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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.

    door lockHaving your home robbed is a violation like no other. Now imagine having your home robbed while you're in it! With your kids! That's what happened to a Colorado mom this week -- the mother and her two children were tied upby burglars who locked the family in a closet so they could raid the house.

    According to police, the mother -- whose name has not been released to protect her family from further trauma -- and her children were actually out of the house when two men broke in. When they got home just before noon, they surprised the thieves and entered into a nightmare!

    Cops say the mom and her kids were grabbed, tied up, then shoved in the closet. The burglars made off with mom's cellphone as well as plenty of their valuables.

    Terrifying, right? It's exactly what a mom fears happening to her and the kids in their own home.

    I can't imagine how traumatized those poor little kids are! I know families whose homes were broken into when they weren't there, and the kids had trouble sleeping for weeks after the fact. For the kids to actually be there, to actually be tied up and to see their mom rendered helpless, has to be that much worse.

    But I can't help but breathe a giant sigh of relief knowing that everyone is OK. The mom, both kids ... they're likely emotionally scarred, but physically OK.

    That's a win ... I guess?

    Hard to face, I know, but I live in an area that -- like this mom's town of Bloomfield, Colorado -- has seen an uptick in burglaries. It scares me, especially as someone who works from home and is therefore around all the time. But the fact is, being home and being OK IS a win.

    A US Justice Department report shows that of the 3.7 million household burglaries that occur on average every year, about 28 percent (nearly one third) happen when someone is home. About 12 percent of all households violently burglarized while someone was home faced an offender armed with a firearm.

    Scarier still? About 7 percent of the time, a household member is a victim to violence -- from simple assault to rape.

    Seven percent may not sound like much, but 7 percent of 3.7 million is about 259,000 victims of violence! That's more than one quarter of a million people!

    People are brutalized when burglars find them at home. People are sometimes killed when burglars find them at home.

    As much as I'd just prefer homes that are never robbed, if it comes down to losing my stuff or losing my life (or my child's), I know what I'm going to choose!

    I just wish we didn't live in a world where this was the choice ... I know this story is going to follow me for days, as I double and triple check my locks.

    Do you worry about burglars when you're home? What do you do to protect your family?


    Image via marc falardeau/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    soldier surprising dadIf you're a sucker for a good military homecoming surprise, get yourself good and comfy. Because what you're about to see isn't one epic military homecoming surprise. It's not TWO epic military homecoming surprises. When soldier Mason Miller returned from Afghanistan after a long deployment, he was thinking really big.

    Are you ready for THREE epic military homecoming surprises? Grab your tissues and hold on, it's going to be a bumpy ride!

    First up, check out what happens when Mason shows up at the hospital where his dad works ... right in the middle of a meeting:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    I don't care what you think of grown men crying, but that catch you hear in his dad's voice did it for me. I lost it. But just wait! There's more! Ready for some true sibling love? He surprised his sister too ...

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    That's a pretty emotional day for one guy, right? Yeah, well, he's not done.

    He hit dad, and sis, so who's left? Mom!

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how you pull off an epic surprise! According to combat veteran Scott Kelley, a neighbor of the Millers in Phoenix, Arizona, who blogged about Miller's surprise-filled day, the two planned this for weeks, and it all went off without a hitch.

    I love that they did this, but I think what I love most is that each member of the family got something so special. Obviously everyone is happy when their serviceman (or woman!) gets home safe, but it's got to feel good to know he loves them so much he wanted to have that special moment with each member of the family. And THEY each got to have that moment too ... they didn't have to share them in the way that you do when you're all crowding around, trying to get a piece of the action.

    Which surprise stole your heart?


    Image via Scott Kelley/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    walking aloneWhen you're first married, you don't want to let him out of your sight. It's not that you don't trust him; he's just so dang cute, and you're just soooo in lurv. Ladies, been there, done that, still have his t-shirt that I slept in. But I'm going to let you in on a little old married lady secret: there are a lot of things you need to be doing without your husband.

    Sure, you're married now, and two became one and all that jazz, but honey, you are still you! And the sooner you get used to telling him you'd rather fly solo on this one, the sooner you realize you can have your cake and eat it too.

    Not sure what I'm talking about? Let's dive in, shall we?

    1. Take a vacation. First off, there's that whole "absence makes the heart grow fonder" thing, which I really wouldn't discount. Spend too much time together, and the little things become big things. Time apart allows you to recharge your batteries and remember why you fell in love. But more than that, people vacation differently. Some are go, go, go folks; some would sit in the hotel room the whole time. I've found that when I vacation alone vs. with my husband, we do very different types of activities. I wouldn't want to miss out on either type!

    2. Watch a movie. I have no time for women who are all, "well, my husband doesn't like chick flicks (or sci-fi, or horror, or whatever ... no need to be all gender stereotyping here)?" This is exactly why Netflix allows two separate people to be logged in at the same time, y'all. You watch your movie; he watches his ... and you can even sit on the same couch and cuddle while you're enjoying your separate pursuits. Ain't technology grand?

    3. Eat out. I'm married to a meat and potatoes kind of guy, which means that the first time I ever tried dim sum was just the other day. And I realized I'd been missing out! If you've both got adventurous palates, that's all well and good, but if your tastes are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, don't let life pass you by. Grab a girlfriend to eat out or grab a book and go it alone.

    4. Get a massage. A friend recently admitted she'd only ever had a couples massage because she felt "weird" getting naked in the room alone with a massage therapist. First off, they're professionals; no reason to feel weird. Second, you don't have to get naked. And third? Couples massages are romantic, but a massage should really be therapeutic. Go it alone, and it's a completely different vibe ... and one that's totally addictive.

    More From The Stir: 13 Things Wives Shouldn’t Do Without Asking Their Husbands for Permission

    5. Go to girls' night. Ladies, if you want to bring your husband along to girls' night, you're going to find yourself being dis-invited from girls' night. I hate to go all Lil' Rascals on you, but it's no boys allowed ... for a reason! Sometimes you just need to talk about things that guys don't want to talk about (hello, that time of the month?).

    6. Go to the salon. I used to think it was cute when I saw the little old men sitting in the salon chairs with their wives' purses, but now I tend to think it's a little ... suffocating. The relationship between a woman and her hairdresser is sacrosanct; no one -- man or woman -- needs to be getting in the middle of that.

    7. Shop. I'm not catering to stereotypes about men and shopping here; I happen to be married to a man who LOVES to shop. But he is not terribly helpful when it comes to shopping for ME. He's just too kind about clothes that don't flatter my body ... and he can't seem to understand why I'm so picky. It's much better for both of us when he stays at home, and I take someone who "gets" the fact that women can't just grab a pair of jeans in one size and buy them.

    What do you love to do WITHOUT your husband?


    Image via Thomas Leuthard/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    pulling toothThere are so many jobs you take on when you become a parent. Finder of lost shoes. Door opener (and closer!). Of course, when they reach the stage of loose teeth, you become a practicing dentist. But what kind of dentist are you? Are you the cool kind? Are you like the dad who just pulled out his son's tooth with a helicopter and filmed the whole thing?

    Malcolm Swan's video of his uber cool tooth removal procedure is quickly going viral, and once you see it, you will be guaranteed to up your game as an amateur dentist! Forget the old doorknob trick; you're going to have to think bigger! Check it out:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Coolest dad ever? I think so.

    Naturally some pearl clutchers are calling Swan out for brutalizing his 8-year-old, but come ON. He loved it! The kid actually yelled out the word, "Awesome!"

    More From The Stir: Crazy Tooth Pulling Stunt Is a Classic Big Brother Move (VIDEO)

    And it was!

    Losing a tooth can be scary for kids, especially those who freak out at the sight of blood, but when you do something like this, you not only take all the fear out of it, but you're making killer memories for them to look back on (and literally if you videotape it). But now that helicopter tooth remover is already claimed, what are YOU going to come up with?

    How do you pull your kids' teeth?


    Image via Malcolm Swan/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Duggar familyI've got a confession to make. When I found out I'd be sitting down with Michelle Duggar to talk about the new season of 19 Kids & Counting premiering April 1 on TLC, I was a tad bit more nervous than I usually am when it comes to celebrity interviews. What if she found out I have -- gasp -- just one child? Would the conversation end right then and there? 

    As it turns out, Michelle Duggar may have 19 kids, but she's a lot more like the moms I meet on the playground than you'd expect. Not only did she tell The Stir she doesn't know everything about parenting (got that sanctimommies? Even Michelle Duggar doesn't know it all!), but sometimes the mother of 19 who appears to do it all flawlessly on TV gets flustered! 

    Here's what Michelle Duggar had to say about parenthood!

    On whether she's done making babies at 47:

    We would love more. If God saw fit to bless us with another baby, I would be thrilled. I know my time is ticking, the clock might be running out. I may not be able to have any more biologically. We are so grateful in enjoying the ones God has given us at this point, but yeah, we'd receive another kid if God sees fit to give us another one.

    On whether she's ever questioned her decision to have so many kids:

    When I was parenting my children when they were younger, I just had one of those overwhelming moments thinking there's no way I can do this, what am I doing? What am I thinking? There's no way I can love all these kiddos and train and teach and feed and clothe and all of that.

    At that moment, the Lord gave me [my] life verse, and ever since then when I get overwhelmed, I think, You're right, Lord, I can't do this in my own strength, but in my weakness, God is my strength.

    On how she stays sane as a mom:

    It truly is that faith in God that really brings me through my days. I wake up in the morning and say, Lord, whatever you have for me today, I am willing and I just want to walk with you and I want to know you and really delight in knowing you, and as I do that, He really does make my days so much more adventuresome.

    On why she doesn't consider herself a parenting expert:

    When we think we've figured everything out, God just throws us a curveball and we go, "Oh man!" It's so funny because every situation is going to be different that we come up against in life, and every child that we deal with is so different. They are not cookie cutters.

    I'm 47 and I'm in a different season and stage of my life than I was when I fell in love and met the man of my dreams at 17. I realize we're forever learning and growing and changing. I chuckle in different areas of our relationship with Jim Bob and me. Just when a man thinks he's got us figured out, we go through a hormone change and he's like, Oh wow, interesting, that's new. Then I'm like, Me too! We're going through this together; we're one in spirit.

    It's a journey and I'm learning, and with parenting, it's the same way.

    The principles of God's word are always true, but with each child, I go around a different way of learning. I tell my kids you've got to bear with me, be patient with Mom. I've never been a mom of 19 kids and counting and loving these grandbabies and I'm learning as I go. I want to learn. I want to learn what God wants me to learn through it.

    On how she seeks out quality time with each kid:

    For children we are the only thing ... they're born and they know Mommy and Daddy, that's their life, they want to please us -- you know, when they're small, as they get a little bigger, they have a will that comes out and we have to teach them! But spending that one-on-one time with them is so precious.

    I purposely do that. I purposely set out ... if I'm working around the house, I pull one alongside of me and I start asking them how are you doing, what's going on in your life, what can Mom pray for you about, are there some things I need to know that I don't know about, what books have you been reading, what's your favorite? All these things; I've got a list of questions I love to go down and just ask them and talk with them about so I know who they are, I know where they're at, I know their heart.

    That's purposeful, especially with as many people under our roof!

    The good thing is we homeschool, so we're together day in and day out. I probably do get to spend a lot more time with my family than maybe those that find themselves coming and going a lot. This is school, this is home, this is life. This is like our central station, and we work out from here.

    On what kids really need most from their parents:

    I think connecting with their heart is what Jim Bob & I found to be the most important thing, really purposing to let them know that they have a safe place to share their heart and that we really want to know their heart, we want to know them, we want to pray them through this journey of life together.

    It's different for little ones than it is for my middle ones and then for my adult ones. It's just such a fun journey of life experiencing that with each one of them.

    Do you watch 19 Kids & Counting? Do you find yourself relating to the family in any way?


    Image via TLC

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    military homecomingBeing a military wife may not be a "job," but the women behind all those men in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard live a life like no other. They're brave. They're strong. And they can pack a house up like nobody's business!

    So what makes a military wife? Other than the fact that she's got a husband in uniform? We asked women who are married to servicemen to share some of their favorite signs that they are SUCH a military wife, and some are pretty hilarious!

    Here's what they said ...

    1. You call your husband by his last name.

    2. You don't know your husband's friends' first names!

    3. You have packing your house up down to a science.

    4. When you're asked to spell your name, and you say, "Charlie, Alpha ..."

    5. You call his underwear BVDs.

    6. Your home phone has one area code, and your cellphone has another.

    7. You're tempted to salute instead of putting your hand on your heart when you hear the National Anthem.

    8. You don't even blink when you hear a helicopter ... or gunfire.

    9. You can rattle off his Social Security number but have to think about your own.

    More From The Stir: Military Spouse Appreciation Day: Let’s Celebrate the Toughest Job on the Homefront!

    10. The under-side of your furniture is covered in TMO stickers.

    11. You write everything in pencil because it's probably going to change (especially his return date).

    12. You plan vacations around deployments (and it's always to go back home to visit family anyway).

    13. You've been to three different colleges trying to finally finish that bachelor's degree.

    14. You stand before every movie.

    15. You carry your cellphone EVERYWHERE just in case he calls (yes, you've even put it in a plastic bag and taken it into the shower).

    16. You tell time in "hundred hours."

    17. You want to take the hats off the men at a stadium during the National Anthem.

    18. You can tell if a Marine is out of regulation.

    19. Your address book is completely in pencil.

    20. Your closet has more camo than any other color.

    21. You're itching to move after 2 1/2 years.

    22. You're on a first name basis with everyone from the post office.

    23. You hear your husband went for a "hump" and aren't worried about him cheating.

    24. You wish the commissary would open on Mondays.

    25. You've known your BEST friend for three months, and she'd show up in the delivery room if you asked.

    26. You keep track of the time by "Reveille," "Retreat," and "Taps."

    27. You've told the dog to "stand down."

    28. You know how to get black boot polish out of carpet.

    29. You have to escort your friends to your house.

    30. You almost never celebrate a holiday or birthday on the actual day.

    All right, add yours!

    How do you know you're SUCH a military wife?


    Image via US Army/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    wedding dressWhen you're done with your wedding dress, what do you do with it? Throw an epic trash the dress session? Hang it in a closet somewhere and forget about it? How about cutting it up to make clothes for babies in the NICU who will never make it home from the hospital?

    They're called angel gowns, and they're the brainchild of a woman named Lisa Grubbs, wife of a specialist for premature babies. They're also the most heartbreaking and yet sweetest thing I've heard of in a long, long time.

    The thing is, no mom expects her baby to be the one who doesn't make it home from the hospital. I once asked a friend who works as a labor and delivery nurse why she chose to work the maternity floor, and her answer came quickly: it's the one place in the hospital where everyone is happy. Bringing a baby into the world is supposed to be happy.

    More From The Stir: Maddie Spohr's Family Creates NICU Packs: And You Can Help

    So when it goes wrong, when a baby doesn't make it, you can imagine a mom and a dad's life is turned upside down. Everything they planned for is undone, and now they have to face what no parent should have to face, have to face myriad details none of us ever think about (and certainly never want to).

    That's the beautiful thing about Grubbs' group, NICU Helping Hands. They take care of one of the biggest details so the parents can focus on others. It's one big thing off their plates.

    One of Grubbs' volunteers, a NICU nurse, told a Texas news station that before angel gowns, they'd wrap the babies in hospital blankets, washrags, or towels. They didn't have much else.

    Now Grubbs says the re-purposed wedding dresses give that baby something special. As she told WFAA:

    This child who is so loved by its parents, being wrapped in love by a bride.

    Let's face it ... there is NEVER a time for too much love, but if there is ever a time for extra, it's when parents are going through something like this.

    I love what Grubbs is doing -- she herself is like an angel of the NICU -- but even more, I love that this is something she is open to seeing spread across America, to hospitals with NICUs around the country. The group accepts all wedding gowns -- even those with stains (they can work around them) and they also accept seamstresses from around the country. What's more, they will ship the completed angel gowns to any NICU, with the gown wrapped in tissue paper in a special white box.

    Did you have a baby in the NICU? What's the sweetest thing anyone did for your family?


    Image via Jeremy Bronson/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    computerWhen you're a parent, you find yourself waffling between wondering if you can protect your child and vehemently declaring you're going to fix this scary world for them. But when they're at home, you're supposed to be able to let your guard down. Kids are safe at home, right? Tell that to the parents of the 11-year-old boy shot in his own home this week in St. Louis.

    The fourth grader was doing what kids do -- sitting in his house, working on a computer -- when police say a gunman broke a window and shot into the room. Somewhere between 8 and 10 rounds were fired into a room that clearly had a child inside. One of those rounds struck Antonio Johnson in the head.

    The 11-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene, although cops say they don't think he was the intended target. There was also a 4-year-old, a 7-year-old, two teens, and two adults home at the time of the attack.

    They were -- fortunately -- unhurt. Police say one of the teens in the house had been shot before, and they suspect that teen may have been the target rather than Antonio.

    There's small comfort in knowing someone didn't go out with the intention of killing an innocent 11-year-old ... I guess?

    But the fact remains that this poor family has to bury a child because the sanctity of their home was violated, because someone shot into a house, a house full of children, and killed a little boy.

    So much for feeling safe when your kids are at home, where you can keep an eye on them?

    There's a saying you see often on the Internet about a mother's heart being outside of her body, walking around. It's a tad corny, but this sort of news just reminds me of how true it is at the end of the day. Life changes when you have kids in so many ways, but the biggest may be that sense of how fragile life has become. I recall driving home from the hospital with my newborn daughter and wondering how much it would really cost to buy a tank. I saw every car on the road as a potential problem for us.

    We would drive ourselves nuts if we thought this way all the time, which is why we need a safe place, a house where our kids are -- for lack of a better term -- under our control. When someone violates that safe place, we're forced to face the truth: we can't protect our kids. We can't protect them from the monsters who exist out there. 

    Our only choice is to just keep on living and hoping and praying that the monsters pick on someone their own size.

    My heart breaks for the Johnson family. I hope they find the person who did this to their little boy and put them away for the rest of their life.

    Where is YOUR safe place with your kids? Is it your house?


    Image via Daniel X O'Neill/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Michelle Duggar Jim Bob DuggarWhoever thinks motherhood is not sexy has not met Michelle Duggar. Yes, that's right, I'm talking about the matriarch of the Arkansas family most famous for having a ton of kids and letting TLC film them all. The Duggars are about to head back to TV next week with the premiere of the eighth season of19 Kids & Counting on April 1, and while she might prefer conservative clothes and quote the Bible on the regular, when it comes to embracing her sexuality, Michelle Duggar is a thoroughly modern woman.

    The mother of 19 sat down with The Stir to talk about how she finds time (and privacy!) for babymaking, and the secret to still being attracted to your husband after all these years. Some of it may surprise you!

    On what kind of man she wants for her daughters:

    [Jim Bob] wants a right relationship with God, and because of that, it gives me security. I just admire him.

    Men need that admiration from their woman. They want to be admired; they want to be looked up to like, Oh, he's so brave; he's so courageous, he's so strong; he's so wonderful and he'd go to bat for me and he'd lay down his life for me and he'd be willing to die for me.

    I think as women, truly when a man humbles himself before God and us, and shares his struggles, his failures -- not only does he share his dreams and hopes for the future, but shares all that other stuff -- we truly just admire them for who they are.

    That's what I say to my daughters who have been asking these questions about approaching the possibility of marriage. That is what it's really all about.

    On why she puts her husband ahead of her kids: 

    Jim Bob and I are so close, but it comes from knowing the Lord and having those common goals and direction in life. The communication level is so deep for us; there isn't anything we haven't shared with one another. We purposed early on in our relationship to be totally open and honest with each other.

    When he shares his heart with me -- he doesn't have to, but he bares it all -- I know that my heart's safe with him.

    I just feel that there's so much insecurity in life, but my children know that our relationship is secure, our relationship comes first ... that gives our children security because they know we're in this 'til death do us part.

    More From The Stir: Michelle Duggar on What It's Really Like to Have 19 Kids

    There's never been a discussion about divorce because it's not a part of our vocabulary ... our kids have stability because our relationship has stability.

    On finding time for sex in a house full of kids:

    Obviously it's not that hard! Married men and women realize it's a needful part of life. It's that sweetness of the relationship. You'll find a way! You'll find time!

    On being interrupted:

    Everything is urgent for a child under the age of 6; there's not anything that's not urgent.

    I'm sure many couples besides Jim Bob and me can attest to some very funny moments in marriage when you've got children that are knocking on doors or talking or whatever, and you're realizing this is part of being married and having children and making those two things work together.

    We definitely [have a lock on the door] and we encourage that! We wrote in our book, you definitely need a lock on the door and children need to know that's just mom and dad time. Sometimes we are honestly talking, and other times we might be doing more than talking and that's OK too!

    On why a wife owes her husband sex:

    My friend Gala gave me some wise advice before I got married ... she said to me, Michelle, I am so excited for you; I know you are just thrilled, you're the sweet little bride-to-be, but there's some advice I want to give you. There's going to be the day that will come when you're in your marriage, everything's going along just fine, but you've got the stress, maybe a new baby, you're tired, you come to the end of the day and you're exhausted and you drop into bed ready to fall asleep. You need to realize that you are the only one who can meet that need for your husband. Anybody can iron his shirts, anyone can fix him lunch or he can get lunch out if he can afford it. Anybody can do those other things for him, but only you can meet that intimate need he has in his life. It might not at that moment be a need for you, but it is for him. Don't forget that.

    I can remember through the years in our relationship that advice ringing in my ears as I dropped into bed. My feet literally would hit the floor running and I would not stop until I dropped into bed exhausted because I had lots of little ones and the business of life to keep up with, and that advice has been so valuable.

    On owning her sexuality:

    Honestly ... it is a stress reliever for both of us! It is a good thing! It's not a bad thing! More women need to realize that it really is a wonderful thing and a stress reliever for both of you. I think that part isn't spoken enough in our communication, wives to wives.

    What do you think of Michelle's open attitude about sex? Are you surprised? 

    Image via TLC

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    children playingMy pediatrician delivered bad news this week. My daughter's goopy, red eyes was just what I feared ... a walloping case of pink eye. Cue six loads of laundry to wash everything she might have come in contact with, compulsive hand washing to the point where my hands are red and raw, and of course obsessing about every little itch and tick of my own eyes.

    Pink eye. Two little words. One massive mom headache.

    That's always how it is, isn't it? Something so small, something that sounds so innocuous, fills you with dread when you're a parent? In fact, pink eye ranks right up at the top of a list of the absolute worst phrases in the English language ... at least for parents. What else is on the list? Why I thought you'd never ask!

    1. Pink eye

    2. Snow day

    3. Head lice

    4. Justin Bieber

    5. Send cupcakes

    6. Chaperones needed

    7. Science project

    8. Food allergy

    9. Driver's permit

    10. Summer break

    11. Chuck E. Cheese (OK, not exactly 2 words, but close enough!)

    12. Fundraising contest

    13. Class mom

    14. Pediatrician appointment

    15. Bake sale

    What phrases make you absolutely CRINGE now that you're a parent?


    Image via Felix Montino/Flickr


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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Kate Middleton Prince WilliamKate Middleton and Prince William have done an admirable job of keeping little Prince George away from prying eyes since his christening, but it's finally here! A new royal family portrait is out! And it looks like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have settled on a favorite photographer.

    Jason Bell, the man who snapped the historic photos of the Prince George Louis Alexander with Queen Elizabeth and the rest of the family, was given the go-ahead to take a decidedly more informal portrait of the little prince with his mum, dad, and of course doggie Lupo! Are you ready to squeal with delight? Check this baby out (literally!):

    Royal Family Portrait

    Say it with me now ... awwww!

    As a family portrait photographer, my favorite families to photograph are always those with parents who favor more natural shots, and it's clear Kate and Wills are that kind of couple. The way 8-month-old Prince George is checking out his doggie is so much more real than a photo of him staring solemnly at the camera.

    More From The Stir: Kate Middleton & Royal Baby's First Portrait Is Just Plain Creepy (PHOTO)

    Not to mention it's nice to see that Lupo is still very much a part of the family -- despite all those rumors that the cocker spaniel had been kicked to the curb after the little man came along. It seems baby and pup DO get along after all! It looks like man's best friend is more BABY's best friend, doesn't it?

    For now we have just this one shot of the family, but we did get a surprise extra photo awhile after the christening, so who knows ... maybe we'll get to see just George and Lupo playing? George and mum cuddling?

    What do you think of the informal shot of the royal family?


    Image via Jason Bell/Camera Press/Redux

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Paul WalkerActor Paul Walker's daughter Meadow Walker has not had it easy these past few months. First her father dies, then the teen finds out she'll have to uproot and go live with grandma if she wants her giant inheritance, throwing her right in the middle of an epic custody war. But it looks like cooler heads are prevailing. Finally!

    Cheryl Walker, Paul's mom, may have gotten custody of her granddaughter in the Fast and Furious star's will, but the girl's mom, Rebecca Soteros, may not be losing her child after all.

    According to TMZ, Cheryl is willing to completely ignore the stipulations of her son's will ... if Soteros -- who has been arrested for DUI several times -- agrees to complete rehab.

    Sounds pretty fair, don't you think? Kids need solid, stable parents, and a mom who gets in a car after drinking clearly is neither.

    More to the point, kids need parents. Sure, many grandparents in this country are doing a wonderful job of raising their grandkids because of various circumstances, but I think most of them would say they'd prefer their kids actually be there for their own kids because, well, that's what being a parent is all about. With one parent gone, Meadow is already having it rough. Not having either parent in her life is an emotional rollercoaster that is best avoided -- if at all possible.

    Kudos to Grandma here. Rather than putting her own selfish desire to spend time with Meadow ahead of the child's own needs, she's being a truly loving grandparent. She's giving her granddaughter the best gift of all -- real support and unconditional love.

    Now let's hope Soteros can put her daughter's needs ahead of her own selfish desires to drink. She has the very best reason to get treatment and actually kick butt in rehab -- her child.

    What do you make of Cheryl ignoring Paul's will stipulation? Would you be mad if your parent ignored what you put in your will?


    Image via Instagram

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Kailyn LowryIf being a good mom when you don't have one of your own is tough, imagine how much harder it is to be one when you're a teenager. Kailyn Lowry has done a bang-up job of putting the pieces of her life together on Teen Mom 2 without parents to support her, but if you don't think having an absentee parent weighs on her, get ready for this week's explosive episode.

    The Stir got hold of an exclusive sneak peek of Tuesday night's Teen Mom 2, and guess who's back! Suzi Irwin, aka Kailyn's deadbeat mom! And after years of ignoring her daughter, she wants back into the fold! Take a look at the clip:

    MTV Shows

    I have to say Kail handled that one with grace. It's hard being the bigger person, especially when the person who is acting so small is your own parent. But it's also hard to know when to say "when" with parents. They are, after all, your own flesh and blood ... and there's almost a magnet inside of you that pulls you their way.

    More From The Stir: Kailyn Lowry Blames Her Parents for Her Pregnancy

    But I almost feel like she's being too nice? This woman has been emotionally abusive for years, and she's going to let her be there when she delivers her baby? That's not a grandmother's "right"; that's a privilege Suzi should have to earn ... by actually putting her money where her mouth is and actually BEING a good mom and grandmother!

    It will be interesting to see how this all plays out on the show on Tuesday night (10 p.m. ET on MTV) ... although rumor has it we won't actually get to see baby Lincoln be born on Teen Mom 2.

    What do you think Kail should have said to her mom? Was she too easy on her?


    Image via MTV

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Jessa Duggar Ben SeewaldBig changes are on the horizon for Jessa Duggar. The third eldest daughter of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar is about to have her courtship with Ben Seewald opened up to the masses with tonight's premiere of the eighth season of 19 Kids & Counting on TLC. So what does Jessa think of all of this? Is the reality star really on board with sharing her private life with the masses ... or is that her parents' doing?

    The Stir asked Jessa how she feels about courting with an audience, and whether her parents pressure her to put up a front. Is she really on board with being a reality star?

    More From The Stir: Michelle Duggar Shares the Secret to Having Sex After 19 Kids

    On what say her parents had on her courtship:

    Definitely my parents wanted to check him out, make sure he's a good guy, but when it came down it, it was like, Do you want to court this guy? And I was like, Well yeah.

    I'd already known him for a time before that and seen a lot of good character. Just his goals and dreams in life; we had a lot of similar passions in that way ... we are just very compatible.

    Our parents' advice is very well-received on our part. We want their input, and we know that they only desire the best for our lives. It's not like they're trying to take away the fun or make our lives miserable. They really do desire the best for us, so we want their counsel and their advice.

    On what would have happened if her parents didn't like Ben:

    Well, I would think that they probably have a good reason for that. We probably would have discussed it and I would have come to an understanding of why.

    Sometimes I think if a girl is really romantically attached to a guy or if she's thinking he's cute, just really looking outward, he's fun to be around or whatever, she might pass over something that her parents might be able to see and say, Look at this character deficiency here. It might not be a no, never, but it might be he really needs to work on some areas in his life.

    On what she really thinks of being on 19 Kids & Counting

    Most of our lives have been recorded and kind of put out there for everyone to see. People are curious. I think if it were just me, I might kind of think, This is a personal thing, let's just keep this for myself, but I realize there are a lot of people who are curious about how we do courtship and how all that works.

    More From The Stir: Michelle Duggar on What It's Really Like to Have 19 Kids

    For that reason, I hope it can be an encouragement for a lot of young girls and give them a perspective and inside look at how this all works for us and how to carry out a relationship in a wholesome and a pure way. A lot of people think it's a bit old-fashioned the way we do things ... but really it's the way our parents, our grandparents would have done things -- just going about a relationship with purity and saving yourself for the wedding day, not getting yourself physically involved but really focusing on strong communication in the early stages of your relationship.

    Knowing that there are a lot of young girls, girls 12, 13, 14, who are curious about this, that would be the reason why we'd choose to have this televised.

    On being a role model to young girls:

    It's a great honor but also a great responsibility. You don't want to lead anybody astray. You don't want to stand up and tell young girls that something is acceptable when it probably isn't. 

    It's not just living for yourself and the pleasure of the moment -- thinking selfishly -- but really realizing there are a lot of little eyes looking up to you and wanting to set your standards high and be a good example and somebody that parents will say, I want you feeding into the lives of my kids.

    Kids want somebody they can look up to and say I want to be just like them. There are a lot of other influences out there in the world that when kids follow them, they have consequences that last for a lifetime ... heartache and grief and sorrow. Just wanting to be a positive role model, that's really in my heart.

    On whether she feels stressed to stay on TV & co-opt her parents' lifestyle:

    It's just really my personal relationship with God, that's first in my life. It's not about making my parents look good or my family look good or anything like that. It's really just about holding to the standards that I have found, myself, in the Bible, and wanting to live as I think God would want me to live.

    Are you surprised by Jessa's attitude about filming? Do you think she's a good role model for your kids?



    Image via TLC

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Kristin ChenowethI know I couldn't have been the only Gleek doing a happy dance when Kristin Chenoweth re-appeared on Glee last month. It's been a long, long time since we got to see boozy April Rhodes belt one out ... too long. April is one of the more colorful roles the triple-threat actress has tackled in her years floating from Broadway to film to TV, and now Chenoweth is taking on a slightly smaller but just as colorful role. Come April 11, she'll hit theaters as Gabi, a poisonous pink tree frog with some serious pipes in Rio 2.

    The movie is animated, but Chenoweth's high-pitched voice and comedic timing are the perfect antidote to the brooding of her on-screen love object, the evil bird Nigel (played by Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement), for whom she will do anything.

    The Stir sat down with Kristin to talk about trying to find respect as a woman in Hollywood, her future on Glee, her childhood, and of course what she's got in common with a little pink tree frog with a taste for dirty deeds.

    The Stir: What attracted you to the role of Gabi?

    I loved Rio, so when I found out they were interested in me -- they had me come out to Blue Sky and take a look at the artwork -- I couldn't say no to this cute little face. Plus, I knew that I'd get to be sort of teamed with Jemaine, and I loved his character from the first one. The idea of a lovable villain is always good, so it was an easy decision.

    The first movie had a cast of well-loved characters; did you worry about coming in and how you'd be received?

    Of course! I'm an actress; I'm a little bit loco. It seemed to be one of those things, I remember when I joined West Wing, where you've got to step up to the plate or you're going to be left at the station. I wanted to be lovable, but I also wanted to be the character. I wanted to fit in; I'm the newbie. I had all the insecurities that we all would have, but again I just kept telling Carlos, You just ask of me whatever you want ... I will do it. If you ask me to cluck like a chicken, I will do it.

    How are you like Gabi? I mean, obviously you're not a poisonous tree frog ...

    Thank God! Although we might ask some of my ex-boyfriends about that!

    I think being little, having this voice -- even though it's not as high as hers in life -- I can relate to not being heard and people are surprised when I have a brain. 

    Rio 2 GabiDo you think it's because you're a woman?

    I think we can talk about this ... women, we are fighting the good fight in Hollywood and in the business world and everywhere. I don't think it helps my cause to be 4'11" and sound like Betty Boop! But it's also what makes me different, and you have to embrace those things.

    I tell a lot of young girls out there, when I was doing Wicked, they were always like are you more Glinda or more Elphaba, and I'm so Elphaba; it's just funny that I'm playing Glinda, although Glinda also had her insecurities.

    Talking about different characters, we were so excited to see you back on Glee! Are you going to be on Glee for awhile, do we finally get some April Rhodes?

    I hope so! I would love that! You know the things that come out of her mouth are so wrong, and yet I love her! I think that's the challenge with playing April, having these lines come out but feeling for her and laughing with herself. Nobody's laughing more at April than her.

    You know, I would always love to come back. It's always been a question of my crazy schedule, but now that it's being taken in a different direction with Lea's character and Chris Colfer's character, I think there's a role where April can be on Broadway.

    To play somebody who is a drunk has been fun, again lovable, somewhat of an underdog. I love her because probably in high school she was the shit, she was it, and in life it didn't work out that way. I think a lot of us can relate to that; a lot of people can relate to having a different path than you set out on. That's why I like playing her. 

    Did you always want to be an actress? What was YOUR plan when you were a kid?

    I wanted to be a ballerina! I just was never tall enough. I didn't have the right feet. I wasn't long enough, but I have the heart of a dancer.

    It was my mom who told me "embrace the thing that makes you different, and if it's not ballet, you also love to play the piano, you love to sing, and you can't embody all of it Kristin." I didn't understand that; I was too worried and upset that I wasn't going to be 5'!

    But ultimately she was right. She gave me the self-esteem. I had the right mom for sure. She gave me the self-esteem, and she helped me to understand what my purpose was, which is so important for young girls to help them find what it is they're passionate about.

    When did you realize you had that VOICE?

    It was in church, I was singing. I remember I was probably 7 or 8. I had this incredibly high soprano sound as a young kid, and it opened up and the church stood up. I went to a big Bible belt church, so when there are 1,000 people standing for you, you're like whoa!

    My parents were engineers; they took me to Tulsa University and they had me sing for the faculty there. They said she's a prodigy with her range, with perfect pitch. [My parents asked] What do you want, Kristin?

    My parents were not show biz people, and I said, I want to try out for the play this year and I want to be in the glee club, so instead of moving me to LA or NY and pushing me in that direction, they said OK, you get to be a kid! It was the right decision ... for me.

    What is your favorite Kristin Chenoweth role?


    Images via Jeanne Sager; Blue Sky Productions

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    Chris Colfer GleeGlee has finally left Ohio behind, and the New Directions have taken New York. Well, some of the New Directions anyway. The first post-glee club breakdown episode aired tonight, and we got a look at who is staying on ... and who is coming back!

    That's right, Gleeks! Marley, Ryder, and the young kids may not have made the jump to the all-new Glee, but the writers have decided to bring back at least one of the old favorites in their stead.

    Amber Riley, aka Mercedes Jones, is now an official member of the New York New Directions. She convinced her label that she wants a Harlem vibe to her new album, so they're putting her up in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Which is good for Sam and Blaine, who just so happened to need someone with a second bedroom to rent out.

    Yup, it turns out Blaine living with Kurt isn't good for Klaine -- at least not while he's still figuring out how to make it on his own in the Big Apple. One would think having Kurt move out of his place in favor of finding a new home they made TOGETHER would have made more sense than having Blaine find his own place entirely, but hey, it's TV ... right? And someone needs to keep Sam and Mercedes from jumping each other's bones.

    Meanwhile Artie is also living in the city -- and learning to make it around town in his wheelchair -- but there was no Santana (or Brittany!) this week, as she up and quit Funny Girl as promised to hit the island of Lesbos.

    As for the other New Directions? They may not be in New York, but don't write them off just yet. The opening credits included the likes of Melissa Benoist and Jenna Ushkowitz.

    Who do YOU hope gets to come back? What could they do in the big city?


    Image via Fox

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Jenelle EvansThe fifth season ofTeen Mom 2 finally caught up to Jenelle Evans' pregnancy, and now we know what was going through her mind when she decided to have baby number two despite not yet being divorced (or having custody of baby number one!). The reality star planned this pregnancy, purposely opting not to use birth control with boyfriend Nathan Griffith. She doesn't, however, seem to have really prepared for what it means to have a baby.

    Why else would she still be smoking while pregnant

    Smoking cigarettes, that is. Jenelle told her doctor that she was not using illegal substances (thank goodness), but she did fess up to smoking daily, with plans to quit. Nathan popped in with his own two cents, saying he's going to make her quit, and we later saw the two of them bickering in the car as Nathan read out warnings about how damaging even one cigarette can be to a developing fetus.

    Don't get me wrong ... it's GOOD that Nathan wants Jenelle to make good choices during her pregnancy; it's certainly more than we saw out of Andrew. But isn't it a little ... late? The advantage of planning a pregnancy is that you have time to get all your ducks in a row BEFORE you've got a bun in that oven! You can start the vitamins and kick the dirty habits and all that jazz!

    Let's just hope she's cleaned up her act since this was filmed, huh?

    As for the other girls, there was plenty of drama to go around -- as per usual!

    Chelsea Houska's daughter Aubree had an epic toddler meltdown because, toddler, and she got served with more court paperwork by her loser ex.

    But Chels got some good news too -- her lawyer worked out a deal with Adam's lawyer to keep them out of the courthouse. Adam's parents will get Aubree every other weekend, and Adam will have to see his daughter with supervision. As Chelsea's dad put it, they're essentially babysitting their (grown-up) son with his daughter. Oh, and Mr. I Have a Gazillion DUIs does not get to drive with the little girl!

    Kailyn Lowry's life seems to be calming down with the wedding out of the way, but her estranged mom has suddenly popped up, putting Kail in an emotional tailspin. I have to say I was surprised Kailyn was so NICE to her mom after being pretty vocal about what a crappy parent Suzi was to her, but can you really blame her? This is her MOM we're talking about. It's never easy to completely cut someone like that out of your life.

    And then, of course, there's Leah, who is still going through some major relationship drama with Jeremy. It seems he dropped the "d" word on her, but after seeing her marriage with Corey go up in smoke, she's determined to work harder this time. I wasn't always a Leah fan, but this season has certainly made me like her more ... she's a young mom who has made her mistakes, but she's trying to learn from them! We'd all be better off if more folks would do the same.

    What did you think of the episode? How about Barbara's reaction to finding out she's going to be a grandmother AGAIN?


    Image via MTV

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    bathtubA 3-year-old has died and his 6-year-old brother remains in serious condition in a hospital after police say their mother tried to drown them both in the family's bathtub. Laurel Schlemmer allegedly waited until her 7-year-old son left for school before getting her two younger children into the bath, then climbing in with them -- fully clothed -- and holding both boys under the water.

    The tragedy in Western Pennsylvania is already being compared to that of Andrea Yates, the Texas mom who drowned her five kids in the family tub back in 2001. And there are certain starling similarities. Like Yates, Schlemmer already seems to be prepping an insanity defense, telling police she heard "crazy voices" that told her to drown her sons.

    Too horrifying for words? There's more.

    Detectives on the case say Schlemmer told them she "thought she could be a better mother" to the 7-year-old "if the other two boys weren't around and they would be better off in heaven."

    It's so crazy I can't imagine a mother who wasn't hearing "voices" saying anything of the kind. How could one possibly be a good mother after killing her kid?

    Unless this is yet another case of a mother so overwhelmed by motherhood that she's simply lost her grip on reality? I should be clear I am not excusing the horrors Laurel Schlemmer is accused of here. You don't drown your kids in the family bathtub. You get help. Period. 

    But as the mother of one child who knows that one child is really my limit, a part of me can't help but respond to her alleged statements to police. People often tell me I "have to" have another child -- for various reasons -- and often look askance at me when I say that one is what I can handle.

    As mothers, we're expected to be able to juggle however many kids we have, regardless of our personalities, our capabilities, our mental state. But like our kids, all moms are different. All moms have varying degrees of maternal instinct and abilities. Some moms thrive with a lot of kids; some moms are just barely getting by with one or two.

    Do I think Schlemmer is a "better mom" for what she's accused of doing? Absolutely not!

    Could I see how she wished she could turn back the clock to when she just had one and maybe felt like she could handle that? Well, honestly ... yes. I think we all could, if we really force ourselves to think about it.

    Unfortunately, not enough parents think about their limitations before having more kids than they can handle. Fortunately, most moms pull themselves up by their boot straps and make do, even when the going gets tough.

    If Laurel Schlemmer couldn't do that, she could at least have sought help ... from a therapist, from a local church, from someone! Her boys didn't ask for an overwhelmed mom; they deserved better.

    What do you think should happen to Schlemmer? Should the court show her mercy or lock her away and throw away the key?


    Image via r. nial bradshaw/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    puzzle piecesThe latest statistics show that one in 68 children in America has autism. But as the world shifts into gear for Autism Awareness Month -- or as some call it, Autism Acceptance Month -- we can't help but be reminded that despite the growing number of children being diagnosed with the spectrum disorder, the way these kids are treated is changing too.

    Parents may not know what "causes" autism, but more parents than ever have become vocal advocates for their children. And so it seems fitting that as we don blue clothing and plaster everything in sight with puzzle pieces, we also look at some quotes that celebrate the children and adults with what Autism Speaks terms the "fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S." as well as the parents who are at their side every step of the way.

    Number seven is SO important to remember, don't you think?

    Image via Magnus Akselvoll/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager.

    Changing the Face of BeautyMost moms worry about the effect advertising has on their kids. But Katie Driscoll's chief worry wasn't that commercials were trying to convince her 4-year-old daughter to buy stuff she doesn't need. It's that Grace, who has Down syndrome, would never see people like her in advertising.

    But thanks to Katie and her friend Steve English, the father of another child with a disability, that's changing. The two are the founders of Changing the Face of Beauty, a campaign to get more children with disabilities into advertising campaigns. By taking photos of kids with disabilities and sending them to companies, they are slowly but surely changing the face of advertising. The Stir spoke with Katie about her daughter, her beautiful photography, and of course how she is changing the face of beauty.

    The Stir: Can you tell me what it was you were seeing in advertising ... or not seeing ... that really pushed you to join forces with Steve?

    I wanted my daughter to feel valued in this world, and I feel that advertising was the missing component. We look to advertising to help us make decisions on personal choices. There were very few people represented in any type of advertising who happen to have a disability. I knew that in time my daughter would grow up and realize that the world she was living in was not noticing her or anyone like her. People who have disabilities make up the largest minority group and they have no voice in the media. That is a problem and I hope to be just one voice to encourage change. I want my daughter and all people living with a disability to be heard and seen.

    Steve and I became friends shortly after my daughter was born. He has always been a supportive and inspirational person in our journey with Grace. He has raised an amazing son who also has a disability but is now capable of living a semi-independent life. He has great ideas and he always encourages me to think outside of the box. He encouraged me to take my photography to the next level and joined with me to form the campaign "Changing the Face of Beauty."

    How do you actually get companies to pick up your images?

    I find companies by searching and watching children's fashion. I reach out to them directly and encourage them to include children of all abilities. I offer my photography to show them what a picture looks like when all children are together interacting. The response has been hands down fantastic. They 110 percent believe in what I encourage them to do once I prove to them it is possible.

    Who are the kids in most of the photos?

    The kids are local children, friends, and my own children. I generally put out a casting call for people to be able to come to my studio in Palos Park, Illinois.

    Does Grace have any idea how famous she's become?

    Grace is 4 years old, and although she loves the camera, she has no idea what is going on with this passion that she helps me communicate. I hope someday she is as proud of our accomplishments as I am. I am pretty confident she will be.

    Check out some of Katie's adorable models below!

    Do you see kids "like" your own in advertising? What do you wish you saw more of?


    Image via Katie Driscoll/Changing the Face of Beauty

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