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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

    Maggie Gyllenhaal Peter SarsgaardIt's official! Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard are new parents again! The big sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal made daughter Ramona a big sister over the weekend when she gave birth to another baby girl.

    That's the good news for their family. So what's the good news for the rest of the world? Maggie and Peter opted to avoid the ridiculous celebrity baby naming trends that seem to drive the general public to up the ante on nutty names. So what moniker did they pick for their new daughter?

    Gloria Ray Sarsgaard.

    Glory, glory, hallelujah! It fits all the markers that I love in a name. Easy to spell. Easy to say. Relatively unused -- it ranks 495 in terms of usage for girls' names according to CafeMom's Baby Name Finder. And real! Got that? It's a real name, not something they made up by throwing a bunch of magnetic letters to the fridge and going with what stuck.

    Not that I expected anything less from Maggie and Peter. When they named Ramona, they made every Beverly Cleary fan grin, and it's a name that their daughter can carry through the years proudly; just as Gloria Ray can.

    That's something a lot of parents seem to forget. A name is a name for the rest of your life. It needs to be suitable for a baby, a toddler, a teen, and an adult. You don't want little SKRLUJ sitting in a boardroom trying to explain what the heck her parents were thinking when she really needs to be making a presentation about the huge account she just landed. It's always nice to see a celebrity who gets that too.

    Congratulations to the new family!

    What do you think of the name?


    Image via Justin Hoch/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    bleachImagine the worst case of child abuse you've heard in the past few years. Now double it. You might be somewhere near the horror of what happened to the Washington State toddler who had bleach repeatedly poured in her eyes.

    And now for the coup de grace. The woman charged with this heinous cruelty is the girl's own mother. Jennifer Mothershead (hard to believe, but yes, that's her real name) has been charged with first-degree child assault for allegedly causing permanent vision damage to her then 15-month-old daughter in May 2011.

    I have just one question.

    How did it get this far?

    Pardon me if I sound naive, but I don't think a normal person simply wakes up one morning and says, "Today, I think I will become a monster." And monster is really the only word I can use to describe the kind of person who pours bleach into a child's eyes, describing it as "eye drops" to "treat" an eye infection. A "mother" certainly wouldn't do that.

    More from The Stir: Child Abuse Prank Shows Strangers Won't Interfere With Bad Parenting (VIDEO)

    So if Jennifer Mothershead did this to her daughter, she is a monster, plain and simple. How did someone not notice this side of her before? Why wasn't this little girl already living with her father (who is now her legal guardian)? I don't mean to shift blame for this despicable act to anyone else.

    But when child abuse is this depraved, I have to wonder: weren't there signs that this person was not fit to care for a young life? Didn't someone see something was ... off? Maybe they didn't. Maybe this is just my reaction because I want to live in a world where there are signs, where we can prevent children from suffering such unspeakable horrors. Sadly, instead, I live in a world where there are people who pour bleach in the eyes of an 18-month-old child.

    Did you ever have the feeling that someone just was not fit to be a parent? What tipped you off?


    Image via Vox Efx/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Darlene GantGet ready for some perspective on what it's really like to be going through a tough time. Darlene Gant is dying of breast cancer. And as she told drug company Genentech in a video that's gone viral on YouTube, all she wants is one more Mother's Day with her 11-year-old son. 

    You don't even have to see the video. Just typing those words was so hard that I'm not surprised Genentech agreed to give Gant their new cancer drug, pertuzumab, immediately even though it's yet to get final approval from the FDA.

    The drug company's decision falls under what's called compassionate use, and the FDA has signed off so the 46-year-old could begin taking the medication last week. The drug is expected to get that stamp of OK from the FDA in June, but Gant's doctors didn't think she could make it even that long. Their decision to skip that last step for her sake feels right. Who could deny a little boy a chance to spend one last Mother's Day with his mom? Who could deny a mother just a little more time with her son?

    But it's important people understand not just the bond of mother and son but the reasoning behind the decision to release the cancer drug early. Social media and viral videos are not a new way to get drugs pushed through the FDA process. If it were, that could wreak havoc on an already flawed system. People should not take this as a sign to start similar petitions for just any old drug for any old reason.

    No. Darlene Gant's plea, and the resulting decision to grant her request, is that exception that proves a rule. This is very literally last chance effort, and sadly, unfortunately, it is not necessarily going to save Darlene Gant's life. But it should give her time to spend that last Mother's Day with her boy. It should give her little boy a little more time with his mom. That's the definition of having compassion, isn't it?

    Here's Darlene Gant telling her own story:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    If you knew a drug would give you more time but hadn't yet gotten FDA approval, what would you do?


    Image via DarleneGant/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    graduationGet ready to feel old. This month a girl named Serra Crawford will graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor's degree. This month Serra Crawford will also turn 16

    And here I usually shock people when I tell them I was 16 when I graduated from high school. I was practically an old woman when compared to the Wisconsin teenager who started taking college courses at 10. TEN!

    I love that a kid has the guts to go off to college at 10 years old and sit in a classroom with a bunch of 18-year-old kids. I love that she's got the brains to do it! We all spend our kids' early years crossing our fingers that they will develop into geniuses, and we push them toward greatness. But this comment from Crawford hit me hard:

    I definitely think there are some times that I am missing out on high school, but I think overall, this is just a great opportunity for me because I'll be graduating at 16, and I'll have five years to do whatever I want to do something really spectacular -- either get an extra degree or volunteer work.

    Five years to go volunteer or get another degree? What about hanging out with friends at the mall or wasting an entire day sleeping? Isn't that what being a teenager is about?

    I don't mean to knock this kid. I really don't. If this is what she loves, more power to her. Her parents should be very proud

    And yes, if my kid wanted to do that, I'd be proud of her too. But I'll be honest with you. I don't have a secret desire for my kid to follow in those footsteps. I want her to be a child for as long as she can, to play childish games, and dream childish dreams.

    We spend so much of our lives being adults, so much of our adult lives feeling "old." And there's only so much time that we get to just be young.

    What do you think about when you hear child prodigies have graduated college at such a young age?


    Image via j.o.h.n. walker/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    cinderellaIf a fairy godmother showed up and told you that you could have anything, what would you wish for? A million dollars? A house on the Riviera? A pair of shoes that fit you so perfectly it's like they were made for you?

    Now you know why Christian Louboutin has signed on to design a pair of official Cinderella slippers for Disney in honor of the movie. It may be the classic rags to riches story. But we live in a world where women are expected to spend something like $16,000 in their lifetime just on shoes. Let's call the movie's popularity what it really is.

    A reflection on a girl's relationship with her shoes.

    Who hasn't wasted hundreds (OK, maybe thousands) on the hunt for the one pair that will make her feel like a princess? I'm the kind of anti-girly girl who cries at the threat of having to wear a dress -- in fact, I just wore my first pair of 4-inch heels last weekend to a red carpet event for work -- and even I have a closet full of sandals and wedges and more. Finding the perfect pair of shoes that fits you and only you? Now that's a fairy tale ending.

    Of course, we non-fairy tale types don't have real fairy godmothers. We have the Christian Louboutins and the Manolo Blahniks who wave their magic wands at a pile of leather and wood, creating before our very eyes a dizzying display of pumps and stilettos. The mere fact that we'll wear something that makes our arches scream and still feel like a goddess is proof enough that they've got some supernatural hold on us.

    Sadly, we'll have to wait until October to jet down a set of stairs feeling like Cinderella herself. Louboutin won't release his newest torture device pair of high heels until Disney lets its Blu-Ray of Cinderella out of its vault this fall.

    Be honest, how many pairs of shoes have you bought on the hunt for the perfect pair?


    Image via Disney

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jenna Ushkowitz Glee Everything's gone to hell in a handbasket on Glee. This week's episode was titled Choke, and choke Gleeks did just trying to catch our breath as the writers threw major change after major change at us. We had NYADA auditions! Domestic violence! And Whoopi!

    So who ... or what ... is left standing? First, how about some good news? You're going to need it after this, so we might as well. Despite the guys of the New Directions staying up all night to get him ready for his must pass or he can't graduate social studies test, Puck got a big fat "F." You know what that means?

    More scrumptious Mark Salling eye candy is in store for us next season! That alone makes up for the boys' bizarre -- and bizarrely enjoyable -- punk rock version of the My Fair Lady classic The Rain in Spain.

    On the other hand, it looks like Kurt really is shipping out on us. He killed at his audition in front of hard ass NYADA Judge Carmen Tibideaux (aka guest star Whoopi Goldberg) with a version of Not the Boy Next Door, the song that won hottie Hugh Jackman a Tony. And he managed it all in gold lame pants.

    So it's goodbye Kurt Hummel.

    And I might as well just come out and say it. In the tradition of giving us "teachable moments" on Glee (well, it is set in a high school), the writers have killed off Rachel Berry to show us even the strong ones have weaknesses. OK, so Lea Michele is alive and well, and her character's body is still flouncing around McKinley High in bobby socks. But Ms. Broadway bound will be lucky to leave Lima after tanking her own audition on the heels of Kurt's success.

    That's right. The one stable thing about Glee is gone. The inimitable Barbra Streisand Rachel Berry can be brought down to her knees.

    Add to that cranky Sue being kind, built-like-a-linebacker Coach Bieste getting hit by her husband, and NeNe Leakes actually sounding like the voice of reason as Coach Roz Washington schooling the Glee girls about domestic violence, and this episode taught us all one thing.

    Nothing is safe. And as we march toward the finale on May 22, more changes cometh.

    Are you still reeling? What was the biggest OMG moment of the Choke episode for you?


    Image via Fox

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Jessica SimpsonWe all know by now that Jessica Simpson is not "still pregnant." She finally delivered baby girl Maxwell Drew Johnson in Los Angeles on Tuesday. And now that we've gotten a look at photos of her delivery room suite, it looks like JSimps might have out-diva'd Beyonce herself in the delivery department.

    Word has it Simpson and Eric Johnson snagged Cedars Sinai's luxurious three-room, two-bath suite to meet their new daughter, and it is sweeeeeet. We're talking flat screen TVs, private living room for sister Ashlee and crew to hang out and talk about the new addition to the fam, and of course a shower stall large enough to fit a soccer team.

    Want a look? We've got pictures!

    The whole thing goes for a whopping $3,784 per day (which is about $500 a night more than Beyonce apparently spent over at Lenox Hill in New York).

    I'd almost be jealous of all these celebrity moms and their fancy maternity wards if it weren't for one thing.

    Jessica still had to go through the whole delivering a child thang. Pretty bed linens and courtesy bathrobes are nice, but they don't protect you from contractions or vaginal tearing (did you catch the size of Simpson's little girl? She was a healthy 9 pounds, 13 ounces!). And if Simpson went the C-section route -- we haven't heard that one yet -- there's no amount of money that makes up for several weeks of painful recovery from surgery.

    More from The Stir: Jessica Simpson's Baby Name Is All Kinds of Wrong

    Don't get me wrong. A little luxury after going through the birthing process is nothing to sneeze at.

    I would have much preferred Cedars' basket of fresh fruit and muffins, beverage-stocked fridge, and private meals for two that their celebrity guests get to the cold dinner my local hospital scrounged up for me late at night after my daughter was born (and I hadn't eaten in over a day). No one even bothered to check food preferences or allergies with me, so I was served some kind of mystery meat with a congealed sauce on top. I'm a vegetarian. I don't know if it was the hormones or the hunger pains, but I burst into tears. Thank God my husband ran to the snack machine. Wonder if Doritos come out in colostrum ...

    But at the end of the day, even the women who flounce into the delivery room with their makeup just so and their own towels and sheets packed in their bags are just like the rest of us. Women have been delivering babies the same way for thousands of years, and no amount of money is going to change that.

    If you had Jessica Simpson's kind of money, what would you want in your delivery room when you welcomed your new baby?


    Image via Pacific Coast News

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    school hallwayHow's this for unsettling? I hit the website of my local paper to see pictures of a school up the road from me filled with cops brandishing big guns. The good news? It was all a drill. The bad news? High school shootings have now become so commonplace that teachers and students are now practicing for them!

    The photos from the local school are an example of a national trend. Mock shooting drills are now lined up on the school calendar right along with the fire drills of our youth. This is our reality.

    Schools here in New York. Schools in Florida. Schools in Michigan. They've all let men with guns into the building so teachers, and in some schools, the teenagers too can practice -- in a safe manner -- what to do if a child turns into a killer. They're hoping to save lives by being proactive.

    I trust the members of law enforcement who led the shooting scenario in my area. I understand their reasoning for trying it out. I want my kid to be properly prepped for an emergency. I went through fire drills and mock DWI accident drills and God knows what else drills back in my day, and I admit they helped. When I hear a fire alarm, I know what to do.

    But that doesn't mean I like it.

    Yes; a shooting may happen. But actually, thankfully, the statistics say it probably won't. Just this February, in the wake of the horrific shooting in Chardon, Ohio, Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics released a study showing school-related violent deaths are at an all-time low since it began tracking such deaths in 1992. And these are the statistics we need to focus on.

    We send our kids off to school each day thinking that they are going to a safe place. We aren't naive. We're aware there are shootings. But we have to focus on the positive in order to get through the day, in order to entrust teachers with our most precious "belongings" so to speak. The reasoning is two-pronged. It's to make us feel better, but it's also to comfort our kids. This is a place where they spend much of their lives; they need to feel safe there.

    A school shooting drill takes the careful fantasy we have built and rips it in two. And for what? For the possibility that there may be a shooting at our kids' school?

    I understand why law enforcement is suggesting these drills. But if they are the new normal, I'm afraid of what we're accepting as "normal."

    What would you do if your child's school was planning one of these drills?


    Image via Conspirator/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Leland CamaraThere isn't much most of us wouldn't do for a little kid with cancer. We'll shave our heads, open our wallets, sell lemonade, really, the list goes on. Whatever it takes to help a child in need, we'll do. They deserve it. But a 5-year-old boy with leukemia doesn't want our help. He wants to help others.

    Leland Camara just became the kid with perhaps the most amazing wish to ever make its way into the offices of the Make a Wish Foundation. After months of his community showering his family with support, the Alaska tot asked for help from the non-profit that makes dreams come true for sick kids. He wanted them to help him give back.

    Are you weeping yet?

    Their answer was to send Leland's family from Alaska to Disneyland, but before he left, to let him help out at Kid's Kitchen, a program that provides free meals to children living in poverty. He literally walked around with plates of food in his hand, passing them off to kids who might have gone hungry if it weren't for the program.

    More from The Stir: 9-Year-Old With Cancer Dances His Way Into Our Hearts (VIDEO)

    Little Leland's story would probably have set me off on a crying jag on a regular day. But it just so happens that I read about him on the same week that I met the people behind Kids Rocking Cancer, a non-profit developed not only to support kids like Leland and help their families with fundraisers but specifically to address the emotional issues unique to children looking at cancer. Kids don't deal with this disease the way adults do. Keeping it together like Leland isn't the norm.

    Video of him is striking. It shows a little boy whose parents have not only done a wonderful job raising a child who understands what it means to care about people, but they've had the unenviable task of watching their child fight cancer. If I were in their shoes, I'm not sure I would have managed both at the same time. I don't have much use for bratty, spoiled kids, but when a child has cancer, I give them a pass. I say let them be spoiled, let them be bratty, let them have everything they want and more!

    And yet, Leland's parents have managed to avoid that trap. With their sick little boy, they've somehow managed to do better than countless parents who haven't had the challenge of chemotherapy and hospital visits. There's a lesson in there for us all, isn't there?

    If you don't think you can raise a child who understand what it means to give back, you aren't trying hard enough.

    Watch Leland in action: 


    If your child were Leland, what do you think they would wish for?


    Image via KSL

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    Post by Jeanne Sager


    punchViolence is almost never the way to solve a problem. But if anyone was ever begging for a punch in the nose, a certain homophobic North Carolina pastor making news today fits that bill. During a Sunday sermon, Berean Baptist Church pastor Sean Harris voiced his support for an anti-gay amendment up for debate in the state capital by telling fathers that they need to punch their toddler sons if they are acting "girly" and "rein in" their "butch" daughters.

    Of course now that the Internet has called him out for his vile suggestion that dads crack their son's limp wrists and put his stamp of approval on child abuse straight from the pulpit, Harris is backing off. Don'tcha know he was just kidding?

    Uh huh. He sounded real hilarious when he said he was giving parents a "special dispensation" to treat their kids like punching bags. Take a listen:

    With "jokes" like that from Christian pastors who are supposed to be proclaiming the Good word of a Lord who advocated turning the other cheek, is it any wonder violence against LGBT members of society continues to rise? Any surprise that LGBT youth are at a four times higher risk of committing suicide than their straight peers?

    Disagreeing with someone else's lifestyle is protected by the U.S. Constitution and the right to free speech. Getting violent against them for it, on the other hand, is still against the law -- and rightfully so. And hurting children, in particular, is just plain sick. You walk over the line from ignorant ass to scum of the earth when you start picking on 4-year-olds.

    When -- if ever -- is it OK to make jokes about child abuse?


    Image via richard_north/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Daniel ChongTalk about a black eye on the red, white, and blue. A college student from the University of California, San Diego, claims he was hauled into custody by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) last month, only to be abandoned in a cell for five straight days without food or water. Daniel Chong claims things got so bad he drank his own urine to survive.

    And to make matters worse, Chong was never even charged with a crime! Can things look any worse for the feds' war on drugs?

    Well, yes, they can! At least if anything this 24-year-old engineering student claims holds any weight, the agents involved should be sitting their sorry butts in a jail cell pretty darn soon.

    Chong is claiming he was brought into the DEA's offices because he was hanging at a friend's house on 4/20 day while his pals celebrated the holiday by smoking some weed. Of course he's not telling us whether partook, but he says he was told he could go home. Only somehow, he was led into a jail cell instead, where he spent the next five days trying to stay alive.

    The story gets wilder and wilder when he starts talking about a white powder he found in there (later identified as meth ... IN a cell??), and confesses he broke the glass out of his eyeglasses and tried to use it to kill himself.

    It sounds so over-the-top awful that I wanted to believe it was all a hoax from some guy trying to make big money off the government. Cops are human. They can screw up. But this ranks up there in the nightmare realm. It's like a case of police brutality, only instead of beating the person, it was the conditions they put him through that took the toll on Chong's body.

    There's no excuse for that. When you wear the uniform, and they give you the gun, you have a responsibility to take care of the lives you are charged with overseeing. Same goes for doctors, teachers ... anyone who is overseeing human life. If they can't handle one person, how can they handle the so-called war on drugs?

    Sadly, Chong's story is looking pretty legit right now. A bigwig in the DEA actually told the media he's troubled by the story and extends his "deepest apologies" to the California man. Sorry, bud, it's going to take a lot more than that to make this right. Chong is suing, but it sounds like criminal charges need to be filed pronto.

    What would you do if you'd been in Chong's shoes?


    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.


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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    sophie markellEver wonder what a normal family looks like? Debra Markell doesn't. She has a daughter in a wheelchair thanks to a rare form of muscular dystrophy and a son without any health complications at all. And the way she sees it, her family is perfectly normal.

    It's a lesson more and more families of kids with special needs are getting to share thanks to CafeMom Studios' new series, Our Special Life. From the outside, people see challenges. But on the inside of the Markells' house, it's the challenges that mark them as not so different.

    "We just have 10 times the amount of things to do in the morning," Debra Markell says of preparing 13-year-old daughter Sophie for her day at school. Wow. A crazy morning getting the kids ready for school? How ... normal!

    It's no mistake that the Markells allowed cameras into their home to capture Sophie's birthday party, grab imagery of Sophie playing the Wii with brother Andrew (ok, so she uses her foot to move the controller ... I think that's pretty darn cool), and record her trip to school in the morning. It's all stuff any family does.

    Emery Dreifuss, the rare form of muscular dystrophy that is making her muscles waste away, might make Sophie's life different from her peers. But the fact is, the Markells are just living life with their two kids. And what a life it is! Take a look:

    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.


    How much in the Markells' life is just like it is in your "normal" family?

    Want to keep up with these normal families with different challenges? You can subscribe to Our Special Life on YouTube.


    Image via CafeMomStudios/YouTube

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    drum majorIt's going to be one of the biggest prosecutions of a college hazing case in the nation's history. Thirteen members of the FAMU marching band were arrested yesterday and charged in the death of Robert Champion, the gay college student who died after running through a hail of fists on a Florida A&M University bus last fall. Prosecutors' decision to go after multiple defendants when they couldn't determine exactly which punch ended Champion's life is a message to hazers everywhere.

    Being just "one of the crowd" involved in tradition as old as time itself isn't protection from prosecution anymore. But it's a little early to be sounding the death knell for hazing (although there's plenty of media doing so today). As long as there is a crowd to enact some animalistic torture, there will be people dying to get into that crowd ... and the threat of felony charges won't change that.

    Hazing is sadistic. But it's human nature. People always want something better -- hence the phrase "Keeping up with the Jonses." And so people will always submit to being hazed. Rookies will do the laundry for a whole firehouse full of firefighters. Newbies will strip down naked and run across a field while the football team laughs. Guys like Robert Champion will run through a gauntlet of fists, desperate to be liked, to be accepted, to be "part" of the in crowd.

    When Champion's death became public and FAMU fired its marching band director, there was a lot of blame being thrown around. It sounds very much like these 13 guys arrested in Tallahassee this week were sick, vicious men who took advantage of a young man's weakness, his oh-so-human desire to fit in. There's a reason at least two of the 13 are facing felonies. And it's certainly worth noting that Champion was a gay guy at a traditionally black college, a community where homosexuals receive even less support than they typically would in schools with a different racial majority. His vulnerability was upped, and his position as a major on the marching band gave him his chance to find acceptance.

    Their prosecution is the logical next step.

    And yet, 9 times out of 10 without willing hazees, there is no hazing. People have the power to say no, to walk away, to opt out of running buck naked through a snowstorm or drinking until they pass out simply because they want to be liked. But they do it anyway. They put themselves through unspeakable tortures because they want to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. 

    Prosecuting hazers is a means of finding justice for the hazees. It's the appropriate course of action on the legal level, and I'm glad they're doing it for Robert Champion's sake. But it won't stop hazing.

    The only thing that can stop hazing for good is for people to decide they don't want to be hazed, that they don't care about being liked or accepted. And who can really say they don't care?

    Have you ever been hazed? What were the circumstances? Here's more detail on what's going down at FAMU:


    See this video on The Stir by CafeMom.

    Image via zoetnet/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    JR MartinezMore good news for JR Martinez, the Iraqi war veteran who won Dancing With the Stars and our hearts late last year. Girlfriend Diana Gonzalez-Jones has given birth to the couple's first child! It sounds like the little girl already has Daddy wrapped around her finger ... just the way she's supposed to.

    Martinez has been all over the media gushing about the little 7-pound, 13-ounce baby's sweet little freckles and sweet little lips (perfect for pouting at papa?). But can we talk about something else for a minute here? The couple have done something interesting with their little girl's name.

    They've named their sweetie Lauryn Annabelle Martinez, which is perfectly lovely. So lovely, in fact, that I was surprised to hear the couple has already dropped the first name and has pulled a nickname from the middle moniker. They're already referring to her as Belle! I guess it shouldn't be a surprise when you consider dad goes by JR rather than Jose Rene.

    More from The Stir: JR Martinez Is a True Hero

    It's another lovely name, and I'm sure she's a beauty (have you looked at her parents?), so it's sure to fit. But you don't hear many people actually using their kid's middle name. Usually it's chosen, thrown on the birth certificate, and then more or less forgotten, save for when they have to fill out paperwork at the pediatrician's office or they're trying to come up with an unhackable Facebook password.

    It's a shame really. Considering all the work we put into picking a perfect middle name, we should use them more! I like this trend! Fingers crossed that other parents follow suit ... provided they're as good as JR and Diana at picking sweet names for their kiddos.

    Congratulations to the family and here's hoping for more big wins like this for JR! After all he's done for our country, he more than deserves it. 

    What do you think of the name Martinez and Gonzalez-Jones have chosen?


    Image via Splash News

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    spray tanJust when I didn't think there could be any tanning news any stranger than the mom accused of bringing her little girl into the booth to get bronzed, here comes something crazier. Florida dad Adam Kaufman is on trial for the murder of wife Eleanora. Only he says he didn't do it. Her spray tan did.

    Oh, you know there has to be good back story to this one, don't you? Eleanora Kaufman was 33 when her death was reported to police in 2007. It took two years for the cops to call it a homicide, and another three to bring her husband to trial for allegedly doing the deed.

    So you'd think he would have had time to come up with a better defense. It's been five years buddy, couldn't you at least blame ... I don't know, a one-armed man? Gangsta rap made me do it?

    The prosecution says that Eleanora's death is a murder. Period. It would take a person to cause the "deep bleeding in the victim's neck muscles," and yet Kaufman is proceeding with his claim that his wife (and mother of his children!) suffered an adverse reaction to the spray tan she'd used. I'm not sure what he intends to get out of this defense. OK, well, we know he intends to get off on a murder charge. But what's next? Suing the company that made the spray tan product? Scaring the pants off of every woman who goes the -- ostensibly safer than getting skin cancer -- spray route to golden skin?

    I'm not saying he killed her. That's for the jury to decide. I am saying there has to be a more reasonable explanation here. Spray tan products are scary, but good God, the kind of stuff that would cause bleeding in the neck muscles? Yeah ... no.

    Which makes you wonder ... did he do it, and he's just nutso cuckoo and thinks people would believe something so outlandish? Is this the base for an insanity plea?

    I don't know. All I know, frankly, is that I'd much rather spray tan than lie out in my backyard and say "come and get me cancer."

    What's your read on this? Too crazy for words or ... well, maybe ...?


    Image via dno1967b/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    putting on makeupI was standing at the cash register of a certain well-known beauty store (ahem, rhymes with Ignore-a) a few weeks ago when I got the total. Ouch! For that I could outfit a small child for a week.

    Researchers have found that women tend to spend more on their beauty products than they do on their health. I'm obviously as guilty as any of them, but I've decided that's enough. No more killing my wallet with beauty products. I have embraced the world of DIY, or beauty hacks. And here are some of the best out there ... they'll save you time in a pinch (you have no idea how much is hiding in your kitchen!) and, more importantly, money! Check out the 10 beauty hacks every woman needs to know!

    OK, go ahead, add them here. What is your favorite beauty hack?


    Image via eflon/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    tiaraIf the words "prom queen" bring to mind a cheerleader with perfect teeth and perfect hair, get ready to adjust your perceptions. Carolann Nunez is the prom queen at Americas High School in Texas. And Carolann also happens to have Down syndrome.

    It's the kind of story that leaves a dopey grin on my face. I'm happy for this kid and her personal triumph. But I'd be lying if I didn't say there wasn't some selfish part of me that sees Carolann's crowning as a sign of something bigger.

    If a kid with Down syndrome who took her daddy as her date to the prom (seriously, cue the tears y'all) can be crowned the prom queen ... well, excuse the naivete, but I'm going to say darn near anything is possible. Kids can be different. And the OTHER kids can learn to not only live with it but celebrate it.

    More from The Stir: Autistic Cheerleader Defies Stereotypes With School Spirit (VIDEO)

    When we send our kids to school, there's always part of us that hems and haws over whether we should tell them to rock that uniqueness or try to scrub at the raw edges until they're smooth. I'm not proud to admit that, but let's face it ... no one wants to be the parent of the "weird" kid. The genius who is totally blasting the other students away? The most likely to succeed but also most likely to be liked kid? Yeah. Everyone wants to have the popular kid. But it's inherent in our nature to protect our kids from would-be bullies. We are parents. We want our kids to succeed in all things, and that includes the social arena.

    When kids like Carolann aren't just accepted but celebrated, it breaks down a barrier. Her bravery paves the way for more kids who are "different" to make that "difference" become de rigeuer.

    What is the "difference" in your kid you always worry will get them picked on?


    Image via jennifer donley/Flickr

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    Thor captain americaIt's opening night of The Avengers nationwide, and you can bet the teenagers will be lining up outside theaters ready for their fix of the hot new superhero flick. And the younger kids want to be right there with them. The last Halloween in most neighborhoods brought us a sea of little Iron Mans and wee Captain America look-alikes running around town. These are their heroes too.

    But is The Avengers really a kids movie? That depends ... on your kid. You know them better than anyone. But we're throwing you a lifeline. We've seen the movie (and loved it), and we know what to watch out for with your kids. Here's a guide to help you decide if you'll be hitting the theaters or staying home this weekend:

    Violence: It kind of goes without saying that a movie about superheroes will include fighting, doesn't it? There is a lot of it, and this isn't cartoon violence either. But it's violence with a point. These superheroes are trying to save the world from the bad guys; it's not being done just for kicks.

    Death: Most of the bad guys are killed quickly, and the actual death throes happen off-screen. The bigger focus, Moms and Dads, is the one major character who dies onscreen. He's a character kids will connect with in a major way -- I won't tell you more because I don't want to ruin a rather pivotal moment for you -- and his death is quite emotional.

    Cursing: With a PG-13 rating, you know there would be some. But the first third to half of the movie goes by curse-free, and there are no F-bombs to worry about! Most of the cuss words are limited to "da--" and "hell," and it's not gratuitous. The worst it gets is a "sonuvab--ch" and a mention of a particular person being "buck a-- naked" (you don't see that, by the way, and it's not sexual).

    Suicide: If your kids are familiar in any way with the story of the Incredible Hulk, they know Dr. Bruce Banner is not happy to turn into a green monster when he gets angry. But a mention that he once tried to shoot himself in the mouth as a means to end the Hulk's reign over his body may be hard to explain to your kids. It's a very quick reference, and your kids may forget all about it, but it's worth being prepared anyway.

    So there you have it: what you need to know when your kiddos come storming into the room with their LEGO magazine with The Avengers cover and saying, "I wanna see it!"

    What have your kids been saying about the movie? Will you be seeing The Avengers tonight?


    Image via Walt Disney/Marvel

    Disney covered my expenses to see Marvel's The Avengers at the Tribeca Film Festival.

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    The AvengersConfession. I didn't expect to actually enjoy Marvel's The Avengers. When I heard Disney was shooting for a female audience for its new superhero flick, I thought they were being ... adventuresome. I suppose my skepticism is why you should trust me. The Avengers is good. Super good. You need to see it. Preferably on opening night.

    Why should you believe me? I'm not your typical fan girl. And I wanted to plop myself back down in a theater seat to re-watch Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Evans wrest the fate of the world back out from the hands of the evil Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

    Disney and Marvel have done it.

    They have turned the superhero franchise that's long been the bastion of boys big and small and a faithful following of female comic fans into the kind of film that speaks to the rest of us. We all live on Earth. We all could use a hero. This is a movie for us ... all of us.

    The secret, of course, is Joss Whedon. Revered by women since the wonder that is Buffy was delivered upon womankind, the writer/director is both a comic book fan who was able to give the Marvel maniacs what they wanted and a guy who speaks to women. He knew the sex appeal of the leading actors was only going to drive this movie so far into the female fanbase. He respected our intelligence. We need more than hot guys. We need powerful women like Black Widow (Johansson) and Maria Hill (played by How I Met Your Mother's Cobie Smulders). We needed story. We needed heart.

    We got the latter in no small part because of Ruffalo, whose turn as Dr. Bruce Banner and his green monster alter ego The Incredible Hulk steals the scenes away from top-billed wise-cracking Downey with a quiet dignity as a mild-mannered scientist living in fear of himself. But The Avengers delivers laughs too, in a script heavy on pop culture references that lighten the dark mood (hello, Earth is under attack here people) quickly without insulting the intelligence.

    Only box office results will tell the real story, but finding a movie my husband and I can watch together is a super win in my book. 

    When will you be going to see The Avengers?


    Image via Walt Disney

    Disney covered my expenses to screen Marvel's The Avengers.

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    Post by Jeanne Sager

    JR MartinezCan JR Martinez make us swoon any more? First he stole our hearts on Dancing With the Stars. Now the Iraqi war veteran who suffered severe burns on half of his body while serving our country is gushing about his new baby girl with girlfriend Diana Gonzalez-Jones. He's a proud dad, and we love him for it.

    He told us all about her adorable freckles and revealed the little girl's name yesterday. And now Martinez is dishing the details on where little Lauryn Anabelle got her name!

    Martinez told People that both of little Belle's official names are from deceased relatives. Lauryn was named for Diana's younger sister, who passed away suddenly last year. Anabelle is for his own sister, who died at just 6 years old.

    Naming kids for family members is not exactly groundbreaking. We all know a handful of juniors, and most of my friends in the Jewish faith have a tradition of choosing a name specifically based on that of family members who have died.

    But there is an art to this whole borrowed name thing. It can be tough to mix the old with the new. Especially when names of generations past are a little ... dated. And when a death was recent, you don't want to put the pressure of filling the void of a loss on a little baby (trust me, I've seen it happen ... and it is HARD on a kid).

    I love that Martinez and Gonzalez-Jones opted to give their little girl her own unique twist by changing the spelling of each of the names. As JR explained, "She will have her own identity."

    It's a nice compromise: a memory is honored, but the child gets to grow up knowing that she (or he) is recognized for being herself wholly and completely. Her parents want her to be an individual. That's one of the best gifts parents can give a kid at the start of life. See what I mean about this dad making us swoon?

    Who is your child named for? Did you stick with the same spelling or change things up?


    Image via Splash News

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