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These dwindling days of summer in the South have been sizzlers. As one of our daughters said, "It's been a good week - for putting your head in the freezer."

Few columns have inspired the outpouring of feedback like my recent column, "A clean break on messy room problem," in which, upon the advice of psychologist Wendy Mogel, I vowed to plant a (proverbial) white flag of surrender outside my daughter's bedroom.

In an era when just about everyone over the age of two has a room full of electronic devices, it can be hard for families to find ways to spend quality time together (meaning everyone is actually looking at everyone else). It's especially tough if the kids are careening toward adolescence. This week we review four really fun games for families with kids eight and up. No batteries, chargers, or Internet connection required.

In the least surprising news of the decade, government officials announced recently that it's expensive to raise a kid.

With the frenzy of fall fast approaching, let's consider the idea of down time. Of vacation, of time off and time out, of leisure, retreat and well-deserved break.

My boyfriend and I have been living together for two years. My son is 12 and his daughter is 6. His daughter wants my son to do things her way and gets very upset when he doesn't - but he's 12 and really doesn't want to listen to a bossy 6-year-old. My boyfriend complains that my son is causing his daughter to behave badly, and it's causing us huge problems. My son is threatening to go live with his father. I'm at a loss. What's good ex-etiquette?

With the frenzy of fall fast approaching, let's consider the idea of down time. Of vacation, of time off and time out, of leisure, retreat and well-deserved break.

She's got my phone.

I've got a bruise on my arm made by a woolly mammoth. It came running out of nowhere and stabbed me with its tusks.

Dear Mr. Dad: School is starting and my 11-year-old daughter is pretty stressed out. She's always excited about the new school year and she'd been talking all summer about how much she was looking forward to school, but all of a sudden, she's saying she doesn't want to go. What can I do to help her?

As a parent of maturing children, I find few conversations more difficult to navigate than those involving sex, drugs and alcohol. Add to the list now Robin Williams and suicide.

The story of choice for one wing of the grandkids right now is "Peter Rabbit" by Beatrix Potter. Part of the attraction is the sheer scandal of it all. Every time an adult reads the story, the kids exude wide-eyed disbelief that a bunny disobeyed his mother (gasp!), ventured into Mr. McGregor's garden (gasp!) and safely made it home again (the sweet exhale).

As the old parenting point of view fell out of fashion beginning in the late 1960s, the vernacular that accompanied it all but completely disappeared. Today's parents don't say to their children the sorts of things parents said to children in the 1950s and before, things like "You're acting too big for your britches again, young man."

With the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri and recent shooting of Michael Brown, many of my friends are wondering how they can explain what is happening to their young children. Many of their children have overheard conversations about the incident or worst yet have seen the disturbing images of violence on the television screen.

For what seems like forever, this pair of sainted sister names, Agnes and Agatha, have been the quintessential starched, buttoned-up, high-lace-collared, mauve-dressed great-great-grandmother appellations.

Congratulations are in order for Stacy Keibler and Jared Pobre.

Gearing up to go back to school can be hectic. It can take some time for families to feel comfortable with their new schedule. Starting the new routine before school begins can help families ease back into the school year. These simple tips will get you on the right track for a smooth transition for both parents and kids.

Gearing up to go back to school can be hectic. It can take some time for families to feel comfortable with their new schedule. Starting the new routine before school begins can help families ease back into the school year. These simple tips will get you on the right track for a smooth transition for both parents and kids.

I finally got my sixth-grade son a smartphone. And like most parents, I did it with mixed emotions. It's only been a couple weeks but I'll share some initial pros and cons ...

Gentler.

What sets Tuscan food apart from the rest of Italian cuisine is the emphasis on quality ingredients, simple preparations and the use of herbs like basil, rosemary and sage. While Tuscan cuisine now reflects a number of different styles and versions of Italian food, it is all delicious and quite healthy too.

Shortly after his sixth birthday, I brought my son, Nakoa, to the toy store, a $15 gift card clutched in his hot little hand. As always, we headed straight for the trucks and trains aisle. There, an endcap display stopped him in his tracks. A large, shiny construction-themed train set beckoned. He threw his arms around the box.

There's a moment when a child confronts an unfairness so big it changes the way he or she looks at the world.

No one would confuse the cafeteria line at Crystal Lake Elementary in Seminole County with a restaurant. But that hasn't stopped the school from aiming for a "restaurant-quality" experience.

Although it may not be your child's very first day of school, the start of the school year gives us an opportunity to set the scene for the rest of the year. It's a great time to introduce homework schedules, a healthy snack routine or a regular time for family catch up. A good routine can help your child feel secure and also ensure that certain things get done in a timely manner. When planning, however it's important to take into account each child's personality and sensory preference as well as the activities such as home work dinner etc., for children often it's not just what you do but how you do it that ensures harmony.

Yes, the new school year is almost (or, in some places, already) under way. And, yes, the kids are going to start coming home with backpacks full of homework. But that doesn't mean no more fun. Here are two great activities that will help you make the summer last a little longer, and three that will keep a smile on your face as the weather gets colder.

I'd like to propose a sweeping overhaul of the United States public education system effective immediately.

My sister and I don't see each other often. She lives in South Carolina, in a town where we grew up in a big, crazy family, not much crazier than most.

A press release I received said that what a girl wears on her first day of school is as important as what she wears to prom.

Q: Our 5-year-old grandson sees his 5-year-old female first cousin from time to time. After they play for a while, he tells her he wants to "touch" her. This has happened twice in recent months. Her parents are very upset, but our grandson's parents read lots of parenting books and seem to think it's no big deal. Your thoughts on this matter?



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