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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.

    Elaina SteinfurthBaby Elaina Steinfurth may finally see justice after all, and it's about time! The Ohio 1-year-old who went missing in June was discovered, dead, in September. And now her mother, Angela Mories Steinfurth, and mom's boyfriend, Steven King, are officially facing charges in the little girl's death.

    The charges? Murder and aggravated murder, respectively. And that's not all.

    King, who was indicted in August on obstruction of justice, now stands accused of tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse.

    For a mother to be charged with murdering her own child?

    It's horrible.

    It's heartbreaking.

    And yet, it's about time.

    The charges come five whole months after Elaina's father, Terry Steinfurth, went to pick up his two daughters from their mother and was told that he couldn't have Elaina just then. Treated as a missing persons investigation at first, Elaina's case has always circled back to Angela. She was first arrested on charges of child endangerment on June 12, just weeks after her daughter's "disappearance." That charge was dropped, only to be replaced by claims of obstruction of justice.

    But it wasn't until police discovered badly decomposed remains in a box in a garage on King's property on September 5, then later identified them as Elaina's, that the real question began to be asked: will there be justice for this little girl?

    Obstruction of justice charges, even if they ended in conviction, surely weren't enough to make up for the death of a 1-year-old.

    Then again, nothing really "makes up for" the death of a 1-year-old, does it? There's a void left in this world, and there is no punishment harsh enough.

    Still, a little girl cannot be forgotten. And the best way to ensure that is to haul the people who were responsible for her death into a courtroom and make them pay.

    Now we have the answer to when it will all happen. The new question? How? How can the case against Angela Mories Steinfurth and Steven King provide justice for this baby Elaina?

    Is it with life in jail without parole? The death penalty (capital punishment is legal in Ohio)?

     

    Image via National Center for Missing & Exploited Children


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    justiceYou've heard of suing for custody, right? Well, have you ever heard of suing the judge in your child custody battle? That's what a mom in Manhattan is doing. She's suing the family court referee who has been overseeing her custody case for the past three years.

    Three years, says Maggie Rhee Karn, is just too darn long.

    Her methods are unusual, but I'm betting more than a few single parents out there are nodding right along and war whooping on her behalf. Child custody is complicated, but come on, folks. Three years?!

    If there's ever a time to use the phrase "think of the children," this is it!

    Rhee Karn's lawsuit claims that her case against her ex, Kenneth Karn, has taken more 1,200 days. Meanwhile, state law dictates these sort of cases should be closed within three months.

    A pain for the mom, I'm sure, but I'm really thinking about her 9-year-old daughter here. You only get 18 years of childhood. To spend three of them hanging in limbo is untenable.

    More from The Stir: Stupid Things People Say to Single Moms

    Granted, child custody cases cannot and should not be handled overnight. Much as parents would like to just get it over with, when you're talking about a child's future, you want to make sure you have all your i's dotted and your t's crossed. Think of it this way: if you make a mistake, it is a child who has to pay for it.

    That said, they should certainly be handled as quickly as humanly possible for the simple reason that you have kids' lives on the line here.

    Custody decisions affect so much more than just which parent is paying the other parent child support. It can affect what school district a child will live in. What activities they can sign up for (nope, sorry, can't do Odyssey of the Mind on Thursdays because I have to go to Mom's in another town!). What birthday parties they can attend (sorry, cousin on Mom's side, but I'm with Dad this weekend, and it would just be way too awkward). And on and on and on.

    Child custody decisions tend to dictate everything that will happen in a child's life, and they have no control over it. The least a court can do is keep in mind that kids grow up fast, and there is no time to waste in putting their life back in order. Kids thrive on routine, but they can't settle into one if they never know when some judge is going to upset the apple cart.

    Three months is bad enough to keep a kid hanging. But three years? You better believe I'd be suing!

    How about you? What do you think the time limit should be for a judge to decide on a child custody case?

     

    Image via -jvl-/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    twins died in fireThe mother of twin boys who died in a tragic fire after she left the 3-year-olds home alone is in jail, but it's not what you think. Dalawna Berran-Lett isn't serving time for the involuntary manslaughter of her toddlers. At least, not yet.

    Berran-Lett pleaded guilty this week to leaving the toddlers to fend for themselves on January 4, telling cops she had left to go find her teenage daughter, who the mother claimed had stolen marijuana from her. A judge ordered the 32-year-old to submit to drug testing before he would decide on her sentence in the boys' death.

    But the Pennsylvania woman never showed.

    So much for taking this whole thing seriously, huh?

    Berran-Lett's twin 3-year-old boys, Ky’heir and Dy’heir, died that fateful night after cops believe they turned on a grease-covered stove, attempting to prepare some food. Their mother wasn't there to save them.

    For that alone, she deserves to be punished. Who in their right mind leaves toddlers alone in a home? The stove is just one of the dangers I can think of right of the top of my head. There are also TVs that can topple. Cleaning fluids that can be ingested. Toilets they can drown in.

    More from The Stir: 9-Year-Old Girl Forced to Drive Drunk Dad to Store

    Anyone who has ever spent five minutes with a toddler knows they needed to be watched like a hawk. But cops say Berran-Lett had her priorities absolutely off-kilter that night. She needed to get her pot back from her 15-year-old.

    That's what she was thinking instead of taking care of her kids. Is it any wonder she doesn't seem to be thinking of the kids even now that they're gone and she's the one responsible?

    Oh, Berran-Lett was arrested and charged, and this week she pleaded guilty to two counts each of involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of children, and recklessly endangering another person.

    But then she failed to show up for her drug test.

    If it's confusing to ponder who would leave toddlers home alone, at least we can hope that she simply didn't expect anything bad to happen. But now that it's happened, now that she's been convicted, shouldn't she be showing a little remorse here? At least a token acknowledgement that these court proceedings are happening because something horrible happened ... to her babies?

    She may have suffered already for her sins. The loss of her twins is unspeakable. But if she can't be bothered to actually follow through with what the court wants, that punishment clearly isn't enough. She needs to be sent to prison.

    What do you think should happen to this mother?

     

    Image via Pittsburgh Police Handout


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    teens at the mallThere are so many reasons to dread your child turning into a teenager. The price of hot water. The cost of car insurance. The fact that everyone who has a teenager tells you to be worried. Oh, and the notion that taking your child to the mall will never be the same again.

    My child is only on the verge of tweenhood, and yet I'm already getting a picture of what shopping is like with someone who thinks you're completely uncool and really just wants to be hiding in Claire's with her friends. Allow me, if you will, to share a little advice. This is how every shopping trip will go for at least eight years ...

    More from The Stir:25 Ways You Know You're the Mother of a Teen

    1. Upon arriving at the mall, you will get out of the car as usual and start walking to the entrance. You will realize she is still a few hundred yards behind you, trying to get out of the minivan without anyone noticing she was actually IN a minivan:

    2. You walk out of a store to find her chatting with her friends, and you call out to her using a name she's suddenly forgotten.


    GIFSoup

    3. You ask her to stop in at the Children's Place with you to grab something for her little sister, but you might as well have suggested she shave her eyebrows and wear the sweater Grandma knitted her for Christmas. IN PUBLIC.

    4. You snag some seriously adorable shoes off the sale rack at DSW and slip them on, and she tries to hide her disgust. Really. Tries.

    5. She realizes you really are not going to give her her own credit card, and that's it. The world is OVER:

    6. But wait! All is not lost! There is a sale on everything that has a skull on it at Hot Topic!

    7. After you've scored some My Little Pony gear "ironically" appropriate for a 16-year-old, things are really looking up. You hit Penney's for a dress for her cousin's bat mitzvah, and she even agrees to try on one of your picks. She emerges from the dressing room only to see a boy she knows, and, wait a second ... "Honey? Where are you?"

    7. You head to the food court, and snag a table while she goes up to grab pizza for both of you. While you're sitting there, you spot her best friend and invite her to sit with you. At least, you thought Betsy was her best friend, until your daughter starts walking back to the table and you get this face:

    8. After you survive the nuclear winter of eating between two teenage girls who used to adore one another, you hit the movie theater where you run into someone she hasn't received a text from in approximately 24 minutes. They talk about the movie while you consider cotton balls to lessen the volume of the screeches:

    9. After a full day together, you return home, and she delivers the most effusive bit of thanks you've gotten in weeks.

    So. Worth it.

    Do you go to the mall with your teenager? What happens? 

     

    Image via D. Sharon Pruitt/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    iPad bouncy seatQuick show of hands. Who thought the iPotty was the stinkiest thing the child's industry could come up with? Wellllll, you were wrong! A potty with an iPad was nothing. Now there's a BOUNCY SEAT with an iPad.

    But wait, you might ask, aren't bouncy seats for babies? Why yes, the Fisher-Price iPad Apptivity Seat is rated "newborn to toddler"!

    And, OK, OK, the doesn't actually come with the iPad. It just has a fancy schmancy holder designed specifically to hold your iPad, and there are apps you get just for making the purchase. It's made for the iPad, folks.

    AND for babies.

    And I think I've got a headache.

    I'm not sure who came up with this idea. Probably someone who saw that people are actually buying the iPotty and thought, "You know what's missing from this world? Babies who have mastered Angry Birds. Let's get on that!"

    More From The Stir: What Kind of Mom Buys Her Toddler an iPhone?

    What I am sure of is the people who are buying it. They're the kind of people who have yet to learn that to place something within two feet of a newborn is to put it in the projectile vomit zone. They're the kind of people who have not yet cottoned on to the fact that, yes, a baby can rip a chunk of hair out of a man's beard, and you'd be surprised exactly how good they are at prying things out of "secure" stands. They're the kind of people who haven't had to play the "pick it up after I've thrown it 30 times" game some 692 times.

    Oh yeah, and they're the kind of people who haven't yet realized that a baby is perfectly happy with a wooden spoon and an empty oatmeal canister.

    But they'll get there.

    Probably after the baby's covered the iPad in baby puke.

    Would you buy your baby a bouncy seat with an iPad? WHO would?

     

    Image via Amazon


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Elaina SteinfurthApparently justice can be swift after all. The mother of murdered Ohio baby Elaina Steinfurth has been convicted of killing her own daughter and sentenced to prison, along with her boyfriend. Yes, this is the same mother and boyfriend who were indicted on murder charges on Monday.

    But after months behind bars on other charges, it seems Angela Mories Steinfurth and Steven King II were finally ready to own up to what they did to her little girl. They went from innocent until proven guilty to guilty and headed to prison in a matter of two days!

    More From The Stir: Murder Charges in Baby Elaina Steinfurth Case Are Heartwrenching

    It's certainly odd, but I'd like to think they had time to reflect on what happened to that little girl back in June and realized they owed her some justice ... if nothing else. Could this be the first time they actually stood up and did something for Elaina?

    Could they have realized that stringing this along is simply adding insult to injury to the people who are grief stricken over the loss of the little girl? That these people deserve some sort of closure?

    Call me naive, but I'd like to think that even monsters can show some compassion now and again.

    Of course, Angela pleaded guilty in what's called an Alford plea. It's akin to pleading no contest to charges. She admitted there was sufficient evidence against her to convict her but didn't actually have to cop to the crime to be convicted. In exchange, she got a lighter sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole at 18 years ... for not 'fessing up, at least not really.

    King, on the other hand, confessed the grisly details of the crime.

    Prosecutors say Angela threw Elaina across the room in a fit of pique when the baby wouldn't stop crying. King then told the court that when he tried to perform CPR, blood was pouring out of the baby girl's nose. He confessed to holding his hand over Elaina's mouth and nose, suffocating the baby.

    For his part, King got his own life sentence with the possibility of parole at 25 years.

    It's ironic that he came clean and got the heavier sentence, but there it is. The mystery is over. The family of Elaina Steinfurth knows not only that she's gone, but why and how.

    And now what? They can move on? It seems impossible, but this is life. It may take a long time, but without a mystery hanging over their heads, or even a trial, they finally get some closure. They know the monsters who did this are behind bars for quite some time, maybe forever.

    That's what comes of swift justice -- something for the families, at least.

    What do you think of the swift convictions here?

     

    Image via National Center for Missing & Exploited Children


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Kate Middleton Prince WilliamToday in "royals, they really are just like us," comes news that makes me love Kate Middleton even more than I already do (as if that's possible?). It seems the Duchess of Cambridge is trying to enforce a nanny-free zone for Prince George ... at least as much as she can. She did, after all, just hire her own mum to travel with her and Prince William to Australia in 2014!

    From the way "sources" are talking, Her Royal Highness worries that the little prince may get "more used to the sight of the help than to his own parents."

    Oof! Talk about words that really kick any working mom right in the guts, huh?

    Yes, this is an issue where Kate Middleton is just like every other mom, albeit with much better hair. OK, and better shoes. And I could keep going on, but point is: if the reports are true -- and by all indications, she is certainly a caring mom very much like her late mother-in-law, so it sounds like her -- Kate Middleton is currently suffering from what is known as working mom syndrome.

    More From The Stir: Why I'm Jealous of Stay-at-Home Moms

    When you're a working mom, you don't get to spend every second that you'd like to spend with your kids. Unless they figure out all the icky ethical issues of cloning, that's the way it is going to be for time immemorial.

    What that means isn't that you should give it all up and barricade yourself in a room with your baby because you only have so much time together before he's a toddler and then, gasp, a teenager. 

    It means Kate -- and every working mom of a baby -- needs to go easy on herself.

    Nannies are OK! Babysitters are OK! The baby will likely love them, and they the baby, but that's a good thing. We want our children to have as much love in the world as they can.

    At the end of the day, babies are a lot smarter than we give them credit for being. They know who Mom and Dad are. Trust me. My daughter wouldn't call out the sitter's name when she was teething. She'd call for me (or my husband). She knew.

    Sure she'd cuddle up to the woman who cared for her when I was working, but that didn't change how she'd turn to me, her little hands out, her facial expression desperate for ME to pick her up. ME. Not someone else. ME. Her mom.

    It's good to hear that her Royal Highness has no intentions of dumping Prince George with nannies for the duration and hightailing it for glamorous parts of the world. She wouldn't be much of a mom if she wasn't concerned about parent/nanny balance.

    But right there is proof positive that she's doing all right at this mother thing. She is concerned! She does want to be "Mom" (or Mum!) to her little boy.

    That's what babies need. Not a mom who is there 100 percent of the time, but a mom who is really there when she is present, and good, safe, stable caregivers when she isn't.

    If Prince George's life can't be nanny-free, he'll be OK ... at least with a mom like Kate.

    What do you think is the right ratio between mom time and nanny time? Even for a prince?

     

    Image via Chris Jackson/Getty Images


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    bead bunny bookmarksMy daughter has been telling me for weeks now that she's making my Christmas gift. So far she hasn't slipped and told me WHAT it is, but I'm looking forward to a handmade holiday gift under the tree. Anything that my kid makes I will treasure.

    But let's face it: not all handmade kid gifts are created equal. Some are more ... let's say useful ... than others. And cuter. Much cuter.

    If you have a crafty kiddo at home, why not let them loose with ideas to make something Grandma and Aunt Susie will actually use? We've rounded up some of the cutest -- and easiest -- handmade holiday gift ideas tailor-made for little hands!

    We've got everyone from the teacher to your favorite baker, a diehard reader to the lady who loves her nails covered, so dive in.

    Number 8 is my favorite, could your kids handle it? What is your favorite gift they've ever made?

     

    Image via Small for Big


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Brittney MasseyMy heart hurts. A 2-year-old has been beaten to death, and cops say it was her mother who killed the toddler for doing something every child has done at least once (if not more). Destinee Massey's supposed "crime"? The toddler peed on the floor.

    For that cops say 23-year-old Brittney Massey beat her daughter within an inch of her life. The little girl died later at a hospital.

    Yes, her parents took her to the hospital.

    It may be better than the mom accused of killing her child in a similar potty training mishap a few years ago and then sat down to eat pizza. But I'm having a hard time seeing this as "remorse" or "caring" for the little girl.

    It turns out it didn't help. According to police, Destinee's father first came home from work at 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday to find his daughter limp, groaning, and gasping for breath. Michael Miles, who is not under investigation, is said to have asked to take the girl to the hospital then and there, but cops say Brittney Massey said no. It wasn't until 8 a.m. that the hospital trip finally happened.

    By that time, it was too late.

    Now I'm a mom. I've potty trained. I know it's frustrating. But I'm really finding it hard to summon any kind of sympathy for actions this heinous.

    Kids pee on the floor! That's what they do! Basically, it sounds like this child was killed for being a child!

    What's more, I'm loathe to say that taking an abused child to the hospital mitigates the abuse itself in any circumstance -- even one where the child survives thanks to medical intervention. The fact is, if you don't hurt your child, you don't have to go to the hospital. Period.

    If anything, the hospital trip here sounds less like it was about the girl than it was about an alleged abuser suddenly worrying she'd be in trouble.

    And trouble she is in. Brittany Massey is facing charges of murder, battery resulting in death, and neglect of a dependent resulting in death.

    If any of the allegations are true, I have to say I hope they throw the book at her -- trip to the hospital or no trip to the hospital. This little girl needed someone who would care for her from the beginning, not after a major beating.

    What punishment fits the crime here?

     

    Image via Indianapolis PD


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Farrah AbrahamMark it on the calendar. Farrah Abraham has managed to keep a secret! But don't you worry curious cats, the Teen Mom star's proud papa can't hold things in, so we're about to find out what she's been up to anyway.

    It seems Farrah's hints about a new TV show are legit this time, and we don't mean Couples Therapy. Pretty much the world knows by now that Farrah is going to be the first reality star to go it alone on the VH1 show. But what else is she up to?

    More From The Stir: 'Teen Mom 2' May Be Back Much Sooner Than We Thought

    Wellllll, Farrah's dad, Michael Abraham, took to Facebook and spilled the beans that her whole family is filming:

    Ah! Made it through a thankful holiday weekend .... Very busy, moved Farrah and Sophia into their new home, installed many many house things for them and enjoyed being with them... This coming weekend we will be busy filming with family and friends .....For a surprise for everyone early next year! I can't tell you yet but you guys will see Farrah, Sophia, Debra and I and "friends" on a special show soon! Be thankful, be strong, be graceful, be respectful, show understanding... Smile and give love to those around you! God bless everyone!

    Now, considering Couples Therapy is a done deal, and we all know about it, he surely can't be talking about that as a "surprise." Not to mention I highly doubt the celebrity therapists really need to bring Farrah's 4-year-oldon VH1 to talk about her dating life.

    I have to say after some of the more disastrous scenes we saw on Teen Mom involving her parents -- especially mom Debra -- it's surprising to hear her new show will involve the entire family. That's not to say it isn't a good thing. Her mom and dad may not be perfect, but they've stuck by their daughter through hell and back. She needs these people in her life, as does little Sophia.

    The question is whether any of them really need to be in front of a camera ...

    At the very least, with a new show that's all about her in the works, if Farrah walks from Couples Therapy -- and rumors have it things are not going well -- she should have something to fall back on!

    Be honest: would you watch another Farrah and fam reality show?

     

    Image via Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Kailyn Lowry baby lincolnPoor Kailyn Lowry. The Teen Mom just gave birth to a baby boy a few weeks ago, and already she is facing a bitter pill of motherhood. Ever heard of the caveman paternity test? Looks like Kail's little guy just passed.

    The theory is that babies come out of the womb looking just like dad to satisfy some sort of primordial need on the man's behalf to confirm that he really is the father. And when it comes to Lincoln Marshall Marroquin, well, you've seen the pictures, haven't you? He is husband Javi Marroquin's clone. Or as Kail put it this week:

    Javi must've created Lincoln by himself. He looks nothing like meeee! Hahaha

    — Kailyn Lowry (@KailLowry) December 4, 2013

    Is it me or does Kail sound like she's laughing just to keep the tears from flowing?

    Most moms hate admitting the baby looks like Dad instead of her!

    Now, hold on. I'm not trying to create drama for the Lowry/Marroquin family. I'm sure she loves her little boy and Javi too, but having been there and done that, I know it's a little bittersweet.

    More From The Stir: 'Teen Mom 2' May Be Back Much Sooner Than We Thought

    When the nurses handed my daughter to me in the hospital, I looked down the bridge of her nose and down to her little lips, and all I could see was my husband in her little face. I wanted to cry. Like Kail, I'm absolutely head over heels for my husband and daughter both. This is not some sign of my marriage headed for the crapper. I was a complete mess of hormones and exhaustion at the time (hello, just had a baby!).

    But there's also something about carrying a baby in YOUR STOMACH for nine months that makes you feel like they're a part of you. When they come out looking like dad, it's a bit of a downer. You just did all that work -- you suffered the back pain and the constipation and the contractions ... and he gets all the glory?

    Harumph.

    The good news -- for Kail and all the rest of you ladies nursing hurt feelings that baby doesn't seem to have a bit of you in him (or her) -- is they change. Trust me. My daughter is now 8, and most people say she favors my side of the family these days. Although she still has her father's lips.

    Lincoln is bound to show some Kail in him one of these days!

    What do you think of Kail's confession? Would you be hurt if the baby looked like Dad?

     

    Image via Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Chessie Wood
    In horrifying news, cops investigating the disappearance of a missing girl in Alabama have busted a pedophile ring wide open. Nearly a dozen folks are now under arrest on charges that range from rape to sodomy to sexual abuse of a minor under the age of 12. Almost as chilling? Everyone arrested is related to missing teen mom Brittney Wood!

    Eleven alleged pedophiles and sexual deviants ... from one family? We all have that one black sheep in the family that we steer clear of, but 11?!

    Cops say Brittney Wood, the teenage mom who went missing in May 2012 after she went to visit her uncle, Donald Holland, was going to confront him about sex abuse allegations involving several kids in her family.

    Instead she disappeared, and Donald was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound two days later. Since then, cops have rounded up 11 members of the family, including Brittney's mom, Chessie Wood, who faces charges of sodomy and sex abuse of a child under 12; and her brother, Derek Wood, who is charged with second-degree rape and second-degree sodomy. Another of the other 11 relatives facing various charges is Jennifer Moore, 32, a Cub Scouts leader, who is being charged with production of pornography involving minors and second-degree child abuse.

    The charges are all disgusting, but I keep coming back to the relationships between the charged. 

    How is it one family can spawn so many monsters? Is it even possible? I mean, at this point, all 11 folks are innocent until proven guilty, so there's always the chance that maybe one or two really didn't have anything to do with sex crimes against children. 

    A chance.

    But even if one or two are innocent, that still leaves, what, 10? Nine?

    What's that old saying about the apple not falling far from the tree? I suppose it applies here.

    Although I prefer to think that each generation tries to do things a little bit better than the previous one, the sad truth is that we can only do so much in life to escape our genes and only so much to improve upon the way we were raised. So often the sins of the son are the sins of the father being repeated because the son doesn't know any better.

    Do you have a black sheep of the family or are there several? 

     

    Image via Baldwin County Sheriff's Office


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    little girlIn many ways, my daughter is quite like me. We share the same blue eyes. The same ability to talk and talk and talk and then talk some more. But my daughter, quite simply put, is a pretty girl where I am more of a tomboy. 

    It's mystified me from the first time she chose a sparkly pink doll over a Tonka truck, but there it is. I have a daughter who makes straight for the dresses in the clothing store, who once poured an entire pot of glitter in her hair in the hope that she could truly sparkle. Who is unlike me in more ways than I can begin to describe.

    It's a challenge as a mother, but not in the ways that so many moms of my generation see it. My challenge is to resist the urge to unpretty my daughter.

    If you're not familiar with the term, perhaps it's because I just made it up after reading Shannon Bradley-Colleary's essay "Why I Stopped Trying to Make My Daughter Be Pretty." In her realization that her desperate attempts to fix up her daughter's hair for her school pictures was -- at its root -- a selfish attempt to create one particular aesthetic to share with friends and family, I saw a mother who is troubled by the battle between "pretty" and "letting her just be herself."

    In many ways, I identify.

    I'm a child of the '80s, raised in a time when the hard work of a generation of feminists was finally being realized with measurable successes. By the time I was born, the battle for a woman's right to choose had already been waged and won. I was a little girl when Sally Ride rocketed into the history books as the first woman in space, and Margaret Thatcher was one of the most powerful people on earth in my childhood.

    I grew up in a time when mothers could truly begin to tell their daughters that we could be anything we wanted to be. We took it, and we ran with it, and now that we are mothers ourselves, we continue to push for equality for our own daughters.

    We do it, however, with our own angst over every Barbie Dreamhouse and LEGO Friends figurine. Every purchase we make is fraught with questions about what kind of "message" this sends to our daughters. We find ourselves buying things because they scream "girl power," not because anyone asked for them ... or needs them.

    Pink, we have been told, is bad. Toys should be gender neutral! Pretty, we have been told, is bad. Women should be judged not on how they look, but who they are underneath.

    It's true and not true. Gender neutral toys should be available in mass quantities. Women should be judged on who we are at our core. But in the rush to gain equality, we can't forget what we're fighting for, whom we are fighting for.

    We aren't fighting for the color blue or waging a war against eyeshadow. We are fighting for girls to be who they want, be it a ninja warrior or a pretty, pretty princess.

    I fight for my daughter. I fight for a little girl who last year requested a bubblegum pink bedroom not because we'd told her it was what was best, but because, when told to choose any paint sample in the hardware store, that was the one that she liked best. I fight for a little girl who has a dresser drawer full of jeans but who still begged to wear a dress and stockings to the holiday parade in 19-degree weather.

    I wear blue jeans and hooded sweatshirts with sneakers nearly every day of the week, but that's my choice. It isn't hers. Forcing it on her will not make her smarter or more powerful. A focus on being "unpretty" will make her bitter and uncomfortable in her own skin.

    It is not who she is or who she is trying to be, and I have found I'm prouder to be raising a girl who knows who she is than I would be to have a carbon copy of me. 

    Realizing that has, in many ways, made parenting easier. I have stopped buying blue. I have stopped pushing dinosaurs and other interests she simply does not wish to pursue (side note, I still bring things up as you don't know you don't like something until after you've tried it).

    I fight, not every day, but probably every week, to bite my tongue when my little girl comes traipsing out of her room in yet another outfit I wouldn't be caught dead wearing to the bathroom, forget wearing in public. I buy the little Hello Kitty nail stickers she wants without comment. I accept hot pink cards covered in unicorn stickers with heartfelt emotion equal to the amount poured into making them.

    This is what women have been fighting for for years, isn't it? The right for a little girl to be who she wants to be?

    Do you ever feel guilty letting your daughter be "girly"? How do you fight the guilt?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    samantha dodsonHere's a story that may make you question who your friends are. An Oregon family is in the midst of a harrowing ordeal as police make a public plea for the return of their missing daughter. Samantha Dodson is just 13, and she hasn't been seen since Tuesday night.

    Cops believe the teenager may have run away with a 40-year-old homeless man who is friends with the girl's father! Or at least, Kelsey McCune WAS friends with Samantha's dad. No telling now.

    Samantha was seen Tuesday night, but when someone went to wake her up on Wednesday morning for school, the girl was gone. Now cops believe she may be with McCune, a friend of Samantha's dad who had just eaten Thanksgiving dinner with the family. There's no indication why the two would be together, but Samantha's sister has told media she's worried about the "relationship" between the girl and the older man.

    Although they believe Samantha might have run away with him, they're calling her an "endangered" child.

    It's a heckuva position to be in as a parent. You're worried about your child, first and foremost, and on the other hand, you're wondering what the heck your supposed friend is up to? After you broke bread with him?

    Because McCune is a transient with no known address, cops are having a hard time finding him and hence finding Samantha. They're asking the public to spread information about her and him in hopes that they can bring her back home.

    So here it is. Samantha Dodson is 5 feet 4 inches tall and 125 pounds with brown eyes and hair she recently dyed red. Kelsey McCune is 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, with a glass eye and salt-and-pepper hair. Anyone with information on her whereabouts should call the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office at 503-723-4949.

    Will you be sharing Samantha's photos?

     

    Image via Clackamas County Sheriff


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Jenelle Evans familyIt looks like Jenelle Evans is a free woman. No, her divorce from husband and jailbird Courtland Rogers hasn't come through yet (Wednesday officially marked their one-year wedding anniversary!), but the Teen Mom 2 star has managed to get her child support revoked. Jenelle's mom, Barbara Evans, has reportedly agreed to stop making her daughter pay for the care of her grandson.

    Of course there is one little sticking point in all this holly, jollyness. Jenelle isn't going to pay child support anymore, but she isn't taking back custody of Jace. Which makes her, what, exactly?

    More From The Stir: Kailyn Lowry Comes to Terms With the Sad Truth About Baby Lincoln

    She's not her child's guardian. She doesn't live with him. She isn't on record as someone paying for his care. So she's, what, an auntie who comes over to play occasionally? A babysitter who is actually related by blood? 

    This is a girl who had a warrant out for her arrest earlier this year because she was so far behind on her $130 a month child support, and now all of a sudden her mom says, "Eh, it's OK, you don't have to pay."

    The whole thing is just too strange for words.

    More than that, it's sad. Here's a little boy who doesn't really know what his mom thinks of him. She can't get her act together enough to take custody of him, but now she's cutting off child support too? What kind of message does this send to the child?

    Not the 4-year-old -- he doesn't know who's paying for his sneakers and toys -- but to Jace in a few years when he starts getting a handle on who actually pays the bills and who actually signs his permission slips and attends his school events? How can he call Jenelle "Mom" when she really has no legal ties to him?

    There is no one perfect way to deal with child custody. I know a fair amount of parents opt out of a formal child support arrangement simply because it's costly to get the courts involved. They broker a deal themselves and just pay in every month because that's being a parent -- supporting your child, even when you aren't there to give physical care. 

    But considering the courts are already involved, that's surely not the case for Jenelle and Barbara. If anything, it just sounds like another chance for the almost-22-year-old to go have fun instead of fulfilling her obligations to her son. Just think what she can do with an extra $130 a month!

    What do you call a parent who doesn't have custody OR pay any form of child support?

     

    Image via Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Glee ChristmasAlright, who got baked before they sat down to write the Glee Christmas episode? Dubbed "Previously Unaired Christmas," the episode was -- as you'd expect by the name -- presented by Jane Lynch (as herself, not Sue Sylvester!) as one Fox canned last year but allowed them pull out of the archives for some festive fun. If Sue breaking character wasn't a sign that things were going to get weird, maybe Jane Lynch dropping coal in Meritt Weaver's stocking should have clued you in that hijinks were afoot?

    Either way, it happened. We went tripping back to 2012, when Kurt and Blaine were still broken up, Santana was just getting over Brittany, and somehow it was OK for a glee club at a public high school to put together a living nativity, complete with a transgender Virgin Mary (aka Unique) singing Diana Ross' "Love Child."

    You starting to get the idea that this was the trippiest Glee episode ever? Which isn't to say that it wasn't fun entertaining a little alternate reality!

    Ever wondered what would happen if Kurt and Blaine weren't getting married and Kurt decided to throw caution to the wind?

    We found out tonight he'd probably end up on Santa's naughty list.

    And I do mean that literally. When Rachel gets jobs for her, Kurt, and Santana as elves at the midtown mall, the New York New Directions end up working for a drunken Santa who leaves them high and dry to deal with a crowd of kids desperate to offload their wish lists on a fat guy in a red suit. Help arrives in the form of a muscled man clad in Santa's pants and a red jacket left open to show off his rippling abs. Naturally Kurt invites the sexy Santa over to their place, because these are kids from Ohio and no one ever told them not to open their home to strangers in the big city.

    What could go wrong?

    Other than Santa getting the new New Yorkers liquored up and high on helium, then tying Kurt up for some role playing so he can rob them blind?

    Poor Kurt! The one time he sets aside the proper Lady Hummel act, and he ends up trussed like a Christmas turkey with some spare garland! He's just not cut out for the bad boy routine!

    Thank goodness this was a scene of what Christmas might have been, not Christmas present! Too bad we won't get to see Kurt and Blaine's real holiday together ... Glee is now on hiatus until February.

    What did you think of the flashback episode? Did you catch any continuity issues?

     

    Image via Adam Rose/Fox


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Nelson Mandela statueThe death ofNelson Mandela on Thursday at age 95 has been a loss felt not just in his native South Africa, but across the globe. The country's first black president was one of the fiercest advocates for equality that the world has seen, not merely at home in his country, but around the world. The revolutionary who battled South Africa's racist apartheid policies was also a man of great wisdom, and he had only to open his mouth for the world to stop and listen.

    How do we remember Nelson Mandela today? It seems only appropriate to look back at quotes from a man who spoke often of what it means to be united as a people, not divided by racial lines.

    Do you remember hearing #10? What is your most impactful memory of Nelson Mandela?

     

    Image via G Milner/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Teen Mom 2 castBy now it's pretty much a given that we will see a season 5 of Teen Mom 2. There is already a rumored airdate, people! They can't take it away from us now! But could MTV already be working on a season 6?!

    The future of the show may have been revealed by none other than star Kailyn Lowry the other day -- albeit by accident! You see, Kail was really trying to show off her dog in an Instagram shot. But she ended up letting us all in on what the MTV crew is doing ... in her house! Check it out:

    Kailyn Lowry dog MTV crew

    See that guy with the Rottie jumping on him?

    Kail captioned the photo with "Bear is almost as tall as @ruggz167."

    Well, as it happens, @ruggz167 is a member of the MTV crew. Considering the shot was posted this week, and Kailyn's trying to show how big her dog is NOW, it's safe to say that means MTV is filming. Right. Now.

    Not to mention, Javi let slip just this week that he's going to miss all the laughs he's had with the crew.

    More From The Stir: Latest News on Jenelle Evans' Custody Case Shows She's More 'Teen' Than 'Mom'

    The last time we saw footage of Kailyn or her co-stars -- Jenelle, Leah, and Chelsea -- on TV was this past spring, but that was all shot more than a year prior. Remember, it preceded Jenelle hooking up with Courtland, Leah's delivery of Adalynn, Kail's entire pregnancy, Chelsea's ex getting another girl pregnant, and a whole lot more? So MTV has a LOT to catch up on. So much that I'm wondering: if they're filming now, can they possibly keep it all to just one season?

    Typically the Teen Mom seasons have covered only so much territory, but here we are a year and a half past the last time the girls were being filmed, and they're filming.

    Surely that's too much for them to edit down to just one season. We'd miss way too much drama from our favorite girls. Right?

    OK, maybe it's just wishful thinking, but then again, we see MTV is definitely interested in what is going on in the girls' lives right now. And so are we!

    Would you watch a season 6? What do you hope they'll cover?

     

    Images via MTV; Instagram


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    baby and big sisterIt seems like everyone and their mother have enough digital know-how to take a bunch of images from a baby's first year and make a video these days. Most of them are pretty cute because, duh, baby's first year. But sometimes there's a little something special that sets a baby's first year apart. For mom Ilana Wiles, that's her baby's big sister.

    Wiles, who blogs at the wildly popular Mommy Shorts, has a beauty in baby Harlow. But her older daughter, Mazzy, steals the show in Harlow's first year video by basically being the big sister every mom dreams of giving to her little girl.

    Sibling rivalry, schmibling rivalry! Do me a favor ... grab some tissues before you settle in to watch, because this kind of sisterly love will get even the grinches going:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Go on and try to tell me your heart didn't grow a few sizes while watching that.

    It's always tough bringing a new baby into the house because you don't know how older kids are going to react. Will they be hurt by the attention you are giving to the baby? Will they hurt the baby (not on purpose, but just because they don't know any better)? But when your older child falls in love with your baby, and your baby looks up to their big sibling, it's pure magic.

    The thing that's really amazing about Ilana Wiles' video is that it's so apparent that the love works both ways. Big girl Mazzy is enamored with her little sister, but Harlow adores her big sister too.

    This may be one mom's beautiful tribute to her baby girl's first year, but it's one every mom who is wondering if her kids will bond needs to watch. The love between siblings is something special.

    How did your older child (or children) react to the baby? How does the baby react to their older siblings?

     

    Image via Ilana Rosengarten Wiles/YouTube


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Bring what it saidAh, kids, they are sources of unintentional humor, aren't they? And you know what kids are doing these days? That's right, they're all sitting down to write their letters to Santa, those long carefully printed missives containing unfortunate misspellings, outlandish demands, and of course, embarrassment for their parents!

    Kids do say the darndest things, don't they? Especially to the jolly old fat guy who may bring them their every heart's desire for Christmas.

    More From The Stir: Why I'll Stop Arguing With My Daughter About Her Need to Be Pretty

    So, for kids from 1 to 92, I'm offering some of the funniest Santa letters you will read this season!

    What's the funniest thing YOUR kid has written in a letter to Santa? Is it anything like #9?


    Image via Instagram


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