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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

    school busWhen you sign a permission slip for your child to go on a field trip, you expect it to be pretty simple. Generally, you're giving your OK for your kid to ride a bus somewhere fun. Who wouldn't sign that? How about if the permission slip expected you to let the school off the hook if something bad happened to your kid?

    Would you want to sign that slip? Parents in the St. Louis Park School District are weighing that one right now. After a tragic landslide killed two fourth graders during a school fossil hunting field trip last school year, the district is looking to protect itself.

    So they sent home a permission slip to parents this year that states:

    We understand the arrangements described above and believe the necessary precautions and plans for the care and supervision of students during the field trip will be taken. Beyond this we will not hold the school or those supervising the trip responsible.

    So, basically the school is saying "your kids COULD die on our field trip, but don't sue us because we're really not responsible!" How ... comforting?

    Every time your kid leaves your sight, you have to know something could go wrong. I don't mean to sound like a cynic here, but that's life.

    The bus could crash. They could develop a sudden deadly allergy to bee stings. The ceiling could cave in.

    I could continue to list the things that could go wrong, but really, why work ourselves up? We know it could happen, but part of being a mom is knowing that we have to suck it up and risk it if we want our kids to live full lives. We can't put kids in bubbles.

    Still, with all that said, we should be able to send our kids to school activities with at least some sense that they'll be OK, that the school has their best interests at heart. A permission slip like this does the opposite. It tells the parents that the school cares about its bottom line first, the kids second.

    I don't know that I could sign a permission slip like this.

    I don't care about suing a school, frankly. I know it happens, and that not all parents are greedy. Sometimes it's just about paying medical bills that become a burden. Still, if something horrible happened to my child, that would be the last thing on my mind. But I do want to know that a school cares about my kid.

    Would you sign this permission slip? What's the scariest thing you've seen written on a permission slip?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Matt McCann Alex SekellaWhat is up with the guys on Teen Mom 3? Do they take turns being the jerk or something? Last week Joey Maes was blowing up at Katie Yeager. This week it's Matt McCann who lost control in a fight withAlex Sekella.

    But where Joey's explosive behavior was scary, Matt's was just kind of sad, and Alex's was sadder still.

    This girl has been forced to grow up quickly, and she's trying to do the best for her daughter. She reminds me a lot of Chelsea Houska from Teen Mom 2, knowing in her head that her daughter's father is not a good dad but wanting desperately to stay together JUST so the kid will have a "family."

    When she caught Matt texting another girl, Alex blew up at him, but fortunately she does have real family around. She called her mom, who confronted Matt, only to set him off on a rant. And then -- talk about timing -- Alex gets home, and the two start screaming.

    Neither side was in the right here, clearly, especially with little Arabella listening to the whole thing, as well as Alex's little brother. But Matt really got out of control when he started baiting Alex, puffing himself up and threatening her with his body while encouraging her to hit him.

    Thank GOD for Alex's mom, who decided it was time for Matt to move out of her house.

    And while we're on the topic of supportive moms, Briana DeJesus' mother Roxanne is starting to take on the uber parent role Chelsea's dad Randy filled on Teen Mom 2. She is always there for her daughter and granddaughter both. When Briana is worried about paying a babyproofing service (did you even know they had such a thing?), she whips out her credit card without holding it over the teenager's head. And she's more than happy to hop on the phone to tell Briana's lazy ex Devoin that he can't just expect to take his baby out and about when he can't even spend an hour alone with her IN THE HOUSE.

    Things were better for the other Teen Moms this week. Mackenzie Douthit (now Mackenzie McKee) made the smart choice to borrow a prom dress because -- as she sadly put it -- even a cheap dress would pay for a month of diapers. But she did get to go to prom along with fiance Josh McKee, who skipped out on coon hunting (I wish I was kidding) for his girl's big night. 

    And things have settled down for Katie Yeager and Joey Maes, at least for the moment. He's not exactly giving it his all in couples' therapy, but he did show up, and the two moved into their new apartment. There was even an adorable moment at the show's end when the two parents checked in on Molli. Their delighted grins when they found their daughter playing in her crib showed that they both love that little girl -- if nothing else.

    What did you think of Alex and Matt's fight? Was Alex's mom right to kick him out?

     

    Image via MTV


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Carlos RiveraA 3-year-old girl with special needs is dead and the city of Philadelphia is facing one horrific child abuse investigation. Doctors say when Nathalyz Rivera was rushed to the hospital, she was just 11 pounds and covered in bites. She didn't make it. She'd been starved ... to death.

    Now all four of Nathalyz' siblings, including her 3-year-old twin, have been taken from their parents, and those parents -- 30-year-old Carlos Rivera and Carmen Rameriz, 27, have been taken into police custody. There are no charges yet, but considering doctors say the little girl's starvation was akin to the treatment of prisoners in concentration camps, it's safe to say there will be a raft coming down the pike.

    The confusing thing: who to charge. And with what.

    According to police, Carlos Rivera found little Nathalyz unresponsive and he called Carmen, who showed up with her boyfriend and rushed the 3-year-old, who was born blind and with Down syndrome, to the hospital. She was pronounced dead there.

    At the risk of sounding reasonable, what did they expect would happen?

    A child abuse specialist familiar with the case told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the girl’s condition “doesn’t happen to a child in a couple of weeks. Generally, it is a process that takes months and months, or even years of neglect.”

    Add to that the fact that this poor little girl's body was reportedly covered in insect and rodent bites (as were the bodies of her siblings, who were otherwise relatively OK), and I ask again: what did these parents EXPECT?

    For their daughter to be right as rain? For a miracle?

    This poor innocent child had been starved. For months or even a year. She was put through unspeakable torture.

    A child.

    A child with special needs no less.

    A 3-year-old who needed her Mommy and Daddy.

    She should have been taken to a doctor before all this, not at the end. She should have been protected all along; not suddenly at the end, when it looked like she might be dead.

    Cops say Carmen "came and went" from Carlos' home, from the home where Nathalyz lived, and she'd seen the little girl recently, so it looks likely that both parents will be facing some sort of charges -- regardless of Mom's last ditch attempt to seek some sort of medical treatment for the little girl.

    What do you make of their decisions at the end? Do you have any sympathy for these parents?

     

    Image via Philadelphia Police Department


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    pink slime ground beefAlready getting tired of packing school lunch for ungrateful whippersnappers? This will make you glad your kids are brown bagging it: pink slime is sneaking its way back into schools' lunch meat.

    Remember pink slime? That disgusting mix of ammonia and ground beef that was really the ONLY thing anyone could talk about awhile back? Grocery stores, restaurants, and schools across the country responded to the mass hysteria by kicking lean finely textured beef to the curb ... but now it's baaaaaaack.

    A new report shows at least seven states have put in orders to the USDA for about two million pounds of pink slimed beef for school districts to serve this year. That's more than double the number of states who were serving it up last school year. 

    This is the stuff fast food restaurants won't even buy anymore.

    And they're feeding it to our growing kids!

    Freaked out?

    Me too.

    And my kid isn't even attending school in one of the aforementioned seven states (which, since you're wondering, includes Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota)!

    Here's the thing -- these states obviously KNOW parents are not happy with pink slime. And yet, they just waited until the rumpus died down, and they went back to their old ways. That bothers me almost more than the existence of pink slime in the first place (and that's saying something).

    If they're willing to go behind our backs with pink slime, what ELSE are they sneaking into that Michelle Obama-backed "healthy" lunch? What aren't they willing to do to our kids for the sake of saving a buck?

    Because that's the crux of it, isn't it? Pink slimed beef is cheaper. It's cheaper because it's crap, but still, it's cheaper. That's why schools -- which admittedly are always short on funds -- want to feed it to kids.

    But when it comes to children, there are places you can afford to cut costs and there are places where you need to suck it up and pay through the nose. Food? That's one of them.

    Let me put it this way: according to some studies, the nutritional needs of teenagers are higher than ANY OTHER AGE GROUP. They have large appetites, and their bodies are going through huge changes.

    And we want to short kids like this?

    Uh uh!

    I hate this feeling. I hate feeling like I can't trust my kid's school. But this is what we're left with. It's not knowing exactly what might be in that mystery meat on their tray in the cafeteria or packing them something to eat every morning -- even when they whine that "all the kids' moms let them buy."

    I'll admit I've been tempted to give in in the past, but not anymore. This steels my resolve. She's only getting home-packed lunches. Period.

    How about you? Does the pink slime news make you mistrust the school lunch? Do you think it matters?

     

    Image via lizzardo/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Kelli StapletonThe autism parenting community was dealt a tragic blow this month. KelliStapleton, a popular autism blogger and mother, was arrested after police found her unconscious, along with teenage daughter Isabelle Stapleton, in a van near Lake Michigan. Cops say Kelli was trying to kill the 14-year-old and herself in what's been labeled a murder-suicide attempt

    Isabelle, who goes by Issy and who has autism, is recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning in a hospital. She's off life support and breathing on her own.

    Her mother is in a Michigan jail, facing charges of attempted murder after cops allegedly found two portable charcoal grills in the car and the windows of the vehicle rolled up.

    The situation is sad ... and troubling. Equally troubling are attempts to explain away what Kelli Stapleton is accused of doing last week.

    I'm not a part of the autism community. My child is neurotypical. I can't pretend to understand what a day is like for parents fighting for their kids' rights, doing what Kelli Stapleton chronicled on her last blog post -- posted the very day of the alleged murder attempted -- on The Status Woe. Kelli had spent recent days struggling with the 14-year-old's school district to get her special education needs met.

    Not easy stuff.

    Still not a reason to try to kill your child.

    I'm horrified by people who are calling for sympathy for Kelli. They seem to be well-meaning, politically correct attempts to be "understanding" of a life they don't understand.

    I get it. If you don't have a kid with special needs, you don't know what life is like for a parent who does. Some would say I don't even have a right to wade in here.

    But sometimes being on the outside looking in gives us a benefit of judgment not clouded by bias. 

    The assessments that this life "drove" Kelli to make the decisions she's accused of, to make the choice cops say she made, are ... crazy. Even more, they're insulting to the hundreds of thousands of parents out there who have children at home with special needs, parents who would never think to murder their children.

    Do we need to have a long talk about what resources are out there for parents of kids with needs like Isabelle's? Absolutely. We should talk about it now, and we should have been talking about it long before this tragedy.

    But let's be clear: correlation is not causation.

    Kelli's daughter's autism did not cause her mother to attempt a murder-suicide.

    If Kelli did this -- remember, she's still innocent until proven guilty -- this is not about Issy. It's about Kelli. It's about her demons.

    And it's not excusable.

    What are your feelings about the crime here? Are you sympathetic?

     

    Do you have suicidal thoughts or do you worry that someone you know might be considering suicide? There is always someone to talk to. Call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK.

     

    Image via Benzie County Sheriff


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    giving birth in a hospitalWhen I was pregnant, I had one thought in mind: which hospital do I want to have my baby in? Home birth wasn't an option.

    It's not because I think home birthers are crazy granola types who are risking their babies' lives. Anything but. Home birth is a great option. For some moms.

    But as a mother who lives nearly 45 minutes from her closest -- rural -- hospital, it wasn't viable for me. If something were to go wrong, it would be 45 agonizing minutes in the car to get to the medical center, and it doesn't even have a NICU!

    Good reason, right?

    So here's the thing. I respect home birthing moms for their choices. Is it too much to ask that home birthing moms lay off the judgment for moms like me?

    To accept that it's to each their own?

    Here's just a sampling of some of the things some home birthing moms (not all, just the judgy ones!) have said to moms who went the hospital route:

    1. Aren't you worried someone will steal the baby?

    2. I feel so sorry for you. [With a look of pity]

    3. I chose to have my baby in a pure, beautiful place.

    4. Didn't you see The Business of Being Born?

    5. You are just ASKING to be forced into a C-section.

    6. Sorry, but you can't call that natural birth.

    7. I can't imagine having such a beautiful event in such a sterile, hostile environment.

    8. Quoting infant mortality rates.

    9. Women's bodies have been doing this for years; do you think you're special or something?

    10. Don't you trust your own body?

    Come on folks, can't we all get along?

    Hospital mamas, do you feel judged by your home birthing buds?

     

    Image via bradleygee/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    September 11Do you remember a world when September 11th was just another day? It's hard to believe, but this year marks the 12th anniversary. It's been 12 years since 9/11, 12 years since terrorists hijacked several airplanes, flying two in the World Trade Center in New York City and one each into the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

    How do we remember the worst terrorist attack on American soil today? There are fewer memorials, fewer ceremonies, but even 12 years on, 9/11 is a day we should all remember, a day when we should all spend at least a few moments in quiet reflection.

    Perhaps this will help -- some of the best quotes about the day when the world changed for every American.

    What will you be doing today to mark 9/11?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Ayla ReynoldsThere's more information out about the disappearance of Ayla Reynolds, the toddler who went missing from her home in Maine in late 2011. The girl's mother, Trista Reynolds, has been threatening to release "horrific physical evidence" in the case for nearly a month, but she said she'd hold out until her ex-boyfriend, Justin DiPietro, was scheduled to show up in court on an unrelated charge. But it looks like Trista couldn't wait any longer. And when you hear what she has had to say, it's a wonder she held onto it this long.

    The cops apparently told Trista, in detail, about Ayla's blood and saliva being found pretty much everywhere.

    Sound gruesome to you?

    Imagine being her mom and hearing that ...

    In an interview with WCSH, Trista says police showed her photos of Ayla's blood in DiPietro's room. They told her there was blood on his shoes. They told her there was blood in Justin's truck ... mixed with the baby girl's saliva.

    And this guy hasn't been arrested?

    I know, I know, circumstantial evidence, there is no body, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    But this poor woman has all this information at her fingertips ... and nothing to show for it? Her baby girl is presumed dead. She has no body to bury. And there is no one being brought up on charges for it.

    As Trista said:

    When you have a truck that has blood in it when you have things of Ayla's when you have a whole basement with all different things with blood you tell me you don't have enough to prosecute? I don't want to hear it anymore and I don't believe it.

    I won't presume to know what the police need to actually build a case here or why they aren't charging Justin with something, ANYTHING ... even child endangerment. Maybe he really is innocent. Maybe there are just too many roadblocks that my Law & Order police training hasn't taught me about standing in their way.

    But this whole sad ordeal does make you wonder how much information should be shared with victims' families? On the one hand, I'd like to think that they should get everything. It's their loved one; they have a right to know.

    On the other, I wonder if too much information doesn't just make it harder for the families, at least in cases where the police can't make an arrest, where there is no movement? It only leaves these poor families struggling, leaves them to turn to the media and make a plea for someone to force the cops' hands.

    Whether that can really be done is, of course, in the hands of said police and the prosecutors too. They know why Justin DiPietro isn't being charged with anything (aside from the unrelated domestic violence charge that will land him in court later this month). But this plea is certainly powerful ... and it could cause a lot of headaches for them.

    Listen to Trista:

    Do you think she's right? Should the cops do something?

     

    Image via Bring Ayla Home


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jordana BrewsterThere's good news for Jordana Brewster this morning! The former child star is all grown up and starring on Dallas these days, and, oh, by the way, did you know she just welcomed a baby? Well, she and husband Andrew Form, that is. The couple are celebrating the birth of their first child, a son.

    Didn't know she was pregnant? That's because Jordana wasn't. The couple opted to go the surrogate route and ended up with a little boy.

    And now for the question of the hour ... what did they name the little guy?

    Julian!

    Jordana and her hubs named their little boy Julian Brewster-Form!

    It's a mouthful, isn't it? The hyphenated last names always are. But I have to admit I'm a big fan ... of the first name especially.

    It's normal but not too common, and it's sort of regal. I could see a King Julian (or have I just been watching Madagascar too many times with my kid?). According to the Baby Name Finder, the name has both French and Spanish roots, and it means "youth" or "youthful." Kind of ironic for a child star, no?

    AND it's tied to Julius, as in the former Roman emperor. Huzzah! Future world leader in the making!

    OK, maybe not. I'm sure his parents would just settle for happy and healthy.

    I do wonder if Jordana didn't push for a normal baby name to make up for her slightly unusual (although not weird!) moniker. It's certainly easier on kids to not have to constantly re-spell and re-pronounce their names!

    Congratulations to the happy family!

    What do you think of Jordana's baby name? Can you believe she's a mom?

     

    Image via Pacific Coast News


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    black catI have owned two black cats over the years. It's safe to say I'm not the superstitious type. But somehow my kid is. She doesn't step on cracks (for the sake of my back, bless her!), and she won't open an umbrella in the house.

    Remember when you were a kid, and you believed you had the power to change the world just by pouring ice cubes in the toilet or holding your breath? Kids believe some of the craziest -- and funniest -- things.

    Don't believe me? Check out these superstitions kids swear by:

    1. Step on a crack and you'll break your mama's back.

    2. My son thinks that if he snaps his fingers too many times, they'll fall off (that's thanks to his big brothers).

    3. I always put my feet up when we cross the railroad tracks and touch the ceiling of the car. My boys do that too now.

    4. I told my daughter that she will grow a tail if she eats the dog's food. She stopped immediately and now yells at her little sister if she sees her near the dog's dish! What is it with kids and dog food? Or maybe it's just mine?

    5. If I didn't use the bathroom before I got on the elevator, for sure I thought it would break down.

    6. My son thinks if he stays in the tub while the water is draining out, he will get sucked down it.

    7. When I was in grade school, someone tried to convince me that if I made a face, it would stay that way if I was slapped on the back.

    8. My dad used to tell me eating my bread crust would put hair on my chest, so I kept avoiding the crust for years.

    25 kookiest kid superstitions9. My two youngest kids think they can get warts from frogs.

    10. My daughter has to hit the roof of the car and yell "ba-diddle" every time she sees a car with one headlight.

    11. My cousins convinced me that if you didn't turn your head sideways or duck when you were going under and overpass, you'd get your head chopped off.

    12. My older cousin convinced my sister and me that if he pointed the remote control for the TV at us and pushed a button, all of our hair would fall out! We believed him completely and were terrified that he'd turn the remote in our direction!

    13. At night, I would jump up onto my bed instead of walking up to it. This was to prevent witches grabbing my ankles.

    14. Can't walk up a flight of steps without counting them. It's very weird. I still do it and as an adult found out that my brothers all do it, too ... and none of us knew the other did it! If you don't count, you trip.

    15. Hold your breath when you're by a cemetery so your soul doesn't get sucked out.

    16. My daughter insists you MUST punch someone when you spot a VW Bug and yell, "Punch buggy, no punch backs."

    17. We always held our breath when we went into a tunnel and put our sunglasses on too.

    18. I've taught my kids to NEVER walk under a ladder. I wish I could claim it was a safety thing, but it's really a superstition.

    19. My daughter knows better than to open an umbrella in the house after I freaked out on her. I didn't mean to scare her!

    20. My kids flush ice cubes down the toilet when they want a snow day.

    21. My daughter will only pick up pennies if they're "heads up."

    22. My son gives us two kisses before he leaves us, always. Ever since he was little, it's always been TWO.

    23. We always hit the ceiling when we go through a yellow light.

    24. My kids fight over the wishbone at Thanksgiving. They think the one who gets the longer side will have their wish come true.

    25. When we were kids we believed chanting "Bloody Mary" three times in front of a mirror would summon a ghost.

    OK, how about you? What were your childhood superstitions? What do YOUR kids believe?

     

    Image via Chris Yarzab/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Teen Mom Katie YeagerLove Teen Mom or hate Teen Mom, the reality series often shows the darker side of parenting teenagers. Teenage girls get pregnant. Teenage girls get the crap beaten out of them by their boyfriends. Look at Teen Mom 3 star Katie Yeager. New details about boyfriend Joey Maes have come out, alleging that the mercurial father of her little girl has gotten so violent at times that he once broke her nose.

    Got that? A teenage girl had her nose broken by her boyfriend. That happened (or at least it's alleged that it happened) in real life.

    This is not the puppy love, aww, so sweet, story that comes to mind when we think "teen relationship."

    MTV cameras didn't catch that fight, or several others being reported by Radar, but they have shown some scary moments between the two young parents on Teen Mom 3 this season. Two weeks ago, the show ended with Joey tearing the couple's apartment apart while Katie cowered on the couch.

    As a mother, it was hard to watch.

    Teenage domestic violence is not "just a Teen Mom thing." This is not just something that happens to girls who end up pregnant in high school (to that point there isn't any one type of girl who ends up in pregnant in high school ... sorry, but teen pregnancy knows no socio-economic boundaries).

    Katie could be my daughter.

    She's smart. She's driven. She's in love with a guy who isn't very nice to her.

    More From The Stir: 'Teen Mom 3' Sneak Peek: Katie's Domestic Violence Nightmare Isn't Over Yet

    It's a nightmare. You wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy's daughter.

    And yet, it's a nightmare parents often don't address until it's too late.

    Katie's mom supposedly called the cops on Joey when he got violent, but weren't there signs before that this guy was no good?

    I have noticed that parents don't put much stock in teenage relationships. There's an assumption that kids fall in and out of love quickly, and that problems will simply resolve themselves because, hey, they're young; they won't be together forever.

    But what we're seeing on Teen Mom right now is that it can be much more complicated than that. Domestic violence isn't just an adult problem. It happens with teenagers too. In fact, the CDC reports 9.4 percent of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend.

    It's not epidemic by any means, but that's 9.4 percent too many.

    And what are parents to do?

    Good for Katie's mom for trying to do something.

    Was it enough?

    It's hard to say from the outside. I do know I feel for her.

    One of the problems with the lack of awareness that this is a true issue for teenagers is that there aren't a heckuva lot of resources out there for parents of teens in abusive relationships. These tips, from the California Attorney General's Office, sound like common sense, but it can't hurt to study them if you're afraid your child is in Katie's shoes:

    • Recognize and confront the abusive behavior. Be sure to have specific examples.

    • Let him/her know what is not acceptable. While being supportive of your teen as a person and his/her efforts to overcome the abusive behavior, you may have to make the difficult decision to report your teen’s violence to law enforcement.

    • Be a role model for supportive, healthy relationships with your own partner.

    Put yourself in Katie's parents shoes. What would you do if she was your daughter?

     

    Image via MTV


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    diabetic 11-year-old service dogA school district has denied an 11-year-old girl with diabetes from bringing her service dog to school. Crazy violation of her rights? Not so fast.

    Service dogs are an amazing innovation for hundreds of thousands of people out there with special needs -- everything from blindness to PTSD to diabetes. Who doesn't love a service dog?

    Well, a kid with an allergy to dogs, for one.

    That's why the Rush Henrietta Central School District has told Madyson Siragusa her dog will have to stay home, even though it cost her family $20,000, and even though the specially trained yellow Labrador retriever can sense the rapid fluctuations in her blood sugar level. The district sent the Siragusa family a letter explaining that Duke would potentially be a distraction, scare other children, and aggravate allergies.

    Can you blame them?

    They've essentially been asked to pit one kid's rights against another's.

    And there is no easy answer.

    It's not that I don't feel bad for Madyson here. Living with Type 1 diabetes is no easy feat. She's just 11. She just wants to be a normal kid!

    But I've seen pet allergies firsthand. My daughter has a friend who cannot come into my house without her eyes puffing up, without sneezing. We've tried it with medicine, but the longer the little girl spends in my house with my dogs and cats, the more miserable she gets. Her allergies are on the low end. For some folks, it's worse. They have asthma attacks. Hives build up on their chests. Their throats swell up.

    Imagine that daily, in your classroom? How do you learn?

    And sure, that kid could stay home, but why? They're going to school, not a place where dogs generally are accepted. It's not like you're telling someone with a nut allergy not to eat nuts here. It's not an "obvious" solution.

    So here we are: one kid needs the dog. One kid needs the dog to be gone.

    What is a school district to do? They've told Madyson she's welcome at school, where the school nurse will be charged with helping her handle her diabetes under the direction of a district nurse practitioner. The family is (understandably) worried, so they've opted instead for their daughter to learn at home with a district-provided tutor ... and her dog at her side.

    There's the potential the Siragusas will sue. It's their right. But I hope they don't.

    I hope, instead, they use this moment to teach their daughter that sometimes there has to be give and take in life, that we often have to make concessions for one another.

    It's an unfortunate truth, but at some point our kids need to learn that sometimes one person's "right" supersedes another. Sometimes one person's "right" puts another person in danger.

    Take, for example, the parents who pitch a hissy because their kids have a "right" to bring their favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school. What about the right of the little boy who will die if he's in the same room as a PB&J? Whose "right" is more important? Whose "right" takes precedence?

    It's not easy to parse out who is right in most situations, and this one is no exception. Who wants to put an 11-year-old in this situation?

    But this is LIFE. Our kids are going to be faced with situations like this dozens, no hundreds, of times in the years to come. We need to teach them how to handle that.

    What do you think the school should do?

     

     

    Image via WHEC


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Teen Mom Briana DeJesusIt's safe to say most parents aren't watching Teen Mom for the parenting ideas. But that doesn't mean they aren't in there. Did you catch what Teen Mom 3 star Briana DeJesus did the other day? She hired a babyproofing company to come to her house and make it safe for little Nova!

    Didn't know there was such a thing? Neither did I, at least not until I saw the folks from Child Senior Safety walking around the home Briana shares not just with little Nova but with her mom, Roxanne, and sister Brittany. It's a place filled with adults ... and with hazards for the baby girl.

    As Brian explained to The Stir,

    We decided we had to [hire them] because Nova was getting bigger.

    The company ended up coming in, assessing the home for dangers, and then making some changes. The result was a $350 bill -- at least on TV. Briana later told us that the company found out she was a young single mom, so they gave her a break, taking it down to $100.

    But what exactly did they do for that cash? Did parents really need a company for all of that? With the way MTV edits things, it was hard to tell. So I contacted Bob Dale, owner of Child Senior Safety, and got the skinny on babyproofing straight from the source.

    It turns out the company he owns with wife Sandra is one of about 150 of its kind in the United States, all members of the International Association for Child Safety. They're a for-profit company, but their mission is to help moms and dads keep their kids safe (although the Dales also do work in the homes of seniors).

    As Bob said to The Stir, "If I can save one little baby from getting hurt, that's why we love what we do."

    A home assessment and babyproofing could run in the $500 to $600 range, Bob Dale told us, but the couple works with families to do what they can afford ... and what best suits their home.

    "If you can't afford it, you go in stages," he said. "You get the bottom cabinets done, the bottom drawers done. It will be awhile until they can reach the top drawers where you have your knives and forks."

    It's not uncommon for the Dales to return to homes multiple times to do updates as the kids age.

    But why hire them in the first place? Can't a mom and dad babyproof the house themselves ... for a lot less?

    According to Bob Dale, there are two big reasons to hire a babyproofing company. For one, they have products you don't find in the baby store, products that will actually work with your wide-mouthed staircase or your odd-sized doorway.

    The other selling point for the Dales is their expert eye.

    "We have the knowledge. We know what to go in and look for," he said. "A lot of [parents] miss things like bookcases ... that can topple on a child. Or dressers with a TV. That dresser should be actually strapped to the wall, and that TV should be strapped to the dresser."

    The Dales are often called on to talk to TV stations when accidents happen to children because their homes weren't child-proofed. The MTV appearance, however, was a first. The small clip with Briana was actually three hours of filming that they walked us through. 

    "She didn't want to do much, but her mom was pushing," Bob Dale said of Briana. Cost was a concern for the single mom, he said.

    In the end the DeJesus house got a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs to prevent Nova from climbing, cabinet locks in the kitchen, and a toilet lock in the bathroom. And although Nova wasn't walking yet (at least not on camera -- she just turned 2 in real time), Dale said it was just in time. He recommends parents start babyproofing around 7 or 8 months.

    "When babies start crawling, you need to be prepared for it!" he said.

    Are you prepared for baby to start tearing the house apart? Would you hire a company to get you there?

     

    Image via MTV


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    elainaPretty much the worst has happened in the Elaina Steinfurth case. Police in Ohio have confirmed that the human remains found in the garage belonging to Elaina's mom's boyfriend, Steven King, are that of the missing toddler. The DNA matched.

    It's a fear those of us watching the case have had from the beginning. Sadly missing children often end up as dead children.

    And sadly ... often those children are hurt by people who they knew, people they trusted. That's what we're facing with the Elaina case right now.

    Police haven't said who they will charge with Elaina's murder. The autopsy was inconclusive, and no doubt there is more evidence to be gathered. Both Elaina's mom, Angela Mories Steinfurth, and Steven King are in jail already on charges related to her disappearance. 

    But with her discovery right at home, right on the property where she was last seen, it's pretty safe to say that she was not kidnapped by a stranger, not stolen away in the middle of the night.

    It's hard to say which is more unsettling: the thought that there are babysnatchers out there, people who sneak into children's bedrooms in the middle of the night and make off with our precious little ones or the thought that there are people out there who would snuff the life out of a child they were charged with loving and caring for.

    Both are sick. But the former puts an entire community in fear. The latter just the children in that particular person's care.

    Which is worse? Is there really any comparison?

    I don't know that there is. They're awful in their own ways, and they're both problems we have to face in our society with stories like Elaina's.

    There are people who fail kids in the worst of ways.

    All we can do is continue to be better than that, to hold our own kids close, and to hope that justice will be served.

    How do you feel knowing this little girl's fate?

     

    Image via National Center for Missing and Exploited Children


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    autumn pasqualeA guilty plea from the killer of your daughter should bring peace to parents. But for the parents of Autumn Pasquale, the 12-year-old New Jersey girl murdered last year, the sentence of their daughter's killer brings more questions than answers. What about the other alleged murderer?

    Police arrested two teenagers, a set of brothers, last year, alleging that they worked in concert to strangle her and dump her body in a recycling bin. But today only Justin Robinson was sentenced to 17 years in prison for aggravated manslaughter. And Autumn's friends and family are not happy.

    Justin was able to get just 17 years because he made a deal with prosecutors to say that he and he alone killed Autumn.

    That puts him behind bars.

    But what about his brother? What about the other Robinson kid arrested and charged with killing this girl after their mother turned them in?

    His case is working its way through the juvenile courts, but today a judge essentially accepted that Justin was the only killer.

    But come on folks, 1 + 1 = 2. If one person says they did it all by themselves, you can't say the other person did it too.

    How can they possibly proceed with a case against this other alleged killer? Didn't his brother just give him a get out of jail free card?

    It's possible, of course, that Justin was the only person who did the deed. But for a family that has been sitting here with two people in the police crosshairs, expecting two people to be punished, this situation isn't untenable. 

    What do you think of the sentencing today?

     

    Image via police


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    mackenzie douthit josh mckeeEver since news leaked that Mackenzie Douthit is pregnant with baby number two, the Teen Mom 3 star has been fielding a lot of criticism. She isn't even 19! And her second pregnancy came before she and Josh McKee even got married!

    Why would a girl who fought a hard fight with her mom to get herself on birth control to prevent a second pregnancy make a move so many are calling dumb? She's finally given the world an answer ... and, well, it's interesting.

    Challenged on Twitter about baby number two, Mackenzie challenged her critics right back:

    If a doctor told you your body would no longer be able to have babies after the age 21. And your married and 19. What would you do?

    Well, when you put it that way ...

    I can't say that the doctor's order to Mackenzie really makes that much sense to me. Generally practitioners don't begin putting an age limit on procreation until women are much older than the Teen Mom. She's 19, not 39.

    More From The Stir: 'Teen Mom' Star Gets Engaged -- Thank Goodness!

    But Mackenzie does have health problems, including type one diabetes, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that her doctor might have told her that she may have limitations on childbearing. It happens to women all the time.

    The question is what would you do? If a doctor did tell you that you didn't have that much time left to have a baby, and you really wanted one?

    Would you start going at it like rabbits just to make it happen, just to make sure that the opportunity doesn't pass you by?

    Fellow Teen Mom 3 star Briana DeJesus joked that Mackenzie should "have sex til ur vagina explodes."

    And, well, I get it. I'm a one and done mom here, and I feel so strongly that one is right for my family that I can understand how a woman might feel that she NEEDS two or three or whatever number seems "right" for her family. Sometimes you just "know" deep down what is right for you, and you do what you have to do to make it happen.

    What do you think of Mackenzie's explanation? What would you do in her shoes?

     

    Image via Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    wedding ringsBeing a newlywed is a special time. You've still got that fab bod you worked your butt off for to fit into your gown, and the tan to boot. You're getting laid on the regular. And you no longer have to listen to Great Aunt Fanny's rant about cows and free milk. But ladies who have recently been married, a word if I may?

    I'm so happy for you!

    But the world is pretty sick of you and your whole smug schtick.

    Let me just come out and say it: you're annoying. Really. Freaking. Annoying.

    Gasp! Could it be? Is this really what people think of you?

    Short answer: probably.

    Longer answer: there are a few of you out there who are A-OK, but most newly married people are bothering the pants out of their friends and family.

    Not sure if you fit the profile? Let's just say if you do anything on this list, you are one of the "smug newlyweds" that tops the list of most annoying Facebook users ever:

    1. You are giving out marriage advice. Hon, you've been married for seven minutes. Get back to us when you've survived the seven-year itch, and then we'll talk.

    2. You're still updating your "wedding" Pinterest board. Yes, since you have "update to Facebook" checked, we can see that you're doing it. Enough already; it's OVER.

    3. You used to start every sentence with "my fiance," but now you start it with "my husband." We get it; you're married. You can just refer to him as Bill, and we'll still know who you're talking about.

    4. You've invited friends over to "check out the wedding album." Remember back in the '80s when your parents would have friends over to view the slides of your trip to the beach? You have become your parents.

    5. You carry the wedding album WITH YOU. You have heard of Facebook, right?

    9 annoying newlywed traits to avoid at all cost6. You complain about all the thank-you notes you have to write. Oh, poor you! All that free stuff is such a burden, isn't it?

    7. You think it's just so amazing how your new husband loads the dishwasher, and you share the whole process in detail. So he's a modern man; he's not inventing the freakin' wheel here. Get back to us when you realize his poop really does stink like everyone else's (because, yes, one day you're going to walk into that bathroom and OMG).

    8. You think you have the answers to every single girl's problems. Just because you've sealed the deal doesn't make you the Yoda of singledom.

    9. From the way you talk, you have more sex in a week than Christian Grey has in a month. It's like that old adage, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to see it, does it make a sound? If a newlywed has great sex and no one hears about it, did she still achieve orgasm? Why don't you test that one out for us?

    What drives you up the wall about your newlywed friends?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    recalled car seatImportant news for parents today. Thousands of car seats by the Dorel Juvenile Group are being pulled from shelves in a massive recall that involves 21 different models, including the popular Eddie Bauer and Safety First car seats. The seats that are supposed to keep children safe in a car crash don't fully comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.

    Is your baby riding in one of these car seats? Here's what you need to know!

    More from The Stir: Major Children's Pain Reliever Recall: What You Need to Know

    1. The recall was prompted by the realization that labels on the car seats direct parents to install them incorrectly, which presents a safety hazard.

    2. There have been no injuries reported in relation to the recall, but that does not mean parents should ignore it. A company spokesperson says the performance, crashworthiness, and structural integrity of the seat itself are okay and emphasizes that this is an installation issue.However, Car seats need to be installed properly in order to be effective.If you have this car seat, the installation information in the owner's manual is correct. (Do not follow the label pertaining to rear-facing installation on the car seat itself.)

    3. The recalled seats were manufactured between July 20, 2010 and May 18, 2011.

    5. The Eddie Bauer and Safety First seats affected include the convertible Alpha Omega Elite, Deluxe 3 in 1, Complete Air LX, and Complete Air SE. The following models are those affected:

    22187ANL, Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite
    22187REM, Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite
    22187REMA, Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite
    22187SAR, Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite
    22187SARA, Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite
    22465FSM, Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite
    22790CGT, Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3 in 1
    CC033BMT, Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite
    CC043ANK, Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite
    CC043ANL, Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite
    CC043AQS, Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite
    CC046AAI, Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3 in 1
    CC046AAU, Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3 in 1
    CC046CTA, Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3 in 1
    CC046SNW, Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3 in 1
    CC046WPR, Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3 in 1
    CC050AJH, Safety 1st Complete Air LX
    CC050ANY, Safety 1st Complete Air LX
    CC050ANZ, Safety 1st Complete Air LX
    CC050AOQ, Safety 1st Complete Air LX
    CC051AIR, Safety 1st Complete Air SE

    6. Affected seats should NOT be returned to the retailer. Instead, parents are directed to contact the Dorel Juvenile Group directly, using the Recall Hotline at 1-877-675-2355, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. You can also email the company at rfbaselabel@djgusa.com to receive a free repair kit.

    Is your child riding around in one of these seats?

     

    Image via Overstock


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    De'Marquise Elkins
    A teenager who shot and killed a baby will be headed to prison for the rest of his life. De'Marquise Elkins was 17 when he killed 13-month-old Antonio Santiago in his stroller, right in front of the baby's mom, Shery West. That's spared him the death penalty for the heinous crime.

    But Elkins' lawyers say even life without parole is too much for Elkins because he was an abused kid. Well, it's a thought anyway, huh?

    Elkins' legal team has really pulled out all the stops to try to keep their client on the streets. A few weeks ago, they were pinning the blame for the little boy's death on his own mother. That failed in court, ending in a murder conviction.

    So then they put up the claim that Elkins has had a tough life, spending the past seven years being neglected by a mother who struggled with drug abuse and sometimes left him at home alone without food. The way the lawyers tell it, a kid who has been through all that deserves a break. 

    But does he, really?

    When you consider the heinous nature of the crime?

    There's certainly room for sympathy for children who were abused. And there may even be a link between their childhoods and their behavior. According to the National Child Abuse Hotline, "children who experience child abuse & neglect are about nine times more likely to become involved in criminal activity."

    An estimated 14 percent of all men in prison and 36 percent of women in prison in the USA were abused as children, about twice the frequency seen in the general population.

    Abuse in childhood may indicate a risk of criminal behavior as one gets older. Note that I said risk. It's possible it may happen, but then again, it's possible it will not. There are thousands of law-abiding good citizens who grew up in abusive homes but have decided not to repeat the pattern.

    They prove that you can be better than your childhood.

    Elkins' abusive childhood may explain who he is today. But it doesn't excuse his crime. Nothing excuses shooting a defenseless 13-month-old in cold blood.

    And what would it say about that child's worth if Elkins were not punished to the fullest extent of the law for stealing his life away?

    I'm glad the judge chose to sentence the teen to the maximum possible punishment for his murder conviction, plus 105 additional years in prison for other counts including aggravated assault and attempted armed robbery. Apparently 10 days before shooting little Antonio, he also shot a pastor (who survived), a crime that accounts for 30 years of his sentence. His childhood didn't make him do that; it doesn't excuse that he did that.

    What do you think of the sentence here? Do you have sympathy for this killer?

     

    Image via police


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    high school kidsI have always been a bit of a purist about books. I want my daughter to know the feel of paper between her fingers. I know I'm not alone. So I surprised even myself when I heard a high school had completely given up on textbooks. I wanted to forward the news to my kid's school and suggest they follow suit.

    Yes, you read that right. I think going completely digital is something every school should do. ASAP!

    I know it won't happen any time soon, mostly because it costs a lot of dough to outfit every kid in your school with an iPad or a laptop. Not to mention I live in the boonies; a fair share of the kids in my daughter's school district don't have computers at home because they don't even have Internet access (yes, in 2013, and yes, I know how ridiculous this is ... please, write my legislators!). Still, this is a viable option, and to prove it, Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, New York, has become one of the first schools in the country to go all digital.

    They're still one of the very few, but it's about darn time someone did it!

    This has nothing to do with shoving electronics down kids' throats and everything to do with the pain and strain on a child's back every time they hoist a backpack, pain that only gets worse as they head into high school and get loaded down with homework that requires multiple tomes to complete.

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission once calculated that carrying a 12-pound backpack to and from school and lifting it 10 times a day for an entire school year puts a cumulative load on kids of 21,600 pounds. That is the equivalent of six mid-sized cars. The CPSC recommends a backpack weigh no more than 10 to 15 percent of a child's weight, but the average bag is more like 20 percent.

    Oh, and they ALSO say 7,000 kids on average suffer some sort of injury ... from a BACKPACK.

    Replacing all that weight with something you can carry with one hand? Kind of a no-brainer to me if the school can come up with the cash. 

    Because as important as an education is for kids, in the long run, they need their health too! And coming from someone whose back problems started at around 12 -- and whose bookbag was definitely above that 15 percent threshold -- I can't tell you how much I wish this option had been available in the early '90s.

    What would you do if your kid's school went all digital?

     

    Image via USAG-Humphreys/Flickr


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