It's Christmastime in Flint, Michigan, and all that Mari "Little Miss Flint" Copeny wants is a Hatchimal. Oh, and to finally have clean water again.

You remember her, right? The adorable 9-year-old beauty queen who wrote a letter to President Obama about her hometown's ongoing water crisis and later got caught in an unfortunate campaign trail photo with Donald Trump?

Mari hasn't had a bath at home under an actual running faucet since April 2014. And it's not looking like that's going to change anytime soon, either.

Seven people live in Mari's house in Flint. They twist open dozens of small water bottles every day just so they can all shower and eat.

According to Mari's mother, Loui Brezzell, the family goes through about four cases of 16-ounce water bottles every day, not counting their drinking water, which they get from a five-gallon dispenser in the kitchen. "Most people use that every day," she says, "but they don’t have to measure it. They’re just turning on their tap."

And when the family needs more? Brezzell has to drive down to one of the city's water pods, expending her own time and gasoline to collect it herself, since the state won't expend the resources to deliver water to every home. At least they put the cases into her car for her — although she still has to unload it herself at home and has to deal with all that plastic waste.

Mari is not amused. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Mari and her family still have to manually twist open and pour out each bottle, one at a time, to use it. Boiling water for pasta? Open six or seven bottles. Cleaning produce so your kids will actually their veggies? Open more bottles. Brushing your teeth? Open another bottle. Washing your hands after using the bathroom? Open a bottle. Bath time? Lots of bottles.

"It’s a lot of water. It’s a lot of time. But if that’s what it takes to ensure my kids are safe and healthy, then we’ll take the extra steps," Brezzell says.

The family used 144 bottles of water just to prep their Thanksgiving dinner this year — and Christmas isn't looking much different.

Brezzell can't even be certain of how many people she needs to prep for. "You never know how many will come through over the holidays," she says. "It’s a pretty open-door policy. Our house tends to be the spot where kids in the neighborhood and friends and family that comes through." But she believes in being a part of the community like that — especially since no one else is taking care of their city.

Mari and her siblings. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

This year's holiday menu will likely include a Christmas ham (more bottles for thawing) and some prime rib, plus fresh veggies ("My kids eat like rabbits. They could probably clear 10 pounds of raw vegetables in one day") and mashed potatoes (bottles for cleaning and bottles for boiling).

"In the beginning [of the water crisis], using the bottles was a pain in the butt," Brezzell says. "It’s still a pain, but we’ve been putting up with this for so long that it’s second nature."

Water pickup in the spring. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Even joyful traditions like holiday cookies have turned into painful chores.

Every year before Christmas, family and friends gather at the Brezzell-Copeny house for a big ol' baking party. They make everything from oatmeal raisin to snickerdoodles to sugar cookies and snowballs and beyond.

But even that process involves bottled water to clean the mixing bowls and baking sheets, or to add into the powders and doughs to make the cookies moist. "That’s where you have the kids come in. Like, 'Hey, you wanna play a game? Come open bottles of water!'" Brezzell says with a laugh.

Inevitably, the kids' hands start to hurt from all that repetitive twisting, and it falls back to the adults to keep up the holiday spirits in the kitchen.

Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Yet, despite their own troubles, Mari and Loui also spend the holiday season giving back to Flint residents who are even less fortunate than they are.

"People don’t realize that there are kids here that are still in need," Brezzell says, referring to the more than 40% of Flint residents who live in poverty. "If anything, they’re so focused on donating bottled water that they don’t realize that there are kids here who would just love to have a Christmas but they can’t afford dolls."

As much as Mari wants an elusive Hatchimal for herself (mom's working on it), she also serves as the youth ambassador for Pretty Brown Girl's Doll Drive, raising money for toys and empowerment programs for underprivileged girls.

Mari posing with her Pretty Brown Girl doll (and some of her beauty pageant awards). Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Meanwhile, Brezzell has been speaking up on behalf of the hundreds of Flint residents who are facing eviction. "Christmas is coming, it’s freezing cold, and you want to put people on the streets because their landlord isn't paying the water bill?" Brezzell says. "Kind of hard when you can’t use the water, right?"

The media cycle may have moved on, but Flint's water crisis is far from over.

"I just want people to see what we deal with, how life is, and try to keep attention on the people here," Brezzell says. "We literally have a third-world problem in America that’s not being addressed."

Yup. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

But here's perhaps the most frustrating thing about this water crisis. It started because the state was hoping to save $200 million over 25 years. But they could have avoided the problem entirely if they'd just spent $100 a day to add anti-corrosive agents to the water.

In other words, Flint is what happens when you run a city like a business — based on money — instead of treating people like humans.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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Teacher goes viral for her wholesome 'Chinese Dumpling Song'

Katie Norregaard has found her calling—teaching big lessons in little songs.

As educational as it is adorable.

On her TikTok profile, Katie Norregaard (aka Miss Katie) describes her brand as “if Mr. Rogers and AOC had a kid.” And it’s 100% accurate. The teaching artist has been going viral lately for her kid-friendly tunes that encourage kids to learn about other cultures, speak up for their values and be the best humans they can be.


@misskatiesings Reply to @typebteacher the internet gave me this brand one year ago and I haven’t looked back 🎶 ❤️ #fyp #misterrogers #preschool #aoc #teachertok ♬ She Share Story (for Vlog) - 山口夕依


Let’s face it, some kid’s songs are a tad abrasive with their cutesiness, to put it politely. A certain ditty about a shark pup comes to mind. Norregaard manages to bypass any empty saccharine-ness while still remaining incredibly sweet. The effortless warmth of her voice certainly helps with that. Again, she’s got that Mister Rogers vibe down to a tee.

“Miss Katie” has a treasure trove full of fun creations, such as her jazz version of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” but it’s her “Chinese Dumpling Song" that’s completely taking over the internet.
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TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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