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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.

    Kevin BarreraThere are few people in this world who elicit sympathy like parents who have lost a child. Their tragedy is every parent's worst fear. Now imagine you've lost a child, and then you hear that your child's photo has shown up on Google Maps? More to the point, a photo of your dead child is on Google Maps, where anyone in the world can see it?

    That's the news a California family got recently. Kevin Barrera was just 14 when he was shot to death in 2009 near a railroad track in Richmond, California. His killer has never been found, but satellite imaging managed to capture a photo of his dead body and a police cruiser that had responded to the scene of the crime. Because Google uses satellite images for their maps, that's the photo folks can find when they're looking for directions.

    The (only) good news in all of this?

    It turns out even Google has a soft spot for parents who have lost a child. The search engine doesn't typically alter its maps for anyone; they'll even defend their rights to display public information in court. But when the Barreras contacted the site, the folks at Google didn't put up a fight.

    They immediately expressed sympathy for the family and pledged to take it down -- a process that will take a few days.

    Good on Google. The company isn't known for bending to just anyone, and normally I stand with them. Nothing gets me going quite like people who are always asking for special treatment.

    But the Barreras aren't just "anyone," and this treatment isn't so much special as it is simply right. They're a family that has been through one of the worst tragedies possible: losing a child.

    In short: people, giant websites, EVERYONE should bend over backward for people like them. Not because they ask but because it's the right thing to do. They've been through enough; why should they have to go through more?

    Kevin Barrera deserves more respect than having his dead body viewed every time someone Googles how to get from one place to another in Richmond, California, and so do they.

    Do you know anyone who has lost a child?

     

    Image via KTVU


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    lunch bagWhen I heard a mom had been slapped with a $10 fine for packing a "poor" lunch for her kids, I had all sorts of ideas in my head about what a disaster that lunch bag must have been. Kristen Bartkiw must have filled the bag with candy, I figured, or maybe she was having a busy mom moment and threw empty lunch bags in her kids' backpack.

    Turns out, I was wrong on both accounts. Bartkiw's kids got roast beef, carrots, and potatoes in their lunch, plus juice to wash it all down. Her kids' child care center decided that wasn't "balanced" enough, so they gave the kids Ritz crackers ... and they gave mom a bill.

    Go ahead; scrape your jaw off the floor. I can wait.

    Ready?

    Good, because my head is about to explode over this one.

    Apparently the rules of the Manitoba Early Learning and Child Care dictate kids should have a milk product, a meat, a grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables to make sure the meal is "balanced." If the parents don't send everything on the list, the center will supplement, and Mom and/or Dad get charged.

    The mom isn't mad because she actually helped draft the rules way back when.

    Fine. She can pay her fine.

    But that doesn't make these rules -- or similar rules that keep cropping up at schools and daycare centers -- any less ridiculous.

    More From The Stir: School Has No Business Banning Candy From My Kid's Lunch

    Folks, I'm all for providing little ones with nutritious meals. But doing that means looking at what kids are eating all day, not just at lunchtime. Schools and child centers need to remember as they craft their "rules on nutrition" that they're only one piece of a day-long puzzle. Parents are the ones who know what happens before and after.

    I know I often base my kid's lunch on what I have planned for breakfast or dinner. She may get her fill of calcium at breakfast, for example, so I'll skip a lunchtime milk because she doesn't need the extra calories. Then again, she may have filled up on eggs and bacon at breakfast, so I'll opt for a yogurt at lunch instead of some more protein.

    It's all give and take.

    And it's important to recognize that because the kids aren't just internalizing the food in a literal sense (go ahead and chew on that thought for a second), but in a mental one too. They're learning from these meals how to make good choices about foods -- about nutrition, about hunger.

    Tell kids that their meals have to meet some impossibly restrictive guidelines, and you aren't preparing them for much more than an eating disorder.

    What kind of rules does your kids' school or daycare have about lunch?

     

    Image via Randy Heinitz/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Austin SiggThe teenage boy who killed 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway will never again see the light of day outside a prison. After two days of hearing from witnesses, a Colorado judge handed down a sentence for 18-year-old Austin Sigg that will keep him behind bars for the rest of his life. Not only will Sigg have to serve a life sentence, but he's gotten another 86 years tacked on to make sure he does not walk free.

    Eighteen and never going to live outside a prison. Sadly, this is the best news we could have asked for. Especially considering Sigg could have gotten out. Thank goodness a judge decided he was too "evil" for that possibility.

    Colorado law dictates that juveniles -- even juveniles charged as adults -- are to be given the chance of parole after 40 years of a life sentence. Sigg was 17 at the time of the kidnap and murder, so he fell under that rule. By tacking on the additional 86-year sentence, what the judge essentially did was circumvent that law -- albeit legally. He'll have to serve the two sentences consecutively.

    Now, I understand why the law was put in place. It's not a good feeling to know that there is a kid out there bad enough to warrant more than 40 years in prison.

    More From The Stir: Jessica Ridgeway's Killer Ate Snack as He Described Dismembering the 10-Year-Old

    But when you examine the facts of this case -- not just what happened to Jessica, who was dismembered(!), but also Sigg's nonchalance about what he'd done -- that's the only conclusion you can draw. Some kids are sick. So sick they belong in prison for life, if only so they don't hurt someone else when they come out. 

    As Jefferson County District Court Chief Judge Stephen Munsinger reportedly said as he handed down the sentence that will keep Austin Sigg in prison for the rest of his life:

    Evil is apparently real. It was present in our community on October 5, 2012.

    Hopefully this chapter closing will help Jessica's family move on, knowing Austin Sigg can never get out of prison to hurt another girl like their daughter.

    What do you think of the sentence? Is it too much or just right?

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    missing skelton brothersIt's nearly Thanksgiving, which means it's been three years since three Michigan boys disappeared without a trace. The case of the missing Skelton brothers has borne little fruit of late, but new movement is sparking hope today that the mother of 9-year-old Andrew, 7-year-old Alexander, and 5-year-old Tanner Skelton may finally get some answers about what happened to her sons.

    Michigan State Police have come out to say they are taking over the three-year-old case from local law enforcement in an effort to keep it from going cold. Got that? They may have been missing for three years, but all is not lost for these little boys or their desperate mom, Tanya Zuvers.

    The state cops' first move?

    To make the boys' father talk.

    John Skelton is already in prison; he pleaded no contest to "unlawful imprisonment" after his children went missing from his house on the holiday in 2010. He's always said he didn't kill the boys, even though investigators have said they fear the children are dead.

    But now that he's got the state police hammering on him, who knows what might come of it. Maybe he'll 'fess up to something that will lead to the boys. Whether he was involved or not, the fact remains that they went missing from HIS home. He could well remember something that will help.

    The point is, it's not over for these boys. It's not over for Tanya Zuvers.

    Big credit here goes to Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks who had the guts to say that his guys just couldn't do it and was willing to pass the case along to the state police. There's no need for a pissing match between law enforcement entities when kids' lives are on the line. It says a lot that he'd step up and do something slightly embarrassing in order to get these kids what they need.

    Too often missing child cases that lay dormant for years simply fade away. Cops can only spend so much of their time and money on a case that isn't progressing -- it sounds cruel, but it's simply realistic. Unless they are willing to bring in fresh eyes, that's where it ends.

    And unless the parents have the means to hire their own private investigator -- which isn't cheap -- their only recourse is to hound the cops and hope someone will take pity on them and bring their kids' file back out.

    It's up to some cops who really care to put kids in the forefront, to set aside their own feelings about giving up "their case" or having to share to make sure they have every possible advantage on their side. The Skelton boys and their mom deserve this. As Zuvers told her local media:

    I’m ready for the answer. I just am tired of having to wait.

    Hopefully the end of waiting is in sight.

    What do you think should happen with missing child cases as they start to go cold? Should they be given up by the local police?

     

    Image via National Center for Missing & Exploited Children


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Mackenzie DouthitMackenzie Douthit may have only one season of Teen Mom 3 under her belt, but the reality star has already learned an important lesson in working her 15 minutes of fame to the full extent. Just this week Mackenzie spilled her heart to Dr. Drew in a shocking confessional that included her cheating on (then boyfriend) Josh McKee and also sharing the trauma of losing her brother Mike, who had Down Syndrome, when she was just 13.

    It turns out the loss of Mike, coupled with her diabetes diagnosis, helped propel a rebellion against her strict Christian upbringing that led to Mackenzie ending up pregnant at just 16. No question fans were intrigued. So what's a Teen Mom to do when fans are asking questions about her late brother?

    Use it to help her mom sell some books on the topic!

    Mackenzie has never kept Mike a secret, but she hasn't spoken much about him before the Dr. Drew special either. Fans -- unsurprisingly -- had questions, and she answered them on Twitter with this:

    If you have not heard my mom did write a book "life with mike" anout our life with my brother. For sale on http://t.co/gtuvOJZWm1

    — Mackenzie McKee (@DouthitKenzie) November 19, 2013

    Hey, why not? The book is already written!

    It turns out Mackenzie's mom, Angie Douthit, wrote Life With Mike about Mike Williams Douthit well before her daughter ended up an MTV star. The self-published memoir details the Douthit family's adoption of Mike and the 17 years he spent as a brother to Mackenzie and her other siblings, Whitney, Kaylee, and Zeke.

    More From The Stir: 'Teen Mom 3' Dr. Drew Reunion Turns Into Jerry Springer Special

    Although the book is more about Mike, it will offer fans who are hungry for more Teen Mom details a look at Mackenzie's pre-16 & Pregnant life, which is exactly what people seem most interested in.

    Just look at how well Farrah Abraham's My Teenage Dream Ended did when it was released. Not to mention both Kailyn Lowry and Maci Bookout have said they're writing memoirs -- both of which will cover life before they became famous.

    Will you be picking up a copy of Life With Mike? What would you most like to find out about Mackenzie in a memoir?

     

    Image via Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    dog boneI'm not a violent person. I don't kick my dog or spank my kid. But when I heard that a 10-year-old girl is suing her mother's ex-boyfriend because the grown man won't give the little girl's dog back, I had one thought and one thought only. That man ought to be slapped upside the head.

    What kind of jerk holds a little girl's puppy hostage ... to the point where a 10-year-old has to take him to COURT? Apparently 54-year-old Mitchell Rechter, or that's what 10-year-old Hannah Wise's lawsuit alleges, anyway.

    Note: Hannah's mom Adrienne Lenhoff isn't suing Rechter. Hannah is. Lenhoff has signed off on this lawsuit. Because Hannah is a minor, mom had to. I'm a little perturbed that a 10-year-old has to go to court over something like this, but I do give credit to Hannah's mom for letting her daughter go this route.

    According to the suit, Hannah and her mom lived with Rechter for four years -- until the adults split up. Adrienne moved out, taking Hannah, but leaving the girl's tea cup poodle with Rechter until they got settled. Only when they went to get the dog back, the lawsuit alleges Rechter refused to turn the dog over.

    More From The Stir: Baby & Puppy Share Sweet & Simple Friendship ... & Naps! (PHOTOS)

    The poodle, named Mystery, was a gift from the girl's grandmother, given to her when her older dog, Mystic, was diagnosed with cancer. The child says Mystery helped her get through Mystic's death, and she loves the little pup.

    The mom in this situation could have told her daughter to forget it, that she'd get her another dog. It would be a lot easier than dealing with an ex, right? But what kind of message does that send to the kid? That animals are disposable? That her attachment to a dog doesn't really matter in the scheme of things? That a grown man can get away with being a jerk to her just because she's a kid and he's an adult?

    No. Way.

    It may be "just a dog," but if the lawsuit's allegations are true, Hannah is in the right here, and the kid has every right to fight for what's right. No matter the outcome, and least she'll know she stood up for herself. That will serve her for years to come.

    Sometimes there are things our kids just need to fight for, and it's in our best interests as parents to back them up.

    What would you do if someone took your child's dog? Would you take it to court?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    crime sceneMost of us have a knee-jerk reaction when we read the news. We laugh. We cry. We get angry. And then there are stories like this one: a 5-year-old escaped a murder-suicide that claimed her parents and her baby brother on Wednesday night in Maryland. The little girl ran to a neighbor’s house and told them her mom, her dad, and her brother were hurt.

    Cops arrived and found a 40-year-old man, a 42-year-old woman, and a boy who was less than a year old, plus a gun. Everyone was dead, save for that 5-year-old girl.

    How do we process this kind of news?

    Are we terribly sad that a mother, father, and baby are dead? Yes, of course. Are we relieved that at least one child made it out? Again, it's a yes.

    These are reactions that are diametrically opposed. Grief. Relief. It's almost too hard to fathom these two feelings coming from one place, but this is the reality of the news each morning.

    Children missing for three years; dad in jail.

    Ten-year-old dismembered; teenager headed to prison for life.

    Five-year-old survives murder-suicide; rest of family dead.

    I'm getting to a point where I don't want to read the news anymore. Not if the best feeling I can summon in my morning is a faint sense of relief that a 5-year-old did not die in a senseless tragedy.

    She's alive, but heaven knows what she saw! And she's going to grow up an orphan! With the possibility of survivor's guilt! And the knowledge weighing on her mind that it was one of her parents who took the life of the other.

    And this is the "good" part of the news.

    What is your knee-jerk reaction to a story like this? Relief? Grief? Somewhere in the middle?

     

    Image via Officer Greg/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Briana DeJesus boyfriendThose Teen Mom stars sure do grow up fast, don't they? Every time you turn around, someone's having a baby or getting married. The latest to be talking wedding bells? Briana DeJesus of Teen Mom 3!

    Wait. Who? Did you even know Briana had a boyfriend? Well, she does. And after Monday night's explosive Jerry Springer-style Dr. Drew reunion special, we're relieved to report it is not Nova's daddy Devoin Austin!

    More From The Stir: 'Teen Mom 3' Dr. Drew Reunion Turns Into Jerry Springer Special

    The Florida mom outed boyfriend Jay Hendrix on Instagram earlier this week as her "boo," and the couple has been sharing sweet nothings on Twitter all week. It's nice to see her happy and with a man whom she doesn't have to hide from her mom and sister! But what's with the wedding bells?

    Well, it seems her Teen Mom 3 co-stars are pretty happy to see Briana in love again too ... so much so that Katie Yeager is joking about Jay and Bri tying the knot:

    @BrianaDejesus_@JayrHendrix I call bein the best man ���

    — Katie Yeager (@Katiebyeager) November 21, 2013

    By the looks of her "Oh God" response, Briana isn't taking that one too seriously. Thank. Goodness. The Dr. Drew special was shot around this time a year ago, and at that point she was adamant that she was single. Even if she hooked up with Jay shortly thereafter -- and hid him from us all -- that's still pretty quick to get married when you've got a child to think about.

    Still, we hope this one works out for Briana! She spends so much time thinking about little Nova; she deserves some time to kick back and enjoy herself, and someone to do it with.

    What do you think of Briana's new guy? Did you know she was dating?

     

    Image via Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    scissorsA stepfather is in jail for assault after a wicked fight with his wife and kids that started over how he disciplined his young stepdaughter. Cops say Jason Lloyd Hartwick got angry with the 10-year-old, so he give her a haircut as punishment. No wonder his wife got angry!

    When it comes to disciplining kids, there are simply lines that you do not cross. Anything that demeans a child or is a direct attack on their identity is a big no-no!

    Think about it: there aren't many things kids can really claim as "their own" in life. They live in homes provided by their parents. They have to go to bed when we say, go to school when we say, and in general be bossed around by people who are bigger and older than them.

    More From The Stir: Young Cancer Survivor Is Suspended From School for Growing Hair for Charity

    But their appearance? For the most part, that's on them, and it's a very large part of who they are now and who they are becoming. That includes hair.

    I've long been a supporter of kids being allowed to rock "crazy" hairstyles in school because it's a pretty harmless way of allowing them to experiment with their appearance, to figure out who they are. It also lets them know that they have ultimate control over how they choose to let people see them.

    The hair we wear is part of how we portray ourselves to the world and a real mark of our personalities.

    Can you imagine taking either away from a kid?

    I can't. I'm all for taking away video game consoles or sending kids to their room to think about their actions -- naughty kids must be punished. Considering parents generally pay for the aforementioned game consoles or the mortgage on the house where that room is located, that's in a parent's purview to do. But their hair isn't yours. It's theirs.

    Cutting a kid's hair because you're angry isn't punishment. It's just plain cruel.

    Hartwick, by the way, is in jail facing charges of aggravated assault and preventing the use of a phone in an emergency for the alleged altercation that broke out after the haircut.

    Put yourself in that dad's shoes. What would you have done?

     

    Image via Yandle/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Pretty Army soldierYou've heard that old saying about good intentions, right? The road to hell is paved with them. And that's exactly where Col. Lynette Arnhart is sitting right now -- in a hell of a lot of trouble. The high ranking Armyofficer is behind the US military's "war" on pretty soldiers.

    To be honest, when I first heard that an Army officer had called for "more average-looking women" in public affairs materials, I figured it was a man. Perhaps that's sexist in and of itself, but as a woman, you'll excuse me for being a touch jaded about how often my gender is judged for our looks. When I found out Col. Arnhart was a female, her demands began to make more sense.

    The Colonel referred to the image above of Cpl. Kristine Tejada of the 1st Cavalry division, who was photographed while on deployment in Iraq. Tejada is, no doubt, a beautiful woman. She's also pretty badass in her full regalia. But Arnhart worried about the message her gorgeous face would send to the masses. As she said of the ad:

    [It] shows a pretty woman, wearing make-up while on deployed duty. Such photos undermine the rest of the message (and may even make people ask if breaking a nail is considered hazardous duty).

    What's more, she continued:

    In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead ... It might behoove us to select more average looking women for our [communications] strategy.

    It's ... inappropriate and rude to women as a whole, but especially to Tejada. Judging "pretty" women based solely on their appearance is no less demeaning than doing so for women who don't fit society's beauty mold.

    That said, I'm not quite as angry as the rest of the world at Anhart today. The Colonel isn't a monster. If anything, she sounds to me like a woman who is sick and tired of the notion that women need to be prettied up in order to appeal to the rest of the world.

    It IS important for the Army, and for private companies too, to take a look at their "models" and the message that they're sending when they don't mix things up a bit by presenting women of different sizes, colors, and "beauty" standards.

    And yet, the Army AND those companies need to recognize that all-inclusiveness truly means all.

    If a "pretty" woman is out there busting her ass for her country, she certainly deserves JUST AS MUCH respect as any other soldier.

    What do you think of Arnhart's comments? Did she mean well but come about it the wrong way, or is there no saving this?

     

    Image via Association of the US Army


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    mom of premieBringing a child into this world 15 weeks early can be terrifying. What will happen to this fragile little person? Thanks to one dad with a video camera, one little boy's journey from 1.5-pound infant born 15 weeks early in a neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) to smiley, happy, and HEALTHY 1-year-old is showing the world the incredible journey through a premie's first year of life.

    Benjamin Scot is a photographer for Abercrombie & Fitch and a filmmaker, so what better way to capture son Miles' fight for life than in video form? Beginning when wife Lyndsey was finally able to hold their little guy four whole days after birth, the video of Miles' first year is a tribute to her and to the doctors and nurses at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. And, well, it's pretty much the most life-affirming thing I've seen in weeks.

    So grab your tissues, and let's roll the videotape:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

     

    I've watched this video at least three times this morning, and I cry each time. Thank goodness he threw in that baby puke scene for a little comic relief, or I might have to call in from work hysterical, amirite?

    The thing about this video isn't just that it's beautifully done -- kudos to Dad there -- but that it shows how lucky we are to live in a nation with medical resources that can change lives, can SAVE lives.

    More From The Stir: Baby & Puppy Share Sweet & Simple Friendship ... & Naps! (PHOTOS)

    Did you know one in eight babies in the United States is born premature? Scary statistic right there, but if you think about it, a pretty incredible one too. Technology has come so far that there is hope for more and more premature babies to not just survive, but thrive!

    Imagine going from weighing less than a bottle of soda to that gorgeous, giggling toddler!

    What is your favorite scene in the video?

     

    Image via BenjaminScot/VIMEO


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Glee Rachel SamIf you noticed this week's Glee was titled Movin' On and figured it was a send-up to Billy Joel, who can blame you? Tonight was all about the Piano Man's biggest hits, and Blaine and Sam kicked off their big trip to New York City to look at colleges with none other than Joel's Movin' Out which is pretty darn close.

    But if you were paying attention, and I do mean paying CLOSE attention, you might have caught a twinkle in a certain starlet's eye? Could it be? Is Rachel Berry ready to move on from Finn?

    As Billy himself would say, "I may be crazy."

    But there was something about the way Rachel looked at Sam tonight that seemed an awful lot like ... lust? Or at the very least, a small crush on a new guy? If nothing else, Rachel was finally having FUN with another guy who isn't either gay or a member of her cast tonight. Here's how it went down:

    With McKinley's senior class anticipating graduation sooner than soon, Blaine was in New York for his NYADA audition, and Sam tagged along for an interview at Hunter College. But when he bombs the interview, Sam ends up back at Rachel, Kurt, and Santana's apartment 'fessing up to Rachel that he really doesn't want to go to college. His big dream? To be a male model. Of course.

    With her Fanny Brice dream already well on the way to coming true, Rachel throws herself into making sure Sam can live his dreams too, hiring the Funny Girl photographer to help her old schoolmate build a portfolio. It lands him in the offices of the House of Bichette, aka Tyra Banks, who likes his look ... but wants the buff former stripper to drop 10 pounds (from where?).

    Fortunately, when Sam he gets back to McKinley East (aka the Rachel/Kurt/Santana apartment), his friends quickly convince him he's better off with a little meat on his bones, and launch into -- what else -- a sing-along to the Billy Joel classic, Just The Way You Are. 

    The song is a lot of fun to sing with friends, but it seemed like Rachel and Sam were a little more than as they crooned "I love you just the way you are" at each other ... especially when there was that whole side, shuffle, step, er, huh? move apart moment at the end.

    Awkward!

    Frankly, I don't see these two having lasting power because, well Sam is just too DUMB!   But who can fault Rachel for having a little crush on a cute guy? She's going to have to move on sometime ...   What did you think was going on with Sam and Rachel? Is this the start of something?

     

     

    Image via Mike Yarish/FOX


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Sarwat LodhiA worker at an upstate New York grocery store made a grisly discovery in the parking lot this week that has set of an equally horrifying chain of events. A dad was found dead inside a car, along with one of his two sons. When police went to the house of Abbas Lodhi, they found his other son dead as well. As for the mother of the two young boys, she's missing and presumed injured.

    Sarwat Lodhi was first listed as a "relative" when Pleasant Valley, New York police first turned to the public for help finding her. I can't help but wonder if police didn't immediately identify her as 9-year-old Zain Lodhi and 13-year-old Mugthba Lodhi's mom because it might put a damper on search efforts.

    Think about it. They've said Lodhi's a victim in this sad case, and they don't think the public is in any danger.

    But her children are dead. If she knows, what are the chances she wants to be found?

    Let me be clear: I do NOT mean that people should not be searching for this poor woman. If she's hurt, I very much hope she can be found and get medical attention, and that she will be OK -- at least from a physical perspective.

    Because from a mental and emotional one, there's very little chance that Sarwat Lodhi will be OK anytime soon. Her husband her kids are dead. No matter how it happened -- and remember, cops say she's a victim, they are NOT pointing the finger at the 43-year-old mother -- her life as she knew it is over. A mother's worst nightmare has come to pass.

    My heart breaks for her, but I do hope she is found safe.

    What do you think is going through Sarwat's head right now?

     

    Image via New York State Police


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Josh McKee gang signsGeez Louise, does Mackenzie Douthit McKee have a scandal button on her cellphone or something? Every time the Teen Mom 3 star takes a cellphone pic and uploads it to Instagram, people are on her like white on rice. But, well, this time Mackenzie might actually deserve the firestorm of criticism -- or at least husband Josh McKee does.

    After all, the latest controversial pic shows Josh hanging with son Gannon and someone in the picture is throwing gang signs. Hint: it's not the 2-year-old.

    I'm willing to bet the toddler can't tell a Blood from a Crip, and he wouldn't know a gang sign if it bit him in the diaper-covered tuchas. Which is EXACTLY why this photo is so inappropriate!

    More From The Stir: 'Teen Mom' Faces Backlash for Posting Picture of 2-Year-Old With Gutted Deer (GRAPHIC PHOTO)

    There's a tendency -- among certain parents anyway -- to treat kids who are as young as Gannon like toys or props because they don't really "get" what's going on around them yet. To some extent, that's OK. You probably can get away with listening to a song with dirty lyrics, for example, around your 1-year-old, because she's too young to pay attention.

    But parents need to remember that at some point, kids WILL get it, and you need to start being a role model sooner rather than later. 

    Imagine little Gannon looking back at this photo in 10 years? He's going to know what Dad is doing here, and then what? How do you explain to your kid that it isn't something HE should really be doing?

    By and large, the McKees seem like caring parents, but I think this photo is a big reminder that they started this whole parenting journey awfully young ... and they're making some rookie mistakes.

    What do you think of the photo? How would you explain it to YOUR child?

     

    Image via Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    letter to pre-k parentsToday in awkward letters sent home from school, a pre-k teacher openly admitted to parents that she doesn't like touching their kids. But she's not a kid hater, ya'll. The educator at the BUILD Academy in Buffalo, New York is just sick and tired of smelly kids being sent to school.

    You know what? I can't say that I blame her. Kids should be clean when they go to school. Period.

    The note to parents comes with a warning to "Please Read" in giant letters at the top, and a section at the bottom for parents to sign, acknowledging they've received it. The letter reads:

    Several children in pre-K ages 3-4 are coming to school (sometimes daily) with soiled, stained, or dirty clothes. Some give off unpleasant smells and some appear unclean and unkept [sic].

    Parents please take care of this matter. It is a health and safety concern. It also makes it difficult for me to be close to them or even want to touch them.

    Enough said.

    OK, it's a wee bit harsh. When I think "pre-k teacher," I think warm and fuzzy woman in sweaters with appliqued snowmen on them whose Facebook bio reads "loves kittens and hugs from little kids." A warning that she doesn't want to "touch" kids doesn't exactly jive with that image.

    But sometimes the truth hurts.

    We've all been there, haven't we? You're standing in the grocery store, and you can't tell if you're crying because of that awful smell assaulting your senses or because you feel so darn bad for that little one whose parents let them go out like that?

    More From The Stir: 16 Grossest Things Parents Do for Their Kids

    This is where it extends from the obvious health issue to a mental and emotional one too. If a teacher, someone who got into the job because she loves kids, can't stand to be near them, what about the other kids? I'm willing to be they smell it too, and they're probably turning away from those kids and picking other playmates.

    Think back to your childhood; didn't you? It wasn't to be cruel, it was a matter of self-preservation. There is only so long you can spend in the presence of something that turns your stomach.

    Unfortunately, that's something that can follow a kid far beyond pre-school. Once the "smelly kid," always the "smelly kid." And that isn't on the children. We aren't talking about teenagers here who are going through one of those "I don't want to shower or wear deodorant" phases. We're talking about 3- and 4-year-olds, kids who don't know better and really couldn't do anything about their situation if they could. 

    The health issues and the emotional issues that stem from this are completely on the parents, and I commend the teacher for taking a stand on behalf of the children.

    It's not like she's asking parents to send the children to school in Gucci and Armani. Hand-me-downs from Wal-Mart are fine ... just so long as they're CLEAN.

    There is no excuse for sending kids to school in dirty clothes or without a bath.

    None.

    What would you do if your kids' school sent home a letter like this?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Christmas CarolsWhat's the first sign that Christmas is coming? Christmas carols in stores? Maybe. That is if you can actually hear the tinny version "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" over the kvetching of the parents who are PO'd that yet another public school has come out and banned traditional Christmas carols from the winter concert.

    Aww. Those poor, poor people. Their kids' school finally entered the 21st century, and now they expect us all to feel bad for them.

    So, do you? Feel bad for them, I mean? Because I don't.

    I do, however, feel bad for all those Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, atheist (need I go on?) kids out there who are virtually being pushed aside every time there's another hew and cry over Christmas carols being banned in schools.

    Go ahead and call it a war on Christmas (you're going to anyway). I'm more worried about the war being waged on those kids every time one of their parents' dares speak up.

    Take, for example, the York Preparatory Academy, a public charter school in Rock Hill, South Carolina, that just dropped Joy to the World and Oh Come All Ye Faithful from the concert. They're coming under fire from the right wing conservatives who are nattering on about tradition and how their values are being attacked. 

    The problem with that argument? In a public school system, outdated traditions unfairly trap children. They don't get to dictate which songs they sing and which they don't in a winter chorus event. Often their grade for music class depends on showing up and singing along with everything on the agenda for the day. They deserve a fair playing field too, to have a winter concert where they aren't completely unnerved by what they're being asked to do by their teachers.

    News flash: not everyone in the good ol' U.S. of A. wants to adore oh Christ the Lord or believes that the Savior reigns.

    If you do, that's great! Take your kids to church, and you can be merry and praise Jesus all you want. That's your right as an American. 

    But a full 16 percent of Americans say they are not affiliated with any religion these days. Another 4.7 percent of the population subscribes to a non-Christian religion. That's nearly a quarter of the population -- a quarter of the kids out there -- who have rights too.

    You can sing carols to your heart's content on weekends, folks. Just keep them out of the public school. OK?

    What sort of songs do they sing at your kid's school?

     

    Image via LisMB/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Lady Gaga American Music AwardsLet's face it; we can always count on Lady Gaga to bring the weird to an awards show. But her American Music Awards (AMAs) performance with R. Kelly wasn't just weird. It was downright awkward. Maybe even a little creepy?

    What other word can you think of to describe a grown woman singing the words "do what you want to my body" while photos of her as a little girl loom large on a screen behind her? While she's singing with a guy who has been accused more than once of inappropriate sexual behavior with minors?

    The whole performance seemed to have some kind of JFK/Marilyn Monroe vibe to it with R. Kelly playing the "president," and Gaga sporting a blond bob. The two consenting adults ground their bodies against each other, and got a little frisky on the presidential desk as they sang their new hit Do What U Want With My Body. No worse than Miley and Robin Thicke, that's for sure.

    But I'll take a this-side-of-legal former Disney star and a 36-year-old man getting crazy onstage over the photos of a young Stefani Germanotta on a giant screen while the grown up Gaga sings sexually suggestive lyrics.

    By itself, that's more than a shade creepy. You get the sense that she's trying to prove that she's come a long way -- the performance ended with the screens full of headlines claiming she was done in the music business.

    But it only gets worse when you consider R. Kelly's reputation. This is a man who once settled a lawsuit with a woman who accused him of having sex with her when he was 24 and she was just 15, a man who married a 15-year-old at 27 (the marriage was later annulled). The singer also had that unfortunate incident five years ago when he was charged with videotaping himself having sex with an underage girl. He was found not guilty in that matter, but at the very least you'd think he would want to stay away from anything that puts him, sex, and young girl in the same sentence. Just for the sake of his image!

    At best, the whole AMAs skit was poorly thought out.

    At worst? It may be a sign that Gaga has finally found a line she just shouldn't have crossed.

    What was your reaction to the performance? How did you respond to the AMAs as a whole this year?

     

    Image via Splash News


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Chad ChrittonA Wisconsin dad accused of keeping his daughter locked in the family basement for six years is headed to prison. The lawyer for Chad Chritton tried to convince a jury that his client was just too dumb for child abuse that ranks this high on the horror scale. The good news? The lawyer failed.

    After two days, the jury came back. Chad Chritton is guilty of unspeakable horrors against his little girl. So much for hoping the jury would be dumb enough to buy his "I'm not smart enough to do something so awful and keep it from the neighbors" defense.

    Chritton's lawyer had the audacity to tell the jury that the now 16-year-old girl who was tortured for six years, starting when she was 9, couldn't have possibly been kept locked away all that time because his client wasn't "tricky" or "wily."

    Odd wording, isn't it? When I think of child abuse of this magnitude, tricky isn't what comes to mind.

    Monster is.

    You don't have to be smart to be a child abuser, folks. Heck, if you are smart, you hopefully have the brains to realize that hurting a child is wrong.

    You can be dumber than a box of rocks and pull of unspeakable acts of child abuse if you're sick enough.

    It turns out Chad Chritton was sick enough. And it wasn't just him.

    His wife, Melinda Drabek-Chritton, is already serving a five-year sentence for abusing her stepdaughter. Her son, 20-year-old Joshua Drabek, faces a trial next year for allegedly sexually abusing the girl during her years of imprisonment, including allegations that he would force his stepsister to perform oral sex on him. 

    As prosecutors convinced the jury, from the time she was 9, Chad Chritton would keep his now 16-year-old daughter locked in the basement, denying her food even when she begged for something to eat. The windows of the basement were even boarded to prevent the child from sneaking through them to raid the neighbors' trash for food. By the time she escaped at 15 and was discovered wandering barefoot in her pajamas on a cold night in February 2012, the girl weighed just 68 pounds.

    That has nothing to do with intelligence. It has to do with cruelty.

    What do you think of Chritton's defense? What do you think the punishment should be now that he's been convicted?

     

    Image via Dane County Sheriff's Office


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Kim Zolciak twinsThey're here! They're here! Kim Zolciak and husband Kroy Biermann have welcomed their twins! The Real Housewives of Atlanta star announced her family is officially the "Biermann Bunch" after she gave birth to a little boy and a little girl, bringing their family to a total of six kids (plus mom and dad, of course).

    Kim had been keeping the gender of her babies a surprise until birth, which means the twins' names are another surprise to come out today. Are you ready for this? The names are adorable, but their origin is a little ... unusual?

    Not surprisingly, there are more "K" names to join Kim, Kroy, and their sons KJ and Kash.

    Their little girl, who was born first, has been named Kaia Rose. Kim says "Rose" is for a "psychic" named Rose who has been like a grandmother to her. The twins were born on Rose's birthday, so it seemed apt.

    More From The Stir: 'Teen Mom' Names Her Baby After Bad Boy Rapper

    Their little boy got the name Kane Ren. So who is Ren? Like any self-respecting child of the '80s, I have to admit the first person who came to mind was Ren McCormack. But it turns out Kim named her son not for the Footloose character but for her OB/GYN! The doctor has delivered five of her six kids, and she says "we simply adore him."

    Now that is a new one! I've heard of moms who just couldn't make up their mind, so they allowed the OB/GYN to name the baby. But this may be the first time I've ever heard of the doctor getting the honors of the baby's name!

    It's actually pretty sweet. He helped Kim bring her babies into this world, so why not?

    Congratulations to the happy family! What do you think of the names?

     

    Image via kimzolciakbiermann/Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Teen Mom 3 castWorst. News. Ever! Rumor has it the first season of Teen Mom 3 will be the ONLY season of Teen Mom 3. Could MTV have cancelled the show already?

    We reached out to MTV and hadn't gotten a comment at press time, so we don't know for sure. But it's looking an awful lot like last week's Dr. Drew reunion episode may be the last for Mackenzie Douthit, Briana DeJesus, Katie Yeager, and Alex Sekella. Let's examine the evidence, shall we?

    More From The Stir: 'Teen Mom' Star Posts Dangerous Family Photo That Could Incite Violence

    1. "Sources" said to be actual members of the cast recently told The Ashleys Reality Roundup that a number of stars were upset with the network's editing, and they don't WANT to be on the show again.

    2. Matt McCann has been putting up a fight from the get-go. Shortly before the premiere of Teen Mom 3 earlier this year, the ex-boyfriend of Alex Sekella said he was forced into filming by his mom who signed off on his contract with the network before he was 18. He's been pretty vocal about not wanting to be on the show, but without him, what story line is there for Alex Sekella?

    3. Briana DeJesus' mom Roxanne DeJesus is already talking about the next chapter of her life. Just check out this tweet from Mama Roxy:

    I can't wait for the reunion to be over. I just want to move past this BS... And start the next chapter of our lives.

    — Roxanne Dejesus (@Roxy991Roxy) November 18, 2013

    4. The girls are being cagey about a second season. When a fan told Alex she loved the show and asked point blank if there would be a season 2, the only answer Alex gave was "thank you."

    5. Mackenzie was reallllly pushing people to tune in to the last episode of season 1, telling fans that season 2 depends on them. It certainly sounded like a warning!

    So what do you think? Should MTV cancel the show before we get to see Mackenzie give birth and Katie move on from Joey?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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