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?

We test them almost to death, we make them play sports till their arms fall off and their knees implode. Now we're taking away our children's summers. Do we not like them anymore?

A friend of a friend returned from vacation, gushing about a place she and her husband had gone out of their way to visit. She rated the experience as one of the highlights of their trip, but, for the life of me, I can't figure out why.

Q: My new partner loves my children, but has a real problem with my ex. He doesn't approve of his parenting and looks for excuses for the kids to not see their father. My ex is a little inconsistent, but not that bad, and my boyfriend's attitude is really concerning me. I love him and looking forward to a future together. I'm hoping this will all just fall into place in time. What do you think?

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife is due with our first in about four months, so I though now would be a good time to talk to my employer about taking time off under the Family Leave Act and possibly making some more permanent changes to my schedule so I can be a more hands-on dad. I mentioned this to a friend who used to work with me, and he warned me to be very careful. He said that after he took paternity leave, he was passed over for a promotion and got a smaller bonus. He eventually quit. I find that hard to believe, but he insists it's true. Are companies really allowed to do that?



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