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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

    Annie ClarkThink you're having a bad day? Go ahead. Whine about it. Or take a page out of the book of 7-year-old Annie Clark. The first grader was born without hands, but she just won an award for her fabulous handwriting.

    Yes, you read that right. While you've been moaning about how your 6-year-old didn't bother to clean the toothpaste out of the sink this morning, Annie Clark has been kicking penmanship booty with her forearms!

    If there was ever a time to trot out the overused Charlie Sheen reference, it's now. Annie Clark didn't just win her category in the Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest. She's winning at life. This little girl wedges a pencil between her forearms and gets it done!

    And I don't know about you, but I'm bookmarking her story to remind me that moaning and complaining doesn't get you anywhere in life ... and doing it in front of our kids is one of the worst things we can do.

    But we're all guilty of it, aren't we? How many times do you sit in the school drop-off line on a Monday morning and hear Moms moaning about another bad week? Or sat on the sidelines during t-ball practice, where the parents all throw themselves a pity party, whining about what's gone down in the past week, what teacher is a pain in the butt, what their child has done wrong, what their boss has made impossible?

    Hello! Little pitchers and their big ears are right there! Is it any wonder we send the kid into the playroom to start cleaning, and the response is along the lines of, "OMG, I can't do all that. My life is so horrrrrrrrible!"?

    I'm not going to say a positive attitude can fix everything, but Annie Clark is a 7-year-old with no hands. And she doesn't just have world class penmanship. She can paint her own toenails because she didn't take "no" for an answer.

    Check out Annie in action -- doesn't she make your heart sing?

    If she can do that, what amazing things can your kids do?

    Image via Trib Live

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    day of silenceHave a teenager who refused to talk to you this morning? Stop freaking. Just because it's 4/20 day doesn't mean they took a few bong hits before school. LGBT activists have co-opted the official holiday of pot smokers for a greater cause: the National Day of Silence.

    While their peers are getting baked, teenagers who have sealed their lips for the day are fighting discrimination against LGBT kids around the world. The goal is to create "safer" schools for all kids, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. I don't know about you, but I'm thinking that's a lot more worthwhile than hitting the weed today.

    No offense to folks who are fond of the ganja. I really have no major feelings about marijuana one way or the other ... for adults.

    But we spend a lot of time wringing our hands and moaning about how awful today's teenagers are. The picture of another one of them passed out on the couch after an afternoon doing something that is still technically illegal is not one that gives us much hope for the future. Thousands of high school students giving up on gabbing for an entire day to stand in solidarity with their fellow man, on the other hand? That's the kind of thing that actually makes me weepy ... in a good way.

    I have no problem with my kid going to school and being quiet for an entire day, even if it does make teachers uncomfortable. The more kids who take part in projects like the Day of Silence, the more in-your-face proof bullies have that their narrow-minded ways will not be tolerated. Not to mention, the more kids who get involved, the more evidence there is for the kids who are struggling to find acceptance that they are not alone.

    What are your kids doing to celebrate today?


    Image via Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    George Zimmerman mugshotThe more we hear about George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, the easier it seems to get angry with the neighborhood watch commander who has admitted to shooting the teenager. But there is being angry, and then there's taking your anger over the edge. The threats against Zimmerman's wife, Shellie Zimmerman? Those are the definition of "too far," folks.

    Shellie has kept a pretty low profile since her husband's case went from Florida news to international. But his bail hearing forced her participation today, and with it her admission that the hate toward her husband has spilled over big time into her life.

    A nursing student four weeks from graduating, she was on the phone with the judge to make it clear that she doesn't have the type of income that could help cover a high-priced bond to spring George from jail. She helped get the court to declare him indigent and apparently helped get him sprung from the pokey. I have a feeling that will do nothing to stop the tide of hate mail she said she's been getting.

    But people, can we talk about priorities here? Shellie Zimmerman has done nothing wrong here. She didn't shoot Trayvon Martin. Heck; she wasn't even there when her husband took off after a teenage boy with a hoodie and a bag of Skittles in his hand. And since we know that George was on the phone with a 911 operator who was telling him to stand down and not chase after Trayvon, we also know that Shellie Zimmerman wasn't egging her husband on.

    So what do we know? We know that people who are married to one another don't always share the same ideals. We know that love can make us blind to another's faults. We know that a public face and a private one are often very different. Judging Shellie Zimmerman based on the man she's married to is short-sighted ... at best. At worst, it's perilously close to the prejudgment of a black teenager that got her husband into this mess in the first place.

    If anything, people should be sending Shellie Zimmerman their condolences today. Married to George for the past five years, we don't know what their marriage has been like or what their plans for the future were. But I can bet they didn't include a charge of second degree murder and the need to hide out of state from vigilante justice.

    Shellie Zimmerman probably envisioned a peaceful existence with the man she loved. Instead she's in the middle of a nightmare.

    If that makes you hate her, are you really a better person than one who racially profiles a black teenager?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    catching fireHunger Games fans, we have been saved! Movie studio Lionsgate -- probably anticipating an angry mob of District 13-types storming their headquarters -- has found a way to make sure sequel Catching Fire gets filmed after all. Hollywood insiders are reporting Francis Lawrence will be taking the helm as director.

    The news comes two weeks after the studio scared us half to death by cutting ties with Games' director and screenwriter Gary Ross. It was especially scary because Ross had developed a rapport with the Games' notoriously media-shy author, Suzanne Collins. But folks, all is not lost. The choice of Lawrence -- who is not related to star Jennifer Lawrence in case you were wondering -- might just be what we really needed.

    If you remember, this is the same thing that happened with Twilight. The first movie blew up the box office big time, and like Ross and Collins, director Catherine Hardwicke had developed a close relationship with the Twilight saga's author Stephenie Meyer, only to find herself out of a job when it was time to shoot the second movie. But in came Chris Weitz to direct New Moon and set records at the box office (most of which were broken ... by the next Twilight flick).

    The change didn't exactly hurt Twilight. In fact, it might have helped it. And with the similar audience that the two film franchises are trying to reach, it would be smart for the people behind The Hunger Games to learn whatever it can from the other series' success.

    Not to mention, in the six-degree tradition of all things Hollywood, Francis Lawrence has his own Twilight connection. In addition to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" video, which won him a Grammy, Lawrence directed the feature film Water for Elephants featuring one Robert Pattinson, fresh off Twilight fame. That was a straight up romance, an experience that can't hurt Lawrence as he faces trying to portray the increasing tension of the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale that comes out in the Catching Fire storyline.

    Check out what actors Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz had to say about what it takes to bring aspects of the books to the big screen:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    What are you most looking forward to seeing in the sequel to The Hunger Games?


    Image via Amazon.com

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Thomas Beatie Pregnant ManSad news, folks. Thomas Beatie and wife Nancy have separated. What? You don't know the name? Maybe this will ring a few bells: in 2008, he became known as the "pregnant man" when he delivered the couple's daughter, Susan.

    The fact that he went on to deliver two more babies, despite having undergone gender reassignment surgery that allowed him to live legally as a man with a uterus, made Beatie something of a mystical being. Here was a man born a woman who actually bested Mother Nature! What would he do next? Leap high buildings in a single bound?

    So much for superhero status.

    It turns out Beatie is just like the rest of us. As he said on The Doctors:

    Like all marriages, we have our ups and downs, and we’re going through a rough patch right now. At the moment, we’re separated.

    Of course his harshest critics are jumping all over this announcement, pointing at his tummy and blaming the Beatie's "alternative" lifestyle. They're clutching their pearls and climbing up on soapboxes to get all gleeful about being able to say "I told you so." After all, nothing makes a bigot happier than being able to feel better about their own sad existence by delighting in someone else's misery.

    Too bad the Beaties' separation proves absolutely bupkus about the repercussions of being a "pregnant man" or two people born as women getting together.

    So-called "normal" couples get separated all the time. It sucks, but it happens. And we don't blame them for having kids the old-fashioned way or daring to be born with different genders.

    Have they looked at the latest marriage and divorce statistics? According to the CDC, we're at the 50/50 mark, folks. Fifty percent of marriages are ending in divorce. That means all sorts of people doing things the "right" way, right down to some boring old vanilla procreation, are seeing it all fizzle in front of them.

    If we really want to fix the world, how about we find a way to keep those folks together? There are a lot more of them then there are "pregnant men." Get a look at what Beatie -- and those kids -- look like today:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    What do you wish you could say to Thomas Beatie and his wife today?

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    MiaHaving a kid who doesn't sleep well is up there on the short list of things that make parents nuts. But Mia Wojciechoski's parents are glad their 7-year-old can be a problem sleeper. It's why she was awake when a fire broke out in their Long Island home.

    Thanks to Mia's screams for her dad, her entire family, including mom, dad, sister, a teenage cousin, and even the dog were able to get out of their house completely unharmed. If that's not a silver lining, I don't know what is!

    The pictures of the family's home put a lot in perspective for me. My daughter is just a few months younger than Mia, and she has her parents' night owl tendencies. If she's asleep by 10 p.m., we've done well ... and it isn't for lack of trying. Like the parents of most kids in the first grade at her school, we try to have her actual body in the bed by 8 p.m.

    But there's a reason we never stuck to a strict bedtime before she hit school age -- she's just not a sleeper. And I could kvetch about it until the cows come home, but reading about Mia today was a nice reminder that there are a lot worse things in life than having a kid who isn't asleep.

    We all have our health.

    The Wojciechowski family members all have their LIVES ... thanks to a kid who was awake. Just take a look at their home:


    Yup, I'm saying little Mia not sleeping is the best thing that could have happened to this family. And what a little hero for knowing she needed to wake her parents! Good thinking, kiddo.

    What is bedtime like in your house?


    Image via CBS

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    George Zimmerman mugshotGeorge Zimmerman got what he wanted. The man accused of second degree murder in the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin is expected to be released from prison any time now. Sounds like good news for the Zimmerman camp? Guess again.

    When Zimmerman is released on bond, he'll go right back to the fear and terror that he's been living with since the news of the shooting sparked a national outrage. The delay in his release, after all, isn't just about setting up an electronic monitor for the defendant in a murder trial.

    They'll also be laying down the law about no access to firearms, no drugs, no alcohol, and no harrassing Trayvon's family. But Florida officials also have to figure out how to keep Zimmerman safe from an angry public -- the type that's been so out of control that they've even started threatening his wife, Shellie, despite zero evidence that she did anything to Trayvon. That may mean taking him out of the State of Florida entirely. I don't envy them the massive undertaking in this age of tabloid stalkers and people with a cameraphone always at the ready. The whole process is just one nosy person's Internet post away from disaster.

    I can understand people's anger. But it's a sad commentary on our society that people can't even give the justice system a chance. Vigilantism is tempting. But that doesn't make it right.

    If anything, the hypocrisy of protesting what appears to be the shooting of an innocent teenager by someone who made a snap judgment by threatening his life only serves to make Zimmerman a slightly more sympathetic figure. I'm not saying it gives him a pass for what may or may not have happened down in Seminole County, but it certainly shows this guy is not living the life of champagne wishes and caviar dreams.

    He's in his own kind of hell now, and getting out of prison is part and parcel of the whole deal. He'd probably be better off just staying put!

    Where do you think Zimmerman should be headed this weekend?


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jennie GarthI've always felt like Jennie Garth was the kind of celeb I could totally hang with. Kelly Taylor, um, I mean, Jennie, is one of those moms who has always been happy to be known more for being a mom than being a celebrity. See what I mean about relatable? But the way things are going down with her divorce from Peter Facinelli makes it pretty darn clear which one she is.

    Jennie has had to admit that the announcement of new CMT reality show, Little Bit Country just as her marriage has fallen apart has been ... awkward. And for all you haters out there, no, this was not some devious plan to bring some PR to a cable TV show.

    Jennie sounds like she's in real pain over the fact that her job of promoting the show has made it entirely impossible to avoid talking about the end of her marriage with EVERYONE:

    When I started to take this show on, I wasn't headed down this road. It happened in the middle of filming the show. Now, part of my job ... is doing press so I'm doing the interviews and people want to talk about it. I'm OK talking about [my divorce], but it's not something you really want to talk about.

    Get that folks? She's just a regular gal going through one of the toughest things any woman can go through ... but her fame is what's making it 10 times harder than anything most divorcing folks have to deal with. Ouch.

    I feel for her in more ways than one. I'm not going to kid myself into thinking I have her level of fame, but part of the job as a blogger is to talk about what's going on in your personal life. And there are times when I just don't WANT to. When your marriage is going through a rough patch or your kid is being a pain in the you-know-what, the choice to have a job that makes your life semi-public takes its toll.

    But at least I can hold back. Jennie can't! She has to do her job, and that job puts her in the spotlight.

    What did you think when Jennie and Peter's split became public, just as her new show was announced?


    Image via Alan Light/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Kim Kardashian Kanye WestAy yi yi! Will Kim Kardashian never learn? Word has it she took new beau Kanye West to meet the parents this weekend.

    The good news is Kris and Bruce Jenner seem to have given the relationship their stamp of approval. The bad news? Isn't it obvious folks?

    They are moving awfully fast! Didn't she learn anything from, oh, gee, that 72-day marriage to another K-man?

    Kim and Kanye have only been "official" for all of a few weeks now. When he did the whole wink, wink, nudge, nudge thing with his song Theraflu a few weeks back, he let us know she's been on his mind for awhile, but still. They have only been "out" as a couple for what is it now, two weeks? Three?

    Even if it's been going on longer in private, the fact is, meeting the parents is a pretty big step in any relationship. Now there's the added pressure of making the other person's parents happy, and of course your parents are now invested in the relationship. It's big enough to push you up to a whole new level for anyone. But it's off the charts big when you're a Kardashian.

    Can you imagine how things would have blown up if Kris and Kanye grated on each other's last nerve? Pretty risky for a fledgling relationshp. I don't know if I would have gone there -- even if they do have Khloe's very public blessing already. But Kim and Kanye have. And now they have to plot their next move in this growing relationship ... carefully!

    Kim deserves to be as happy as anyone, and she's said she's learned from her failed marriage -- at the very least, she's going to keep future relationships off her TV show. But Kim needs to look at everything that made her last relationship so difficult -- like the whole rushing through all the vital steps thing! How about the stop and smell the roses a little?

    Check out Khloe giving her sister's new relationship sweet support:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    How long did you wait to bring your SO to meet your parents? Do you think Kim timed it right?


    Image via Pacific Coast News

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Isabel CelisA chilling missing child case in Tucson, Arizona has one set of parents terrified that they'll never see their 6-year-old daughter again. And here's betting the search for Isabel Mercedes Celis will make bedtime harder for parents across the nation tonight. Can you imagine putting your first grader to bed at night, then waking up in the morning to find her gone?

    I don't want to imagine it. But I guess I can. Parents have to sleep. And -- like it or not -- that means we have to give up a little bit of control.

    But the way Tucson Police are describing Isabel's last moments before her disappearance strikes right at the fear that exists in all of us over those hours when we're passed out in our beds. They say her parents last saw her around 11 p.m. on Friday night before they went to bed. But when they got up at 8 a.m., they told police, she was gone.

    Within 15 minutes, they'd called the cops, but despite a day and a half of searching, so far they've come up with nothing. Right now police say Isabel could have been kidnapped, or she could have walked off by herself

    I'm ashamed to admit I'm neurotic enough to have pondered both over the years. Cases like that of Elizabeth Smart -- the Utah teenager kidnapped from her own bedroom a decade ago -- have made me manic about locking the windows and doors of my house. And I won't lie. The day my daughter learned how to unlock and open a door was bittersweet. I wanted to be proud of her dexterity, but all I could think of was the child in my area who was found dead outside her own home a few years back. She'd left the house in the middle of the night, but couldn't make her way back in, and her parents were sleeping through the whole thing, innocently unaware that their child was dying of exposure.

    Now we have Isabel Celis. She's this tiny little girl -- just under 4 feet tall, 44 pounds. And she's gone, seemingly disappeared into thin air. It's hard not to want to grab our babies and not let them go until Tucson police give us an answer.

    I refuse to be one of those helicopter parents who is so afraid to allow their child some breathing room that they have a 6-year-old sleeping in a trundle bed in their own room. But if we completely ignore these types of news stories, we do so at our own peril -- there's usually something worth learning from them. I'm just hoping that what we learn from Isabel Celis' case comes after she's found safe and sound.

    What are your biggest fears when you put your kids to bed for the night?

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jessica SimpsonWhat a difference a few months has made for Jessica Simpson. Remember way back when J Simps didn't give a fig what the press was saying, she was sticking to that "not pregnant" story? The surprise she Tweeted about daughter Maxi this weekend is way on the other end of the sharing spectrum.

    It looks like all Simpson can do is talk about her pregnancy these days: whether it's the gender, the name, the shower, the sex ... And add this one to the list. Just in case you wanted to know, Simpson is ... wait for it ....

    Still pregnant!

    Wait, that's news? Well, when you're Jessica Simpson it is, folks. Gotta keep people talking. Geez!

    Her actual tweet made reference to congratulations she says she'd gotten from people who thought she'd delivered -- based on some not-very scientific proof floating around the Internet that she'd popped (seriously, TMZ's "proof" amounted to the number of cups of coffee daddy-to-be Eric Johnson was holding ... apparently cups meant she was now ready for caffeine??). I can't exactly blame her for setting the record straight. A lie is a lie, after all. No one wants people telling untruths about them.

    But Jessica's speed at dispelling the rumors is such a 180 from the way she was back in the early days of pregnancy. In fact, the more she opens her mouth, the more obvious it is there is only so much motherhood will do to change Jessica. She likes to talk about what's going on in her life. So she does. It's as simple as that.

    After that uncharacteristic spell of quiet, she has gone right back to being the same slightly goofy, very loose-lipped (and by very I mean very, very, very) celebrity who laid it all out on Newlyweds. And if she's keeping up her constant patter this close to delivery, it seems this is the way she plans to play motherhood too.

    It's the sweet delivery Jessica puts behind all her oversharing that makes it hard not to love her. But here's hoping she starts holding back some time in the near future ... or putting a lot of money away for the therapy the kid will need to recover from Mom telling the world every time she farts.

    What is your favorite overshare from Jessica Simpson over the years?


    Image via Pacific Coast News

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    sleepingThey tell you not to wake a sleeping baby. But with the wacky ways some of them sleep, it's amazing they don't wake themselves. Yes, our kids are crazy contortionists. But it just adds to the cuteness.

    The Stir has gathered a collection of some of the craziest spots our little ones have fallen asleep. Bet you couldn't sleep like this!

    What's the weirdest sleeping position you've found your kid using to get comfy?


    Image by Jeanne Sager

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Isabel celisThe latest news on Isabel Celis has just added another layer of confusion to the already mysterious case of the missing 6-year-old. The screen in the window of the bedroom where the little girl was last seen Friday night was knocked out. And what's been described as a "suspicious hit" picked up by an FBI search dog has been deemed significant enough to turn the Celis home into a crime scene. Now for the confusing part: police say that doesn't mean Becky and Sergio Celis are to blame for their daughter's disappearance ... but it doesn't mean they aren't to blame either.

    Wait, whaaaaat? Are you confused too? You have to wonder if the Tucson Police Department isn't hedging their bets here. 

    Tucson News is reporting they've actually allowed the Celis family -- including Isabel's brothers -- back into their home. Already. Kind of odd, considering just yesterday they kicked them out because it was a crime scene, huh? Not to mention they're refusing to say that this was an abduction by an unknown subject even though they can't say for certain whether or not Isabel left her house on her own two feet before Sergio went to wake her up at 8 a.m.?

    If I were a cop, I'd probably keep the crime scene locked down. But that's just it. I'm not a cop. I don't know why they do what they do.

    Maybe they're still building a case here, or maybe, just maybe these parents really are the victims here. It may sounds sadistic to say it, but I hope it's the latter.

    Any time these missing kid cases crop up in the media, the conspiracy theories begin floating around, and 9 times out of 10, people start pointing fingers at the family. Usually these complaints come from armchair psychologists, regular moms and dads who think a few episodes of Law & Order: SVU and Criminal Minds under their belts make them experts. But we can't ignore that there are reasons these TV shows portray plenty of parents as bad guys. The statistics tell us that kids are much more likely to be kidnapped or hurt by a family member -- as much as 49 percent of kidnappings are done by relatives. When we first started talking about the facts surrounding Isabel's disappearance here on The Stir, we had plenty of parents reminding us of just that, and pondering whether little Isa's parents were involved.

    And yet, as a parent, I can't bring myself to think of it that way. I can't think about the kind of people who would hurt their own child; especially in the case of little Isabel who is my own daughter's age. I want to think that the Celis' statement to the media -- that they will never stop searching for their daughter -- is the God's honest truth.

    I don't like to think about the fact that their daughter is missing, but she already is. We can't go back and erase that. Now we have to move forward. And if her parents can be cleared of suspicion, that's, well, it's probably the "best" outcome of this ... besides the obvious "best" of finding little Isabel Celis alive.

    Where does your mind go when you hear about missing kids? Abduction? The parents?

    Check out more on Isabel's case:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    CorsagePop quiz time! Amanda Dougherty is 17 years old, and she just got dumped by her prom date. But her school has told her she can't go stag, because young ladies need a male escort in order to go to prom.

    Now for the quiz part. Is Amanda Dougherty a 17-year-old in 1950? Or 2012? What? You said 2012? Let me tell you what you've won!

    Your prize is to live in a world where the "war on women" that Fox is busy pretending doesn't exist is being waged against teenage girls, and their parents' attempts to teach them that there are more important things in this world than teenage boys!

    Dougherty is a junior at the Archbishop John Carroll High School in the Philadelphia area, and the school is holding firm on its rules that girls need a male (come on, it's a religious school, that kind of goes without saying) date to prom. Fortunately for her, this 17-year-old girl has what every teenage girl needs: a father who understands that this type of patriarchal thinking puts girls back six decades. Jack Dougherty is fighting tooth and nail to get his little girl access to prom with the rest of her friends and without a guy on her arm. Yay Dad!

    But I'm still floored that he has to fight this battle with any school, much less a religious one. And the way the school has referred to the prom as a "special social event" with this type of rules makes it clear that the school defines a students' worth based on their ability to couple up rather than something useful like, oh, I don't know ... their educational prowess, their behavior, their humanity?

    Essentially, what a rule like this one does is undo all the work parents put into teaching their kids that there is much more to life than the approval of the opposite sex. Dating is fine in the teen years; I did it. I see nothing wrong with it. But we want to teach our kids -- both girls and boys -- that there is nothing wrong with being unattached, that their worth is in no way tied to whether or not they are home on Friday night or out parking.

    I'd rather my daughter never have a boyfriend than date a guy because that's what society -- or backward school administrators -- are telling her she "has" to do. She's a person; her worth should be based on her, not who she dates (or doesn't). And the same goes for Amanda Dougherty.

    What does this rule say to you? What would you tell your daughter if her school had this attitude?


    Image via siRRonWong/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    powerballI don't know about you but, thanks to two-time lottery winner Virginia Fike, I'm feeling a whole lot better about being a bonehead today. We have all been there. You make a mistake so dumb you feel like throwing your hands up, crawling back into bed, and pulling the covers up over your face so you don't have to actually look at anyone.

    But did you hear what happened to Fike? She won $1 million. Twice. All because she made a mistake! You know there's a good story behind this one.

    Turns out Fike meant to buy one Powerball ticket and another for the Mega Millions. Makes sense, right? You diversify your spending to try to up your chances to win? Only the Virginia woman accidentally bought two Powerball tickets. That kept her out of the drawing for that ginormous $640 million Mega Millions jackpot that everyone's been fighting over in the news lately. Bummer, right?

    Buuuuuuut remember those two Powerball tickets? Yeah, she had five out of the six numbers on each ticket. So she won the lottery. Twice.

    Say it with me now y'all: how do I learn how to make mistakes like this? Usually my flubs stay that way. The best screw-up I made recently was accidentally buying swirled chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet ... and realizing they are seriously the bomb diggity in this new whiskey chocolate chip cookie recipe I was trying out. I guess that's better than forgetting to buy chips at all when I had cookies to make ...

    See what I did there? I just made the best of a bad situation. Kind of like Virginia Fike. No more crawling under the covers for me. No sirree! Life is looking up.

    If Virginia Fike can turn a boneheaded blunder into a $2 million windfall, who knows what I can do next?

    Have you ever had a Virginia Fike-like screw-up that ended serendipitously? What was your best one?


    Image via dno1967b/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    princessFasten on your tiaras, y'all, it is National Princess Week! Now, I know what you're thinking. Do we really need a National Princess Week?

    Well, let me ask you something. Do we really need a National Grilled Cheese Month? Because we have one, and we are in the midst of it folks. So why not a princess week? As the left-leaning, progressive mother of a 6-year-old girl, I will be celebrating with her! And you're never going to guess who agrees with me.

    Julie Andrews.

    Yup, one of the great women of stage and screen and a role model to women everywhere is right on board with Princess Week. Heck, she's the woman Disney and Target picked as the face of the whole she-bang. In part it's marketing shtick. Andrews starred in The Princess Diaries and its successor, which have been released on Blu-Ray this week in honor of the 10th anniversary (yikes, has it really been that long?). She's also co-author, with daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, of The Very Fairy Princess books, a series that has offered an alternate definition of what it means to be raising a little princess, and the latest is being sold at ... you guessed it.

    But here's the thing, folks. Princess has become a loaded term in our society. It's seen as somehow anti-feminist. It's been linked to the war on women and the means by which the patriarchy holds us back. And that makes life pretty dang hard for us moms of little girls who love the whole princess thing. We're NOT bad parents. We just don't believe that liking princesses is ruining our daughters. We're trying to redefine what the word means. Or to be more precise, we're taking the reins back on how society defines the princess ... and we're using this week to help us.

    I'm celebrating on behalf of a little girl who prefers to see life in many shades of pink instead of the black and white of the princess-hating moms. I'm grabbing hold of the word "princess" and using the positive personality traits it has long represented to teach my daughter what makes a good person.

    Honesty. Grace. Kindness.

    Ironically, Andrews first book is one that helped liberal old me come around to my daughter's obsession with all things glittery, pink, and princessy. Its main character was exactly the kind of kid I'm raising: a girl with skinned knees and droopy socks who still thinks she's a princess. When I snagged a few minutes to chat with her about National Princess Week (and the new Very Fairy Princess book, which takes little Gerry to my daughter's dream world ... a family wedding), I asked her why she's signed on for this project when so many people are "down on princesses." Here's what she had to say:

    Maybe they're not thinking about the aspect of what princesses do, what their obligations are. I think if a book is about being a princess and being all dressed up and above the world and very grand and so on, that's probably not appropriate. Certainly, I don't feel that's appropriate.

    But if you are writing about a princess that works hard and tries very much to be aware of what it is she does for her country and for her people, really follows her responsibilities well, then I think that's not a bad thing.

    And what about the more fanciful look at princesses? The movies? The kiddie stuff with the pink and the sparkles? Andrews has a message for moms about that too:

    We're celebrating the uniqueness of every little girl. Our character says anybody can be anything you want to be; you just have to let your sparkle out. And our theme is what makes you sparkle?

    It's not about the trappings of being a princess; it's more about the inner aspect of what it is a princess is and feels, how generous she has to be, how decent she has to be, how gracious and hard-working.

    If that's the message we can send to little girls with a princess week, I'm on board. And if they want to serve grilled cheese at their princess-y tea parties, all the better!

    What do you think about a National Princess Week?


    Image by Jeanne Sager

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jenelle EvansHere's the thing about Teen Mom. People love to hate on the MTV reality show. But what do we know about television? Oh right, we watch it for entertainment. And boy do these Jenelle Evans, Amber Portwood, and the whole gang keep us entertained!

    Ok, so it's not always in the most positive of ways. Their path to fame is littered with mugshots and arrests. And here they are! Here's a look at some of the worst tangles with the law by Evans and Portwood, plus some surprise appearances by some other Teen Mom favorites. Any guesses who's the worst offender?

    Well, it looks like Jenelle is queen of the mugshots, although Amber has her own doozies. And we should note these were just a FEW of Kieffer's arrests ... sad, but true.

    What do you wish you could say to these Teen Mom stars about their brushes with the law?


    Image via MTV

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Glee Whitney HoustonTalk about your bait and switch! Glee got us all worked up with their leaks about the Whitney Houston tribute. But it turns out that was just to throw us off the scent of the real news.

    There are 42 days until the mainstays of the Glee cast graduate. Forty-two days. Oh honey, if this doesn't call for Kurt singing I Will Always Love You, I don't know what does.

    Good thing they gave us that. And some more Kurt drama.

    Yes, Blurt is now the relationship having trouble. Because Kurt is going to graduate, and Blaine is being left behind, and OMG, can you imagine one without the other? OK, yeah, so Kurt was the only gay in the village for way too long before he found Blaine, but who remembers that?

    It feels like we have known these kids forever! And now it's all "ooh, Kurt is going to NYADA" and "ooh, Emma and Mr. Schue are actually going to tie the knot" and ... Oh. My. God.

    I hate to sound like a cliche, but ... it's the end of an era. On the sane, adult level, seeing some of these seniors graduate makes sense. But on the Gleek level, I get "so emotional baby" thinking about them leaving us (my apologies for the Whitney reference ... blame the episode).

    I will say Ryan Murphy and co. did an admirable job of meshing the Whitney tribute that came too late with the point of their episode. The kids mourning a musical icon who passed was just another way to ignore their real feelings ... aka dealing with moving on ... which was a mirror for how we, all the Gleeks out here, are feeling. Very meta! And totally spot on.

    I was relieved to hear this episode was not about "passing judgement on Whitney," until I realized when Mr. Schue said it was "about getting in touch with your own feelings" really meant "your own" feelings ... as in, OUR own, the viewer's feelings. We had to face the fact that "its not right, but it's OK." Whoops, I did it again.

    But holy moly, did this episode not show how good Whitney was at displaying what we're really feeling about just about any major moment? And a major moment it is. Glee has made its mark in prime time thanks to Rachel Berry, Finn Hudson, Kurt Hummel and co. And we only have 42 days left until we have to figure out what it's going to be like without them...

    What do you think needs to happen with these characters? If you could get them to stay, what would you do with them?

    Image via Fox


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    hand sanitizerHave you ever looked at the bottle of hand sanitizer on your desk and wondered, "Hmm, could I get drunk by taking a few sips?" Me neither. But then I'm not a teenager!

    So it should surprise absolutely no one that the ER patients who prompted California health officials to issue a warning to the world about the dangers of drinking from that bottle of cleanser were all under 20. They saw the words "contains alcohol" on the bottle, and you can guess what happened next ... glug, glug, glug.

    Sigh. The sanitizer warning doesn't worry me, honestly. It's what it represents that will keep me up at night when my kid hits the teen years.

    Hand sanitizer is legal. It's safe (supposedly). It's the kind of thing any parent would buy and hand to their kid without thinking twice. And that's the problem, y'all.

    You can hand a kid the most benign object, and you just never know how they will bastardize it to fit some devious intent! And if you're sitting there, shaking your head, and saying, "Uh uh, not my kid," you can stop right now. All kids do this. It's a rule of growing up.

    Even the good kids want to figure out how to be more like the grown-ups ... that's the path we set them on after all. We are telling them that they need to start acting more and more like adults. Only without the ability to actually access "grown-up things," they have to get creative.

    Enter the idiot who decides quaffing hand sanitizer is a great way to get blitzed. It's ironic that this particular warning is about hand sanitizer of all things. Talk about something specifically designed to do GOOD for our kids! It fights germs! And when you consider the rather unhygienic habits of teenagers, handing over a bottle of this stuff seems like a no-brainer.

    It's akin to the ease with which parents have stocked their kitchen cabinets with cinnamon for years. Who would have ever imagined that the stuff they loved on their oatmeal as toddlers would be killing kids who are taking the so-called "cinnamon challenge"? I could keep on listing stuff that's in my house for completely legitimate reasons, but has been used by teens over the years in dangerous ways ... but I don't want to give my daughter any ideas!

    We can't stop buying the normal, everyday products we use just because we're afraid of what our kids will do with them. So what's left? Talking, talking, talking, until we're blue in the face ... that's our best weapon as parents.

    When kids are drinking hand sanitizer, what do you fear is next?


    Image via bratha/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Isabel CelisAnother day with no sign of missing Arizona girl Isabel Celis. Another day with no sign of her parents. Becky and Sergio Celis are still in hiding even though there has been major, major movement on the case!

    Police think she could be on a store surveillance camera! But even that has yet to draw a public reaction from her parents. OK, yeah, the mom and dad of the missing 6-year-old released a statement to the media yesterday, saying they'll never give up hope that they'll find their daughter. And police have made it clear that they're cooperating with the investigation. But there's just something odd about the fact that no one has gotten either of these folks out in front of the TV cameras yet.

    Tucson police have announced they're giving up their search, and the FBI is resorting to hitting up local store cameras to try to find a shot of little Isa sometime between the time her parents went to bed Friday night and Saturday morning when Sergio found her bed empty. Turns out there was even a camera pointed straight at the Celis house! Somebody out there might be able to shed light on what happened to this little girl; whether she was walking alone, whether she was with an abductor. Pretty big changes.

    But if police were saying they were "winding" down a search for my missing kid, and she hadn't been found, I would be spitting nails. I would be all over the place trying to keep them on the hunt. I'd be begging storeowners to turn over those cameras. I would be demanding neighbors come out and tell every detail of what they did Friday night or Saturday morning. 

    I would fight for my daughter until there was no fight left in me.

    But that's me. I'm not the Celis family. I don't know how they operate. We don't know MUCH about them period.

    Maybe it's the way missing child cases go down these days that I keep coming back to the Celis parents. We always see the parents -- whether they're fighting with one another or standing beside one another. Either way, they're always there, having their side of the story ripped apart by the media, trying to plead for the return of their child. And that's not even a "new" phenomena. Remember John and Patty Ramsey? They were everywhere! And it was 16 years ago that little JonBenet was discovered in their Colorado basement.

    I can understand why the Celises wouldn't want to come out. The media loves to rip these people apart, and they're likely fragile right now. I know I'd be a wreck if that was my 6-year-old daughter who had up and disappeared. They also have Isabel's brothers to think about.

    But it makes me wonder if their silence doesn't speak to what may have happened to little Isabel. If they're not making a plea to an abductor, is it possible they don't think she was abducted at all? Here's hoping the answers to all the questions lie on those surveillance tapes ... and this nightmare ends soon!

    What would you be doing if you were in Sergio and Becky Celis' position?

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