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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.

    Jenelle EvansSo you may have heard the world has ended Jenelle Evans is pregnant. It's true, the Teen Mom 2 star and boyfriend Nathan Griffith are officially expecting their first child together (second for each of them). But that's not all, sports fans!

    Jenelle and Nathan are going to the chapel and they're gonna get ma-ah-aried. Yes, indeedy do, first comes love, then comes DUI arrest, then comes baby, then comes a wedding!

    Er, well, it could happen that way, but there's just one more step Jenelle needs to climb before she gets to say "I do."

    Remember Courtland Rogers? Aka her husband?

    When Jenelle gave her exclusive interview to -- who else -- MTV about her baby-to-be, she spilled the beans about her summer wedding, to be held after the baby is born (giving us an idea of when she's due!). But then she threw in this nugget:

    I have to get divorced first, of course. I haven’t spoken to him since he got arrested last April, actually.

    Maybe it's simply in the way MTV cut the quote (darn them and their reality editing!), but that sounds suspiciously like an afterthought, doesn't it?

    "Hey, I'm having a baby and planning a wedding! I'll wear white. He'll wear a tux. I've got to call the florist, and the photog, and oh yeah, have to pencil in that divorce. Maybe between the dress fitting and the cake tasting?"

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

    Don't get me wrong; it would be NICE to see Jenelle straighten up and fly right and actually get her happily ever after here. It would be even better if she was doing this for the son she already has.

    But in order to "straighten up," you have to actually deal with your crap! You can't just forge ahead with foolish plans and figure it will all figure itself out.

    She's pregnant and planning a wedding. Fine. But how about getting divorced and getting the kid she already has back and THEN focusing on a new life with Nathan? Is that too much to ask?

    What do you think of Jenelle's wedding announcement?


    Image via Instagram

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Nancy LanzaIn case you've been avoiding the calendar all week, let me warn you: Saturday, December 14, marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The world will stop on Saturday morning to recognize 26 innocent lives lost when Adam Lanza entered a school and began shooting.  But what about the other lives ruined a year ago? Nancy Lanza? Peter Lanza? Ryan Lanza?

    If you'll remember, Adam Lanza's mother lost her life on December 14, 2012 too, shot by her son at their home in Newtown. There were 27 people shot to death on that day. For that matter, the day changed the lives of Adam's father and his brother irrevocably.

    So where are the tributes for them? The sympathy for a family ripped apart by tragedy?

    Is it really asking too much to keep the Lanzas in your prayers this weekend?

    Apparently, it is. A number of news outlets have taken notice of the lack of a memorial for Nancy Lanza. Church bells in Connecticut will ring this weekend 26 times, one each for the children and school staff at Sandy Hook murdered by Adam Lanza. They won't ring a 27th time for Nancy Lanza.

    The Sandy Ground Project, a playground being built to honor the victims, will include "26 living memorials." My Sandy Hook Family honors 26 families who suffered losses on December 14, 2012.

    Why don't they include the Lanzas?

    Isn't it obvious? Someone has to be blamed for the horrors that occurred a year ago this week. Children were murdered. An entire nation of parents unsettled by the notion that the sanctity of childhood will not protect our kids, that schools are not secure -- not only from child gunmen but from adults with monstrous thoughts.

    A year on, the scars have not healed. I know I'm not the only parent who was relieved to see that December 14 was a Saturday, a day when we would not be faced with choosing between sending our children to school or keeping them home. I say this as a mother who doesn't live in Newtown.

    I honestly can't imagine how much harder this weekend will be for the families who live there, for the families who were involved.

    But among the lessons we (should have) learned from Newtown is the age-old warning that life is fleeting. We have but so much time with our fellow man before we pass on to the great beyond.

    Shouldn't we spend that time embracing one another, coming together for a common goal?

    Fact: Nancy Lanza did not shoot those children. Peter Lanza did not shoot those children. RYAN Lanza did not shoot those children (despite reports immediately after the shooting that misidentified which Lanza brother was to blame).

    Could they have seen it coming? Some say they all could have or should have, but I tend to think we are autonomous as people, every day we do things that surprise our loved ones -- in both good and bad ways.

    Just this past year I saw the mother of a dear childhood friend sentenced to prison for a violent crime. Let me tell you, none of us saw that coming, my friend and her siblings included. She is their mother, and they love her, but they didn't expect her to turn violent. Nor do they condone her crime.

    They are innocent victims in the mess that their mother made, victims who have lost their mother to the prison system, who have lost the picture of their mother as a normal (non-violent! non-criminal) person, who have had to go through the trauma of telling their children that Nana is in prison and only seeing their mother in a room with guards. They've had to put their own money out there for lawyers and jump through countless legal hoops -- not because of anything THEY have done but because of their mother's mistake.

    The story in Newtown isn't that much different. Nancy Lanza is dead. She's gone. Maybe she played a role in that, maybe not. Still, she's a victim. She was shot and killed by her son, and she did not shoot up an elementary school.

    Peter Lanza, Ryan Lanza, they've lost Nancy and Adam both, and they've lost that picture of their son and brother that they had in their minds of a normal (non-violent! non-criminal!) person. They've had their entire lives dragged through the mud. Their names are marked for the rest of their lives.

    Is it the same trauma as that suffered by parents who lost a 6-year-old? No, it's not the same. But trauma is trauma. No one ever wins in a game of "who has it worst."

    The fact is, Adam Lanza was a monster. His family? Who knows. They certainly do not deserve to be blamed for something they did not do, and they certainly have suffered. They are victims, even though it may not be easy to recognize them as such.

    What do you think would be an appropriate way to honor the Lanzas' loss?

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    babyWhen it come to babysitters, there aren't many who quite measure up the grandparents. Who loves your baby quite like Grandma and Grandpa, amirite? Ahem. A warning? Bad Grandpa is not just a Johnny Knoxville movie, y'all!

    Even the best of grandparents have a way of thinking it's OK for them to completely ignore a parent's wishes and do some of the most bizarre things with a baby. Feeding a 2-month-old ice cream? Giving an 8-month-old their first taste of wine?

    We've asked around, and it turns out grandparents have lost their babysitting license for pulling some serious stunts with their grandbabies. Just look:

    1. My Mom and Dad "muscled" their way into the operating room and held my daughter before my husband and I even got to see her. Back then, you could get around -- security was completely different and my mom knew everyone on the OR floor. She never lets Me, or my daughter, forget it - "I held you first."

    2. My mother-in-law was babysitting my daughter for the day, and she decided to take her for her first haircut ever. My husband couldn't understand why I was so upset, but this was her FIRST haircut. I wanted to be there to take photos and to save that first little curl. It's hard enough being a working mom and missing things, but that's one milestone I was planning to be there for!

    3. My parents had my daughter for the day, and my husband and I were supposed to meet up with them for dinner at a local restaurant. When we got there, my 8-month-old was sampling wine from my mother's cup.

    4. I know someone whose mother-in-law took her grandson to be baptized even though Mom and Dad agreed to raise their kids Jewish. Dad was Catholic, mom was Jewish. Grandma wanted nothing to do with any agreements!

    5. My mother decided she was going to "cure" my daughter of her pacifier by forcing her to cry it out during naptime one day when she was babysitting. I was so mad!

    6. My mother-in-law put borscht in my baby's bottle at 4-months-old!

    7. I have a 2-month-old [son]. My mom is usually my babysitter while [my husband] and I are at work. Today when I went to get the baby, I walked in the kitchen to find my mom feeding my baby ICE CREAM! She dropped the spoon when I said hello. I can't believe she did it! Grandma just lost her babysitting gig.

    8. My mother-in-law drove my 3-month-old all the way out to the town where I work (more than half an hour away from home) without telling me. I found out later ... after I'd spent the entire day pumping in an office every three hours. Couldn't she have brought her by for a feeding?

    9. My mother-in-law took my daughter shopping with her, and I found out later that during the entire day, the only thing my baby got to eat was a granola bar! An entire DAY! She was on solids by this point.

    10. I went to my work's holiday party, and when I got home, my 19-month-old daughter was running around in circles at 10:00 at night. It was my dad's first time attempting to put her to bed, and, well, didn't happen. (I was secretly happy because I got to see her.)

    What are the craziest things YOU'VE caught your baby's grandparents doing?


    Image via iandeth/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    macaronThere is nothing that makes a word nerd nuttier than listening to people butcher the pronunciation of words in a restaurant. Overhearing someone at the next table order some "quin-oh-ah" for breakfast is enough to put me off my meal entirely! Unfortunately, the culinary world is chock-a-block with difficult words -- many of foreign origin -- that make ordering in a restaurant hard on everyone!

    Don't want to sound like an idiot when you're dining out? Help is on the way!

    We've rounded up the most challenging words in the culinary world, and provided the proper pronunciation.

    Now do us a favor and stop asking for EXpresso, OK?

    Which word do you find most challenging? What words drive you insane when they're pronounced incorrectly?


    Image via kubotake/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    baby mobileOhhhh. My heart hurts. A baby has died, and police say the last thing that happened to him was a diaper change -- by his 3-year-old sister. What a horrible reminder that toddlers can do irreparable damage -- even when they don't intend to!

    According to police 6-month-old Feonyx Clarke was found by his mother in his crib. The baby had several clean diaper bags around him, along with baby wipes and a clean diaper. The boy's mom, Kristy, told police her daughter had gone upstairs that evening, but when mom went up to check on her, the little girl went to mom's bed and fell asleep, as toddlers do.

    According to police, "suffocation" on the diaper bags is the possible cause of death. The inquest found his brain was starved of oxygen.

    Sadly, this could have happened to anyone with more than one child. You can't keep an eye on them every single second of the day, especially not when you have more than one child. At some point, you have to go pee or take a shower!

    More From Our Partners: 3-Year-Old Overdoses on Date Rape Drug

    I don't know how many times I've heard parents fret about baby number two only to be assured "Oh, your toddler will HELP you." I always cringe when I hear it.

    Are they really suggesting a toddler help with a BABY?

    Yes, it's natural for toddlers to want to be helpful, and it's something we need to nurture in them. Unfortunately, every mom knows that their desire to be helpful and their actual ability don't always match up.

    Ever had a 3-year-old "brush their own hair" or "put on their own clothes" only to have to do it all over again for them, as they kick and scream "Mommy, I do it myself!"? Welcome to parenthood.

    Unfortunately, re-buttoning a shirt is one thing. But you can't undo harm -- even completely unintentional harm -- to a baby, as this case shows.

    Moms, Dads, take this one to heart. Don't leave your toddler alone with a baby if you can help it. They mean well, but they don't always know what they're doing.

    Do you worry about your toddler and baby together? What do you do to make things safer?



    Image via Nanagyei/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Jenelle EvansReality TV fans may not have been exactly shocked that Jenelle Evans was arrested over the weekend. After all, the Teen Mom 2 star knows her way around a pair of metal bracelets. But guess who was surprised? Jenelle Evans herself!

    It turns out the pregnant reality star wasn't expecting to be hauled in for breaching the peace on Saturday. In fact, Jenelle has come out to say the alleged fight with boyfriend and baby daddy-to-be Nathan Griffith that brought South Carolina cops to her doorstep wasn't at all how it's being described by police. 

    More From The Stir: Jenelle Evans Is Planning Her Wedding -- Isn't She Forgetting Something?

    According to reports, Jenelle had locked Nathan out of the house during a fight, and he was making a racket outside because he wanted to get back in. But Jenelle took to Twitter -- hey, it's Jenelle -- to explain away the arrest as a tiff with her annoying neighbors. But the way she explains it, it sounds like cops got the wrong girl -- or guy?:

    @WynnMeOver lmfao me and Nathan weren't fighting she made it all up, Nathan voice is loud and he walks around outside to talk on the phone

    — Jenelle Evans (@PBandJenelley_1) December 15, 2013


    @brookefifer the cop told me to go and press charges for harassment cuz she said those neighbors call at least 3 times a week for BS

    — Jenelle Evans (@PBandJenelley_1) December 15, 2013


    Jenelle certainly wouldn't be the first person to have annoying neighbors; we've all been there. But her explanation is a little ... odd? If Nathan was the one being too loud, wouldn't he have been the one arrested for breaching the peace?  And she can say the neighbors are annoying, but doesn't the blame STILL lie with her and Nathan for being too darn loud?

    The whole thing is awfully fishy ... and awfully sad. Here the Teen Mom star is pregnant and engaged and telling the world she's got her life back on track, when in actuality she just can't stay away from trouble.

    Who do you believe? Does Jenelle's explanation make sense to you?


    Image via Instagram

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Reann Murphy Jerrod MetskerHow many times have you warned your kids about stranger danger? The words are practically made to say together. And yet, with the murder of Reann Murphy, a 9-year-old girl in Ohio over the weekend, and the almost immediate arrest of neighbor Jerrod Metsker, puts our constant harping on the danger of the unknown to the test.

    Jerrod Metsker wasn't a stranger to Reann Murphy. In fact, before the little girl went missing, only to be found in a trash bin near her family's home at a mobile park in Smithville, Ohio (a suburb of Akron), he was considered a family friend.

    Police say Reann was last seen playing outside the family's trailer on Saturday night. When her family reported her missing, a search of the area ensued, and tragically Reann's body was found in a trash bin on Sunday. Metsker was arrested the same day.

    I think it's safe to say that the friendship between Metsker and the Murphy family is over.

    But the fact that it was there to begin with is the trouble. If this man really killed this little girl -- he's been charged with murder, but as yet there's no motive or means being reported -- he is not someone anyone would want as a friend.

    Unfortunately, there may have been no way to know that before this happened. You see it nearly every day on the news. There's a crime in a quiet neighborhood. The TV news crews crowd in. The neighbors come out en masse to grab their 15 seconds on TV, and they repeat what every shocked neighor has said since the beginning of time: "We never saw it coming. He was such a nice guy." And yadda, yadda, yadda.

    We spend all this time fearing unknown pedophiles and random kidnappers, but the sad truth is that the overwhelming number of crimes against kids are perpetrated by people they KNOW.

    Indeed, 60 percent of children are sexually abused by someone in their social circle, and every year more than 200,000 children are abducted by family members and another 58,000 are taken by non-relatives (compared to just about 115 abductions by true strangers). According to the Department of Justice, most homicides of young children are committed by family members through beatings or suffocation.

    The strangers aren't the problem.

    It's the people we know, the people we care about, the people we trust. And so it is that our kids turn to these people, love these people, trust these people.

    But truthfully, what choice do we have? Should Reann Murphy's parents have locked her away and told her never to trust anyone, not even a family friend and neighbor? Should we all lock our doors and come out only for necessities?

    Reann Murphy's parents are probably kicking themselves right now for trusting a man who it seems was a monster, but they shouldn't. They were trying their best, and that's all any of us can do.

    We just have to keep on moving and hoping that the people we trust are the right ones.

    But Reann's death is certainly a reminder to re-examine just who it is we say is "safe" and who we consider the "danger."

    Think about it ...

    Have you ever been betrayed by someone you knew and thought you could trust? What happened?


    Image via Wayne County Sherriff's Office

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    homeworkYou may think you've met the most overbearing parents in the world at playgroup, but here's betting they have nothing on the parents currently advertising for a $235,000 a yeartutor for their 9-year-old daughter. OK, a liiiiiiittle pricey, but what's wrong with a tutor, you ask? There's no shame in asking for a little extra help for a kiddo who's falling behind!

    True enough, but just wait until you hear HOW MUCH tutoring this little girl is in for! These parents want their little girl to come home from school and spend three hours a day with the tutor. And that's not all! She needs five hours of tutoring on Saturdays AND five more hours on Sundays!

    Seven days of tutoring a week?

    According to the parents' listing, the little girl is in year five (they're British ... and they're actually offering 144,000 pounds, which translates to about $235,000) where she started out in the top five of the class, but slid  over time to the point where she is "behind her peers across the board, and is consistently scoring in the bottom quartile, often more than 20 per cent under the median."

    Tutoring may be in order here, but can you say overkill?

    I'm all for education, folks. I am one of those parents who checks her kid's homework every night and makes her correct the wrong answers. We practice the multiplication tables and her spelling words. If she's struggling with something, we work on it, and I would have no problem hiring a tutor if things got really bad.

    But I also believe wholeheartedly that kids should be kids. There is time for learning, and then there is time for playing. If I had to pick one over the other, it would be the latter, at least when it comes to home time.

    Remember when you were a kid? The best teachers were always those who made a lesson fun. Kids should enjoy learning, at least as much as they can.

    Not ever algebra lesson will be like playing video games, but at the very least you should avoid turning it into drudgery. Which is what studying every night after school from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and for five hours each on Saturday and Sunday mornings sounds like.

    It sounds like torture. Pure and simple.

    And it's likely to have the very opposite effect of what the parents intend. Instead of making their daughter a better student, they're about to cure her of ever wanting to do schoolwork again!

    It may not be recorded in a scientific study somewhere, but I think there's at least enough anecdotal evidence to call this a fact: too much education isn't better, it's just too much education!

    Where do you draw the line on pushing kids to learn? If you had the money, would you follow these parents' route?



    Image via spiritinme/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    hugsA 17-year-old won't be seeing the inside of a school any time soon. Sam McNair was suspended from school for an entire year. His crime? He hugged a teacher! It may sound like a sweet thing, but a hug is a violation of the sexual harassment policy at Gwinnett County Public Schools in Duluth, Georgia.

    Considering just a week ago I defended a 6-year-old charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate on the hand, you may be surprised by my reaction to this student's suspension.

    I think it's a little harsh -- really, a whole year? -- but I can't blame the high school for creating a no hugging policy.

    The key words here? High school.

    A 6-year-old who kisses a fellow student doesn't have sex on the brain. Teenagers, because of the science of hormones and human development, do.

    The teen years are very confusing times because kids' bodies are rebelling against them. They're beginning to feel things they never felt before; they're having a sexual awakening. The last thing they need is to have contact -- appropriate or not -- with an adult at school that confuses them.

    Think about it. Every day you turn on the news to find some teacher somewhere has crossed the line with a teenage student.

    In every single case, I blame the teacher. They're the adult. They shouldn't be preying on innocent kids.

    That said, when you leave the door open to contact between students and teachers, you also leave the door open to confusion on the part of kids who are hungry for sexual contact. You lead to kids who are easily led by perverts preying on them or you lead to kids who are simply confused. An innocent hug can quickly become something else ... if only in the mind of a teenager whose hormones are going haywire.

    That's not good for kids. 

    And quite frankly, it isn't good for the good teachers.

    Innocent teachers can get caught up in scandals they never meant to create -- there have been plenty of good teachers brought down by claims of sexual misconduct that later turned out to be false. And teachers can be sexually harassed by hormonal teenagers. I recall all too well how the boys in my class would drop pencils so the female teachers would pick them up ... and the boys could get a peek down her blouse. As a reporter who used to cover high school sports, I've heard more than my fair share of inappropriate comments from teenage boys. I took them for what they were -- kids being stupid -- but hearing them every day, and dealing with kids getting handsy, isn't right.

    They may be kids, but by high school, they're old enough to know better.

    They're also old enough to understand no contact policies and to follow them.

    In the case out of Georgia, the teacher claims she told the football and lacrosse playing 17-year-old not to hug her previously, but he came up behind her and put his arms around her anyway. Sam McNair says it's simply because he's a hugger and wanted to cheer her up.

    That may be, but the fact remains that there was a policy in place, and he violated it.

    It would be a lot nicer world if we didn't have to worry about inappropriate contact between teachers in students -- on either side of the coin -- but the fact is, this is the world we live in. And it's not unreasonable to expect teenagers to adhere to a few rules, is it?

    What do you think of schools that ban physical contact between students and teachers? Would you support that sort of rule at your child's school?


    Image via jessleecuizon/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    hospital babiesThe family of a new dad is facing a sad holiday season this year. Josh Robison was by wife Erica's side on Thursday as she delivered their son, Logan. But just after he held his baby for the first time, the 24-year-old had to be rushed out of the room and into surgery. Josh Robison died just hours after his son was born.

    According to the doctors, the headache he suffered son after his son's birth turned out to be bleeding on the brain which claimed his life. It's a heartbreaking story for sure, but his family has a remarkable way of looking at their loss.

    More from The Stir: Dad-to-Be Chooses to Die Rather Than Face Life in Wheelchair (VIDEO)

    They're happy Josh got to meet -- and hold -- his little boy before he died. Josh's mom, Jodi, even called it a "miracle." 

    What a strong woman! She just lost her son, and she can still find the good side!

    I don't know that I'd be holding it together as well as the Robison family if I were in their shoes, but I can certainly speak to the miracle of those first few moments after a child is born and the magic for both a mom and a dad. I remember the look in my husband's eyes when he met our daughter. I'll call it true love, but frankly those words don't go far enough.

    Looking at him looking at her, the emotion I remember feeling most was an overwhelming sense of connection between him and me. The look on his face mirrored everything I was feeling inside. Together we had done this amazing thing, and no one on the outside could understand what it was we saw when we looked at her.

    Sure, everyone loves their own kids in their own way, but that's just it. No one loves each other's kids that way. It's only the parents of each particular kid who has that special bond with them.

    I remember when my daughter was wheeled off to the nursery for tests, I turned to my husband to talk to him about her. In some ways I was looking for reassurance about my feelings (hey, I was a little hormonal) because he was the only other person on the planet who could get how I was feeling. 

    Thinking about Josh and Erica Robison's last moments together, I hope that's what they had. Josh met little Logan, and for just a little while -- before Josh came down with a headache that turned out to be a bleed on the brain that would claim his life -- they shared what only two parents can share: an all encompassing love for their little boy.

    How did the moments after your baby was born bond you with your partner?


    Image via tamakisono/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Brandy Lee Rose DevineWhen is 15 years to life in prison a lucky break? How about when you were convicted of second degree murder in the death of your 2-year-old daughter who happened to have cerebral palsy? Brandy Lee Rose Devine of California was apparently on a meth binge when her daughter, Stephanie Torres starved to death

    The child, who'd been left alone for the weekend, weighed just 13 pounds. Devine apparently told investigators she thought her 6-year-old would take care of the toddler ... and that she didn't think the little girl would die without food or water.

    All that and she only got 15 years to life?

    It sounds like a gift!

    The horror of this crime is such that I was expecting Devine to rot in prison for the rest of her life, not have the opportunity to get out in 15 years. Her little girl wouldn't even have reached adulthood if you added 15 years to the 2 she got on this planet.

    Devine's excuse -- that she didn't know the baby would die without food or water -- just sound so ridiculous that I can't understand how she managed to get to 26 years old. Of course you need food and water to survive. That's how human beings function; of which she is one (at least technically ... monster may be a more fitting term).

    I suppose this is why I could never work as a judge. Idiots frustrate me, and people who hurt kids infuriate me. Put the two together, and the sentences I handed out to people like Devine would ensure the prisons were at standing room only capacity.

    What do you think the punishment should have been in this case?


    Image via Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Leah Messer CalvertReady for some good news from the world of Teen Mom 2? Leah Messer Calvert has quit smoking! Yup, the mother of three says she's officially tobacco-free as of this week, and she couldn't be happier. 

    We're pleased as punch that the young mom has kicked the cancer sticks, but we have to admit we're a little confused. Why didn't we know Leah smoked? She's the star of a reality show that supposedly showed us her life -- warts and all. Did MTV edit out Leah puffingaway on those ciggies?

    It's entirely possible.

    Leah is not the only Teen Mom with a smoking problem; when I watched Couples Therapy last season, I noted with surprise that Catelynn Lowell was a smoker.

    I couldn't recall seeing her smoke on Teen Mom either, and when I asked some other fans of the show to test their memories, none could recall seeing either Catelynn or Leah light up onscreen.

    More From The Stir: Leah Calvert Turns to Fans in Time of Need

    Now, one could say MTV is just trying to prevent kids from being enticed to smoke at the sight of cigarettes on TV. Study after study has shown that's bad for kids.

    Laudable, but odd when you consider the show didn't edit out Jenelle Evans' drug use ... or really any of the myriad bad decisions being made by kids on-screen. It's a show about teenage pregnancy, for crying out loud! The whole point is to show kids this is NOT the path to follow!

    So what gives?

    No one is naive enough to think that reality TV is truly "reality." But it's more than a little odd when a reality star admits she's a smoker ... and it actually surprises people who have been watching her life on-screen for years.

    Either way, kudos to Leah for quitting. This is good news for her AND for her little girls.

    What do you think of MTV editing out Leah's (and Catelynn's!) cigarette habit? Is this something they should have left in?


    Image via Instagram

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    riverA little boy with autism is dead and so is his mother in what is being called a murder-suicide in Alabama. Cops say Delicia Barrow drowned her 8-year-old son, Randle Barrow, in the Tennessee River, then returned to their home where the single mom killed herself. The tragedy was discovered after Randle, who attended a special school for kids with autism, didn't show up two days in a row.

    Cops went to the Barrow home where they found the house on fire and Delicia dead. There was also a note that led them to Randle's body. The sad story shares similarities with many stories of overwhelmed parents of children with special needs who have decided to do something drastic -- and horrible -- to their children.

    Inevitably, these sad tales open up a conversation about what it is that society should be doing for parents of kids with special needs, but in the case of Delicia Barrow, there's a startling fact that makes that conversation essentially moot.

    More From The Stir: Mom Accused of Trying to Kill Autistic Daughter -- Stop Defending Her!

    Delicia Barrow was a single mom of a child with autism -- her husband died in a car accident when Randle was just a baby -- but she was not alone.

    In fact, close friends of the Barrow family have come out to say Delicia had handed over custody of Randle to them -- voluntarily -- earlier this year. The couple were even named in Delicia's will as guardians for the little boy. But it was Delicia herself who just recently decided to take her son back ... and, of course, it seems it was Delicia herself who made the horrible decision to take her child's life.

    His mother HAD help! She HAD options when she was feeling like life was too much! She didn't have to ask for Randle back, and she could have returned him to her friends.

    That's more than most single parents have, more even than most two-parent families have. When most of us are feeling overwhelmed, we have to just push ahead as is; we don't have someone willing to take our children for us for awhile so we can figure out our own problems without involving them.

    As a parent, I know that it's not an easy gig -- whether your child has special needs or not. This doesn't mean that there is ever an excuse to kill your own child (there is NOT), but we can all acknowledge that sometimes you're simply pushed to the edge, and you need someone to help pull you back. You might be sympathetic to the person even when you're in complete disapproval and shock over their decisions.

    But in the case of a mom who had help and didn't take it, who actually went and got her kid back ... only to end his life ... I'm not even able to have sympathy for the person, separate from her crime. 

    Whatever she was going through, her child did not deserve this. Period.

    What is your reaction when you hear about a mom who killed a child? Do you ever have sympathy for her?


    Image via Liga_Eglite/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Gary ShirleyGary Shirley has come out to explain the rant about his now ex-girlfriend that mysteriously disappeared from the Teen Mom star's Twitter account almost as quickly as it appeared. His reason for going off on his cheating ex is sure to break your heart. Gary isn't mad at Kristina for breaking his heart ... he's mad at her for breaking his daughter's heart!

    His daughter, of course, is Leah Shirley. With ex-girlfriend Amber Portwood in prison up until a month ago, Gary has been a single father to the 5-year-old for quite some time. But he hasn't been a monk during that time.

    Frankly, it's no surprise that Leah knew her dad was dating ... or even that she'd met Dad's new girlfriend. Single parents who share custody have an advantage when it comes to dating -- they aren't with their kids all the time, so it's easier to hold off introducing a child to a new flame. 

    More From The Stir: Amber Portwood's Prison Stint Is the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Her Kid

    Generally it's wise to keep kids away from your new partner ... at least until you know it's serious. It's just too confusing for kids to have new mommies or daddies floating in and out of their lives, especially at 4 or 5 when they don't really understand how dating works.

    But with Amber in prison, Gary wasn't just seeing Leah some days of the week; he had her 24/7. So Kristina and Leah met. It happens.

    Things seemed to be getting pretty serious with his new flame; they even celebrated Thanksgiving together. But it was right around the holiday when the mysterious tweet appeared (and disappeared). It read:

    Give a girl a promise ring after 9 months of dating, find out she’s in a relationship w someone else after she said she broke up with them f**k!

    A promise ring? That's a pretty big commitment. No wonder Gary was mad that he was being cheated on. But it turns out there's even more to the story: 

    [Leah] really liked her that’s what tears me apart!

    Aww! Poor Gary! And poor Leah!

    This may be the single biggest challenge of dating when you're a single parent. It's not finding someone ... it's figuring out how to protect your child's heart from being broken.

    Usually the best way is to keep the two apart for as long as possible, until you're really SURE this is a "thing," but even then ... there are no guarantees. Heck, even marriage isn't a guarantee, or there wouldn't be divorces!

    The best any parent can do is really be there for their child post-breakup. As much as you're hurting, you need to put it aside and help THEM through it.

    Fortunately Gary does seem to have really stepped up for Leah, and he really seems to have her best interests at heart.

    What do you think of Gary's daughter getting caught up in more relationship drama?


    Image via Twitter

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    teens datingKids can study all sorts of neat things in high school these days -- from how to make video games to the basics of a crime scene investigation. But one school is really changing the face of education with its newest slate of classes for teenage boys. Now these kids can turn to their male teachers to learn everything from how to shave to lessons on how to pick up girls.

    And to think we had to learn those things the old-fashioned way: from our peers!

    The classes at Chase High School in Essex, England, are certainly unusual. But the more I think about it, the more I like the sounds of classes where young boys are taught how to treat a lady.

    In fact, I'd like to see more classes like this over here on this side of the pond, where one in three kids is being raised without a dad in the picture. This is not a knock on single moms; I promise. It's merely an acknowledgement that being a teenage boy is hard, and they can always use more role models to teach them what not to do ... especially when it comes to girls!

    According to the folks at the Chase school, the classes were designed to help boys who don't have a male role model in their lives, and there's a lot more than just learning "how to pick up chicks." The boys also learn how to save money and take part in sports with their mentor. Essentially they're learning many of the things they'd learn from their parents ... only it's coming from an outside source, someone who they might be more willing to open up to during those tough teenage years. 

    More From The Stir: Adults Share Their Most Awkward Teen Photos to Show Kids It Gets Better

    Any class of this type should be up to parents to opt their teens in or opt them out, of course. Parents' personal values won't always be shared by school staff, and when it comes to tough topics such as relationships, aparent should have first crack at the discussion.

    Still, I can't imagine it would hurt for kids to have a second opinion, so to speak -- even boys who have a dad at home who throws the ball around and talks about dating or a mom who does the same thing. In a culture that has spawned the horrors of Steubenville, our teenage boys could always use MORE education on appropriate relationships with teenage girls, not less. 

    What do you think of these classes being offered at a school? Would you sign your son up?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    judge's gavelIt's safe to say that if you're a convicted child molester, most people want you behind bars. But then there's Daryl Kelly. When his daughter was 8 years old, the New York father was convicted of raping the little girl. Only now that daughter is 25, and Chenaya Kelly wants her father released from prison. She's even willing to let the world know that she lied about her father raping her.

    Only the courts don't care what 25-year-old Chenaya has to say about the 17-year-old conviction. They're keeping the convicted molester in prison.

    The case has opened up a discussion about who should have the final say in what happens to the perpetrator of a crime. Should it be the courts or the victim?

    If victims are the reason we put criminal in prison, it would seem like it should be the latter, but unfortunately once you get the justice system involved in your problems, you have to look at a much larger picture. Punishment becomes not just about the victim, but about the threat to society as a whole.

    Chenaya has come out to say she only lied all those years ago because her drug-addicted mother threatened to beat her if she didn't accuse her Navy veteran dad of molesting her. This isn't even her first recanting of the allegations -- the 8-year-old changed her tune way back in 1998, six months after Daryl was convicted.

    But now that she's an adult, Chenaya has been able to put pressure on the courts to make a change in her father's case in a way she couldn't before. Her complaints prompted a review of her case by the Committee on the Fair and Ethical Administration of Justice of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York. Unfortunately for Chenaya -- or fortunately, depending on how you look at the case -- the prosecutors on the committee disagree with her. They say her father's conviction was fair and just.

    Not surprisingly, the prosecutor's office in Orange County, New York, where Daryl was convicted, agrees. That puts the victim -- Chenaya -- and the prosecutor's office at odds with one another, but ultimately the victim has no say.

    The fact that Chenaya was just 8 at the time of the conviction certainly makes this a more difficult case -- child who are victims of sexual molestation are often confused and scared of their abusers. They aren't always truthful about what happened because of that fear and confusion. Then, when they grow up, adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse are known to "disassociate" with the past trauma or allow their minds to distance themselves from the abuse. It's hard to say whether she's more credible as an adult or LESS so simply because of the crime alleged here.

    If the abuse did happen, Chenaya's forgiveness of Daryl isn't enough of a reason for the courts to let him out of his 40-year sentence as he could still represent a danger to OTHER kids.

    If it didn't, well, who's to know?

    What do you think should happen here? Is this girl's word enough to let her dad out of prison?


    Image via Ocean/Corbis

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Tina MaloneIf you have to hand out labels -- and these days it seems you do -- I guess I was a "young mother." My daughter was born just a few weeks before I turned 23. It's not teenage motherhood, but when you compare it to Tina Malone, the actress who just gave birth to her second child at 50, it's young.

    Yes, I said 50. Can you imagine having a kid at 50?!

    I know, 50 is the new 40 and all of that, but I have just one thing to say about Malone -- the British actress best known for her turn on the comedy show Shameless -- girlfriend is brave! She and husband Paul Chase, who is 31, seem over the moon about baby Flame (yes, yes, that's her name), and that's wonderful. But it's still brave.

    OK, so maybe I have more than one thing to say. I'm not trying to start a young mom vs. older mom war here, and I really could give a fig when you start bearing children (or IF you have kids, for that matter).

    But as a mom who started out on the young side of the trend, I can tell you from experience that motherhood is exhausting. What's more, aging is exhausting!

    More From The Stir: 10 Reasons Having Babies in Your 20s Rocks

    I look back and marvel at the person I was even just 10 years ago. The all-nighters I could pull to work on a job at 21 seem impossible now that I'm in my 30s and would love nothing more than to go to bed at 10 p.m. and actually be able to sleep ... without my wide awake child in the next room calling, "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy" at me.

    I love my daughter, but the older I get, the more I realize I also need to love myself because my body demands it. Ignoring my own needs to sleep and eat and wear moisturizer was simple at 20. Now my shoulders actually cry out in pain; my eyes scream "fire, fire" the later in the night that I keep them propped open.

    Technically I'm still very young by modern motherhood standards, but the idea of going back to the baby stage seems almost impossible. I'm coming to accept that my body is changing and I'm getting old, but it's with a relief that I got those early no sleep for days (or was it weeks) months out of the way when I could still ignore myself and throw myself completely into mothering my daughter.

    Still, I marvel at older moms like Tina Malone or Halle Berry.

    That's right -- marvel, not judge. I want to know their secrets! How do they manage to juggle the aging body's urge to just get some darn sleep already against a baby's need to eat in the middle of the night? How do they bend over to buckle that car seat in and actually stand back up again?

    What do you think is the perfect age to have your first baby?


    Image via Splash News

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Jenelle Evans JaceIt's official! MTV has confirmed the return of Teen Mom 2! Jenelle Evans, Kailyn Lowry, Chelsea Houska, and Leah Calvert are all getting what the original Teen Mom stars didn't -- a season 5!

    And along with their confirmation to The Stir that this is really happening, MTV has let us in on the biggest secret of all: what we're going to see on the highly anticipated season! We're talking about the official Teen Mom 2 trailer that shows off just when the cameras were hanging around the girls and what we can expect to see on television. Do you want to see it?

    Of course you do! But get ready ... there are some HUGE shockers in there:

    Holy. Moly!

    Did Jenelle just say she was getting an abortion?! And did we hear Leah Calvert's little girl, Ali, may never be OK?! If they could pack that much drama into two minutes, can you imagine what this season is going to be like? Between Kailyn's wedding and Chelsea's baby daddy drama ... and of course Leah and Jeremy imploding and Jenelle being Jenelle, this could be the most explosive season of Teen Mom yet!

    More From The Stir: Jenelle Evans' Blames Latest Arrest on Someone Else -- Of Course

    And according to MTV, it's coming back to us on January 21 (that's a Tuesday ... no more Mondays are a Mother!).

    So tell us: what was the biggest shocker from the trailer for you?


    Image via MTV

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    dear santaChristmas is coming, and the goose is getting fat. Have you created your kids'holiday gift registry yet? What? You think a list of gift requests from your kids online is greedy and materialistic?

    I suppose you don't let the kiddos write a letter to Santa either? Ahhhh, gotcha, didn't I?

    Technology has changed the way parents share their kids' gift lists with the family, and as with all things parenting, that has opened up room for a big ol' judgy debate.

    On the one side are the parents who are just horrified -- with a capital H -- that some of us dare go online and pick and choose what it is we'd like to see under the tree for our kids this Christmas. What gluttony! What tasteless commercialism!

    Er, that's what they think.

    Here's what I think: holiday gift registries aren't for everyone. I'm not sending one to everyone we know.

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

    BUT, and this is a big ol' BUT, when someone asks me what my daughter wants for Christmas, I have no problem sending them to one online registry with the exact names of books she wants to read or LEGO sets she's been salivating over, even a list of clothes she needs, complete with color and sizing information.

    They asked, didn't they? They wanted to know?

    Sure, I could be one of those parents who avoids the question because they don't want to seem greedy. I've never been good at asking for things (just talk to my poor husband ... I only started making lists for myself a few years ago when he practically DEMANDED them), and I DO answer every friend's request with, "You don't really have to get her anything."

    But I've found that not answering at all, not giving them any options, isn't good for anyone. It makes it hard on people who really do enjoy giving my child gifts -- because then they have no starting place, and they may or may not end up buying something my child likes. It's not good for my child because, hello, these people WANT to make her happy ... and she may get some crappy gifts where she could have gotten some really great ones. Oh yeah, and it's not exactly good for me, the mom, who has to contend with the double gifts to return after the holiday or the stuff that really shouldn't have been bought in the first place ... which now has to be trashed or donated to the local charity (or ignored with gritted teeth if she's fallen in love).

    Online gift registries may be new, but if you really think about it, the idea behind them isn't. It's merely better organized than what our parents did -- which was answer the grandparents' questions of "what does Johnny want for Christmas" with a handwritten list or maybe just reciting some items over the phone.

    What these registries have done is take the old methods and made them easier ... on the gift giver.

    My in-laws don't have to try to run to five stores to try to find the LEGO Friends pool or try to puzzle over which book in the Whatever After series it is that my daughter wants this holiday. They simply follow a few links, and poof, their shopping is done.

    Happy kid. Happy grandparents. And happy mom who has successfully answered the questions that come every Christmas season.

    Is that greed? I don't think so. I think it's using technology to make a mom's life easier. 

    What about you? What do you think of holiday gift registries?


    Image by Jeanne Sager

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Valentino BagolaIn further proof that monsters walk among us, one of the pallbearers from the funeral of two young siblings who were stabbed more than 100 times has been sentenced to life in prison. It turns out Valentino "Tino" Bagola wasn't the kindly babysitting, casket-carrying cousin his family thought he was. He was a cold-blooded killer who stabbed his 6- and 9-year-old cousins some 100 times.

    The 2011 murders of Destiny Shaw, 9, and her brother Travis DuBois Jr., 6, were a mystery for more than a year until cops were able to pin them on Bagola, the older cousin who often babysat for them. Why did it take so long?

    Well, maybe because Bagola played himself off like a model family member, even offering to carry the casket when his young cousins were laid to rest?

    So much for remorse for his actions ... which also apparently included raping 9-year-old Shaw before her murder.

    Frankly, I will never understand anyone who hurts kids. It's just unthinkable. But at the very least, you'd think someone who'd just murdered a family member would be ASHAMED? Would be uncomfortable to be around family after that? Would hide away and think about their actions?

    Apparently not.

    Showing up at the children's funerals is bad enough, but taking part? That's some crazy level of twisted.

    I suppose that's what it takes to be sick enough to stab two kids to death? To be the sort of person who does it and then has absolutely zero remorse? Fortunately, most of us will never know what goes on inside the mind of a psychopath.

    Bagola was facing back-to-back life sentences, one for each of the children he murdered, but in the end the judge went "easy" on him. He is headed to prison for life ... just one sentence. But as the judge said, he will never get out. At least that's something.

    What do you think was going through his mind at that funeral?


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