that recent?).

    But that means actually completing a program. And we see what Farrah thinks it means to complete something ...

    Do you think Farrah's trip to rehab was a legitimate attempt to clean up her life or just a publicity stunt?

     

    Image via Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    computerI'm not in the habit of befriending teenagers on social media. For the most part, it's because I don't want to have to be second guessing myself every time I'm about to post on my personal Facebook wall, asking if your little snowflake should be exposed to this topic or that. But there's also a little part of me that avoids the teenagers because most of them make me cringe.

    The things they post ... The spelling! The TMI!

    For some teenagers (note I didn't say all), social media is like the Wild West, a place they go to hide out from the parents, a place they haven't been prepped for by anyone ... least of all the aforementioned parents. At the risk of sounding old, I have to ask: whatever happened to manners? You need them online too!

    I know my kid isn't perfect, and she's sure to make some mistakes when we finally let her loose on the world wide web, but I refuse to let her be one of those kids who makes adults cringe on Facebook (or one of those adults who makes us cringe, for that matter). After reading etiquette expert Faye De Muyshondt's socialsklz :-) (Social Skills) for Success: How to Give Children the Skills They Need to Thrive in the Modern World, I'm feeling a little bit better about what lies ahead of us. 

    Today's kids may be more tech savvy than us, their parents, but it's still up to us to teach them how to navigate the social system that exists online. Fortunately, De Muyshondt provides some simple online social skills parents should help kids develop:

    manners kids need to learn to go online1. Email: Kids should know how to craft a proper email just as they would a formal letter, but they also need to know how to BCC (blind carbon copy) to protect email addresses from being shared and when to simply CC (carbon copy) multiple addresses.

    2. Passwords: The first rule of opening any accounts online? Don't share your passwords! Not even with your best friend. And don't share your friends' passwords either!

    3. Privacy Settings: These vary depending on the social media platform, but it comes back to your rules. Is it OK for your teen to friend your best friend on Facebook? Follow your sister on Instagram? Google Plus? Set rules for every site and explain why the rules exist. Kids need to understand that not everyone out there needs to see everything about their lives and vice versa.

    4. Photos: This is another issue that varies from account to account, but really comes down to your rules. Let your kids know what is acceptable for sharing online and how much should be public vs. private. Not only do you not want photos of your half nekkid teen out there, the rest of us don't want to SEE those photos. Not to mention, posting photos of other people online is not always acceptable. Teach your kids to ask their friends if THEIR parents are OK with their photos showing up online and to be respectful if someone wants to "untag" themselves.

    5. Public Posts: Once you've gotten past what should be locked up, it's time to discuss what they put out for others to see. You can (and should) establish firm rules on language and particular kinds of information (such as the family's vacation schedule) that should be kept offline, even on semi-private accounts. Your neighbor down the block doesn't need to read posts about what a "b-word" the principal is.

    Have you discussed these issues with your kids yet? What are your other concerns with an online presence?

     

    Images via espensorvik/Flickr; Jeanne Sager


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