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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

    IV bagSome people would call an $8.25 million settlement in a lawsuit incredibly good news. After all, the money a court has awarded Fritzie and Cameron Burkett is the most ever in Illinois history. But considering the Burketts got the cash from a hospital where their baby boy died, I'm having a hard time putting this one in the "win" column.

    Little Genesis Burkett was born four months premature at just 1 pound, 8 ounces. But he was apparently a fighter. He'd sailed right through heart surgery, and then horror struck.

    The Burketts' son was administered 60 times the amount of sodium choloride than he should have had in his IV drip. At 40 days old, Genesis died at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital.

    Sorry, folks, but $8.25 million doesn't begin to make up for that. I understand why the Burketts sued; this is not a judgment on them. They have been able to demand that the hospital change its practices to ensure that no other parent suffers the awful blow of losing a child because of a stupid mistake. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's what many people who file medical malpractice suits are shooting for.

    But if there was ever a case that screams "look, oodles of money doesn't fix everything," this is it folks. This is proof that $8.25 million is about as worthless as a piece of paper to a mom and dad who are grieving. As the couple's attorney told one reporter:

    They function. They work. They cry at the drop of a hat when they see small children or a pregnant lady.

    The Burketts still lost their son. After 40 days of feeling like he might actually make it and clinging to hope. They are still suffering the worst trauma any parent can imagine. They didn't win anything. They simply didn't lose more.

    Would you sue if your child died at a hospital? Why (or why not)?


    Image via Ano.Lob @healthyrx/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jany Lynch Sue Sylvester GleeGleeks, let's get real. As much as I say I watch Glee for the music, I have ulterior motives. I'm just waiting to hear what dart Jane Lynch can throw out at old Butt Chin Schuester this week.

    Lynch has made insulting people Golden Globe worthy. Frankly, I you haven't been truly insulted until Sue Sylvester has turned her acid tongue on you. With just days (squee!) to go until the spring premiere on Tuesday, I can't think of a better way to celebrate than revisiting some of the nastiest (and most hilarious) ways our favorite track-suited cheerleading coach has cut folks down to size:

    To Brittany and Santana: You may be the two stupidest teens I've ever encountered. And that's saying something. I once taught a cheerleading seminar to a young Sarah Palin. To Mr. Schue: I thought I smelled cookies wafting from the ovens of the little elves who live in your hair. To Coach Bieste: Why don't you hurry on to your next face-widening session at the John Travolta Institute for Head Thickening and Facial Weight Gain? To Mr. Schue: I thought you might wanna put all of out of our misery and shave off that Chia Pet. About Todd Palin: I made plans to shoot reindeer from my helicopter with Sarah Palin, but she canceled. Apparently Todd gets fussy when she misses his ballet recitals. To Sandy Ryerson: How is it that you manage to sneak into this school without setting off all of the fire alarms? To Brittany and Santana: Hello, Tweedle Stupid, Tweedle Fake Boobs. To Mr. Schue: Seriously, you wear more vests than the cast of Blossom. To Emma Pillsbury: Are you still at freakishbonyginger@gmail? To Quinn and Santana: This is what we call a total disaster ladies. I'm going to ask you to smell your armpits. That's the smell of failure and it's stinking up my office. To Santana: Boobs McGee, you're demoted to the bottom of the pyramid, so when it collapses, your exploding sandbags will keep everyone safe from injury. To Quinn: You know Q, when I first laid eyes on you, I was reminded of a young Sue Sylvester, though you don't have my bone structure. To Santana: A person that has to pump her naughties full of gravy to feel good about herself clearly doesn't have the self-esteem to be my head cheerleader. To Mr. Schue: You know what they say? Those who can't, teach. Turns out, maybe you actually can. Think about that the next time you prop your butt chin up on one of those little toilets. To Mr. Schue: I suggest selling yourself on Craigslist under the heading of "Men seeking Men with butt chins."

    More from The Stir:5 Craziest Internet Gleeks of 2011 (VIDEOS)

    What's your favorite Sue Sylvester-ism? Do you find yourself watching just to see who she'll zing?


    Image via Fox


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Marion BarrySo, who was surprised to hear Marion Barry has screwed up again? Anyone? Really? The Washington, D.C. councilman is making his apologies today for racially insensitive remarks about Asian shop owners in the nation's capital.

    Barry's official comment was: "We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops." Way to keep it classy there Marion! And now for the real news: people are actually wiggling their eyebrows and wondering whether this could hurt his chances at re-election. Ah, I really needed a Friday morning giggle. Thanks for that folks!

    Marion Barry is, after all, the mayor who spent six months in federal prison back in the '90s for being caught -- on videotape no less -- smoking crack. And they still elected him mayor! Four times!

    Heck, in four decades, Barry has only lost one election. And during a primary this week for the council seat in D.C.'s Ward 8, Barry had a whopping 73 percent of the vote.

    Oh, and we might as well add in that Barry has been married three times, faced allegations of adultery, and told a national talk show host that he was addicted to sex. That's the kind of stuff that sends most campaign managers back to their computers to brush up their resumes because they know this job is over.

    But not Marion Barry's.

    Who knows why. Maybe it's because people in Washington are so used to politicians screwing up, they can forgive anything. Maybe it's because the good Barry has done outweighs the bad -- in their minds anyway. If you don't live in D.C., you don't get it. I don't get it.

    And yet, we just figure that's the way it's going to be. They've elected the cheating, crack-smoking scoundrel over and over and over again because they think he's worth it. I'm highly doubting some racial insensitivity will suddenly change that.

    How about you? Why do you think D.C. residents continue to re-elect Marion Barry?


    Image via dbking/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    desksGet ready to be outraged. A new report shows 14 of 16 teachers charged with sexual inappropriate contact with students in New York City's schools are still in the classroom. And an arbitrator actually thought this was a good idea.

    Hey! I have an idea! How about HE lose his job along with these pervy teachers?

    Arbitration is a union-protected right for New York teachers; and I don't really have a problem with that. Some people get all caught up in how easy teachers have it, but having spent some time in a classroom full of 6-year-olds recently, my hat is off to these people. I can barely handle the zoo that is my kid's birthday party. And there are idiot parents who fly off the handle everywhere; teachers need some protection from the kind of mom who would call the cops because her 14-year-old read a book with a naughty word in it (yes, true story ... sadly).

    But if arbitration is in place, the arbitrator needs to have some scruples. They can't simply decide they are out there to protect teacher jobs. They need to use common sense.

    But you can't tell me he (or she) used common sense in letting a teacher who stalked his student -- sitting outside her job at McDonald's, and sending her more than 50 text messages -- back into the classroom. I was born at night, y'all, but not last night! And that's one of the more minor allegations! One teacher is said to have bent a male student over and brushed his genitals against the child's behind, making references to homosexuality!

    Protecting teachers from crazy parents is fine; if you're protecting kids from pervy teachers too. It can't be one but not the other.

    What do you think should happen to this arbitrator?


    Image via dcJohn/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Justin Bieber Selena GomezHow's this for shockingly non-shocking? Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez were caught acting like normal teenagers this week. The young lovebirds were spotted out picnicking at a park and hitting up plain old chain Panera for their dates. And on behalf of parents everywhere, I'd like to send them a big fat thank you!

    Now if only all their fans could be made aware that this is normal dating procedure, I'd be even happier. The thing is, fair or not, the Biebs and Selena have become role models of sorts to our kids. And the way they've been dating has been fine for their uber-rich lifestyles, but for our teens to emulate, they've been a bit of a nightmare.

    Renting out the Staples Center? Really, dude? Such over-the-top gestures before you're legally able to marry is kind of ... well, I'll say it, it's the kind of stuff controlling creeps do. I'm not calling the Biebs a creep; but when your daughter's boyfriend is getting that serious when they're still in high school, it can be a major red flag. But just try telling your daughter that. Yeah, good luck.

    The thing is, when you throw in Bieber's comments about one day fathering Selena's babies, adopting a dog together, or even their trip to Hooters, well ... we're not exactly talking easy, breezy, lemon squeezy dates here. We're talking the kind of stuff you get into when you're older and ready for a commitment.

    Teenagers need to learn how to date the same way they learn algebra or how to drive. They need someone to show them what's age-appropriate and what's not. Hopefully that will be their parents (cough, cough), but we need to give them good examples ... and there aren't a lot out there, at least not celebrity-wise!

    The irony is that Bieber is now actually old enough for marriage, and they're dialing the hot and heavy back! Maybe it's a sign that they're growing up and being more realistic! Either way, it's a lifeline for parents who need an example to throw up to their kids that a date at the park really is good enough for now ... the sleepovers can wait until they're older.

    Get a load of Selena and Justin on their latest date:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    What kind of dates have you allowed your kids to go on? Have you had to put the kibosh on anything?

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    boy and girlThe older my kid gets, the more I realize her childhood will never be like mine. It doesn't matter that I'm raising her a mere 16 miles from my childhood home. It doesn't matter that I have pretty much the same values as my parents before me. There are some things that are just never coming back

    And when it comes to the mullet, that's a good thing (seriously, Mom, that third grade picture ... really?). But it's no wonder parents today are neurotic .. life is so different. Just take a look:

    Childhood Then: Mom taught you to avoid that empty house down the street.

    Childhood Now: We teach them to avoid high fructose corn syrup.

    Then: When you complained about your food, your mom told you about the starving kids in Ethiopia.

    Now: If they really think they have it rough, they could try living under Joseph Kony. 

    Then: Ernie & Bert were our favorite babysitters.

    Now: The only babysitter we trust speaks three languages and has a PhD in child development.

    Then: Mom worried we'd get in trouble for trading Garbage Pail Kids cards on the playground.

    Now: Our kids would get suspended if they brought a peanut butter sandwich into the cafeteria.

    Then: You couldn't wait until your pictures came back from the developer and Mom picked them up.

    Now: They wish we'd stop sharing every single thing they do on Facebook.

    Then: We came back inside from playing when the street lights came on.

    Now: What do you mean "go outside?"

    Then: The lucky kids got Wonder Bread with Goober.

    Now: The lucky kids don't have to eat kale chips.

    Then: Casey Kasem provided the soundtrack for the lives of everyone in the family. 

    Now: Radio? We only let them listen to Kidz Bop.

    Then: Mom magically paid for toys by writing out a check at the department store.

    Now: BPA-free, wooden toys magically appear on the front porch after we order them online.

    Then: Movies were a Saturday afternoon day out at the theater, paired with popcorn that was absolutely soaking in butter.

    Now: Movies are popped in the DVD player, Pirates Booty is poured into a bowl and plopped in front of them, and we vamoose out of the room as fast as we can.

    Then: Itchy bug bites were coated in Calamine lotion, and we were sent back out the door.

    Now: We take their clothes off and send them straight into an organic oatmeal bath.

    Then: Friday meant family game night with pizza.

    Now: Friday means dad's on the Xbox, mom's on Facebook, and the kids are playing Angry Birds on their iPads.

    Then: You fought with your brother over who had shotgun.

    Now: They won't be riding in the front seat until they're in college!

    Then: You had to wait until Mom had time to take you to the library to do research for your school project.

    Now: They can look up whatever thy need on their laptops.

    Then: Visiting with Grandma and Grandpa meant making cookies and staying up late for snuggles on the couch.

    Now: We set them up on Skype so they can talk to our parents.

    Then: Three words: raw cookie dough.

    Now: You just found a recipe on Pinterest for carob brownies made with free-range eggs and zucchini hidden inside that looks fabulous.

    Then: Kool-Aid stained our teeth.

    Now: Organic Honest Tea is a rare treat. Otherwise it's a stainless steel bottle full of water.

    Then: You brown-bagged your lunch to school. 

    Now: They have a monogrammed, insulated bag made from sustainable fabrics.

    Then: You had to sell candy door-to-door for the PTA.

    Now: You take an order form to work because the school has forbidden the kids from actually selling to a real, live person in case they're pedophiles.

    Then: There wasn't enough room in the car for all your friends, but the squished in anyway.

    Now: Your only child can move their booster seat to any of a variety of seats in the minivan.

    What is the biggest difference between the childhood your kid is having and yours?


    Image by Jeanne Sager


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    holding handsOf all the myths about autism -- and whoo boy are there a lot -- one of the most prevalent marks kids on the spectrum as unfeeling, lacking the ability to love and desire to feel a human connection. Guess what y'all? Teenagers with autism are the same mess of hormones and lust as their peers. They want to date too.

    And thanks to two particular college kids with Asperger's who volunteered to work with The New York Times and their Love on the Spectrum project late last year, these loving, feeling kids finally have a voice in the national discussion of autism to break down another barrier to getting a date: society frowning on them. Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith have sparked the kind of outpouring of emotion that the myth makers wouldn't expect from kids on the spectrum. 

    But emotional these kids have been. They want the world to know they don't love other people "despite" their autism. They just plain love other people. It's an important -- albeit difficult to grasp -- distinction. But kids with autism are trying to show the world that the syndrome may affect much of what they do, but that doesn't mean it's a "problem." As one high schooler said:

    Love is a really hard thing to accomplish, maybe even the hardest thing in the world to achieve, and it is hard for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you are autistic or not. If anything, this article shows trials and tribulations that befall every relationship of society.

    His point is well taken. Love and relationships are HARD. Being on the autism spectrum may make for complications in dating. But really, other folks have complications too. We just have different hurdles. Depression. A rough childhood. Divorced parents. Fear of commitment. Falling in love too easily. Falling out of love to easily. The sky is the limit.

    It doesn't mean the rest of us don't date. So why not kids with autism? Why don't they deserve the same chance to go out and feel that heady rush of hormones and the sweet thrill of a first kiss?

    I'm glad the world is getting to know more about autism for the sakes of all these kids. The more examples out there of these kids growing up and doing "normal" stuff, the better. But what we need as a society is to learn the truth about autism, not truck in myths and half-truths. First lesson? Love is not a foreign concept for kids with autism. 

    What's the most pervasive myth about autism you've encountered?


    Image via katerha/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jenelle Evans JaceDo me a favor. Sit down. Oh, and swallow any substances in your mouth before you read this. I wouldn't want the latest on Teen Mom "star" Jenelle Evans to cause anyone to blow soda out their nose. Been there, done that, have the unpleasant memories to go with it.

    So, you ready? OK then. Word has it Jenelle has a habit of posting updates to her social media accounts about hanging out with her son Jace when she isn't actually with the child. Why would she do that? Well, according to Jenelle's one-time bestie/current frenemy, Tori Rhyne, she is trying to make people think she's a good mom.

    Oh. Oh. Oh. That is rich! I don't think I've laughed that hard in a good long time!

    Either Tori was lying through her teeth when she spoke with Radar, or Jenelle Evans is more deluded than we ever thought possible. Darlings, I think it's safe to say the "good mom" ship has SAILED!

    Let's start, for example, with the mere fact that Jenelle does not have custody of her own child, shall we? Or how about the number of times she and mom Barbara have gotten into screaming matches in front of little Jace? Ooh, ooh, I have one! How about the (countless) times Jenelle has chosen to lie in bed and throw herself a pity party instead of hauling her behind out from under the covers and lending a hand to care for the fruit of her womb?

    And we could go into the countless trips to jail, the loser boyfriends ... but I think we have enough, don't we? Enough that the occasional Facebook post about how she's spending time with the child she created isn't really going to earn her breakfast in bed and a World's #1 Mom pendant any time soon?

    I'd like to see Jenelle redeem herself one day. That poor little boy deserves better than the fate he's been given. But if she really wants to convince us that she's made it, she should give up on the talk about Jace and show us a little more action. Going a few months (OK, one WHOLE month) without any legal trouble would be a nice start.

    What do you think it will take for you to believe Jenelle is a "good" mother?


    Image via MTV

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    CiscoPrep the tissues, folks, because you're going to need them. A Texas man is in deep mourning today after watching his dog, Cisco, be shot right in front of him in their yard. And all Michael Paxton can get out of the Austin Police Department is a lukewarm apology as they defend their officer.

    I have a dog. I love my dog. The way I see it, "sorry" doesn't cut it just because Cisco had four legs and fur. 

    The story goes that the officer wasn't even at the right house when he showed up in Paxton's yard with his gun drawn. He had the address for a domestic disturbance call wrong. But he pulled out a gun and started yelling at Paxton, who had left Cisco in the backyard (where they'd been playing Frisbee!) while he went to get something out of his truck in his driveway. Not surprisingly, the 40-year-old innocent man was upset. And knowing loyal pets like I do, I'm not surprised his 50-pound blue heeler came bounding out from the backyard to find out why his daddy sounded so distraught.

    I am surprised to hear a police department is backing a cop who used deadly force on the animal in his own driveway instead of opting for a Taser or pepper spray, both of which Paxton says he had in his hands. They're claiming the dog was "threatening" and going to attack.

    Fair enough, I guess. Paxton says he was screaming that his dog was friendly and wouldn't bite, but we all know when we see teeth, you just don't KNOW what a dog is going to do. I get that the cop was scared. But that's why our cops are armed with non-lethal defense mechanisms. They have means to defend themselves if they feel scared. And they're supposed to be quick on their feet and able to pull them out when necessary.

    The fact that this officer went straight for the gun troubles me. He should have taken a second to think about the fact that he was on a person's property, threatening them with a weapon, and the dog was following its natural instincts. He should have thought about what the man was saying. It shows a cop who is trigger-happy. It shows a cop who can't use good judgment, a cop who obviously needs to go back for some new "in the field" training.

    Just imagine that Cisco wasn't a dog but a child. Different? Yeah. But this cop obviously showed he doesn't think before he shoots. So who's to say he would have put down the gun if the "attacker" was human?

    The Justice for Cisco page that's cropped up on Twitter with thousands of fans is has been careful to ask that people not turn this into a vigilante cop hunt. But their demand for change is valid. In a world where cops go straight for their guns when they feel threatened by a dog, we have to ask if anyone is safe. A dog isn't "just" a dog. It's a living creature. Cisco could have been anyone.

    What do you think should happen with this officer?


    Image via Justice for Cisco

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    amber riley chris colferGleeks, I'm sorry, but it's time to break the news. The fate of Finchel may be the great question hanging over Season 3 of Glee. But the news that Brittany and Santana made a sex tape that came out of the "Saturday Night Glee-ver" episode just proves Brittana is the ice cream sundaes of primetime hotness next to Rachel and Finn's vanilla on-again/off-again high school romance.

    Oh yeah. Sex tape baby. And in the spirit of what makes Glee worth watching even when the music fails to move us (seriously Ryan Murphy? DISCO?), this one was epic.

    OK, so we saw nothing. The show airs at 8 p.m. Duh. But you try topping the mental picture of Brittany splicing footage of her cat, Lord Tubbington, cleaning out her dishwasher into the "private" film she made with Santana, then uploading it to the Internet to help make her girlfriend's dream of being famous come true.

    Go ahead. I'll wait. You've got nothing, right?

    More from The Stir: Lea Michele's Tweets Reveal the Fate of Finchel

    Face it. Heather Morris is a genius at playing an idiot. And Naya Rivera is just as good at belting out the songs, so good that the more solos they give her, the clearer it is that the graduation of Rachel Berry is hardly the biggest hit the New Directions are going to take this spring. Lea Michele fans had to see the writing on the wall when news came out that she'd be graduating while Brittany was staying in school, right? 

    Beside, it's getting hard not to wonder if even the writers aren't getting a little fed up with the silly sniping of the self-centered Rachel at poor Finn when Santana gets to sing "If I Can't Have You" to her lesbian girlfriend, and Mr. Schue drives home the blatant reference to the marriage equality challenge. Grown-up relationship troubles? Sex tapes?

    Sorry Finchel, but you've had your chance to try to woo us over to your side. Brittana is just so much more interesting!

    Be honest: which Glee couple do you think deserves more screentime?


    Image via Fox

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jonathan SingerPut a handful of kids with autism in the same room together, and you'll have a hard time finding just two with the exact same diagnosis. But throw a couple hundred parents of kids with autism in the same room, and you'll find they all have one thing in common. They've been inspired by their amazing kids to make a difference in the world.

    The growing number of kids on the spectrum has resulted in a growing number of people like Jonathan Singer. Since daughter Rebecca -- now a teenager -- was diagnosed in 1997, Singer has helped found an academy for kids with autism, written two books about special needs children, and driven cross country to raise money for the cause.

    He's a hero for the special needs community. And now he needs your help. 

    Singer considers himself (and wife Michey) lucky to be able to advocate for their daughter. But he knows that's not every parent's story. As he explains on the website for the family's non-profit, which raises money for, you guessed it, the autism cause:

    Consider the family where English is a second language, the single mom, or two working parents who work so hard they barely get to see their kids. These families are at a tremendous disadvantage because of a lack of understanding of the law, an inability to communicate, or in the case of the single mom, the sheer exhaustion of just trying to keep her head above water in order to survive each day.

    It's the parents who have the advantages of being able to advocate for their kids who make a difference for their own children and kids of parents who can't. It's something that bonds the special needs community. And it's what makes what Jonathan Singer is trying to do now so incredible.

    Singer has turned to Kickstarter to collect $18,000 in pledges before Autism Awareness Month is out. If he can raise it all by next week, he'll use the money to fund the process of his latest book, Driven, a means to spread the word about what it takes to be your child's biggest advocate. Although Singer makes it clear that this particular venture is for-profit -- donations will fund "design, copy editing, proofreading, marketing, promotion, and publication of the E-book and paperback version" rather than going to the non-profit -- the end result will show the rest of the world why someone who has spent 15 years parenting a child with autism can't just sit on his hands.

    Kids like Rebecca inspire their parents to do great things. And those great things make a difference for every kid diagnosed down the line.

    Want to help the Singers out and help other kids in the process? Check out the Driven fundraising trailer:

    How has your child inspired you?


    Image via Driven

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Keegan SchuchardtIf you've been following the story of Kayla Golden, the mom killed while trying to protect her 3-day-old baby son from a kidnapper in the parking lot of a Texas pediatrician's office, your heart has probably been doing what mine has through the whole ordeal. Bouncing up and down in my chest like a basketball. The news that baby Keegan Schuchardt has been found alive and well should give us a rest.

    But now cops are saying Verna Deann McClain, the registered nurse they have arrested and charged with capital murder in the case, didn't target Kayla Golden. They think she just wanted to steal a baby. Any baby.

    In other words? This was a random act of senseless violence against a woman who was just ... living her life.


    It's hard to put into words why the police report leaves me so unsettled. The story would still be tragic if the 30-year-old McClain (who has a 16-year-old child at home ... you do the math) had picked out 28-year-old Golden and said, "Hey, I'm going to shoot her in cold blood as I try to steal her baby today." A baby would still be left without a mother, his dad, Keith Schuchardt, left to raise a child without a partner.

    But I'm going to go out on a limb here. When a criminal targets one person in particular, it gives us the rest of us -- as selfish as I know this will sound -- some relief. This was between the two (or three in this case ... there was apparently a man in McClain's car) of them. We -- the public -- were never at risk. It's an incident that has clear borders.

    When police come out and admit that a victim was chosen more at random, that distance that allows us to go about our own daily lives suddenly gets broken down. There is no clearly defined border. There is a jagged edge, oozing out into our safe zone. Kayla Golden's fate could have been ours, or our sister's, our cousin's, our niece's. Little baby Keegan could have been our son, our nephew, our cousin's kid ...

    My heart breaks for little Keegan, his dad, and the rest of Kayla's family and friends today. They never expected a trip to the pediatrician's office would end in tragedy. It was just part of the normal routine of life. I hope that the little boy can give them some comfort in the coming days and weeks ahead. The hope of someone so innocent and pure is probably what we all need to get through moments like this.

    What have you been thinking about since you heard about Kayla and little Keegan?


    Image via Montgomery County Police

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Dirty DancingDirty Dancing fans are crying today because the Catskills hotel that inspired their favorite film has burned to the ground. Aww. Poor them. Here I thought the fire at the Grandview Palace in Loch Sheldrake, New York was a tragedy because some people barely escaped with their lives from their homes.

    Born and raised in the Catskills, I remember when the Grandview was Brown's Hotel, today being hailed as the inspiration for the resort where Baby Houseman went to lose her innocence with a sexy dance instructor. But Saturday night, I wasn't thinking about movies as a fire so big it's being called the biggest in my county's history was raging on. I was biting my fingernails as I refreshed Facebook, hoping to hear that the residents of the 396 condominiums built in the old hotel were safe.

    Get that? I cared about people. Not some stupid movie!

    Blasphemy, I know. I am a child of the '80s. I know better than to put Baby in a corner. In truth, it's a dirty little secret that Dirty Dancing, as schmaltzy as it is, remains one of my favorite movies to this day.

    Grandview Palace Fire
    But I am also a true child of the Catskills. And I've gotten used to the place where I skinned my knees playing hopscotch, learned to ride a bike, and caught salamanders being the butt of the world's jokes. I got up and walked out of a college class at New York University when the professor decided to crack wise about what was left behind in the place most famous for starting the careers of some of the world's most famous comedians (from Jerry Lewis to Jackie Mason) only to be left behind as the world moved on to the glitz and glam of Hollywood. I didn't put up a defense. I walked out, defeated.

    But reading some of the short-sighted laments about the loss of the so-called Dirty Dancing hotel this morning, I'm not going to accept Hollywood putting the Catskills in a corner this time. Folks, it may or may not have inspired a movie a long time ago. But that's not the real story of the Grandview Palace fire.

    The real stories are the 300-plus volunteer firefighters who spent all Saturday night and much of Sunday morning risking their lives to put out a blaze that could be seen for miles around. Got that? We don't have the luxury of paid fire departments here. We have volunteers who run into burning buildings to save lives.

    And let's talk about lives. There were people who lived in Grandview. Dozens of people. Old ones. Young ones. Kids. And now, their clothes, their furniture, their memories, their toys, they're all gone. Those people could care less that they lived in an iconic place; they just want their lives back.

    But this is all they have left: 

    Grandview Palace aftermath

    Kind of puts a silly movie in perspective, doesn't it? This wasn't cinematic history destroyed. It was people's lives.

    How about instead of bemoaning the fact that you can't go see a landmark that's tangentially related to a movie (did I mention it is only said to have INSPIRED the movie, it wasn't actually filmed there?), you do something useful today? Go check the batteries in your smoke detector. Buy a box of donuts and take it down to your local firehouse to thank those folks for what they do. Fill a bag with used (but not abused) clothes to take to the local non-profit that helps fire victims get back on their feet.

    How did you take the news that the Dirty Dancing hotel is gone?


    Images via Amazon; Ferguson Studios; Lisa Chesney

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    baby shoesBy the time I got to the end of Adrienne Arieff's memoir tracking the months she spent in India with the surrogate who helped bring her twins into the world, I was tripping over myself to get to a computer and look for an update on those sweet little bundles of cuteness. I almost wish I hadn't bothered looking. Because in my naive celebration of another mother's joy, I'd forgotten the new American obsession with invading the womb and ripping a woman to shreds from the inside out.

    As technology has upped the chances for beating infertility, it's somehow become acceptable to respond to news that a woman is pregnant with the words "is it natural?" Attention, America! All babies are carbon-based lifeforms. That's as natural as it gets.

    And I'll go one further. Babies aren't "just" natural. They don't give a fig how they got here.


    Their mom could have taken Clomid. She could have had IUI. She could have had IVF. She could have used a sperm donor. She could have used an egg donor. She could have traveled halfway across the world and paid a woman whose womb wouldn't suddenly reject an embryo for reasons unexplainable by medicine (Arieff's heartbreaking reason for going the surrogate route).

    The result will be the same. A baby who coos up at his mom and/or dad and would really like someone to change that stinky diaper right now, please, or he's going to start screaming!

    Want to test my theory? Go ahead. Throw the vile "rent a womb" insult at a mom like Arieff. Now ask her if the fact that she had the misfortune of having to have her eggs and husband's sperm mixed in a clinic and implanted into another woman's womb to get what many of us get through a little fun in our own bedrooms means her child doesn't poop in diapers like the rest of the kids at mommy and me. Does she have sore gums like the rest of the teething set? A tendency to cry just for the heck of it sometimes? A sweet smile? The ability to transform into an angel just by falling asleep?


    Babies don't know how they got here. They don't know that when Mom proudly announced to the world that she was expecting triplets some bonehead hijacked her Facebook thread with a rude comment about how that could have happened (true story, by the way). They don't know that mom lost one baby at 28 weeks, and then one at 14 weeks, and then another, and finally just could not take it anymore.

    Babies just know when they're wanted, when they're loved, when their diaper is being changed, when their tummy is being filled. Is there really anything else that matters?

    What's the worst thing someone's said to you about your baby's "origins"?


    By the way, if you want to hear about Adrienne's babies, the book I was reading on vacation so I didn't pay attention to my husband's driving (yikes) was The Sacred Thread. Trust me, you'll want to know about her babies too ... and it won't matter "where" they came from.


    Image via smoorenburg/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    bb gunI hate to say I saw this coming, but I did. A 10-year-old boy has been arrested for bringing a BB gun to elementary school. But this is not some hardened criminal, folks. This is a little boy who wears ankle braces and has been a victim of bullying because he's "different" from his peers.

    It doesn't make up for what the child, who hails from the Cincinnati area of Ohio, did. But it certainly explains it, doesn't it? When kids feel the best recourse they have for being bullied is to fight fire with fire, we have scared little kids bringing guns to school.

    Ever since my kid started mixing with kids I didn't pick for her (as in, went beyond the mom-planned playdate), we've had to deal with bullies. Whether it's a mean girl picking on her or another mom lamenting her child's battle with some butthead on the playground, I've heard enough stories to fit in a novella at least. And yes, my daughter is only 6.

    Along with the tales of what exactly the bullies are doing are the parents -- me included -- wringing their hands over what to do to fight it. And a fair amount have settled for the old-fashioned "hit 'em back." I can't blame them, exactly. In my daughter's school, they've got all sorts of programs meant to fight bullying, and it's still going on. The gentle approach isn't working.

    But what are we teaching our kids when we actually suggest they sink to the level of the little scumbuckets who are making their lives a living hell? For every story of a bully who learned his lesson "but good," there is a kid like this 10-year-old in Ohio, who brought his BB gun to school not to shoot anyone but merely to "intimidate" the kids who have intimidated him for so long. He admitted to cops that his uncle broke off the orange tip of the gun meant to signal how harmless it was, to make it easier to scare the other kids.

    He has been a victim for so long that it would be easy to give him a pass. As a mom of a kid who has been bullied, my heart breaks for him. But the fact is, what he did was seriously wrong, and the victim mentality doesn't really make up for it. He has become the aggressor. He has become his own worst nightmare. And now he's headed to juvenile court to boot.

    This is what happens when we go for the obvious answer to bullying. We make our kids into bullies themselves.

    What do you think should happen to this little boy for what he did?


    Image via zappledot/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Kenneth Weishuhun PinterestAnother gay teen bullied into taking his own life. Another grieving mother. And Kenneth Weishuhn's mom has something else to contend with. Before her 14-year-old son committed suicide, he built a Pinterest board.

    And on that board -- sweetly titled "When I get married. (:" -- are all his hopes and dreams beautifully rendered in full color. I took one look, and I almost wish I hadn't.

    I'm not Kenneth Weishuhn's mother, but it still made me cry. I let loose an angry torrent of hot tears reading through his captions for the photos he'd "pinned." And I wondered, what could this be doing to poor Jeannie Chambers?

    She has told the media that her son begged her not to call the school, not to get involved, because he thought it would make the harassment worse. She respected his wishes because she was trying to be the best mom she could be. That's what moms do. We try to give our kids what they want -- within reason of course.

    But now this Iowa mom has to look at all of Kenneth's wants that she can't fulfill. She has proof in pictures of the future that was stolen away from her son, from her family.

    When a child dies, we talk a lot about tragedy. We talk about the loss of "potential." We talk in vague terms about the stuff of life.

    But this isn't vague. This is cold, hard fact. Living in one of the few states where same-sex marriage is legal, Kenneth Weishuhn had a dream he probably could have achieved. But not now. Because we still live in a world where the same boy who could sit on his computer dreaming of one day strewing flowers in the design of the courtyard dance from the movie Tangled up the aisle where he'd walk to meet his ever after is a boy who went to school every day and faced torture at the hands of bullies ... and the mom who loved him dearly couldn't do anything to end the nightmare.

    What do you wish you could say to Kenneth Weishuhn's mom today?


    Image via Pinterest

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Verna McClainThere is no such thing as a good reason for kidnapping a 3-day-old baby and killing his mother as she tries to protect him. But the woman accused of shooting Kayla Golden in cold blood, then taking off with Golden's son, Keegan Schuchardt, has come up with a bizarre explanation. Police say Verna McClain has said she snatched the baby so she could hide a miscarriage.

    Anyone else thinking her lawyers are setting her up for an insanity defense? Excuse me for stating the obvious here, but Keegan is white. Verna is black. There is more or less no way that this baby was going to help her hide a miscarriage from her fiance. And if she's going to keep up this charade of a defense, we're left with only two possibilities.

    Verna McClain is mentally unhinged. Or she's stupid.

    I don't mean to be cruel. Miscarriages are tough on anyone. And if McClain had said that she just wanted "a baby," to make up for her loss, I might actually feel some sympathy for her. That would make sense (not that it would excuse the heinous crime).

    But police say McClain is claiming she really thought she could hide the miscarriage by replacing "her" baby with Keegan. Which means they're saying she specifically has said she was going to use poor little Keegan in a ruse.

    But there is a problem here, people. McClain is a nurse. Based on the education it takes to work in the field, she should know that skin color is passed down from parent to child, and genetics dictate what is dominant versus recessive. Even if her fiance is white, genetically, it would be nearly impossible for a woman with her skin tone to produce a baby who looked like Keegan.

    See what I mean? She's not stupid.

    Which leaves us with the other option. She's insane. Well, OK, there's also the possibility that she's a calculating you-know-what who knows this will make her look insane, but that doesn't jive with a woman who cops are saying seems truly penitent for the actions she's admitted to. So we're back to insanity.

    If Verna McClain killed Kayla Golden and stole her baby because she was insane, it still doesn't make up for the horrific action. It's not an excuse. But it may finally give Golden's family an explanation.

    What's your read on McClain's claims? Do you think she's insane?

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    iPadHoo boy, have we got a puzzler on our hands. A bunch of parents have gotten together to file a class action lawsuit against Apple for game apps they say are too "addictive" for their kids. It seems little gamers are sucking their parents' wallets dry with expensive in-app purchases.

    Gee. How could parents stop their kids from wasting time and money on a game? Think, Sager, think! Hmm.

    Oh! I know! I know!

    They could take away the dooflatchey, doohickey, you know, whatever in heck the kid is using to access an expensive and addictive game ... and tell said kid the following: "No."

    See what I did there? I just suggested parents actually parent their own children. Insane, I know. I mean, they really want to play these games! And golly gee whiz, that $59 Smurfberries purchase looks so darn fun in that Smurf game. How can we possibly tell them not to hit the purchase button? But people, you would be amazed by the results if you just try it.

    Here. Let me give you an example. Last week, I was on a road trip vacation, and the battery in my iPhone was on the low side. I knew I'd be able to plug it in once we got to our hotel, so I had placed it in my purse and opted to read a memoir. And then kid put down whatever book had been making her giggle in the backseat and wanted to know if she could play Tap Tap Muppets. And I weighed out my need to have at least some battery life on my gadget versus my kid's need to waggle her fingers around on my phone. And I sided with my battery life. She whined a bit, and then she found something else to do.

    Really. Not. That. Hard.

    Suing one of the biggest companies in the world, on the other hand? Pretty hard. And pretty dang embarrassing when you think about it. Now the whole world knows you don't actually have the ability to tell your own child they can't do something.

    But what do I know? I mean, I'm just a parent of a kid who has never racked up an exorbitant bill playing a game on my iPhone (or my iPod Touch for that matter).

    Who comes out looking worse in this lawsuit? Apple or the parents?


    Image via Yutaka Tsutano/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    baby street fighterCall me a judgey mom, but when I saw the words "infant gets a lesson in street fighter," my mouth dropped open and my eyes got wide. But I redeemed myself! Swearsies! I actually watched a dad giving his little guy a lesson in one of the coolest things to come out of Japan since Hello Kitty.

    And man did I get a fit of the giggles. I probably laughed as hard as little Ryder, although I can assure you mine was not as cute (is anything as cute as a baby giggle? Really?). That kid LOVED it! And what's more, I realized something about parenting.

    This is the kind of thing that separates the moms from the dads. Hold up, that's not a bad thing! But think about it ... how many moms do you know who would practice street fighter moves (safely) with their infant? Maybe a few, but it's by and large more of a guy thing.

    Dads often play with the kids differently than moms. I know my husband is the one who was more willing to play airplane, while I was hyperventilating in a corner that he might drop her. But that's probably the best thing he could have done for her. He gave her a different experience than she got with me, and the two sides came together to make the awesome kid we have today.

    Something to think about as you get a look at little Ryder and his dad playing "street fighter" and all the fun they're having. I hope you laugh the way I did!

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    How does the play your significant other does with your child differ from yours?


    Image via 420invzim/YouTube

    hat/tip to Buzzfeed for uncovering this gem

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Etan Patz missing posterThere's no escaping the sadness that hangs over the family of Etan Patz today. Police in New York City think they "might" have located the body of the missing 6-year-old who graced the side of a milk carton 33 years ago. Human remains sniffed up by a cadaver dog have been linked by cops to the first child to ever have his photo show up in the dairy case at grocery stores around the country. And once again, this little boy could be changing the way the world looks at missing persons cases.

    These days, pictures of missing kids are everywhere. Commercial breaks of TV newscasts ask us, "Have you seen ...?" Billboards project faces of children at us as we hurdle down the highway. This is the legacy of Etan Patz.

    Now. Think fast: when's the last time you paid attention to one? Really paid attention?

    I'm ashamed to admit it, but I know I've zoned out more than once during one of those commercial breaks. When I saw a billboard on the highway during my vacation last week, I glanced and moved on. When I get the flyers in my mailbox, I throw them in the recycling bin. 

    I'm not proud that I do it. But there are just. so. many. Like a song on the radio that gets played out, the means of grabbing attention for the plight of these missing kids is no longer effective because of the sheer volume of attention-grabbing materials out there.

    And yet, today, looking at the photos of Etan Patz, reading the story of how he walked off to his school bus stop and never came back, I felt guilty. I felt angry. I felt ... re-energized? Because here this little boy has been missing for 33 years, and his family has been in hell. HELL. And we can't take a few minutes to look at a flyer?

    There is no escaping the sadness of what is going on in New York City today. Because if they decide that the remains in the Manhattan basement is Etan's body for sure, that means this family has to face that horror. And if they don't, that means more questions, more not knowing.

    But maybe there can be one good thing to come out of this? We can use the reminder of that first little boy on the milk carton to once again make these missing kids a priority ... for everyone.

    What do you do with missing persons flyers? Be honest.

    Here's more on Etan's case to refresh your memory:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.


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