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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.

    Abigail HernandezFrom day one, cops have not known whether or not missing New Hampshire teenager Abigail Hernandez would just up and leave her family. Now, nearly two whole months since the 15-year-old disappeared, there's new evidence that she may be alive ... but she is likely in danger. A letter, sent to Abigail's mother, has become public.

    What's so significant about this letter, you ask? Cops say the letter -- received by Zendaya Hernandez in November -- was written by Abigail and postmarked October 23. Abigail went missing on October 9.

    In many ways this is the news you hope to hear about a missing child.

    It's a sign that she's alive.

    That's a good thing, right?

    We've heard often enough that missing children must be found within 48 hours if they're ever to be found alive, but here's solid proof that Abby was alive well beyond that. That means -- hopefully -- that she is still alive, that she could still make it home.

    But there's something so unsettling about a letter as opposed to a phone call or even a video message. What was happening to Abigail as she wrote it? Why did she write it at all?

    It's almost the cruelest thing you can do to a mom -- to dangle hope like a carrot several feet in front of you. There's a link to her daughter, but it's not her daughter. She can't see her and can't touch her, can't hear her voice.

    If I were in Zendaya Hernandez' shoes, I'm sure I'd be reading and re-reading that thing until my eyes could barely stay open, desperate for some clue in there, hoping that maybe my child snuck me some secret message of where she might be held.

    The cops, by the way, do think she's being held, but they are hopeful that this letter might be an indication she's somewhere that we can find her. They want the public's help.

    "Look at your neighbor. Look at the grocery store. Look at your church. Is there someone ... you haven’t seen before?” urged Associate New Hampshire Attorney General Jane Young in a statement to the media about Abigail's case.

    Folks, I don't know if you tend to be a "mind my own beeswax" kind of person or if you are as nosy as ol' Gladys Kravitz. We all owe it to this kid, and to her mom, to keep an eye out. If you see something, say something!

    What do you think the letter said?

     

    Image via FBI


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    bento box lunchBeing a parent is a hard job. It may not be the hardest in the world, but come on, dealing with someone who still thinks it's OK to crayon on walls and wear Spiderman undies (and nothing but) outside when it's 19 degrees is not easy. So here's what I really don't get: why are there parents out there who actually work to make it HARDER on the rest of us?

    You know the ones I'm talking about. They're the over-achieving a-holes who haven't just done everything you've pinned on your Pinterest board as a "huh, maybe one day," but they've IMPROVED upon the infamous bunny bread!

    The issue isn't all the time they're wasting play ubermom (or dad). They're the ones missing out on all the time they could be spending catching up on the Kardashians (oh come on, you've watched it too). It's how bad they make the rest of us look to our kids.

    Because, yes, their kids talk to our kids, and our kids come home and we have to hear all about ...

    1. Tooth Fairy Mom. You feel lucky if you remember to actually take the tooth when you put the money under the pillow at 2 a.m. after doing 5 baskets of laundry.

    She puts on glitter lipstick so she can give her kiddo a "fairy kiss" that he'll see in the mirror in the morning. THEN she pours flour on the bedroom floor and walks a Barbie through it to leave "fairy footprints." Oh yeah, and she sprang for the special "Tooth Fairy dollars."

    2. Santa Dad. You probably have some "Santa" wrapping paper you use only on gifts from the big guy, and maybe you write the "to Johnny, from Santa" with your left hand to disguise the handwriting.

    He climbs up on a snow covered roof at 10 p.m. and runs around so the kids will hear "real" hoofbeats on Christmas Eve. And he has HIS OWN SANTA SUIT.

    More From The Stir: 15 Unintentionally Hilarious Letters From Kids to Santa

    3. Bento Mom. You think it's enough to make sure the cold cuts aren't spoiled before you slap them on bread and throw them in one of those reusable sandwich baggies (look, you're going green!), don't you?

    Sorry, but in that same 5 minutes you took to make one sandwich, she's recreated Santa's entire village AND his reindeer out of some brown rice and broccoli. And damn straight her kid is going to eat it.

    4. Elf on the Shelf® Dad. You try to move the thing to a different spot in the living room at least a few times during the month of December, or at least every time the kid starts whining that little Elfie must have been too tired to visit Santa last night.

    He spent a week in his workshop building doll-sized sets that can be quietly taken down and put back up so nary a sleeping child will be awoken by the magic being made in the den.

    5. Snack Mom. You find out it's your turn to provide the class snack, so you hit the grocery store for a big box of Entenmann's because WHO DOESN'T LIKE ENTENMANN'S?

    She brings fresh baked macarons to school and then pipes the ganache in, while standing in front of a classroom full of kindergartens, bringing them to complete silence for a French culinary lesson.

    6. Science Fair Dad. You bugged your kid about their potato-powered electricity project every day for a week so they'd actually hand the thing in on time.

    He made an electric CAR. That you can DRIVE.

    How are we supposed to compete with all this?

    What over-achieving parents drive you crazy?

     

    Image via D&S McSpadden/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    red and green ornamentWondering what crazy thing schools are going to ban next? How about colors? Yup, a public school in Texas is under fire for banning the colors red and green at its upcoming winter party (yes, winter, not Christmas). Nichols Elementary in Frisco, Texas, is en route to having the most politically correct holiday season ever.

    And absolutely confusing the heck out of its students, I might add.

    Apparently the official rules for winter parties at Nichols are as follows:

    No reference to Christmas or any other religious holiday, no red, green, or Christmas trees, and nothing that will stain the carpet.

    More From The Stir: Christmas Carols Don't Belong in Public Schools

    I'm pretty liberal, folks. I don't think kids should be singing Christmas carols in schools because it simply isn't fair to non-Christian kids (any more than it would be fair to Christian kids if they were forced to sing Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu songs ... think about it).

    But the point of banning holiday speak inside public schools is simply to prevent kids from being forced by a non-religious government organization (aka a school) to participate in something religious-based. It's not to pretend holidays don't exist at all.

    We want kids to learn about the world around them, don't we? To be aware of current events and to explore them in an inquisitive manner -- albeit a non-indoctrinative.

    Unfortunately when you go so far as to ban COLORS, which have no more to do with religion than Frosty the Snowman does with pagan worshipping of the winter solstice, the message being sent to kids isn't about respect and religious tolerance. It's a message of fear. Don't ask about that, kids, because you're going to get in trouble! Don't you dare wear your favorite holiday sweater, kid, because it's baaaaad.

    Before a move is made to ban anything in schools, the question must be asked: what will this actually TEACH the kids? Because if it is just going to confuse them, what's the point?

    What would you do if your kids had red and green at their school winter party?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    leeanna brownIf trying to sell your newborn once is unthinkable, what is trying to sell your baby twice? Try criminal. Leeanna Brown of Kentucky is in a heap of trouble this week after cops found out she tried to sell her baby to her cousin. But wait, that's not all!

    Cops in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, say that was the second time Brown treated her baby like a secondhand car. But thank goodness for the second attempt -- it seems it's what nailed her.

    According to Elizabethtown police, when a deal to sell her baby to a woman for $5,000 fell through, Brown handed the baby over to cousin Luondra Martin, who thought she'd be able to adopt the little girl. But then cops say Brown came back to Martin and said she wanted her baby back ... unless Martin would pay court costs and fines for a case she had pending.

    Fortunately Martin went to the cops about the whole thing, and now Brown is charged with selling or purchasing a child for adoption, a class D felony. Facing as much as five years in prison, she's lost the little girl to foster care. Her older kids were already staying with other families, but they too have been taken into foster care -- all three sisters are reportedly now together.

    More From Our Partners: Man Does the Unthinkable to Little Boy Who Bullied His Son

    Sad as it makes this whole case that a mom allegedly tried not once but twice to sell her own child, if you think about it, the second attempted sale here was likely a lifesaver for this little girl. It sounds twisted, I know, but can you imagine what life would be like with a woman who'd tried to sell her for less than it costs to buy a decent car? With a woman who didn't wise up after the first sale didn't go through?

    I have to wonder why the first "buyer" didn't go to the cops herself. She (or he) could have saved the baby a lot of heartache right there. But thank goodness the mom allegedly slipped up again, because no kid should be stuck with a mother who treats her like a product you can sell on a whim.

    What do you think the punishment should be here?

     

    Image via Hardin County Detention Center


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    wine glassesHere's a tough one. A mother has been arrested because cops say she gave her 13-year-old son alcohol. But Chastity Lee Cravens didn't throw a party with a bunch of drunken teenagers. She didn't even give her son a bottle of booze and walk off. Cops say mother and son got drunk, together, at the kitchen table. 

    Now mom is facing charges of felony child abuse. Does this sound like child abuse to you?

    I'm not so sure. 

    I don't think Cravens sounds like a perfect parent here. She apparently called 911 when she found her kid passed out in his room, which is a bit much. Not to mention she had two other young kids sleeping in the house.

    That said, it sounds like she would have been arrested even if he hadn't passed out because giving alcohol to a minor is illegal in Utah -- even your own kid. I have to say I'm a little concerned with the notion that letting your teenager get drunk in the safety of your home equates to felony child abuse.

    You see, I was raised in one of those households where alcohol was not provided, but it wasn't withheld either. I had small tastes of wine with dinner as a tot, and as I got older, my parents might offer me a frozen cocktail on a holiday.

    But the drinking moment I really remember from my teenage years is that first time I got good and drunk on orange juice and vodka. 

    I. Was. Hammered!

    And when my mother woke me up after a nap, I was miserable, but she made me go out to dinner with the family anyway to prove a point.

    It was one of the best lessons about alcohol I think I could have had as a kid. Too much = horrible headache and roiling stomach.

    In the years since, I've talked to more than a few parents who got good and drunk at least once at home as a teenager. They did it in the safety of their own homes, and their parents were generally aware that it was happening. It's a lesson that's stuck with them, so much so that a few have allowed their own children to get drunk once just to teach them that same lesson.

    My kid is only 8, so we haven't gone that route, but I have thought long and hard about how to really demonstrate how devastating alcohol can be to her system when she's old enough to handle it.

    There is never really a good time for a teenager to get drunk, is there? But I can think of some really bad ones: when they're about to get behind the wheel of a car, perhaps, or when they're a new kid at college, hanging out with a bunch of kids they don't know. Doing it at home, with your parents right there? That's about as good a time as any, in my book.

    What do you think of parents who let their kids get drunk to teach them a lesson? Is that child abuse?

     

    Image via Dinner Series/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    baby highchairHere's a scary statistic for parents. Would you believe that one child every hour is injured in an incident involving a highchair? Believe it, Moms and Dads! Parents may have been using the little stations to bring baby to the dinner table for generations, but it turns out we're actually getting worse at using them, not better!

    Over the eight years of a study of highchair safety, doctors said injuries actually increased 20 percent. And we're not just talking little scratches. Kids are suffering from brain injuries that send them to the ER. Seriously, parents, what gives?

    It's not the highchairs, folks!

    The doctors at Nationwide Children's Hospital lay the blame for 9,400 highchair injuries a year (that's JUST the injuries that landed a kid in an ER) on parents.

    So what do you need to do to keep your baby safe?

    1. Read the darn directions. I know, I know, you're smarter than a hunk of plastic. But set your ego aside for five minutes and humor me. It could save your baby from a lump on the noggin.

    2. Use the straps, not just the tray, as a restraint. According to the data, two-thirds of the children hurt were either climbing or standing in the chair right before they fell. That means they were not strapped in ... at least not strapped in tightly enough that they wouldn't fall.

    3. Put the highchair away when not in use. Not always easy if you have a small kitchen, but an empty chair is mighty inviting for a child to climb up on ... and fall out of! Chairs with wheels can also be dangerous for babies who are starting to pull up. They can pull up to standing, using the bars of the highchair for stability, only for the wheels to start rolling the chair away, dropping them on the floor.

    4. Don't place the chair too close to the table (at least not when you're going to walk away). Many kids in the study had actually pushed off from the table with their feet and tipped themselves backward. Kids who are close to the table also have a tendency to reach out and grab at things -- including knives and hot liquids.

    5. Check for recalls! The injuries were mostly from the above safety concerns, but highchairs do get recalled, and it's always better to be safe than sorry.

    Has your child ever been hurt in the highchair? What happened?

     

    Image via DK Limited/Corbis


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

     

    jackie turnerAccording to the song, this is the most wonderful time of the year what with the parties for hosting and marshmallows for roasting and all. But for a 26-year-old woman from California who doesn't have a family to swap presents with, the holidays were shaping up to be pretty grim. Well, that is until she decided to post a Craigslist ad offering to rent a mom and dad for the holidays.

    Jackie Turner's offer to pay a couple $8 an hour to be her folks for the holidays has gone viral, and the result is, well, it's everything we want to sing about this time of year.

    Turner has had has so many offers, she had to shut down her Craigslist ad. She's on national media telling her story of growing up as an abused kid who ended up fending for herself on the streets and spent a stint in jail before turning her life around and going back to school. She's pulling a 4.0 and on her way to making something of herself.

    Turner is going to spend the holidays not with a family she's renting out but with a group of the kind folks who responded to her ad, all together as one giant makeshift family.

    A happy ending?

    Not quite.

    At least, I'm hoping it isn't the end of this story. The way people have responded to Turner's appeal for some human comfort on the holidays has made me hopeful that people will look around their own communities for folks like her, folks who don't have anyone to share their holidays.

    Wouldn't it make this heartwarming story all the more incredible if people actually took the sentiment and ran with it? If people like Turner didn't have to turn to Craigslist to find a family because families simply appeared?

    More From The Stir: Mom Finally Reunited With Kidnapped Daughter After 44 Years Apart

    I think a lot of us figure we have it covered because we tend to be more charitable around this time of year. You might drop some stuff off at the homeless shelter or even swing by the soup kitchen to serve meals on Christmas morning while the kids are still in bed.

    That's important, don't get me wrong. 

    But the truth is there are many people who fall through the cracks on holidays because, like Jackie Turner, they simply don't have a family. They aren't homeless. They are fortunate enough not to need to visit the soup kitchen.

    They're just alone.

    And we don't have to have a ton of money to share what it is people really want on the holidays: someone to give them a hug and ask how they're doing (and really want to know the answer).

    As Turner said in her ad:

    I am looking to rent a mom and dad who can give me attention and make me feel like the light of their life just for a couple of days because I really need it.

    We love to gripe about our families, and no more so than at the holidays, but her words really put in perspective how lucky we are to HAVE families to complain about, don't they?

    So why not share them?

    Look around your neighborhood. Do you know an elderly widow who will wake up on Christmas to an empty house? Invite her over for dinner. Know a single lady whose parents don't live nearby? Ask if she's interested in coming over to make cookies on Christmas Eve.

    Think about the people at work. Is that single guy two cubicles over really going to watch basketball ALONE on Christmas? Your TV will be on, why not invite him over?

    Not so sure about inviting people you don't know all that well in to your home for the holiday? That's smart, but that doesn't mean you can't share your family with people who would love to have one.

    Check with your local senior citizens group to find out if they know who will be alone on the holiday, and make a point to dress the kids up after presents are opened to make a few stops around town with plates of cookies and big smiles.

    Ask your local community center or church if they hold a get-together for folks alone on the holidays, and make a point to swing by ... preferably with food in hand.

    The greatest gift you give this holiday might not cost you anything more than your time.

    Who shares your holidays?

     

    Image via News10


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Farrah AbrahamWhen the news broke that Farrah Abraham was going to appear on VH1 Couples Therapy alone, the jokes were pretty easy to make. The Teen Mom is officially the first to ever star on the reality series about couples and their relationships without actually being in a couple (at least not onscreen). But it may be time to stop joking.

    The official trailer for the series -- which airs next month on VH1 -- is out! And aside from the shock of Real Housewives star Taylor Armstrong matter-of-factly referring to husband Russell's suicide with the words, "I found him hanging," Farrah's admissions are far and away the most shocking.

    Are you ready for this?

    More From The Stir: Kailyn Lowry Spills Future of 'Teen Mom 2'

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Did you catch that last part? Where Farrah admitted she has to figure out what the f--k she's doing to herself? Did Farrah actually, gasp, just admit she's not right about something?

    Jenn Berman isn't just a celebrity therapist. She must be a darn miracle worker!

    Folks, if Farrah is actually up for looking inside herself, this could make for some highly engaging television. We don't even need Jon Gosselin destroying a dining room table (that's what he was doing, right?).

    What do you hope to see on Couples Therapy?

     

    Image via VH1/YouTube


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    teen momMan oh man, have there been a lot of rumors about those Teen Mom girls lately. Jenelle Evans is getting a spin-off. No, Amber Portwood is. Noooo, Mackenzie Douthit's getting a spin-off! No way, there will be no more Teen Mom 3 girls ever on MTV! Well, maybe ... It's enough to give you a serious crick in the neck going back and forth between the truth and rumors!

    So how about we answer your burning Teen Mom questions once and for all? Who is coming back and who is MTV done with? Well, here's what we know for sure:

    1. Mackenzie Douthit is NOT getting a spin-off. I know, I know, it's not fair for the world to miss out on that wild redneck wedding, but MTV has officially spoken on this one. They say there is "no truth" to that rumors.

    2. Jenelle Evans is NOT getting a spin-off. She may bring the drama to Teen Mom 2, but she won't do it all by herself. How do we know? Jenelle herself says so:

    There's no spin-off with me and @GroundLevelUp isn't going to jail.

    — Jenelle Evans (@PBandJenelley_1) December 10, 2013

     

    3. Teen Mom 3 IS cancelled. Sad to say we won't see Mackenzie, Briana, Katie, or Alex for another season, but MTV has spoken on this one too.

    4. Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra ARE coming back to MTV. Everyone's favorite couple will show up "where are they now" style on MTV. In fact, Tyler just shared photos of the cameras that MTV crews set up in his car as they film.

    More From The Stir: 'Teen Mom' Farrah Abraham's New Show Has Some Surprising Co-Stars

    5. Teen Mom 2 IS coming back. MTV has been pretty quiet on this one, but the stars haven't. Kailyn herself shared some photographic evidence of an MTV crew at her house last week.

    6. Amber Portwood IS filming for MTV. Paparazzi hanging around for Amber's release from prison happened to catch camera crews there to greet her, starting the rumors that MTV would be sharing her post-prison story, but the real clincher was her ex-boyfriend Gary Shirley admitting that they've been filming.

    Which news has you most excited?

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    babyIt's here! It's here! The CafeMom list of the top baby names for 2013 is here! And there's one major message for parents out there when it comes to baby naming: the classics are back, Jack!

    There are a few names with unusual spellings that made the top 50 girls' and top 50 boys' names -- Aubree, Jaxon -- but the names that seem to have really taken hold for American moms and dads are largely traditional!

    When it comes to boys, that tradition seems to lean toward Biblical names with Noah taking the number three spot and Elijah not far behind at number 8. Jacob, James, Samuel, Luke, Adam, Eli, Gabriel, and Matthew all make the list too. Mason grabbed top honors for the boy names this year, jumping from number two on the 2012 list (after jumping from number four on the 2011 baby name list!).

    As for girls?

    Moms and dads are picking strong names that will last a lifetime: Emma has climbed from number three on last year's list to take the top spot, but she only just edged out Sophia -- which was last year's number one. Moms who love Lily -- or some version of it -- are in good company. She made the list in three forms this year with Lily (one "l"), Lilly (two "l"s), and Lillian!

    More from The Stir: 14 Banned Baby Names That Kind of Crack Us Up

    I can't help but notice that there are a number of names that we've seen a lot on Teen Mom -- Isaac, Mackenzie, Aubree, Sophia, and even Bentley making the list! Seems they're right on the pulse, huh?

    So what else made the list? Without further ado ...

    100 hottest baby names of 2013

    Girls:

    Emma Sophia Olivia Isabella Madison Chloe Ava Emily Abigail Charlotte Bella Aria Lily Hailey Aubrey Mia Natalie Hannah Elizabeth Zoey Lilly Avery Serenity Annabelle Aubree Mackenzie Savannah Brooklyn Lillian Audrey Ella Zoe Kylie Sofia Samantha Layla Amelia Evelyn Gabriella Mckenzie Hadley Autumn Ellie Grace Harper Leah Kaylee Piper Sydney Mila

    More from The Stir: 100 Totally Amazing Hipster Baby Names

    Boys:

    Mason Liam Noah Ethan Logan Aiden Alexander Elijah Lucas Jackson Wyatt Gabriel Connor James Jayden Michael Benjamin Jacob Hunter Bentley Eli Jaxon Jack Tyler Anthony Cameron Owen Landon Nicholas William Carter Dylan Gavin Nathaniel Dominic Brayden Isaac Nathan Evan Adam Andrew Samuel Matthew Max Luke Christian Daniel Brody Levi Colton

    All right, what do you think of the trend toward traditional?

     

    Image via Curi Hyvrard/Corbis


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    kissingOne of the most important bits of being a parent is taking the time to teach our kids right from wrong. But in a world where a first grader just got suspended from school for kissing his "girlfriend," I've got to tell you: I just don't know what is considered "wrong" anymore!

    The 6-year-old was kicked out of class after he laid a smooch on the hand of another 6-year-old, a girl, during a reading lesson. Does little HunterYelton sound like a sexual deviant to you? A molester who needs to be stopped at all costs?

    It was a kiss on the hand. And he's SIX!!

    The little boy has been in trouble at school before, which is why he's been dealt such a harsh punishment -- at least according to the folks at the Lincoln School of Science and Technology in Cañon City, Colorado.

    Still, I feel for Hunter's mom, who is calling this an excessive punishment.

    Was this mom really supposed to sit her 6-year-old down before he started the first grade and say, "Listen, buddy, here's one of the things you need to know to survive public school: no kissing little girls on the hand. It will land your hind end in hot water."

    What parent has thought to say that?

    I'll be honest: I haven't. I have an 8-year-old, and my husband and I both take her behavior seriously. We've harped on her about everything from sharing to being respectful to school staff. But we've never once sat her down for a talk about not kissing her peers.

    The way we see it: she's 8. If, by chance, she were to kiss a peer, it would be completely innocent.

    Kind of like a 6-year-old kissing a classmate on the hand.

    The trouble is, schools don't ascribe innocent motives to so much of what our innocent kids do these days. Perhaps it's because we live in a world where so many bad things happen that it's inevitable that administrators would look to our kids with those bad things as their frame of reference. But is that fair to our kids? That someone else's misdeeds are being used against them?

    I don't think so.

    And quite frankly, I find myself on edge when I send my kid to school anymore. I have to question everything I do or say to her. Just recently a pal left behind some of his Nerf "bullets" on a playdate. Normally I'd have her return a friend's toys to him on Monday, but I set them aside, worried that a little piece of foam that she was kindly returning to a friend would somehow be misconstrued as my daughter "bringing a weapon to school."

    Twisted, isn't it? That we parents now have to think this way about our innocent kids because if we don't think that way, someone else will ... and it will be too late to protect them from punishment?

    Unfortunately, as Hunter's case shows, we can't think of everything. And in the end, it's our kids who get hurt.

    My Christmas wish? That one day schools will go back to treating kids ... like KIDS!

    What do you think of this little boy's punishment? What would you do if a 6-year-old kissed YOUR child on the hand?

     

    Image via Walt Stoneburner/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    shiba inuEvery once in awhile you hear about a vicious dog that attacked a child and you wonder: didn't someone see that coming? Why would anyone allow a dog like that to be around a child? Throw them in JAIL! But it's not always that simple, is it? As a matter of fact, police have decided not to charge the mother and father of a 3-month-oldbaby killed by the family's dogs this week.

    Columbus, Ohio, police say Mia Gibson was on the couch with her sleeping father and her mom was in the bedroom of the family's condo when the incident happened. The little girl apparently fell from the couch, and the Gibson family's Shiba Inu dogs moved in.

    But cops say the dogs didn't attack the baby.

    Instead, they think the dogs played with the baby, or at least did a doggie version of playing, which, with a 3-month-old, turned out to be deadly. Dad was sleeping, so he didn't even notice.

    Got that? This wasn't your standard vicious dogs attack child story. It sounds much more like a tragic accident that could have happened to ... anyone.

    How many times have you fallen asleep with your child in your arms? Would you think that your kind, sweet family dog would hurt the child?

    You see what I mean?

    I notice a LOT of hate any time the word "dog" shows up in an incident involving a child. People get angry, and they demand justice for the kids. But the fact is, accidents happen. They are sad -- in this case tragic -- but by the very definition of accident, you couldn't have seen it coming, you couldn't prevent it.

    These poor parents just lost their baby girl. There is no punishment worse than that.

    Put yourself in this family's shoes. Could this have happened to you?

     

    Image via Wikimedia


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    war through the eyes of a soldierSpin the dial on talk radio, and at any given moment you'll probably find half a dozen pundits willing to put in their two cents about the military and what our brave men and women do every day. I suppose one could say that it's a good thing that people keep our military in mind, especially as the holidays approach and countless servicemen and women are faced with spending them far from home, in the line of duty.

    I don't know about you, but sometimes I get a little sick of hearing what so-and-so thinks of life in the military. What about the soldiers who are living it? What do they think? Well, thanks to a video called "War Through the Eye of a Soldier," now we know.

    The soldier in question is a man named Tom Abood, an Australian, and as a camera on his person catches the scenes in the Middle East that he sees on a daily basis, he reads out a letter to his mom and dad who are, naturally, back in Australia. But as an American, it's hard not to be struck by his story.

    Not only do the Australians fight alongside us as our allies, but there's a universality to his message. His story is not unlike that of hundreds of thousands of US troops. Take a listen (warning: strong language):

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    You can see why the film was a finalist at the Australian TropFest, a short film festival.

    It's a powerful look at what it means to fight for something you believe is good and right. As Abood said:

    I'm not fighting because I hate what's in front of me. I'm fighting because I love what I left behind.

    What they leave behind, as we know, is a plenty. Homes. Families. Their day-to-day routines. So-called "normal" life.

    Around this time of year, the local TV stations always slip messages from our troops in between the commercials. The servicemen and women who are front and center in each little message are always upbeat, but they're a sad reminder that war never takes a holiday. And neither does a soldier ...

    What is your reaction to the video?

     

    Image via TropFest/YouTube


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    IKEA recalled lampsIKEA has some bad news for moms. The Swedish furniture giant has issued a recall of its children's wall lamps due to a serious strangulation hazard after a baby died. The SMILA lamps are popular in baby nurseries -- they can be mounted on a wall but don't require any electrical know-how because of the long cord that plugs right into a regular outlet.

    Unfortunately, it's that long cord that has presented a danger to babies and prompted this serious recall. Do you have one of these in your child's room? Me too! And I know I've seen them in countless movies, mounted in the baby's nursery. But that doesn't make them safe.

    Here's what moms need to know about this important recall:

    1. Eight lamp models are affected by the recall, including the Stjarna star-shaped lamp, the Mane moon-shaped lamp, the Blomma flower-shaped lamps (both white and pink), the Hjarta heart-shaped lamp, the Bagge ladybug-shaped lamp, the Snakka seashell-shaped lamp, and the Sjohast seahorse-shaped lamp.

    2. IKEA is working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the United States to get the lamps out of children's rooms after the death of one 16-month-old baby in Europe who became entangled in the lamp's cord in the crib. Another baby, also in Europe, also became entangled in the cord and nearly died of strangulation.

    3. The lamps were sold exclusively at IKEA stores nationwide, in IKEA’s catalog, and online at IKEA-USA.com from July 1999 through May 2013 for between $10 and $13.

    4. Parents are being directed to first make sure the lamp cords are out of reach of small children and then to call IKEA for a free repair kit at 888-966-4532. The kit will give parents self-adhesive fasteners they can use to attach the lamp’s cord to the wall.

    What kind of lighting do you have in your baby's nursery? Is there an IKEA lamp in there?

     

    Image via CPSC


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Maci BookoutMaci Bookout is back on TV y'all! But don't get your hopes up too high for a Teen Mom spin-off. The fiery redhead isn't headed back to MTV but CBS. More specifically, Maci is popping up on the daytime medical showThe Doctors on Thursday to share the details of a "mystery illness" that plagued her earlier this year.

    'Memba when our girl was down and out? Turns out she was in a lot of pain. A LOT of pain. Maci dished that she would have preferred birthing eight more kids than go through this again.

    So what happened to her?

    It turns out Maci was suffering from a kidney infection, but not just ANY kidney infection. Take a listen:

    Ow! Ow! Ow! I've been through natural childbirth, and survived, so I can say that that sounds aaaaawful!

    But according to The Doctors, it's also not that uncommon. As part of their promotion of Maci's appearance, the show warns that her condition is something women have a much higher risk of contracting. Apparently we're more prone because we have shorter urethras than men. 

    It just figures, huh? Another way our bodies rebel against us!

    More From The Stir: Explosive 'Couples Therapy' Trailer Reveals a Whole New Farrah Abraham

    It can't help that women -- especially moms -- are often prone to putting off treatment for themselves because we're just too busy. That's what caused the worst of it for Maci; by the time she was diagnosed and treated, the kidney infection (also known as an upper urinary tract infection or upper UTI) was more advanced and thus harder to treat.

    Don't want to end up like Maci? Heed the signs! Doctors don't usually screen for kidney infections, but you heard her talking about that horrible pain? That was a big warning! Here are some of the major symptoms (according to Medicine.Net) to be on the lookout for:

    Fever Nausea Vomiting Abdominal pain Shivering Shaking -- chills Painful urination (dysuria) Frequent urination (urinary frequency) Urge to urinate (urinary urgency) Flank and low and mid back pain (dull kidney pain) Generalized malaise

    Suffering from any of the above? Don't end up like Maci!

    What do you think of Maci's comparison of this to birthing little Bentley?

     

    Image via The Doctors


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    lea micheleLet's face it, Lea Michele has had one hell of a year. Not only did she lose boyfriend Cory Monteith suddenly in July, but then she had to play-act losing his on-screen alter ego, Finn Hudson, during an episode of Glee. No one would blame her if she'd gone into hiding and refused to ever come out again, but she hasn't. Ellen DeGeneres managed to coax Lea to come on The Ellen Show this week for her first official post-Cory interview.

    The Glee star had a surprising explanation of where she's been, or rather whom she's been with, during her roughest hours. 

    It turns out Lea sought comfort not just with the Glee regulars -- she said she dove into work because her co-stars are her family -- but with Kate Hudson, who has had a recurring guest role on the show as NYADA teacher Cassandra July.

    Not only are the rumors about a feud between the two false, Lea revealed, but Kate provided something no one else could -- a safe place away from things that reminded her of Cory.

    As Lea told Ellen:

    It was so helpful to just basically have a safe place to process and just have a minute to just breathe before getting back to my house, which just has a lot of memories and stuff, so being some place else to just have a moment was really nice.

    It's a little surprising to hear she turned to someone who isn't a long-time friend, but the truth is, we all grieve differently. Sometimes it's just too painful to be around the people who remind you of someone ... not least because you are all in pain at the same time.

    If they weren't all such professionals, I'm sure it would be harder for the stars of Glee to actually get work done on set as they're constantly surrounded by people who are grieving.

    Lea also shared the details of her new song dedicated to Cory, take a listen:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Whom do you turn to when you're grieving?

     

    Image via The Ellen Show


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    shattered windowAnother gang shooting, another innocent victim. The police in Los Angeles have put out a reward of $50,000 for information that leads them to the arrest of four men suspected of killing a 7-year-old boy during a drive-by last week. But this wasn't just any old drive-by, not according to the mother of little Taalib Pecante.

    The slain second grader's mother has come out to say that her son's killers knew what they were doing -- specifically killing a child.

    Sawan Mock was in the car when four men started firing upon her and her son and says they shot 28 times ... at her child:

    They knew my baby was in the car. It was so bright inside the car, I can still remember how dark it was outside.

    I'm not going to sit here and say that I understand any kind of gang violence or can think of any excuse to shoot at people in car, but I thought there was supposed to be some sort of honor among thieves. Once they saw the kid, shouldn't these "men" have realized what they were doing was wrong and stepped back? Doesn't the innocence of childhood mean anything anymore?

    I suppose the realist in me -- or is it the cynic? -- should make me ashamed for even asking that question. From Newtown to the Boston bombing, we've seen time and again the indifference to children and their special place in this world.

    And yet, I can't quite figure out if this is a problem with society as a whole or just some sick individuals whose moral compass was outfitted with an arrow that swings wildly. I'm hoping the latter.

    It wasn't society that walked up to Sawan Mock's car and shot her little boy. It was just four men -- described only as African Americans wearing black hoodie jackets -- four cowards who then ran away, leaving a mother and her dead child in their wake; four monsters who took a child's life just because they could.

    What do you think should be done with these men when the LAPD catches up to them?

     

    Image via Tim Patterson/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Amber Portwood leahWhen MTV decided to put Amber Portwood on Teen Mom, I'm guessing they had no idea she was going to go from teenager just trying to do the right thing for her baby to drug addict headed to prison. The Amber we saw on TV was -- at many times -- a bad mom. But now that the Teen Mom is out of prison, things have changed.

    Amber is a different woman, and in her first official post-prison interview with In Touch -- basically the go-to mag for Teen Mom exclusives -- she's even claiming that prison helped make her a better mother.

    It may sound a little unorthodox, but is it really so far off-base?

    We spend a lot of time talking about bad moms in this country and who really "deserves" to have their children. I know that I myself have muttered the "there oughta be a license to have kids" line a time or two out of utter frustration over someone's horrible parenting. 

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    But the truth of the matter is, most people aren't bad at the core. They may not be making stellar parenting choices at the moment, so they're not particularly "good" moms, but they're not bad people. What they need -- more often than not -- is someone to show them the way to be BETTER.

    In Amber's case, she had that someone. She went to prison, it's true, but on the inside, she took parenting classes. She went through rehab and -- it seems anyway -- successfully kicked her drug habit.

    As she told In Touch:

    Before prison, I never thought about Leah. I was addicted to drugs and didn’t care about anything else. Prison saved my life — and gave me a second chance at being a mother.

    Isn't that what we want for kids? Parents who clean themselves up and come back into their children's lives better than they were? Who realize before it's too late that their kids need them to be better? There are few motivators more powerful than that of wanting the best for your child, and it seems like Amber finally saw that.

    Some people may be able to write her off as hopeless -- certainly when there was talk of Amber getting custody of Leah again, people were horrified -- but if someone is willing to do right by their child, who are we to say that they don't get another chance? This little girl is only 5 years old; she has 13 more years at home, 13 more years of needing a mommy around (and of course, plenty after that from the "adults need moms too" perspective).

    I'm certainly on board with separating kids from bad parents who put them in danger, but bad parents deserve a chance to turn themselves around too. If they put in the work, more power to them.

    What do you think of Amber's turn-around claims? Can she do it? 

     

    Image via MTV


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    holding handsDo you have a barf bucket handy? Good. You're going to need it. A judge has apparently over-turned a 60-year-old man's conviction for sexually abusing a child. The reason? The 11-year-old victim says she's in love with her abuser!

    Have you ever heard of anything so disturbing?

    She's 11! He's 60! That's not love. That's abuse. Period!

    The man and the young girl were found in bed together, which is how the geriatric ended up in an Italian courtroom. He was originally sentenced to five years in jail, but according to the BBC, that was "annulled" when the court determined what the two have is actually a "romantic relationship."

    Forgive me, but I took French in college. Do those words mean something different in Italian or something? In English, "romantic relationship" indicates there's actual love and caring involved.

    When a 60-year-old man is having sexual relations with an 11-year-old girl, there's no love, and there's certainly no caring. That's a man taking advantage of a young girl at an extremely vulnerable stage of development. In many states here on this side of the pond, an 11-year-old can't even be left home alone for an extended period of time. She can't legally drive or drink. And we're supposed to believe that she's made up her mind about LOVE and sex?

    I think what's most troubling here isn't the way the girl thinks -- that is very common with abuse victims. They are convinced by their abuser that this is love and natural because that's what abusers DO to young children.

    What's troubling is the adults in the court who are abdicating their responsibilities to stick up for this child, to get her out of this so-called "relationship" and into therapy where she can learn what love really is, and hopefully have some semblance of a normal life down the road.

    When you take a job as a judge, you have to make hard decisions, but you are putting yourself out there as a paragon of virtue and as someone strong enough to stand up for the little people, the people who are being wronged. You present yourself as someone capable of making the hard choices.

    I tend to believe that most people deserve a second chance in life, but there's little excuse for a judge who lets a pedophile get away with hurting a child. This judge should be kicked off the bench, immediately, and the pedophile returned to jail.

    What do you think? Who is right here?

     

    Image via J. Elliott/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    praying handsIf you woke up to find an intruder had broken into your house, what would you do? Scream bloody murder? How about telling the attacker that "God loves you" and convincing him he didn't really want to do this? That's what a single mom in Dearborn, Michigan did.

    Guess what. It worked!

    Cops in Dearborn say the 38-year-old mom of a daughter with special needs woke up around 5 in the morning to a strange man assaulting her in her own home. She could have screamed and cursed him out -- I know I probably would have. Instead the mom, who neighbors describe as deeply religious, tried to appeal to his better side.

    She reportedly told the man "God loves you, you don't want to do this."

    It's a pretty amazing statement when you think about it. Here some jerk has violated the sanctity of her home, and what's more he's HURTING her. But she was still able to see his humanity and appeal to his better side? To assume that he HAD a better side?

    There are people who say they're religious, and then there are people who actually live their religion. Clearly this mom was the latter. I respect her wholeheartedly for it.

    Still, her move was pretty gutsy, wasn't it? Religious or not, she was being attacked by an intruder! She had no idea whether her response would work or if it would actually enrage him more. And let's be honest: even religious people can get really, really angry ... especially when some jerk breaks into the house where their child is sleeping.

    Fortunately, this did work. Call it a holiday miracle or just good faith, but cops say the intruder took off, and the mom was barely hurt. Her daughter wasn't hurt at all.

    Put yourself in the mom's shoes. What would YOU have done?

     

    Image via Alejandro Hernandez/Flickr


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