MOMO challenge

I’ll admit it: I can be a “lazy” mom.

I’ll swing through a fast-food restaurant instead of cooking a more nutritious meal at home.

I’ll wave the white flag and let my three-year-old have a cookie for breakfast instead of dealing with a meltdown.

I’ll give them my phone and let them surf YouTube so I can take a shower, eat a meal, use the restroom or not find the answer to the never-ending, nagging question, “why??!?”

When it came to YouTube and YouTube Kids, we have every parental control on there. It’s so guarded even Motley Crue videos from the 80s are deemed inappropriate. Well ok, some are 😉

I will never understood why my children enjoyed watching other children on YouTube, or even sometimes adults, open giant eggs that contained toys…but hey, if it gave me a few minutes of some peace and quiet…watch away.

But recently, the phones and devices in our home got a complete overhaul: YouTube – DELETED. YouTube KIDS – DELETED. Roblox – DELETED. Fortnite – DELETED. Even our beloved Peppa Pig game – DELETED.

It’s called the MOMO challenge (or Suicide Game) and it’s hacking popular children’s websites and games as a sneaky way to get to our children. This face, that would give me a nightmare, will often appear…


After this image appears, it reportedly threatens the player if they refuse to follow orders. There are claims that some of the threats include children being killed in their sleep and users are told to harm themselves and even kill themselves.

This scary image and the threats pop-up in the middle of harmless, children-oriented YouTube programs.

The sad thing is this: deleting all of those apps does not solve a thing. Because tomorrow, there will be a new kid-friendly app my kiddos want me to download. My husband and I will research the heck out of it…read the reviews…investigate the risks. He and I will then have another conversation at our kitchen table about whether to allow them to have the app. We will download that app only to later delete it because of something like the MOMO challenge pops up again.

Because the bottom-line is this: there will always be evil lurking. There will always be someone out there who wants to hurt our children. We can “think” we always know what our kids are watching or playing but the truth is, we will never be able to be in front of everything. I could click my heels and wish it was 1988 again. I could never allow my children to use one of the devices in the house. But let me brutally honest and admit this: I’ll hand my child a phone during the next meltdown at a restaurant; I’ll hand my child the phone when I need to use the restroom in peace; I’ll hand my child the phone when I am by myself and I need to get dinner made; I’ll hand my child the phone when they are “so bored” at their older sibling’s game. I’ll own up to my days of “lazy parenting.”

It’s another conversation we have to have with our children. We talk about strangers…we talk about good touch/bad touch…we talk about drugs…we talk about bullying. We MUST talk about it all and we can’t be afraid.

I showed my older two the picture of the scary bug-eyed woman and talked to them in the most simple way: “Look at her, have you seen this face before? Look – this image could pop up – or it could be another picture or a drawing. After they try to get your attention, they’re going to say really awful things. They want you to do awful things. If you ever see anything like this, you let me or Dad know right away, ok? And you know you never listen to anyone who is telling you to do awful or hateful things, right?”

We sat at our kitchen table, our usual meeting spot, and my son sighed and said: “The devil is always trying to ruin things.”

No truer statement.

As I heard one expert put it: “pull the band-aid off and have the tough conversations with your children.”

Those conversations with mom and dad will turn into the voice of reason in their head.


Letter to the Editor…

I believe in giving people a voice when others refuse to…so I am sharing a LETTER TO THE EDITOR from someone who wants answers.

“I attended the South Winneshiek School Board meeting Monday February 11, 2019 with all intentions of speaking.  The audience was addressed and told you have one minute to get up from your seat and place your name on a sheet of paper in order to be recognized or even have a chance to speak. They decided at the last minute to amend the agenda: “Moved by Schroeder and seconded by Busch to approve the agenda as amended by welcoming visitors before consent items, removing spotlight on education and removing administrative reports. Motion carried unanimously. “Assuming that they took a very important item off the agenda, I felt it was better to listen than voice my opinion.  It was kind of overwhelming to say the least and a bit rushed.  The meeting lasted a total of 19 minutes.  I was absolutely floored that with all of attention that South Winneshiek has received in the last few weeks that nothing was said by the School Board regarding the events that have occurred there.  KWWL had cameras rolling, this would have been the perfect chance for them to at least let the public know what they are doing to be proactive for the Student Body.  What I have to say I know for a fact there are plenty of others wondering the same.

My name is Janice Baker.  I graduated from South Winn in 95.  Both of our children graduated from here in 2013 – 2015, we even moved out of the district when our daughter was a freshman and open enrolled both of our kids back into the district, so they could attend the school that they had always went to.  We have a niece and nephew who are students at the Elementary and Jr High.  We also have a nephew who attends South Winn High School, and at some point, our grandchildren will be students in the district.

WE as a community need answers…. YOU need to fix the issues YOU have with bullying in YOUR district.

How is it that none of you (administrators) had not heard the rumors?  I find this extremely hard to believe.   How can any of you admit that no one caught wind of these rumors?  Some of you have kids in school, right?

Besides the email that teachers were instructed to read to the students during class, what are you doing or what have you done for the Student body regarding bringing consolers in to talk to these kids?

To quote the editors of the email” ** Most of you are aware (more or less) of the recent blog posted on line about a (bullying??) issue here at South Winn. 

The email goes on to say “** In regard to information that has been or is posted on social media – it is important to recognize not all information you see on social media is accurate or complete.  It is also important to remember that in emotional and complex situations like this, people quickly take words out of context and only see what they want to see.  We strongly recommend that students and staff refrain from reacting to what they may see on line.  More often than not, it will only serve to fan discontent or be taken out of context entirely.  Instead, focus on supporting your fellow students and community members.” (these are the exact words from the email)

It was more than just bullying ??….AN ASSAULT happened, and when you sent this email you knew it was an assault not just bullying??  This is not a case of boys being boys.  This was a situation being taken too far and to the point of an assault occurring and being displayed for the world to see.

Students are read this email, and yet to date, what kind of support have you given them?

To carry on everyday like nothing has happened?  Like what you portrayed at your board meeting.  Stop turning a blind eye to a serious situation.  Address it.  TALK to the student body.   If you don’t address the issue and give these kids a chance to ask their questions, then you are the ones letting discontent run rapid through our community or as one person put it created “A National Enquirer” atmosphere around the school, town, and community.

Students, parents, and perhaps staff will continue to look to the internet for answers if you as a district do not take a stand and say not in our school and face the issue head on.

As far as your internal investigation is concerned don’t you think it would have been better handled by an independent 3rd party not affiliated with the district?  It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the web that exists.

We need answers to the questions that way too many people are afraid to ask.”



Janice Baker

South Winneshiek Alumni, parent, grandparent, Aunt

Fort Atkinson, Iowa

A lie doesn’t become truth…

“A lie doesn’t become truth…wrong doesn’t become right…evil doesn’t become good just because it’s accepted by the majority.”

About a month ago is when I first heard the allegations of bullying…assault…despicable behavior.

Once I confirmed everything with authorities, I blogged about it.  Posting that blog was like throwing a match on gasoline. But it needed to be done.

I removed the blog post out of respect for the victim…because apparently, he was being harassed YET AGAIN. I wondered how those people CONTINUED TO GET AWAY WITH THAT BEHAVIOR. But I digress…the last thing I wanted to do was hurt the victim.

I was sent a copy of an email that the Principal/Athletic Director/Superintendent of the school district sent out to teachers to read to their students.  It basically told students not to believe everything you read on social media…especially from a “blogger.”

For the record, I’m not a “blogger.” I’m an Emmy-award winning journalist who is now a full-time advocate to keep children SAFE. I just happen to have a blog. But I digress again because IT IS NOT ABOUT ME. It’s about a young victim. The things that allegedly happened. Those who knew. Those who did NOTHING. If you defend the behavior that is detailed in the criminal complaint than you are a disgrace.

Here is what we know from Sheriff’s Office: “The victim was held down against his will. The victim was not allowed to get up and the victim.” The alleged incident was captured on SnapChat and shared with authorities. See…we told you everything is PERMANENT on social media…even on SnapChat.

Some news outlets are posting the graphic nature of what happened…but I will not. That young person does not need to be re-victimized.

This is what I know from confirmed sources: the case has been moved twice so far because of conflicts of interest. Basically, the family of one of the juveniles involved, knows a lot of people.

I will not stop talking about this until justice is served…but I am asking a favor.

Please have mercy on the students at South Winn who knew nothing. Because of this terrible situation, there has been a lot of negativity attention surrounding the school. For many students…they were kept in the dark too. We need to make sure they are kept safe.

Please don’t share the graphic details of the case. Read them so you know just how severe they are…but don’t repost. The victim has suffered enough. We need to keep him safe.

Go to the upcoming school board meeting and demand answers.

Ask why the others involved are not being tried as adults.

Demand change.

Demand justice.

People KNEW.

They did NOTHING.

Connect the dots of those involved.

It’s quite the web.


Bring on the snow…

I was in front of the firing squad earlier when I said: I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE SNOW!”

And the reason is a simple one: I get to clear my schedule.

Everything gets canceled.  Cue the confetti!! There are no meetings…no appointments…no practices…no games…no errands…nada.

The mom taxi stays parked in the garage and its driver spends the day in her traditional uniform of an old college sweatshirt and some baggy sweatpants. The only stress I have is the hour it takes to shove the kids into their snowsuits, gloves and hats only for them to come back in after 5 minutes with “I have to go to the bathroom” or “it’s too cold.” My favorite line in the past was “the snow is so wet!” Face-palm.

I’ll break it down to its simplest form: I want to be lazy. I don’t want anyone to have any expectations of me being anywhere other than my couch.

I am overscheduled. Plain and simple. Momma is hanging on by a thread here and it’s only the third week of the new year.

The snow makes it impossible for my Mom-mobile to leave the house…so I am finally able to spend quality time with the family. My oldest daughter already has a Harry Potter movie marathon planned while my son has challenged me to a tournament of Twister. My three-year-old is just excited to eat the snow. It’s the little things in life.

While I love the summer days at the pool…I am a sucker for fireplace weather with old school hot chocolate cooking on the stove, board games, snowball fights and movie marathons with every snack imaginable.

It’s a good time to unplug, unwind and reconnect.

And I have never been more thankful to be out of the TV news biz…because this “retired” anchor won’t get called into work.


Stay safe everyone…if you need me, I’ll be on my couch.



Necessary lesson…

“Mom! I forgot my sneakers!”

I started laughing because surely she was joking. I was 100% confident that my responsible child did not forget her basketball shoes she needed to play basketball. But there she stood in a pile of snow wearing her Adidas slides…you know the ones I suggested she not wear because of all of the snow but I was reassured that she “was fine.” I pick my battles.

But I could tell by the deer-in-the-headlights look on her face that she did, in fact, forget her basketball shoes.

I was not exactly a “happy” woman rushing 20 minutes in the snow back to our house to grab her sneakers. It was 1:15 and she had to be at the gym by 1:30. Because of this unplanned trip, she would just make tip-off at 2:00pm.  My daughter didn’t know it…but she was about to get a tough yet extremely necessary lesson in life.

She didn’t play in the first game.

Not a half.

Not a quarter.

Not a minute.

Not a second.

And I was giving the coach an internal standing ovation from the bleachers.


That’s the time the entire team needed to be at the gym for a game. That was the rule.

My daughter didn’t follow the rules.

Plain and simple.

The coach wasn’t mean about it at all…she told Gia that she didn’t warm up enough and wasn’t ready to get on the court.  But in my head…I was secretly hoping she was benched for not following the rules.  Whatever the reason, I had the coach’s back on this one.

Someone, somewhere is going to send a nasty email about “failing my daughter…not supporting her…relishing in the fact she was upset…why didn’t you pack her bag?!” Oh an email or 18 are coming. (And by the way – my kids know this: if you’re old enough to play competitive sports, then you are old enough to pack your own bag.)

As a mom, of course I didn’t like seeing my daughter upset. No parent WANTS to see their child upset. But this was not something that HAPPENED to her. This is the direct consequence of her actions.

Here’s the thing: If I don’t teach my children to follow the rules…then I am failing them. When has rewarding bad behavior ever worked out?

Sure, she’s “only 10.” But one day she will be 30…and she can’t show up to a meeting 30 minutes late. If my kids don’t learn now…then when will they?

The coach’s move reminded me of old school youth sports. You remember? When we didn’t hand out participation trophies for just showing up…parents weren’t allowed at practices…you didn’t play if you weren’t at practice……those who worked harder played more…you were benched if you had bad grades. Oh I could go on and on about the glory days.

I want my children to build good habits. Be on time…always do your homework…keep your word…share…listen well…treat others with respect…have manners…treat everyone equally…be honest…show gratitude…work hard…be patient…don’t judge others.

Habits change into character.

That’s why I love sports…

Sports don’t build character…they reveal it.

“I will never forget my shoes again.”

Lesson learned.







Can. We. Stop.

Comment sections on social media can be two things: absolute gold or a migraine/high blood pressure inducing crap show.

Mine was the latter this morning at 6am this morning while I was scrolling through the comments on a blog I read. Long story short, the well-written and RELATABLE (for me)piece incited yet another Stay-at-home-mom vs working outside of the home mom war.

Cue the eye-roll.

And at 6am this morning I woke my entire house up by screaming: “OHHHH FOR GOD SAKES!!!”

Can we stop being one-uppers? You know exactly what I mean…it goes something like this: “By the time I go to work, I have already been up taking care of kids for three hours”…”Yeah, well I have been up for 7 hours and even though I don’t leave the house for work, I am still working”…”Yeah, well I am up for 24 hours straight with 3 kids who I homeschool and then I go to work at night.”

Can. We. Stop.

Let’s agree on one thing? Momming is hard.

Most days I am exhausted by the time I get to my office because, let’s be honest, the hour it takes to get the kiddos out of the door every morning is CHAOS. And I am sure it doesn’t matter if you work in or out of the home. “Please wake up, the bus is coming in 10 minutes…did you eat…I made you pancakes, you didn’t say you wanted cereal…please let me brush your hair…where are your shoes…what do you mean you didn’t do your homework, you said you didn’t have any…PLEASE WAKE UP…do not turn off Doc McStuffins, she was watching that…go brush your teeth…where are your socks…what do you mean you lost your hat…GET OUT OF BED NOW!!!!”

That’s just before 8.

I don’t share this because my day is so much busier than anyone else’s…I share it because maybe someone out there can relate and realize that we truly are in this tribe called motherhood together. I hope like he$$ someone has mornings like mine so I know it’s just not something I am doing wrong.


Someone once asked, “Why don’t you blog about what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom?” Well that’s simple…I can’t blog about what I don’t know. That doesn’t mean I don’t SUPPORT women who are stay-at-home moms. But if you want to know about my experiences showing up for meetings with baby puke on my shoulder or crushed Goldfish crackers stuck to my sweater…than I am your girl.

Listen — nobody needs to justify why they’re a stay-at-home mom. Nobody needs to justify why they’re a working-outside-of-the-home mom. Nobody needs to put their daily schedule out on Broadway to prove how much crazier their days are and how much they do.


You do what’s best for your family.

Can we be honest and just admit that we are all drivers of similar struggle buses? It’s hard being a mom who stays at home the entire day. It’s hard being a mom who has to leave the house for the entire day.


And we see you. All of you.

Let moms who work outside of the home VENT without stay-at-home moms getting offended…

Let stay-at-home moms VENT without working-outside-of-the-home moms getting offended…

Better yet…can we drop the titles all together??

We’re MOMS. Period.

And we’re all MOMMIN’ SO HARD.






Who’s in their life?

Within hours of publishing my blog post about R. Kelly, I received this message:

“You’re disgusting. How could you ever be a fan of that ******* *******?!”

You’re right. I am ashamed that I listened to a pedophile’s music…which in turn, he made more money off of. In fact, I wrote THIS is that particular blog post:

{Look, I remember back in the day when the allegations first came to light. My ignorant response was: “Really? That doesn’t sound right. He wouldn’t do that…he doesn’t need to do that. He’s a successful and good-looking guy…people are just after his money.}

Yep. The younger me ASSumed that someone like R. Kelly would never do that because he had the looks…the money…the fame. He could have any older woman he wanted…why would he abuse young girls?

And THAT’S why pedophiles and predators continue to get away with that.  Because they’re the people we would LEAST SUSPECT.

There is no predatory look.

They don’t look scary.

They don’t drive the creepy white van with the window in the back.

They’re doctors.

They’re lawyers.

They’re teachers.

They’re coaches.

They’re stay-at-home parents.

They’re the favorite uncle.

They’re grandparents.

They’re salespeople.

They’re the sweet old couple who lives next door.

They go to church.

They’re the people standing next to you in the grocery store.

It could be anyone…but the thing is…it’s more than likely someone WE ALREADY KNOW who has a laser-focus on our children.


It’s the people who claim to be there to help…who may be the ones there solely to hurt.

More than 150 sets of parents trusted that their gymnast daughters would be in good hands. Instead, Larry Nassar sexually abused those girls and presumably hundreds more for years.

Greg Stephen, a prominent AAU basketball coach right here in Iowa, is accused of sexually exploiting 400 boys. How many living rooms did he sit in talking to parents about how their sons would be “in good hands?”

Former PSU coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused young boys for more than 15 years.

How many mugshots do we see on the news of teachers who were sexually abusing their students?

The list goes on and on…

What do they all have in common?

They all have EXTREMELY easy access to children.

They all have power.

Who’s teaching that class…who was at practice…do you know that woman on the bleachers…who was the man talking to you at the field…what kind of stuff did you talk about.

YOU BETTER BELIEVE I pepper my kids with all of those questions. Sure they look at me like I am a Stage-5 stalker…I’m worse. I am a mother.

I’ll stalk my children…and anyone who is around them in order to keep them safe.

We are their voice.

We are their advocate.

We are their SHIELD.