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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

    Being Maci BookoutWow! MTV knows how to pack a lot of emotion into one hour, don't they? Thanks to tonight's Being Maci special, we finally got see what Maci Bookout has been up to since Teen Mom went off the air a year ago.

    Let's just tackle the elephant in the room first, huh? How crazy was it to see Ryan Edwards playing the concerned parent?

    Holy role reversal Batman!

    Now that Maci has broken up with Kyle King (they didn't even mention him!) and she's living in a house with two girlfriends plus Bentley that they've nicknamed the tree house, she's finally getting to do some of the teenage things she missed out on by having a kid so young and playing house with a guy. She's got a garage with a beer pong table and a keg ... which bugged the heck out of Ryan, considering Bentley plays in there. 

    More From The Stir: Maci Bookout's Fans Get Her a TV Special -- Can They Get Her a Spin-Off Too?

    You can't blame the guy for being a little perturbed, but it does seem like Maci reserves the partying for when her son isn't around.

    When Bentley is home, she's still that responsible mom who is focused on her kid that we saw back in her Teen Mom days -- dealing with things like how to convince her son that he needs to move into his own bedroom and disciplining him for talking back.

    And while we're on the subject of things that haven't changed, it seems Ryan is still kind of a dick to his girlfriends. The way he treated Dalis Connell, getting nasty with her on the phone when she simply wanted to talk, was uncalled for. I guess now we know why they broke up ... and it isn't just because he's still carrying a torch for Maci.

    And oh man, is he ever! He can blame it on the alcohol all he wants, but Ryan went and called his ex-fiancee sexy. To her face! When he still technically had a girlfriend!

    Watching them, I had that playground rhyme bouncing around my head. Ryan and Maci sittin' in a tree ...

    We know the two aren't back together -- this was filmed back in December, and right now Maci has a boyfriend -- but it was nice to see them getting along, at least for Bentley's sake. They have come a long, long way from the days of Maci moving her son to another city without telling Ryan and Ryan threatening to take her to court every five minutes. 

    They've both changed since Teen Mom, and certainly because of it.

    Maci now has to figure out whether her friends are truly her friends or just people hanging on to her famous coat-tails, which can't be easy. But it hasn't hurt her lifestyle -- she has the money to help friends cover rent and a job at a radio station where she's billed as Maci of Teen Mom.

    Not everything in her life is typical of teen motherhood these days, but considering the struggles we saw in the past, it was NICE to see Maci having fun too. Just because she's a mother doesn't mean she has to give up on ever being normal.

    Ironically it's because she's an adult now that she can finally do all those teenage things she missed out on by being a Teen Mom. She's got her school and job handled, and she deserves to blow off steam when her ex has her kid.

    What did you think of the new Maci?


    Image via MTV

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Prince William Kate MiddletonIt's out!! The first portrait of the new royal family is out! Kate Middleton and Prince William have released their first official photo with Prince George, plus one with their dogs, Lupo and Tilly. But they're like no official photos we've ever seen before!

    They're not professional!

    I don't mean that as a smack at the photographer. The photos are adorable and well composed. Just look:

    royal family portrait

    Lupo looks pleased as punch, doesn't he? And Tilly certainly isn't bothered that mama is much more focused on baby these days.

    Here's one of just the human members of the family:

    Kate Middleton Prince William Prince George royal portrait

    So cute, right?

    Now guess who took them ...

    The photographer is not someone the royal couple hired to come out and capture their family. It was the Duchess' own father! Michael Middleton took the photos of the royal family, including his brand new grandson, in the garden of Kate's childhood home in Bucklebury.

    It's a break from tradition, but a sweet one, and the results are perfect!

    What do you think of the informal official portraits of the new royal family?


    Images via royal family

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    De'Marquise Elkins
    The mother of a 13-month-old baby shot in cold blood earlier this year is now having her name dragged through the mud by the teenager accused of the vicious murder. Sherry West was forced to watch as her baby boy, Antonio Santiago, was shot between the eyes in March. Fast forward to today, and the attorney of the teenager accused of murdering the baby is blaming mom.

    The public defender assigned to accused killer 18-year-old De'Marquise Elkins claims Sherry West had a financial interest in the death of her son. He's implying, of course, that his client is innocent ... because mom was involved.

    Is it possible?

    Sherry West reportedly had a life insurance policy on her child, a policy she cashed out soon after Antonio's death, which is one of the biggies Elkin's attorney is using to slam her. 

    Damning? Maybe, but consider this: funerals are expensive, even for little babies.

    The attorney also alleges that West, who was walking her baby in a stroller at the time of the death and thus is the primary witness to the case, made conflicting statements about the incident. Gee, a mother of a dead baby couldn't think straight? Such a surprise.


    Listen, it's possible. Sicker things have happened. But it seems awfully low to blame the mother here.

    The district attorney in the case is reportedly furious, filing motions in court that say Elkins' defense lawyers have made "false, inflammatory, and misleading statements."

    I understand that an attorney's job is to cast doubt on the prosecution's case, and that often involves finding a fall guy to take the blame off of your client. But blaming a dead child's mother? That's about as low as you can go, folks.

    She lost her CHILD. 

    Her BABY.

    And she had to WATCH it go down.

    Hasn't she had enough pain and suffering for a lifetime?

    Can't she catch a break?

    Elkins is still innocent until proven guilty -- despite the fact that there are other witnesses to the shooting. So who knows. Maybe he didn't do it. Maybe he is innocent. And maybe mom did do it.

    Then again, maybe Elkins did the deed. And in allowing his defense attorney to go after this mother so harshly, he's re-victimizing a woman hurt in the worst possible way.

    What do you think of this attack on Mom's character?


    Image via police

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    De'Antre TurmanParents of young football players everywhere are questioning letting their kids go out for the sport after a tragedy in Georgia. Teenager De'Antre Turman, a star football player at Creekside High School who was already being scouted by college teams, died during a football scrimmage on Friday night. The healthy 16-year-old was making a tackle when onlookers said his body went limp.

    In an instant, De'Antre was gone, his neck broken.

    The story of the young boy's death has quickly gone viral, and understandably so.

    No one wants to see this happen to their child, and with an estimated one million kids playing high school football in America, the Turman family's tragedy is one that hits home in a lot of households.

    For at least a few moments, after I read about De'Antre's story, I'll admit I breathed a sigh of relief that my daughter is not particularly athletic, and that the sport she does play -- soccer -- does not involve a lot of contact (at least not at the AYSO level).

    It's a reaction I'm sure a fair amount of parents had. Others, parents of kids who do have an interest in football or whose kids are already playing the sport, are debating pulling their kids away.

    No one wants this to be their child.

    And yet? A reality check, if I may?

    There's no reason to change anything you're doing, at least not if you're already following proper safety precautions with your football playing kids.

    Do they wear pads? Helmets? Follow the rules? Then don't worry.

    Accidents like the one that claimed the life of an otherwise healthy 16-year-old boy on Friday night are rare. According to the data, there are approximately four fatalities a year directly related to football -- and those cover every level from sandlot play to high school to college to the NFL. The rate of direct fatalities in high school (grades 9-12) was 0.18 per 100,000 participants.

    That's low.

    REALLY low.

    Every single death is tragic, yes. My heart breaks for De'Antre's family.

    But simply because one child died playing football doesn't mean we need to pull every kid out of the sport. Your kid is much more likely to be killed in a car accident (motor vehicle accidents are the LEADING cause of death for kids 3 to 14 in the US) than fatally injured on the football field. When was the last time you considered banning your kid from riding in cars?

    Never, huh?

    This is one of the hard parts of being a parent. Sometimes our kids do things that carry some risk, and we have to just let them do it so they can actually have joy in their lives, so they can grow as people. It's not easy, and stories like De'Antre's make it even harder, but we can't parent with kneejerk reactions. We have to parent with common sense, with the ability to look at the facts and measure out what's right.

    Do you let your kids play football? Will this tragedy change that?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Maci Bookout BentleyAccording to the statistics, more than 12 million households are headed up by a single parent these days, 84 percent of which are single moms. These days one of the most famous of those single moms is Maci Bookout, star of MTV's Teen Mom and more recently Being Maci, a special that updated fans on what she's up to these days.

    No longer in a relationship with Ryan Edwards, her one-time fiance and father of 4-year-old son Bentley, the reality star has had her ups and downs, most of them very publicly. But these days she and Ryan are co-parenting happily! And she shared some surprising secrets behind how they make it work -- even when they're dating other people -- with The Stir. Check out what Maci had to say about her former fiance and why she's still co-sleeping with her 4-year-old:

    On what Bentley is up to these days:

    He's up to everything. He [just] started pre-K, so he's really excited about that. He's obviously been riding his dirt bike and his bicycle. He learned how to swim this summer without any life jacket or any floaties or anything.

    He's been doing a lot of cool stuff, and it's really fun to see him grow into his own personality and be his own person.

    On how single parenting led to co-sleeping with her 4-year-old:

    He's still sleeping with me, which is crazy because when he was first born, as soon as he was 3 months old, I got him sleeping in his crib. It was a lot of work to get that done, and he did sleep by himself for a long time, but since it's just kind of been me and him for the past year, I don't know.

    More From The Stir: Maci Bookout’s New Book Will Be Very Personal & We've Got the Details

    I feel like if I made him sleep in his own room, I think that he would actually be fine with it, but I'm being selfish.

    I think he'll be fine when we're ready, well, when I'm ready. I might just be a little selfish on this for a little while.

    On why Bentley likes having his parents split up:

    He actually deals with it well now. There was a tough time there for a little while when Kyle and I split up and it was just me and Bentley. I think that's when it kind of hit him that things are different and that he doesn't have his Mommy and his Dad in the same house -- especially going to school and seeing the other kids being picked up by their Mom and their Dad sometimes and the other kids talking about their parents.

    He did have a rough year that year, but now he appreciates it more because he gets two of everything. He gets to have two Christmases and two birthday parties and two of every single toy because he's here with me and then with Ryan.

    I think now he's learning to kind of appreciate it and think of it in a positive way rather than a negative thing.

    That's all me and Ryan have been trying to do, show him that he gets two of everything, two awesome families or one big family, however he wants to think about it.

    On Ryan as a parent:

    He's come a long way, and I know that he knows it. You can definitely see it in Bentley and Ryan's relationship now and how much it's grown in the past year and a half.

    On how she and Ryan manage to co-parent:

    I think the biggest thing we've learned and really started doing the past eight or nine months is that we are the parents. My parents aren't parenting him; his parents aren't parenting him. Even if we do have a serious boyfriend or girlfriend, and they do need to be good influences and good role models for Bentley, but WE are the mom and the dad.

    The decisions need to be made between us and not necessarily everyone else that is around. Since we've kind of caught on to that and learned to communicate with each other, rather than letting everyone else's opinions get involved, it's made it a lot easier on us, and I think it's made it a lot easier on Bentley too.

    On how Ryan deals with her boyfriend, Taylor:

    He's fine with it. He and Taylor have met and they get along great, and I think that we both just understood that whatever person is with me, my boyfriend, and whoever he decides to get in a serious relationship with -- that person has to obviously respect their boundaries for their role in Bentley's life, but at the same time, they're going to have to step up and be the second parent, considering that I can't be there all the time and Ryan can't be there all the time.

    We both just have understood that and that's our goal, to find people that can respect the situation that they're in and also step up to the plate with what their responsibilities are.

    On the chance of a reunion with Ryan:

    Most people can have their first love, and when things don't work out, they just go their separate ways and that's the end of it. But with Ryan and me, we just happen to have a child, so we're going to have to deal with each other forever.

    But as a couple or getting married or anything like that, that's not anything either one of us is interested in. We just weren't meant to be together like that.

    Do you co-parent like Maci? What are your single mom secrets?


    Image via MTV

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    hair brushOh. My. Word. Have you heard about the mom who refuses to brush her kids' hair unless the kids want it brushed? Jane Marsh calls it the AP (attachment parenting) hairstyle.

    And her reasoning, well, it's some of the most ridiculous clap trap I've read on the Internet in awhile (and that's saying a lot). Marsh doesn't brush her kids' hair when they don't want it brushed because ... it's their hair, not hers.

    Or rather, it's their body, so the way Marsh sees it, she can't tell the kids what to do with it. As she says on her blog, Nothing By the Book:

    Their wild, messy hair? Part of the lesson that they’re learning that no one—not me, not nice Mr. Jones down the street, not that creepy dude in the park, and not their first, over-eager boyfriend—has a right to do anything to their bodies that they don’t want them to do.

    Oh man, oh man, oh man. Where to begin with this one?

    I'm all about teaching my daughter her body is her own. We have been talking to her since she was a little itty bitty thing about the ability to just say no when someone touches her in a place she doesn't want to be touched. 

    But not brushing her hair because she doesn't want it brushed?

    That's not teaching kids to respect their bodies. That's letting your kids manipulate the ever-loving crap out of you.

    Come on! Kids don't like everything we attempt to do to them, but that doesn't mean you give in.

    Did she let her kids sit in their own poopy diapers when they were babies because they wailed when she tried to change them?

    Frankly, I understand the temptation of giving up. Brushing the hair of a kid who doesn't really want it to be brushed is a pain in the tuchas. In fact, on the list of things that suck about being a parent, brushing my kid's hair belongs near the tippy top. It's a fight we've been battling for years now. She won't stand still. She screams that I'm pulling too hard (often when I haven't even touched her).

    Even with the discovery of what we call the magic brush in our house, it once took 17 minutes to work the knots out of her hair. Trust me. I timed it. She kvetched for approximately 16 minutes and 59 seconds of that.

    But still, I brush my daughter's hair, and it's not because I don't think she has the right to say "no" to sexual advances.

    It's because I'm her parent, I'm not sexually abusing her by brushing her hair, and some things are non-negotiable.

    She needs to learn how to take care of her body, and it's my job to teach her. That means teaching her about hygiene -- including the need to keep one's tresses in line. It means teaching her to wash her whole body and shampoo and condition too (because the more you condition, the fewer knots I have to work out). It means sometimes forcing her to sit her bony butt on the side of the tub and brush her teeth because, "Kid, those things are going to rot right out of your head if you don't do it right now!"

    Is that infringing on her rights to her own body?

    Not at all.

    She's a kid. She's still learning what needs to be done to maintain a healthy body.

    Teeth brushing, bathing, wearing sunscreen, and even hair brushing are part of maintaining a healthy body.

    Until she figures that out and can do them all on a regular basis without me intervening, it's my duty to do it for her. Even if she won't hold still.

    Do you brush your kids' hair or do you feel like this mom?


    Image via Aramek/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    policeIn a letter that proves that there is pink paper in the depths of hell, a family of a teenager with autism was recently told to euthanize the 13-year-old or move out of their neighborhood. The typed letter that came from an anonymous neighbor of Maxwell Begley's family has gone viral, angering just about anyone who reads it. That includes the cops, who are trying to figure out what to do about the "pissed off mother" who sent the note.

    For starters, if and when they find her, they won't be charging her with a hate crime.

    It's too bad.

    The letter is certainly full of hateful comments about the 13-year-old, from urging the Begleys to donate whatever “non-retarded body parts he possesses" to science to referring to noises the child makes when outside as "noise polluting whaling (sic)." But Durham Regional Police in the Begleys' hometown of Newcastle, Ontario, have reviewed the letter and determined the language doesn't qualify as a hate crime under Canadian statutes.

    That's the bad news.

    The good news is that the cops have taken the letter in as evidence, and they are trying to do something about it.

    Criminal charges could come of this. Thank goodness.

    Because a letter like that can't just make us mad. While that's all well and good in terms of increasing awareness of the discrimination and cruelty kids on the autism spectrum (and their families) encounter, Internet outrage isn't worth a whole lot. Throw in $1.50 and you might get a decent cup of coffee.

    A letter like this crosses so many lines that it has to get the writer in real trouble, right? Otherwise, what's to keep them from doing it again?

    Criminalizing behavior like this is the only sure way to prevent it from being repeated.

    Frankly, it's hard to figure out the exact line between freedom of speech and harassing speech, and I'll admit I'm no expert on Canadian laws.

    It's OK to hate on your neighbors from the privacy of your own home -- according to one survey, as many as 60 percent of people have admitted they don't get along with the folks next door. But you certainly don't take it beyond personal griping, and especially not in the form of a hate-filled screed about an innocent child.

    It would seem to be criminal to have actually sent this letter to the family. This wasn't a letter someone wrote on their own computer, printed, then balled up and threw away. It wasn't even a rather inappropriate blog post.

    This was a letter specifically sent to the Begley family. It was meant to hit them at home, on their own turf, where they should be able to feel safe, where Maxwell should be able to feel loved.

    At the very least, the letter writer should be forced to do a little community service ... perhaps at a place that serves kids with special needs?

    Check out the letter -- do you think it's criminal?

    Letter to family of autistic child

    Images via Frederic Bisson/Flickr; Begley family

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Briana DeJesusWhen MTV aired its 16 & Pregnant episode featuring Briana DeJesus, they weren't just showing the life of one Florida teenager. Briana has a sister, Brittany, who also got pregnant in her teens. But while Briana chose to carry her daughter Nova to term, her sister had an abortion. Their story showed two very different choices with two very different consequences, and now we get to see the two paths these sisters have taken on Teen Mom 3.

    Briana has joined the cast of the show premiering on August 26, and so has Brittany, albeit in a supporting role as she is not technically a teen mom because of her choice. Briana sat down with The Stir to talk about what she has been up to in the year since the show was taped and why she isn't worried about Teen Mom haters:

    On her decision to join the Teen Mom 3 cast:

    I did 16 & Pregnant for a reason; I had a story to tell. My sister had an abortion; I decided to keep my baby, and my episode basically shows the viewers you have choices, and every choice you make, there's still gonna be hardships.

    After 16 & Pregnant aired, I had such positive feedback, and MTV decided people really liked my story. I'm pretty sure people still want to see me grow, so they offered me the position, and I was like, might as well go with it.

    On her fears about the viewers criticizing her:

    I know myself, and I know I'm responsible, respectful. I know I'm a good mom.

    On her sister, Brittany, being forced to open up about her abortion for the show:

    That was hard for her; that's a sensitive topic that she doesn't really like to talk about. I'm glad that she was able to open up, and now she's the best sister, the best aunt to Nova. She's so supportive. I thought she would be very sad to see me with Nova and grow, but she's actually happy for me and Nova. She's happy for herself that she can still watch a baby grow up.

    More From The Stir: 'Teen Mom' Star's Breastfeeding Experience Brings Her to Tears

    On being compared to the other Teen Moms:

    I don't like that. I feel like I'm Briana, that's Katie, and Alex, and Mackenzie. I don't feel like ... we're the same, but we're different in so many ways.

    On her relationship with ex-boyfriend (and father of her daughter) Devoin Austin: 

    Devoin is Devoin, still the same old Devoin. He's still up and down; he doesn't know if he wants to be a father or not. There are days where he'll try and then there are weeks where I won't hear from him. It came to the point where I was like if you're not going to put your full attention and your all into your daughter, you're wasting my time and you're wasting her time.

    Kids need structure, and if you don't have any of that, there's no reason for you to have kids.

    I don't need him. I have my mom, my sister. Nova's going to be OK. I'm going to teach Nova when she grows up that you don't need a man; you can do this on your own, and it's a living proof when she sees those videos.

    On the strong women in her life, helping her:

    I don't know what I'd do without my mom. My mom is like my lifeline. If I didn't have my mom, where would me and Nova be?

    My mom supports me, but she doesn't raise my child. What she put through my head when I told her I wanted to keep her was "I will help you when I can, but this is your child, and you need to take care of her. I'm not taking care of her." Still to this day, she doesn't overdo it.

    She's a busy woman and it's not my mom's responsibility to take care of my child. It's my child, my responsibility.

    Did you watch Briana on 16 & Pregnant? What are you looking forward to seeing on Teen Mom 3?


    Image by Jeanne Sager

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    baby formula bottleI formula fed my daughter. It's taken a long time for me to be able to say that without wanting to cry. I always qualify it -- I did try breastfeeding, and for myriad reasons, it did not work for our family. Still, my daughter was primarily bottle fed as an infant.

    And for nearly a year, I would steel myself before taking my daughter's bottle out in public, putting up a wall to protect myself from the rude comments that seem to be part and parcel of using formula in this day and age.

    But no wall was ever big enough. They still hurt.

    They hurt then, and to be honest, they still smart a bit now, with a healthy 8-year-old running around my house.

    I knew I couldn't be the only one still walking around with a wealth of pain over the judgment lodged at moms for using formula. So I decided to ask other moms to share some of the worst things said to them about formula feeding, the comments they've never really been able to get past.

    These are the comments that hurt moms. These are the things you should NEVER say to a mom who is formula feeding:

    1. Breastfeeding is a better bonding experience with baby. Define "better."

    2. They will never be healthy if you don't breastfeed. Never?

    3. Why aren't you breastfeeding? ... Well, she SHOULD be fine, just keep an eye on her. What? Are you actually threatening that something is going to happen to her baby?

    10 things not to say to a mom using formula4. Don't you know the chemicals in formula can be bad for your baby? No, I haven't been stressed out about that at all, thanks for reminding me so I can let it start eating at me again.

    5. Wow, you know you're just taking the easy way out, right? Easy is in the eye of the beholder, my dear.

    6. Why didn't you even try breastfeeding? Who says she didn't?

    7. Don't you love your child? So now we're measuring strength of love based on the food we give our kids?

    8. Breastfed children are smarter than formula fed kids. Just saying. So say some studies. But others say that's a load of hooey. The science is really still out on that one. Just saying.

    9. I breastfed because I want what's BEST for my baby. Oh, honey, we all want what's best for our babies. It's called being a mom. You don't get a medal for that.

    10. Formula is for selfish moms. I don't think I even need to comment on this one ...

    Breastfeeding moms, have you ever said any of these? Formula moms, what are the comments you wish people would STOP saying?


    Image via Bradley Gordon/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Georgia Shooting suspect Michael Brandon HillEverybody's talking about the Georgia school shooting that wasn't after a man walked into the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur armed to the nines. Cops say Michael Brandon Hill, 20, planned a Sandy Hook-style attack on the children of the school. But it didn't happen. Why? Because one school clerk is a hero. Because one school clerk did something unexpected in the face of a gunman.

    Antoinette Tuff showed compassion.

    Not the easiest thing to summon for a would-be school shooter, I know. The photos of Adam Lanza still turn my stomach.

    Tuff told Diane Sawyer last night that she tried to calm the shooter down, eventually launching into her own tale of tragedies past, from her marriage falling apart to a failed business venture. Where she could have gotten angry, instead she saw a chance to relate as one human being to another:

    I told him, "OK, we all have situations in our lives. I went through a tragedy myself. It was going to be OK. If I could recover, he could too."

    The strategy was risky. But it worked. The alleged gunman put down his weapons and surrendered to police without killing a single person -- all at Tuff's request.

    Tuff is being treated as a hero today for stopping what could have been a heartbreaking tragedy, but she's heroic as much for the way she did it as the fact that it was done.

    It's easy to get mad. It's easy to seethe with hate. Just look at the Adam Lanzas or the Michael Brandon Hills of the world.

    It's not so easy to look evil in the eyes and see a human being. But let's not forget that often human beings do bad things as a cry in the dark, an attempt to get the attention of other human beings -- albeit negative attention. When someone feels like they're so disconnected from the world, that there is no compassion left, they're more apt to do something desperate. Turning them around isn't always easy; sometimes they're too far gone.

    But sometimes all it takes is a little human kindness and compassion.

    What do you think of this brave clerk's move? What would you have done in her shoes?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Ayla ReynoldsWe've known from the day that police reclassified the Ayla Reynolds case from missing persons to a homicide that something terrible must have happened to the Maine toddler. And now, it seems, we're about to find out. Or, well, in about a month, we'll find out.

    Ayla's mother, Trista Reynolds, has announced that she'll be releasing "horrific physical evidence" relating to the disappearance and death of her daughter. But she won't actually release any of it until September 24, the day before her ex and Ayla's father, Justin DiPietro, is scheduled to return to court on an unrelated domestic violence charge.

    But if she has it, why wait?

    Is a month really going to change anything?

    According to posts to the Bring Ayla Home website, Trista will lay out details she's gotten from police about her daughter's case next month online as well as in a press conference. The goal, according to the website post, is to get justice for Ayla by forcing Justin to come out with any details he allegedly has about the little girl's disappearance.

    Obviously with Justin headed into a courtroom on September 25, timing would be good to get him "on the record" about his daughter's disappearance. 

    But it's been a year and a half since the girl went missing in December 2011. The police have had the information shared with Trista since January 3, 2013. In all that time, no charges have been pressed against Justin, nor has he offered up any more information.

    The chance of cops suddenly arresting him are slim. If they could, they'd have done it already!

    And he's going to court for a domestic violence charge. There's simply no reason for him to speak to the other matter, especially if it would get him in more trouble.

    I can't blame Trista for trying here; she wants answers desperately, and she deserves them.

    But if she truly thinks sharing these awful details will help the case, there's no point in waiting. Waiting, timing it to Justin's unfortunate situation, only makes her look like she has a vendetta against her ex.

    If these horrifying details are worth sharing, they're worth sharing now. Otherwise, it just looks like another game is being played with this little girl's life.

    Do you think these details should be released? When?


    Image via Bring Ayla Home

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    tanning bedToday in news that a bunch of parents are falling down on the job, a report on the tanning industry has determined that a third of white high school girls are still hitting the tanning beds. Hello, cancer? Are you ready for your close-up?

    I don't mean to go all "OMG, they're gonna die," here, but it's 2013, folks. It's not exactly shocking news that tanning has been directly linked to skin cancer, which has been directly linked to death.

    And skin cancer doesn't know you're a fresh-faced teenager with a full ride to the college of your choice and a promising career ahead of you. It doesn't care that you're young.

    Just this week two of my young cousins, both in their 20s (one just barely there), had to have irregular moles removed. Their mom took to Facebook immediately with a warning "think before you tan."

    Her warning is a good one, but it caught me off-guard because these days it seems so obvious. Do people really need to be told this?

    Then came this tanning report in the JAMA Internal Medicine.

    Apparently in addition to the aforementioned one-third of all white teen girls tanning indoors statistic, there's also this one: melanoma rates rose 3 percent a year in white teenagers and young adults from 1992 to 2004.

    Oh, and get this. According to the CDC's literature on indoor tanning:

    Using a tanning bed is particularly dangerous for younger users; people who begin tanning younger than age 35 have a 75% higher risk of melanoma.

    So kids are tanning AND kids are getting sick.

    And to that I have to ask: where are their parents? We are talking about children here, albeit teenage ones. They may be old enough to get themselves to a tanning booth, even old enough to shell out the money for a tan, but they're still young enough to have a responsible adult in their lives who should be telling them NOT to tan, even forbidding it.

    Kids should know that tanning is dangerous, and if they don't, that's your -- the parent's -- fault. Just as we teach our kids about brushing their teeth and hair daily, we should be teaching them about proper skincare, including the use of sunscreen and steering clear of tanning beds.

    And if the basic education isn't enough to keep your kid out of the tanning bed, then laying down the law should be. Parents, you're in charge. So just say NO to tanning teenagers.

    Do you let your daughter go to the tanning booth?


    Image via Evil Erin/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    oh geezIs there any greater fear than that of turning into your parents? Especially after you BECOME a parent? If you're 32 or older, bad news. You're already there.

    At least according to a new (entirely unscientific) survey, 32 is the age when moms turn into their mother. Phewww! I'm awfully close to 32 but not quite there.

    Then again, I have stopped myself in my tracks with some of the momisms I swore I would NEVER say. So I guess it's really inevitable. It happens. You become your parents.

    Not sure if you're there yet? Behold the signs:

    1. You tell the kids you won't buy them candy because money doesn't grow on trees.

    2. You can't name a single one of the songs your kids listen to; you just want them to TURN THAT RACKET DOWN.

    3. You've found yourself running through the names of all your kids, pets, etc., before you actually get to the name of the kid you're speaking to.

    4. You've threatened to turn the car around.

    More From The Stir: 25 Fake Swears Parents Use in Front of the Kids

    5. You see uneaten food on dinner plates as an affront to starving children in a third world country (and mention this daily).

    10 signs you're becoming your mother6. You have no less than 12 responses to "it isn't fair."

    7. You caved and put the "proud parent of" bumper sticker on your car. 

    8. Your daughter wouldn't be caught DEAD borrowing your clothes.

    9. You don't have to use words to communicate with your kids. You just give them "the look."

    10. You no longer look fondly on your teenage antics. And you plan to ground your kid's sorry fanny if they even THINK about trying one of them.

    Be honest ... have you become your parents yet?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Catelynn Lowell Tyler Baltierra Couples TherapyCouples Therapy had its finale tonight on VH1, and you know what that means. Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra of Teen Mom fame are back to being former reality stars. Darnit!!

    But wait, there is good news! Unlike rapper Chingy and girlfriend Temple Poteat, who ended the show by ending their relationship entirely, Catelynn and Tyler are not over.

    In fact, Tyler had something surprising to say about his cancelled wedding.

    According to Tyler, calling off their engagement hasn't changed the "dynamic" of his relationship with Catelynn, nor has it changed the love.

    The latter I get. You don't have to be married to love one another.

    The former, on the other hand, is pretty amazing. It takes a strong person to be able to go from planning a wedding to a cancelled wedding with no hard feelings or change in the relationship.

    More From The Stir: Maci Bookout’s New Book Will Be Very Personal & We've Got the Details

    But then, we have seen some amazing examples of the strength inside both Catelynn and Tyler on Couples Therapy this season -- from the very first episode when they kept it classy when handling Flavor Flav degrading their decision to choose adoption to the most recent episode when Cate opened up to her mom about her childhood pain.

    The main thing we can take away from this season of Couples Therapy is that Catelynn and Tyler are survivors. They got through horrific childhoods. They got through the trauma of a teenage pregnancy. They got through the adoption process. They got through a broken engagement. There's not much they can't do now.

    The other thing we can take away? Catelynn and Tyler make for good television!

    Not just dramatic television -- although there's been some of that this season, most of it came from Girls Gone Wild creator Joe Francis, who had to leave the couples house early -- but really good, heart-warming, life affirming television.

    We watch Catelynn and Tyler on TV because we can see they're good kids who you can't help but root for.

    So they may not be getting married today or tomorrow, but someday we see it happening ... and we sure as heck want to see them back on television!

    Would you watch another Catelynn and Tyler reality show?


    Image via VH1

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Maci Bookout's son Bentley EdwardsTeen Mom star Maci Bookout shared a shocking video on Keek this week. Her son, Bentley Edwards, is doing his homework.

    Hold. The. Phone.

    When did this happen?! When did Bentley hit homework age? He can't possibly be old enough for that, right?

    Wellllll, turns out Bentley is almost 5 -- his birthday is in October -- and now that he's in pre-k, he's coming home with worksheets to do with Mama (while eating an after-school snack, natch). Check out the video:

    Aug 21, 2013 | hahaha since when did pre-k give homework?? here we go! #babygenuis � by MaciBookoutMTV on Keek.com


    Maci tagged the video "since when did pre-k give homework," and she took the words right out of my mouth. I was wondering the same thing. All he's doing is tracing his name, but still, it's homework. In PRE-K!

    I thought homework in kindergarten was bad enough -- although to my daughter's teacher's credit, she didn't start sending the kids home with worksheets until after the winter break. She let them get used to simply being in school before adding on another level of work.

    Apparently Bentley's school doesn't work that way. Maci told The Stir in an exclusive interview last week that her little guy just started school.

    So it's out of the frying pan and into the fire, huh? Poor little guy!

    More From The Stir: Maci Bookout’s New Book Will Be Very Personal & We've Got the Details

    I'm not a huge fan of homework in general; kids have so little down-time anymore that I'd prefer my daughter be able to come home after school and run around the backyard to get her energy out rather than having to toil over some worksheets in our dining room. A number of parents (and scientists too) have pondered whether the increase in homework hasn't caused an uptick in childhood obesity-- because kids don't have time to exercise. Others say their kids seem to get in more trouble -- because they just don't have TIME to work out their energy.

    That seems especially necessary for the youngest kids -- kids who are in pre-k and kindergarten. At least the older kids (kids like my soon-to-be third grader ... gulp) have gotten used to sitting all day long. The little guys are still adjusting!

    They need their down-time darnit!

    Poor Bentley should be out riding his dirt bike after school, not tracing his name.

    But I guess this is growing up ...

    Are you shocked that Bentley is doing HOMEWORK? Where did the time go?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    beerHow's this for a sign that the world has gone crazy? A dad asked his son to hold his beer during a preseason Arizona Cardinals game, and the act got both father and son kicked out of the stadium! Ya know, because it's letting a minor "possess" alcohol and all.

    Uh. Huh.

    John Coulter told USA Today he wanted to take a photograph shortly after kickoff, so he handed his brewski to his 15-year-old son. Who wouldn't? Stadium brews are priced like liquid gold. I wouldn't want to stand the chance that it would get tipped over either.

    But Coulter says the innocent "hold my beer" moment landed him in trouble with undercover officers from the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, who told the father it was illegal and kicked him out of the stadium. One official later stated the dad got lucky because he could have been charged -- and the misdemeanor could carry as much two years in jail, a $2,500 fine, and three years probation.


    America! Can we drop this puritanical approach to alcohol? Please?

    He didn't GIVE the kid a beer. He let him hold it. There is a big difference.

    Parents have gone 'round and 'round for decades over whether it's OK to let younger kids taste alcohol. I'm firmly in the "it takes the taboo out of alcohol camp," but to each his own.

    If you don't think kids should even have a taste, that's your prerogative.

    But I think we can all agree that there's a big difference between having alcohol around kids, even letting a child hold an alcoholic beverage, and actually SERVING them alcohol.

    I grew up in the country where fetching your Dad a beer from the fridge is just what kids do. We touched the beer. It did not give us cooties.

    Nor did it make us more likely to drink. As my 8-year-old daughter (who, gasp, has held my beer) noted the other day when the subject of alcohol came up, I "don't drink it very much."

    Call it anecdotal evidence; I am just one person of many.

    But beer (and wine and liquor) is around kids all the time, sometimes even in their hands. You see kids moving their parents' beer from the grocery cart onto the conveyor belt. You see kids helping Mom carry her bag of booze out of the liquor store. You see kids shoving the bottle of wine out of the way in the fridge to get at the juice boxes.

    None of this is "serving" a kid booze. But they're about as involved with it as John Coulter's 15-year-old was by "holding" Dad's beer.

    Honestly, there is really no way to completely excise all evidence that alcohol exists from kids' lives. And yet there's nothing to indicate that simply being in proximity to the hard stuff destines our kids to become alcoholics -- in fact the CDC data indicates only 5 percent of Americans fall into the "heavier" drinking category. Five percent does not an epidemic make, folks.

    Five percent is not a reason to freak out.

    Let's remember: alcohol IS legal. It may not be legal for kids to drink it (although it is actually OK in many states for parents to serve their own children in the privacy of their own homes), but as long as it IS legal for adults to possess it, we have to acknowledge that their kids will be around it ... maybe even touch the cup.

    Do you let your kids hold your beer? Was this dad out of line?


    Image via Lee Coursey/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    sleeping babyEvery time a co-sleeping tragedy pops up in the news, it's followed by a host of comments from moms and dads who have been co-sleeping for years with no problems. Sharing a bed with baby, they say, is fine if you do it the right way!

    It's a fair comment -- parents have shared the bed with baby for centuries, so it can't be all bad. But what exactly is the "right" way to co-sleep? What is safe co-sleeping? Is there really such a thing?

    The American Academy of Pediatrics says no. The AAP even suggests breastfeeding moms put baby back in their crib after a night-time feed.

    Still thinking about doing it? Some studies have shown it can be good -- especially for breastfeeding moms -- so it's really a mom's decision.

    If you're on board, here are some guidelines experts say should definitely be followed.

    1. Don't drink or use illegal substances while co-sleeping. Studies have found a link between SIDS, cosleeping and recent parental use of alcohol or drugs.

    2. Don't co-sleep on the couch. Babies need firm surfaces to sleep on.

    3. Avoid blankets and stuffed animals in the bed. What applies to a crib should also apply to the family bed -- these hazards are not conducive to safe sleep for baby.

    7 tips for safer co-sleeping4. Pull back long hair. I never thought of this one, but the experts at the University of Notre Dame's Behavioral Sleep Laboratory warn that a mother's long hair can actually get tangled around an infant's neck!

    5. Make sure both parents are on board with co-sleeping. If your partner isn't comfortable with the idea of a family bed, find out WHY. Maybe they have a reason to think your baby won't be safe (do they move around in sleep a lot, for example?).

    6. Don't co-sleep with older kids and a baby at once. The term family bed can be misleading. Experts generally warn against older children being in bed with infants and their parents because older kids might not be aware of the baby's presence and safety requirements.

    7. Consider a co-sleeper. Babies don't have to be in the bed to be sharing a bedroom with you -- there are a number of co-sleepers out there that attach to the bed, allowing baby to be within arm's reach but protecting them from a parent rolling over on them, as well as offering that firm mattress and blanket-free space.

    Do you co-sleep? What are your best co-sleeping tips?


    Image via elisabet ottosson/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    arrestedThe fate of a step-grandfather accused of leaving his two young grandsons at home unsupervised with his dangerous pit bulls is in the hands of the courts now. Steven Hayashi's 2-year-old grandson, Jacob Bisbee, died when he was attacked by the dogs while the step-grandfather was out playing tennis.

    According to prosecutors, Hayashi is to blame for not only knowing his dogs were dangerous, but leaving the door to the garage where the dogs were located unlocked and un-child-proofed when he left Jacob and his 4-year-old brother home alone with their sleeping grandmother. And for all of this, for alleged involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment, Hayashi is facing just 10 years in prison.

    Ten years?

    For knowingly leaving a child in serious danger that resulted in his death?

    Is that really enough?

    Let me back up a second and address the elephant in the room: not all pit bulls are dangerous. It would be irresponsible of me not to mention that in this anti-pit bull climate. Frankly, that's a kettle of fish that's much too deep for me to get into in just one blog post, but it must be put out there (and if you want more info, check out this great post from the ASPCA on pet behavior and pits).


    Moving on.

    Although not every pit bull is dangerous, in this step-grandfather's case, police say his weren't just vicious, but he knew it! The dogs had already killed two family pets and showed aggression toward little Jacob. Prosecutors allege Hayashi had ignored family members' requests that he get rid of the dogs, stating:

    But as he told his wife, the dogs were his, and the children were his step-grandchildren, and they should leave before the dogs.

    Unfortunately, little Jacob did leave. He died while his grandma was sleeping, while his grandpa was out playing tennis.

    The case is still in court, so Hayashi is innocent until proven guilty, but it certainly sounds like he cared nothing for this little boy's safety. Is it really so hard to put off your tennis game until a responsible adult is awake and ready to watch the kids for you? Is it really so hard to LOCK a door?

    And if this case proceeds as it stands; if his grandfather is convicted; the message the court sends is that his life is only worth 10 years in prison.

    What do you think of the charges and potential punishment here? Is it enough?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Teen Mom Alex SekellaWhen Alex Sekella appeared on MTV's 16 & Pregnant, the pretty, hard-working teenager from Pennsylvania had a lot on her plate: a debate between keeping her baby or placing her for adoption, a drug-addicted boyfriend, and a mom who wasn't so sure she should live at home with a little one. Now Alex is back on TV as one of the four stars of Teen Mom 3, and she's dealing with the choices she made after daughter Arabella was born.

    Alex sat down with The Stir to explain why it's better that she no longer talks to Arabella's father Matt McCann, how she manages to juggle two jobs and college, and why she moved out on her own.

    On why she's chosen to do Teen Mom 3:

    I want people to learn from my mistakes. It's so hard to be there by yourself, and to be able to be here and tell other people you're not alone is really my main thing that I was interested in doing.

    On her relationship with former boyfriend (and addict) Matt McCann:

    I haven't spoken to him in a year and a half. You'll see on Teen Mom 3 how it all plays out, the last time we spoke.

    We like it that way. We're both happy people. It's better for Bella to not have a hostile environment around her.

    On her busy schedule:

    I work at a dance studio, and I'm also full-time working for a catering company on my college campus. I'm doing [college] online.

    On why she moved out of her mom's house:

    I found out that Matt started living with someone about a block or two away from my mom after he had gotten out of -- was this out of the halfway house, no, no, this was after he fell off a cliff.

    Unfortunately it's not on Teen Mom 3, but he was partying with a group of friends at a place in Allentown we call the Knob; it's part of the Appalachian Trail. He was partying with friends, fell off, friends took him to the hospital. He has like a huge gash in his head and stuff. It's ridiculous.

    More From The Stir: 'Teen Mom 3' Star Briana DeJesus Isn't Afraid of Being Criticized

    After that happened, he moved close to my mom's house, and I was like, I don't want him near me, so I pretty much picked up my stuff and moved an hour away from my mom's house.

    On her relationship with her mom:

    Our relationship is a lot better. We'd be working non-stop. She'd be PMSing, I'd PMS, and then you have my sister in the mix, so we're all clashing!

    On having to do it all alone now that she's moved away from her mom:

    I'll get home from work and after getting her from the babysitter, I'll get home and be, like, oh no, I don't have milk! And then I have her in the car seat, passed out because it's 9 o'clock at night, and I have to go to the 24-hour Wal-Mart.

    My dad visits me every day, and I asked him to go get milk once and he came back with a bike for Arabella! He's done that for me, so I don't know if I could ask for that -- he'll come back with other stuff!

    On why she's not like the other Teen Mom stars:

    We all have similar stories but we all make different decisions. There's no way any of us are like any of them. We're all unique ... all of us.

    On how she plans to handle the haters:

    We'll have the bad criticism and stuff, but we're -- the four of us -- our concerns lie within our children. When I went in, I didn't think about any criticism or anything like that because I know I'm doing what I can for my kid. I don't have any plans to do anything stupid.

    Did you watch Alex on 16 & Pregnant? What do you hope to see on Teen Mom 3?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Joshua SummeriesThe search for a missing baby in Zion, Illinois has taken a startling turn. Cops were notified Wednesday morning that Joshua Summeries was missing. His mom said she'd last seen the 5-month-old in his crib around 5 a.m. By 8 a.m., he was gone.

    Emergency workers and volunteers have been working round the clock to bring him home, but now the police have a new mission for residents. Zion police chief Wayne Brooks has announced little Joshua is feared "harmed or worse."

    He wants the people of Zion to check their personal property ... especially their garbage cans.

    I don't think I need to tell you what that means.

    I don't think any of us want to imagine it, least of all the friends and neighbors of Joshua Summeries' mom.

    Just imagine you're going about your daily business. You go to take the remains of last night's dinner out to the curb, you open the lid, and ...



    I don't want to picture what could be next.

    I don't know that I could do it.

    I respect that the cops only have so much manpower, and they need every bit of help they can get from local residents. But I don't want to imagine a baby lying dead in a hypothetical garbage can. So I can't imagine I'd be able to stomach going out to my own, actual trash bin, and taking a peek.

    How do you recover from seeing something like that?

    I've seen a few dead bodies in my life, all at funerals -- thank goodness. And even those bodies, bodies I knew were there, bodies I technically "chose" to look at (or at least to visit), have had various effects on me. At one point I was waking up at night, haunted by the last time I saw a long-time colleague who died suddenly from cancer.

    Do I sound selfish?

    Of course I do. I know that. I know that this is about a child, an innocent little boy who went missing in the middle of the night under mysterious circumstances. There are allegations that Joshua's mom has changed her story a few times, from him having disappeared between 5 and 8 to her possibly having asked her boyfriend to check on him because he was crying and not seeing Joshua after the boyfriend did his thing.

    Who knows how it happened.

    What we do know is that a child is missing, and the community has been asked to help.

    And no matter how selfish we want to be and how shocking it would be to face this horror, this is how it works. You roll up your sleeves, and you help. A missing baby isn't just the family's problem. It's everyone's problem.

    Helping is the right thing to do; I know that. One of my earliest memories is of my own father being called out to help in the search for a missing child in our town, a friend of mine from preschool. She was found. She is fine. She's now a mother of two.

    If only we could expect a similar outcome for this missing baby.

    What would you do in this situation? Would you get out there and look or would you be too horrified to act?


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