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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.

    Leah Messer CalvertSome people love the mothers of Teen Mom 2, some don't. But few can resist the children of the stars. And perhaps none has captured hearts quite like little Aliannah Hope Simms, the daughter of Leah Messer Calvert and ex-husband Corey Simms.

    One of a set of twins, Baby Ali, as her parents call her, has struggled since birth to keep pace with sister Aleeah Grace because of health conditions that have been shrouded in mystery. Until now. On the fifth season of Teen Mom 2, fans will finally learn what is "wrong" with Baby Ali and why she may not be able to walk in the future.

    Her mom, Leah, spoke to The Stir about the quest for a diagnosis and what she hopes mothers learn by watching her story:

    Ali's exact diagnosis will be revealed on the show's season premiere on January 21, and we've respected Leah's request that we not put a name to the condition until then. She explained why:

    She did get her diagnosis -- I just haven't really been saying much about it. I want people to really watch the show, and maybe just watch what it takes for us to get the answers.

    On why she hopes the show will inspire other moms to advocate for their kids:

    Maybe [Ali's story] will help others who don't have an answer for their child to get answers. They can go through the same process and not get bummed. A lot of doctors are like, "It's just this" or "It's just that," and they pass it up. But with a mother, they know if it's something more.

    I did.

    More From The Stir: Kailyn Lowry Wants to Be a Role Model for Crunchy Moms

    On the drawback to opening up her daughter's story to the TV cameras:

    Sometimes when I get upset, I just want to run away. I just wanted to be by myself. When I get upset or when I cry, that's just how I like to be. I like the door shut. I like to lay in my bed and get it all out. When cameras are there looking you right in the face, it's just hard.

    On dealing with the doctors as a teenage mom:

    I don't feel like they treated me [like a teenager]. I feel like they treated me like her mother. I just think this diagnosis is so rare that they had no clue about it.

    ***

    The show should open up a lot of discussion about the disease soon enough. In the meantime, Leah is working on building a foundation, the Aliannah Hope Foundation, to help other families like hers. You can find out more about just how she pushed doctors to finally explain what was happening with her daughter on this season. 

    Do you find Leah's story inspiring? What have you learned from Baby Ali's struggle?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Duck Dynasty Phil RobertsonThe moment Duck Dynasty fans were afraid would never come arrived tonight. Just one month after A&E suspended star Phil Robertson for his racist and homophobic remarks in an interview with GQ, the cable network aired the premiere of season 5. And hammering home their investment in the Dynasty, the network introduced two new cast members -- Rebecca Robertson and John David Owen.

    So now for the big question -- did the Robertson family use their return to TV to address the dark cloud hanging over their heads?

    The short answer is "No."

    But A&E certainly sent a message with the premiere. Not only was it a double header, with two 30-minute episodes back-to-back, but the family's scandal-plagued patriarch was front and center in each. Phil appeared in the opening scene of the first episode and closed out the second with one of the family's famous prayers.

    Phil did not, however, carry each episode with his own storyline. Along with the regular cast of characters -- from dopey Uncle Si to oft-disgruntled Jase -- fans were treated to two newbies who dictated much of the hijinks.

    And hijinks indeed abounded.

    In that sense, nothing on Duck Dynasty has changed. The show has a formula that its fans adore, and A&E knows better than to mess with it.

    Something big happens. The family gets together to either deal with it or celebrate. Things go wrong. Jokes get told. They pray. The end.

    And so it was tonight, with the exception of the new cast members being brought in for a little scenery change.

    Perhaps it was simply coincidence, but it was hard not to notice that both Rebecca and John David are about as far from Phil as you can get and still be connected to the Robertson clan, particularly Rebecca.

    She was introduced in the first of the night's episodes as Willie and Korie's daughter who they adopted after she came to spend time as a foreign exchange student in West Monroe. Originally from Taiwan, Rebecca has spent the last two years in LA (as Willie says, Los An-guh-leez) studying fashion, and now the 24-year-old is a boomerang kid moving back in with mom and dad.

    Dressed to the nines, with a little dog in a little purse, Rebecca looked more like an Asian Paris Hilton than a Louisiana redneck.

    And then there's John David, a relative of Korie's who was front and center on the second episode of the night, taking a gig as Willie's new assistant (or as Jase called him, his manny). He's got the beard, and when he threw on a flag bandanna, John David passed for a younger Willie Robertson.

    Emphasis on the younger. Dressed in a pair of flimsy flip-flops and quoting stoner flick Nacho Libre ad nauseum, John David is clearly several generations past Phil. And you know what they say about each generation being substantially more progressive than the last?

    Then again, maybe any hints of a changing of the guard were less about moving way from Phil's backward ways and more of an attempt to appeal to younger, more progressive viewers who were driven away by the old man's hate speech.

    The fact is, tonight's premiere was simply another Duck Dynasty episode that was much like every other Duck Dynasty episode that's aired in seasons 1 through 4.

    If you are charmed by such sage bits of advice as "May you never barf up your gumbo" and "What redneck doesn't want a butler?" then surely you loved it.

    If you were hoping, however, for a real sign of change from the Robertsons, the Duck Dynasty premiere was not the place to find it.

    Were you surprised the family didn't address the controversy head on? What did you think of the premiere?

     

    Image via Gurney Productions


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    baby boxer To be a parent is to have big dreams for your child. Will they be president? Cure cancer? Or will your baby do something the world has yet to dream up? The point is, babies all start out a blank slate, a story to be written. But what if we could see our children's futures? One Dad decided to find out.

    Lucky for Malo (yup, just Malo), he's a photographer with plenty of time on his hands to turn his 3-month-old daughter, June, into everything from a baby boxing champ to an itty bitty priest! The result is an amazing series of "When I Grow Up" photos that look at babies -- and a parent's dreams for them -- in a whole new way.

    We asked the French dad to fill us in on his inspiration for the series:

    One day my son told me that he wanted to be an explorer when he grew up. My daughter, on the other hand, was set on becoming an artist. It made me wonder what they would really become.

    I thought about how parents used to decide their children’s futures for them. If we envisioned a military career, we’d push our children to become notaries, lawyers and doctors. Today your profession is still important, but it’s only one thing among many. We can hope for our children to become symbols and icons: an athlete, a Miss Something or a rock star. I found the idea amusing and decided I’d have to make it into a photo series. The birth of my last daughter gave me the opportunity. So how did he make it happen?
    With a bit of sewing artwork, my wife and I, and then some friends, conceived the costumes.  
    My daughter was only 3 months old on most of the pictures, It's very small! There was no way we could put anything on her face. So I photographed her brother and her sister with the super-hero (luchador) and the doctor masks, and then put them together with Photoshop.

    So what does Malo hope other parents take away from his work?

    That you must simply let your children grow up and help them with theirs choices.

    Well said!

    Check out the adorable photos of little June ... from beach baby to butcher in the making!

    I think number 10 is my favorite. How about you?

    What is your dream for your baby?

     

    Image via Malo Photographies


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Deandre KelleyShould a man accused of shooting his own daughter get out of jail to attend her funeral? That's the question in front of an Ohio judge today in the case of Deandre Kelley, a father who allegedly shot off a gun into the air during an argument with his girlfriend. One of the errant bullets killed 11-year-old Shanti Lanza. The little girl will be buried on Saturday, but her father is in jail, pending trial on a reckless homicide charge.

    So, should dad get a funeral pass? Even if he killed his daughter?

    The hard-hearted part of me wants to say no. You screw up, you lose things. That's part of the justice system.

    And yet, our justice system is also built on the presumption of innocence until one is proven guilty. Deandre Kelley, at this point in time, is presumed innocent.

    He sits in jail, yes, but it's because he can't come up with a $500,000 bond. He has not been convicted of any crime. So why shouldn't he be allowed to attend his daughter's funeral?

    Look at it this way -- Deandre Kelley could get off. I'm not saying he will or even that he should. But if we're looking strictly at how the justice system works, he could.

    And then what? If he's been denied a chance to say his final goodbyes, there are no do-overs. There's no chance to go back and give him the funeral back.

    Perhaps I'm more inclined to have a little sympathy for this guy because the child's death is being described as accidental. It's not like he walked up to the fifth grader and shot her in cold blood. Even the charge -- reckless homicide -- indicates the child died because dad allegedly screwed up, but not because of any malicious intent.

    It's not right or OK, but it's also a little easier to wrap my head around than the evil of a parent killing a child in cold blood. Accidents happen. Accidents are forgivable -- even when punishment is required.

    But the fact is, we aren't at punishment stage yet. There has been no conviction. And if we really follow the letter of the law, if we really believe in innocence until proven guilt, funeral passes are a must.

    Do you agree? What should happen to this father's request?

     

    Image via police


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Chelsea HouskaChelsea Houska may be the star of a wildly popular reality TV show entering its fifth season this month on MTV, but she lives a surprisingly quiet life. Unlike her Teen Mom 2 co-stars, the South Dakota mom has managed to keep a lid on much of what goes on off-screen. Is it because she's a Midwestern girl living in a small town, far from the paparazzi, or is it because of Chelsea's personal life choices?

    It's hard to tell. But when The Stir got a chance to sit down with Aubree's mom, one thing was clear: Chelsea wants the fans to know the truth about her life and what's really going on with ex-boyfriend Adam Lind.

    On filming a fifth season:

    I'm excited for everyone to see me finish school, start my career, move on from Adam, and of course I'm excited for people to see Aubree and how much she's grown up.

    On her on-again/off-again relationship with her daughter's father:

    I know Adam on the season thinks I'm still in love with him for some reason. Maybe he just WISHES I was or that I cared.

    But I don't!

    More From The Stir: Leah Calvert Is Her Special Needs Daughter's Best Advocate

    On Adam's threats on the Teen Mom 2 trailer to take her to court for custody:

    It was stressful. It was a scary thing to even think about going through. Because you never want to lose any time, and you want to be in control. Why does someone get to tell you when you can and cannot see your child, especially when they're already 4?

    [Aubree] always sees Adam, so she still does, and his family. They kind of filmed more with him this season because of everything that was going on, so you'll see how that plays out.

    On her daughter's "relationship" with Adam's new girlfriend, Taylor:

    I have no idea what goes on over there. When they do have her, it's at his parents' house, and they're off and on, so [Taylor's] not always there.

    I think when she goes over there, it's sort of like all they do is have fun because she's there for like a day or two. It's not like they have to make rules, really, which is a little frustrating.

    It's hard because I don't want her to resent me or think that I'm bad. I know that later on she'll grow up and realize that, but there's a period of time when you're little, all you want to do is have fun, so it makes me nervous.

    But I think that's a normal worry that parents have.

    On her biggest complaint about the fans:

    It's not that big a deal, but it bothers me that people still think I rely on my dad. It drives me SO insane. I haven't since I was like 18. I live by myself. I take care of Aubree by myself. I pay for myself!

    What are you looking forward to seeing from Chelsea this season?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Kid's epic apology letterWhen your child does something wrong, telling them to "say you're sorry" is pretty automatic. That's how you raise a good kid, right? But every parent knows you can make a kid apologize, but you really can't make them be sorry ... which can lead to some pretty hilarious "apologies."

    Take, for instance, the letter an 8-year-old named Zach wrote to his brother Ben after throwing a pair of scissors at him. The apology note has quickly gone viral thanks to Zach's brazen sorry not sorry approach to chucking the shears:

    Kid's epic apology letter

    Poor Chris! Poor Ben! But hey, at least Zach was being honest!

    We don't want our kids to lie, now do we?

    The fact is, sometimes kids can be a little TOO honest, but it's one stage I know I'd like to see go on for as long as possible. If nothing else, it's wildly entertaining! You just can't laugh in front of them (much).

    What do your kids do when you tell them to apologize?

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Farrah Abraham Couples TherapyWhen you sell a sex tape to a porn company for oodles of dollars, you open the (back) door for anyone who wants to see you naked to do so. Still, something tells me Farrah Abraham didn't expect her co-stars on a reality show to be queuing up Back Door Teen Mom. But that's exactly what happened on Couples Therapy tonight.

    In addition to meeting the show's new couple, Jon Gosselin of Jon and Kate Plus 8 fame and his girlfriend Liz Jannetta, The Real L Word's Sada Bettencourt and Whitney Mixter got an up close and personal look at their co-star.

    Think it's awkward hanging out with someone as friends after you've had sex with them? How about hanging out after you've just watched their porn flick? With your wife?

    I don't blame Whitney and Sada for looking up the porno. They're just trying to figure Farrah out, and she's been far from straight with them.

    She flat out denied being in the "porn industry," and once again told the old "it was a sex tape with a boyfriend" story. But everything she was saying was making the couple's BS meter go off.

    Take what she said when Whitney asked why the "boyfriend" in the tape didn't come to Couples Therapy:

    It's like a whole legal issue and that's why there's a tape out of me and him having sex. It's not a happy situation for me. I'm just like moving on and being strong about that.

    I sold the rights to it because that's basically what you do when it's either gonna go out and you're going to be naked and other people make money off of it.

    If it sounds like she's trying too hard to build a sympathetic story, well, that's what Sada thought too.

    "She made a decision and tried to create a story around it so she would be a victim," she said.

    More From The Stir: Farrah Abraham & Taylor Armstrong Are a Powder Keg Waiting to Explode

    That's pretty much Farrah's MO in life, and therapist Dr. Jenn Berman called her on it tonight. No matter what someone is saying to her, she goes into defense mode and needs to play the victim. 

    Even when Taylor Armstrong (yup, she's still around after last week's tantrum ... although Dr. Jenn gave her a tongue lashing for it) tries to reach out and actually be nice, Farrah immediately jumps into "everyone is always picking on me" mode.

    Dr. Jenn calls it Farrah's bubble. Interesting term, isn't it? She's inside this little world of her own making, and she wants to keep everyone out.

    Unfortunately for Farrah, that bubble is SEE THROUGH! And she's naked on the other side ... sometimes literally.

    What did you think of Whitney and Sada watching Farrah's porno? Was that unfair to Farrah?

     

    Image via VH1


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Michelle ObamaHave you heard the news? Michelle Obama celebrates her birthday today! Yup, the First Lady of the United States is 50 years old!

    And as she celebrates her big day in Washington, D.C. with a party -- after an extended Hawaiian vacation -- it seems fitting to step back and look at the mark the First Lady has made on our nation. While her husband, President Barack Obama, may technically hold the true power seat, he's long credited Michelle Obama with being his sounding board and support system. A Harvard educated lawyer, the First Lady certainly brings a lot to the nation's capital all on her own.

    Here we look at some of the most inspiring quotes the First Lady has given us since coming to the forefront of the national scene.

    Happy birthday, Mrs. Obama!

    Which quote is your favorite?

     

    Image via The White House


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Jenelle EvansThere's no question Jenelle Evans is the most polarizing star in the history of the Teen Mom franchise. Fans either seem to love the North Carolina mom or hate her. And I do mean hate!

    So what does the Teen Mom 2 star think of her reputation? She says it's unfair! In an interview with The Stir, Jenelle said she's setting the record straight on who she really is:

    On being a "bad" mom:

    Everyone's like, oh, you have Barbara to take care of Jace. I still go shopping for Jace. He still comes here. I still go grocery shopping and think about Jace and buy him all his groceries so when he comes over he has all his stuff. I don't let my friends eat his groceries and stuff! Tori comes and drinks all his juice, and I'm like, stop touching it!

    So, I mean. It's just ... they need to open their eyes more!

    More From The Stir: Jenelle Evans Explains Why She Let MTV Film Her Abortion

    On her criminal record:

    I might have gotten arrested 30 times or whatever, but if you look at my record, EVERYTHING got dropped. Everything.*

    So obviously I was not guilty for all of that and all of it was just bulls--t.

    I'm just not that horrible of a person! I surround myself with negative people. I don't go looking for trouble; I just surround myself with negative people, so I want people to realize I have changed. I am in a better place.

    ***

    Looks like we'll see when Teen Mom 2 starts on January 21!

    What do you think? Is Jenelle in a better place?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager

    *Some of Jenelle's charges have been dropped, but technically she has been found guilty of some -- hence that whole season of her on probation!


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    6 Tricks to Get Your Kids to Stay in BedA photo popped up in my Facebook feed the other day that looked all too familiar. My friend's toddler had taken to popping out of his bed at night and setting himself up -- blanket and all -- in front of their refrigerator. His desperate parents were turning to the Internets with a question as old as time: how do I get my toddler to sleep in his own bed?

    Of course, I had to stop mid-scrolling and throw my two cents in. I've been there. Ohhhh, have I been there! For months, my daughter slept in a tent rather than in her perfectly comfortable bed!

    Yes, it's a long story, but it was better than my bed!

    The thing is, I never really planned to be a co-sleeping mom. My daughter roomed in with my husband and me as an infant, but I worried about one of us rolling over on her, so she had her own bassinet. After a few months, she transitioned into her own crib, and I thought she'd be sleeping in her room up until she went off to college.

    Oh, silly, silly Mom.

    More From The Stir: 7 Tips for Safer Co-Sleeping With Baby

    Of course then teething started, and what kind of awful, cruel, horrible meanie could leave a baby to cry in the middle of the night in her own room? Yup, she got me. I started bringing her into our bed at night to give her loving Mommy cuddles to make her feel better, and it just sort of became ... habit.

    So how do you break them of that kind of habit? Or keep them from taking up residence in front of the fridge?

    The Stir talked to real moms (and dads!) about their little sleepers, and asked them to reveal their best tricks for keeping them in bed:

    1. Transition With a Tent -- Yup, this is mine. My daughter really didn't want to leave my room, but I desperately wanted to sleep without taking a foot to the nose every night. So we started with a compromise; she could stay in our room but couldn't sleep in our bed. We set up a kid's tent at the foot of our bed and let her "camp" out each night. After she'd started to get used to it, we moved the tent out of our room and into hers. She continued to sleep there for a few weeks, but each day I would move her stuffies and blankets into her bed. She'd move them back into the tent each night until the day she realized that was a huge pain and just stayed in bed with them.

    2. Banish the Monsters -- Some kids don't want to sleep in their room because they're scared; so find out what it is they're afraid of! Sometimes it's as simple as spraying the room with "monster spray" (a spray bottle of water works or some calming linen spray). My cousin and his wife actually moved the furniture around in their son's room to get rid of spooky shadows. Another mom whose daughter was afraid of the dark compromised with a soft light that wouldn't interrupt her sleep but made her feel a little more comfortable.

    3. Make a Reward Chart -- Hey, it works for potty training, right? Reward each night spent in bed with a sticker, and after a full week of sleeping in their own room, they win a prize.

    4. Put Them Back in Bed -- This is a tough one, but several parents I know swear it works. Each time they get out of bed, carry them back and calmly place them in their bed. The key word here is calmly. Don't yell. Don't nag. In fact, don't say a WORD. Realizing they aren't getting your attention -- even negative attention -- can really cut down on night-time wandering.

    5. Stay in the Room Until They Fall Asleep -- This is a trick that takes a lot of time, but several moms I know would stay in their child's room until the toddler fell asleep. The trick? Each night, they would move farther and farther away from the child's bed. So night one, they were right there by their side. Night two, halfway across the room. Night three, in the doorway. Night four, outside the room with the door open. And so on. With this process, it's also key NOT to yell or engage with your tot. They need to know it's bedtime, not talk to Mommy time.

    6. Shut the Darn Door -- Now, I don't mean lock it (that's mean), but one mom admitted she kept the door to her son's room open because she thought it would make him feel better. But after weeks of him coming out over and over, she realized the open door was distracting him from sleeping! He could see shadows from the TV down the hall and hear his parents talking (even when they thought they were keeping it down).

    Did you have a toddler who wouldn't sleep in bed? What'd you do to get them back in their own room?

     

    Image via Ocean/Corbis


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Leah Messer CalvertAmong the stars of Teen Mom 2, Leah Messer Calvert has a parenting situation that's truly unique. She is the only one of the girls to remarry and divorce, and the only one to see her ex-husband get married again as well. The weddings make the twin daughters of Leah and ex Corey Simms the only children on the MTV series to have two stepparents in addition to two biological parents.

    But while theirs is a different story from their co-stars, Leah and Corey's is markedly similar to teen parents in America. Most teen parents do not stay together. In fact, only 8 in 10 ever marry the mother. Stepparents are common for the children of teenage moms and dads.

    And when The Stir sat down to talk to Leah about sharing her children with her ex-husband's wife, the Teen Mom had a surprising -- and surprisingly mature -- take on the role stepparents take in a child's life.

    On how she's built a good relationship with her ex-husband:

    Corey knows how he grew up. He grew up in a split home. And I know how I grew up. I grew up in a split home, and I didn't see my dad ever.

    I think that's what gave us the momentum to want to do better for our kids. We felt tension between our parents; we felt uncomfortable around our parents. We felt uncomfortable to talk about our mom to our dad or our dad to our mom, so we wanted to prevent that for them, to give them the most stable life we possibly could with us not being together.

    More From The Stir: Leah Calvert Is Her Special Needs Daughter's Best Advocate

    I think that's how it was so easy for us to put the past behind us, because it wasn't about us. It was about the kids.

    On husband Jeremy Calvert as a stepdad and Corey's wife, Miranda Patterson Simms, as a stepmom:

    I feel like the stepparents should be equal as the parent.

    You're giving them the leeway to do whatever they want just because they have the "step" parent name. I feel like they should have just as much power as the actual parent if they're married.

    Now, if they're just dating, then I feel like let them get to know that person, let them see that they are going to be a parent in their lives.

    On why she's happy Miranda is her kids' stepmom:

    She's got to play mom when I can't be there. She's got to correct them if I'm not there.

    I feel like she's never gave me a reason not to [trust her]. I honestly don't think she is going to give me a reason, but if she ever did, I would say something. I would talk to her, but the girls love her. The girls talk about her. She seems to be a good mom when I'm not there to be a mom.

    No one will ever take my place, but I want someone to be the mom that I can't be when I'm not there. I want someone, if they're sick, to comfort them the way Mommy would or if they're scared to hold them like Mommy would. I want that for them because it's not their fault.

    ***

    Pretty inspiring stuff, huh?

    A little spoiler alert -- we get our first real look at Miranda on episode one of Teen Mom 2, which airs at 10 p.m. ET on January 21 on MTV.

    How do you think Corey and Leah are doing handling their divorce and kids?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    sleeping girlIt's almost midnight, and finally I'm going to bed. Exhausted, I mount the stairs, ready to drop into my nice warm bed. Then I hear it. "Hi, Mom!" It's 11:45 p.m., and my 8-year-old is still wide awake.

    Of course she is. She's always wide awake. Except at 7 in the morning, when it's time to get up for school and she's miserable because she was up late the night before. But late at night when normal kids are fast asleep? My kid is raring to go. Lucky me.

    This is my new life -- parenting an 8-year-old with insomnia.

    If I sound resigned to this fact, it's only because I'm exhausted -- both physically and emotionally -- after months of trying to get my daughter to sleep. The fact is, she's not unhealthy. We've checked (of course we have!). We have also done everything the pediatrician has suggested to get her to go to sleep.

    She has a bedtime routine. It's the same one we've had for years (shower, book, the whole nine). She goes to bed at 8 -- a reasonable time for a kid her age. She does not drink caffeinated beverages, and the only light in her room is a dim one. Not to mention her room is in a spot in the house far from distractions, and there are no electronics allowed.

    Short of sitting on her chest and holding her eyelids shut, we've done just about everything we can to encourage her to sleep.

    I've learned, however, that you can make a kid go to bed. You can make a kid stay in bed. But you really can't make them sleep.

    Cue a mom lying in bed, reading, only to hear cackling from down the hall, followed by: "What kind of animal shouldn't you play cards with?"

    Mom replies: "Good night!"

    8-Year-Old: "No! A cheetah!"

    Mom: "Good night!"

    8-Year-Old: "Isn't that funny?"

    Mom: "What's funny is that I thought I said good night."

    Do I sound cranky? Well, I was. That happened after 11 on Thursday. You would have been cranky too. 

    I read to fall asleep, but most nights I can't get more than a few paragraphs into my good night read before a question is shouted down the hall.

    Ignore it, you say? I've tried. Five seconds later she'll appear by the bed, suddenly requiring my help to straighten her mis-buttoned pajamas or define a big word in her book.

    Last week I'd fallen asleep already, and my husband -- fresh out of the shower and headed for bed himself -- caught her standing in our darkened bedroom saying, "Hey Mom, Mom, Mom!" She wanted to tell me about the book she'd been reading.

    Sweet?

    Yes. Very sweet.

    But it was three hours past her bedtime, and I was exhausted.

    I'd be lying if I didn't admit I miss the time I used to have after my daughter went to bed. The time to watch adult TV without interruption. The time to read my self to sleep. The time to, ahem, cuddle with my husband. We need couple time. I need me time. It's when I get things done around the house and when I recharge myself for the next day.

    It's time most kids give their parents.

    True, most kids do hit a stage when their brain actually forces them to stay up late. Scientists have found that teenagers quite literally can't fall asleep until after 11 p.m. because of the way the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin levels change in their body.

    Like my daughter, I struggled to get to sleep as a kid. As I got older, the problems only worsened. I recall many a 3 a.m. when I was the only one awake in my house. But like most teens, I was independent. I wanted to be in my room, with the door shut. I didn't want to have anything to do with my parents.

    That's the way it's supposed to be. By the time kids want to stay up late, they're also supposed to want a little distance, a little time to themselves.

    Go ahead and tell me that I should be relieved that my daughter still wants to talk to me and tell me jokes. Too soon we may face the slammed door and the music cranked to high volume.

    In fact, I love that I have a little girl who is still very much a little girl. I just wish she'd contain it to between the hours of, oh, 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

    What time do YOUR kids go to sleep?

     

    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    flowers in the atticIt may be the second attempt to bring V.C. Andrews' cult classic book to life in movie form, but the Lifetime remake of Flowers in the Attic does what its 1987 predecessor refused to do. It gets the story right.

    With Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka as Cathy Dollanganger and Mason Dye as her brother Christopher, the Lifetime original movie tells the story of four children locked in their grandmother's attic for years after their father's death. In all three versions, the Dollanganger children learn they're the products of incest -- their mother, Corinne, was the niece of her husband, their father. But the 1987 movie shied away from exactly what made the book so creepy -- and so scandalous.

    The Lifetime movie didn't.

    Yes, there was incest, and not just through the story of the mother and her uncle.

    Kiernan Shipka and her TV brother growing up together in captivity succumb to their baser urges right before our very eyes. Of course, it being Lifetime, the sex between two teenagers, two siblings, is limited to kisses and the sight of the two of them under the covers, Dye's chest bare in a post-coital cuddle.

    Thank goodness.

    A purist in terms of liking my movies to match my books, I'll admit I didn't need to see any more. Even the kisses themselves were unsettling, no less so because Shipka truly inhabits the role of Cathy Dollanganger. 

    The incest was, in fact, only the very large tip of the iceberg in terms of returning Flowers in the Attic to Andrews' original creation. Other crucial fixes were made, including a return to the time frame in which Andrews actually set her novel, and faithfulness to the length of time in which the Dollanganger children were held hostage and their means of escape.

    Unfortunately, the faithfulness to Andrews' book wasn't enough to make the movie more interesting. Ellen Burstyn as Grandmother Olivia Foxworth makes a mean villain and Heather Graham is sufficiently infuriating as the children's mother, Corinne Foxworth/Dollanganger. But it's hard to pack three years of captivity into two hours -- with commercials -- and truly make you feel the angst of these children wondering if they will ever make it out of that attic alive.

    Even the relationship between siblings Cathy and Chris, creepy as it is, lacks the desperation of the teenagers in the book.

    With rumors that Lifetime already has a sequel lined up, let's hope they do better the second time around.

    What did you think of Lifetime's decision to show the incestuous relationship?

     

    Image via James Dittiger/Lifetime


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Today marks Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the one day of the year we stop to remember a great man who worked not only to change America but to change the world. If it weren't for his assassination in 1968, the Civil Rights leader would have turned 85 this month (his birthday is technically January 15, but today marks the third Monday). And no doubt he would still be speaking out against injustice.

    For it is his speeches that are among the doctor's greatest legacy to the world. He spoke of change, of peace, of tolerance. It seems only fitting that as we mark his birthday, we look at the most inspiring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quotes.

    Number 7 remains my favorite. How about you?

     

    Image via Wikimedia

     


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Courtland Rogers Teen MomTeen Mom 2 fans, did you ever think a day would come when you'd actually feel bad for Courtland Rogers? Me neither! But here it is. The fifth season of the show is set to air tonight on MTV, and the ex-husband of star Jenelle Evans has already delivered some shocking news about the already much debated on-screen abortion.

    It was a surprise to many of the fans when the trailer for the show was released in December and showed Jenelle talking about an abortion. We knew she'd lost a baby in a miscarriage, but the reality star had kept the abortion pretty quiet. So quiet, it turns out, that not even her husband knew about it!

    Courtland, who just got out of jail on January 11, told RadarOnline that he's "heartbroken" after learning about Jenelle's abortion. And folks, he says he learned about it the way the rest of the world did -- by watching the show's trailer:

    It’s not fair that I found out about the pregnancy on a Teen Mom commercial! I didn’t know anything until I got out because I was trying to stay away from the drama. It breaks my heart. It hurts a lot inside. The fact that I had a kid and I didn’t even know I had a kid.

    Ouch!

    I'm fully supportive of a woman's right to choose, and last week when I sat down with Jenelle to talk about her reasons behind the abortion -- and why she allowed MTV to film it -- she made it pretty clear that she didn't feel Courtland was in a position to be a father to a newborn. Whether he knew about the pregnancy or not, it was pretty clear abortion was the choice Jenelle was going to make.

    More From The Stir: Jenelle Evans Explains Why She Let MTV Film Her Abortion

    Still, it's not the type of thing you tend to find out via the national news. At least, you're not supposed to find out this way. SOMEONE could have picked up the phone and told Courtland the decision. If not when it happened, then when it became clear that it would become public knowledge. 

    If not Jenelle, maybe the folks at MTV?

    SOMEONE?

    The abortion was Jenelle's decision to make -- it's her body after all. And she has the most to lose by going public with it. It's her story to tell (or not tell).

    Still, it would seem the compassionate choice for someone to clue Courtland in on what's going down.

    I wonder what he'll be saying on Twitter after he actually sees the episode (you know he'll be watching!).

    What do you think of Courtland's claims that he didn't know? Do you believe Jenelle and MTV would keep him in the dark?

     

    Image via Courtland Rogers/Twitter


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    footballPolice can be intimidating, especially for little kids who don't know what to make of that big guy (or girl) with the shiny badge and the gun on his hip. But in a sweet reminder that cops are regular people too, the latest viral video to come out of a police cruiser dashboard camera doesn't show some police beatdown. The Rosenberg (Texas) Police Department dashcam captured a police officer who took a few minutes out of his day ... to play catch with a lonely kid! Say it with me now ... aww!

    The way the story goes, Sgt. Ariel Soltura noticed a bunch of kids playing and then one 10-year-old boy standing all alone, playing with a football.  

    Sgt. Soltura stepped out of his vehicle and ended up throwing the ball back and forth with 10-year-old Jermaine Ford for more than two minutes. His department shared the video on its Facebook page, and well, once you see it, you'll understand why it's been shared like crazy:

      // Post by Rosenberg Police Department.

    Are you crying a little? Come on, you can admit it!

    When GMA caught up with Jermaine, the child admitted he was first confused why the officer had approached him. He thought he'd done something wrong!

    Typical kid, huh? Remember back when you were his age? When a strange adult came up to you, especially one in uniform, you were all, "The pencil was just lying there, man, I didn't steal it!" Even straight arrow, never even put bubblegum under the seat kids get a little nervous with strange authority figures.

    Which is why it's doubly important for people like Sgt. Soltura to surprise kids and show them that not every adult out there is going to play the heavy. Some of us big, scary tall folks really do take an interest in kids ... and in being KIND to them!

    So next time you see a kid standing alone, looking like they could use a friend, maybe you'll take a page out of Sgt. Soltura's book and throw the pigskin around ... just for a few minutes?

    What would you have thought if this cop had done this with your kid?

     

    Image via Elvert Barnes/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    cemeteryMost of us remember that exact moment we felt like moms. Now imagine facing a moment when you realize you no longer have children? That's what Dinyal New is grappling with right now. The mother of teenagers has lost her two sons in the past three weeks.

    New's 13- and 19-year-old sons were both murdered, gunned down in separate acts of senseless violence in Oakland, California. How the 41-year-old social worker's assistant is still standing is a miracle.

    To lose one child is devastating.

    To lose two? In 19 days?

    It's unthinkable.

    It's heartbreaking.

    It's unacceptable.

    One person isn't supposed to be subjected to this much tragedy, isn't supposed to bear this much pain. One family dealing with the murder of a 13-year-old isn't supposed to turn around and, just weeks later, put a second child in the ground.

    What happened to honor among thieves, so to speak? To kids being off-limits?

    It may be cliched to rail against the world we're living in, but the fact remains that a woman has lost her 13-year-old son and her 19-year-old son in the past three weeks. The former, an eighth-grader, was shot while walking home from the Boys & Girls Club. The latter, a college student with dreams of one day opening his own business, while riding in his car with a friend.

    These weren't bad kids doing bad things. The world should have kept them safe because they are kids, and kids should be protected at all costs.

    But it didn't. And so today we have a mom who -- in perhaps the most heartwrenching news interview I've seen in a long time -- was forced to use the words, "I have no more kids."

    All because some monsters thought it was a good idea to shoot some kids?

    If you could, what would you want to say to this mom?

     

    Image via Valters Krontals/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Leah Calvert It's baaaaaaaaack! Teen Mom 2 returned to MTV tonight for its fifth season, and it's like the drama never left. Jenelle Evans had an abortion! Chelsea Houska's ex acted like a jerk! And Leah Calvert and Kailyn Lowry had some pretty heavy moments in there too.

    In fact, despite all the sturm and drang over Jenelle's abortion in the run-up to the big premiere, I dare say the goings on in Leah's life ended up taking the front seat.

    That's because Leah finally let the audience in on her family's biggest and most devastating secret -- what is "wrong" with daughter Ali.

    It turns out one of Leah's two twins has a rare form of muscular dystrophy. The condition has many forms, and some sufferers will grow up with little effect. Aliannah, unfortunately, has a congenital muscular dystrophy that is more severe. It was present at birth, and it's degenerative, meaning although she's currently toddling along with sister Aleeah, she will eventually be confined to a wheelchair. The disorder also affects Ali's respiratory system and that too will progress the older she gets.

    More From The Stir: Leah Calvert Is Her Special Needs Daughter's Best Advocate

    "It felt like someone kicked me right in the freakin' throat," the Teen Mom said of getting the final diagnosis. I'll fess up -- I had actual tears in my eyes when Leah came out with the story in a one-on-one chat with pal Kayla.

    Controversies and drama aside, we've watched these kids grow up right in front of our eyes. It's hard NOT to get emotional about something this big.

    But then, if I'm being really honest, the big diagnosis wasn't the only moment that got me teary-eyed.

    Kailyn had her baby shower tonight, and oh my God, if you didn't cry when Javi got up and started waxing poetic about how much he already loves Isaac, you are a MONSTER!

    Kail may have had a rough start to life with a crappy mom and then the troubles of being a teen parent, but everything seems to be going so much better for her these days. Granted, Jo is giving her trouble about moving with Isaac, but Javi is a definite keeper!

    If only Chelsea could find a guy like him!

    More From The Stir: Kailyn Lowry Wants to Be a Role Model for Crunchy Moms

    The South Dakota mom is single (and proud of it), but her ex has suddenly decided to show an interest in little Aubree after all these years ... or at least an interest in taking Chels to court. Does Adam really think he's going to convince the American public that he's Daddy of the Year just because he's got a second girl pregnant?

    And then, of course, there was Jenelle. We saw the abortion. Or rather, we saw her trip with son Jace and mom Barbara to get the chemical abortion and heard her explaining what was going on. Opting to take pills rather than go in for a surgical procedure, the much talked about decision wasn't nearly as dramatic as one might have expected.

    Frankly, I was glad. MTV handled a very touchy subject with respect, which is exactly what women need. And let's face it -- there will be plenty of Jenelle drama to come later this season.

    What did you think of the way MTV handled the abortion issue?Were you surprised Leah finally shared Ali's diagnosis?

     

    Image via MTV


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    breastfeeding in public idiot defenseIf you haven't figured it out already, a large part of being a parent is dealing with idiots. Now, now, I'm not talking smack about your kids. I'm talking about the kind of jerk who will whine to the waiter that he just can't enjoy his steak because, OMG, a woman is BREASTFEEDING halfway across the restaurant or the know-it-all who insists you wouldn't be tired if you just slept when the baby slept?

    Wouldn't life be easier if we could just ... smack these people? I know. I know. Violence is not the answer. And yet dad David Vienna may have just come up with the most brilliant response to the jerks who can't handle a little baby getting his eat on in public. Forget self-defense classes to keep you from getting mugged in the grocery store parking lot, Mom. It's time for a defense against misinformed parenting class!

    Take, for example, what you should do when some Neanderthal dares to claim "breastfeeding in public is obscene." Obviously you're not going to stop giving your baby the nourishment they so desperately need. So what do you do?

    Simple! According to a tutorial Vienna put together for the guys at How to Be a Dad, all you have to do is, "Grab the offender by the hair and throw them into a sack of angry badgers." He even offered up a sneak peek at the result (see above).

    It's ... well, it's brilliant. So brilliant I wish I'd thought of it first. At the risk of starting a gender war (arm thyself, woman!), I wonder if it isn't because Vienna is a Dad that he came up with this whole defense system. We ladies tend to wage our so-called mommy wars with words. That's all well and good (we're forever telling our kids "use your words," aren't we?), but it's not exactly ... working. 

    Idiots still abound! In the grocery store! At the local coffee shop! In the pediatrician's office (yes, really).

    And when you haven't slept in three months, your nipples feel like someone has taken a steel wool pad from the sink and rubbed on them for three hours or so, and you actually just peed a little as you sneezed, do you really have energy to expend on a good harangue? Or the room in your brain left to come up with a good zinger?

    Nah ... throwing 'em in a bag full of badgers is certainly more satisfying. And you can get back to feeding that baby!

    Love David's response to boobs about breastfeeding? Wait until you find out what he suggests doing to people who tell you to "sleep when the baby sleeps" or "get some extra help" over at How to Be Dad.

    What would YOU like to do to folks with bad parenting advice?

     

    Image via David Vienna/How to Be a Dad


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Jenelle Evans JaceIf you missed the season premiere of Teen Mom 2 on MTV last night, you missed a kid dropping more f-bombs than your average gangsta rapper. Who could it be? Jace Evans, aka the toddler son of one Jenelle Evans.

    Ever had one of those moments where you laugh hysterically at someone else's kid being really bad because thank God it's not your kid for once? That's what watching Jace badger his mom and grandmother, Barbara Evans, with the f-word was like. Jace's potty mouth is funny because we all know how close we've come to parenting THAT kid ... and we're kind of scared of having to handle it ourselves.

    Wondering how to tame a toddler's potty mouth? I've got a good trick -- from the most surprising source on earth. Jenelle Evans!

    Having seen an advance screener of the Teen Mom 2 premiere before sitting down with Jenelle Evans for a chat in New York City last week, I had already seen (and, yes, laughed at) Jace cursing up a blue streak. But the show began filming in early 2013, so I wondered -- had Jenelle figured out how to curb her toddler's cursing yet?

    More From The Stir: Jenelle's Abortion Takes Backseat to Leah's Heartbreaking Confession

    She shared with us when Jace curses ... and what she's done to stop it: 

    He does it to get a reaction out of my mom. When he comes to stay with me and Nathan for the weekends, he doesn't curse .. at all.

    My mom will call me up when me and Nathan are sitting at home and be like, "Why. Is. He. Destroying. Everything? Why. Is. He. Cussing at me?" And I'll be like, "I don't know what to tell you. I can talk to him, but I don't know."

    Nathan and I are like, "No offense Barbara, but maybe we have different parenting styles." You know?

    When Jace used to cuss around me and Nathan, we'd ignore it. I've been to parenting classes because of probation. And they said, "When he starts cursing, you just ignore it because they want that reaction." I told my mom that, and she's like, "Well, by the fifth time, I'm just like, 'Stop it! Shut up!'"

    And I'm like, "Just keep ignoring it!"

    ***

    It may go against your instincts to ignore a cursing toddler, but it's solid advice! Kids love getting attention -- even negative attention. When they stop getting it, a lot of bad behaviors go away!

    Do you have a cursing kid? Willing to follow Jenelle Evans' advice?

     

    Image via MTV


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