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For most Santa Clarita children, the holidays are a magical time. But for some, Christmas is just another thing that reminds them that their family isn't as lucky as others. Hundreds of children will miss out on a big family meal, the memories of decorating a tree and opening a gift or two because of their parent's low-income status.
The SCV Jaycees want to change this inevibility for 175 Santa Clarita kids this year. The group's ninth annual Santa's Helpers project will benefit children of all ages.
I got my introduction to summer 2007 in Santa Clarita at about 10 p.m. on a Thursday a few weeks ago... two introductions, actually. The first came in the form of a group of junior highers who narrowly missed bouncing off the radiator of my car. I was on my way to Ralph's and they were jaywalking around a blind curve, wearing mostly dark clothes. The second introduction came moments later in the Ralph's parking lot, when I almost bounced off a front radiator myself. The radiator in question was attached to the front of a Chevy Silverado, which was in turn attached to some reckless high school kid who, though he may have been old enough to hold a driver's license, wasn't exactly driving like he deserved one.
When we moved to Santa Clarita in 1988, it was common to hear coyotes yipping outside at night. Soon, however, the nightly serenade faded as development spread and the wildlife moved away. This year, however, their nocturnal yippings are becoming commonplace again. I've seen more of the lithe, beautiful creatures lately than I have in years. I've also seen more posters for missing cats. Statistics tell us we can thank the lack of rain for this new invasion, not only by coyotes but also by deer, raccoons, skunks, rodents and snakes.
Christmas Year-round
Last Christmas a sweet young couple made the holiday a little merrier in our home. I know it's not out of the norm for people to help others around the holidays but this couple went above and beyond for my three children. I was so touched that strangers would take the time to make sure each gift was perfectly tailored to each of my children. It was clear the greatest gift was the love and caring they displayed to me and my kids. As summer approaches it still feels like Christmas for us. I can't be happier to live in a place where human kindness is so overflowing.
You might not remember what you ate for breakfast yesterday, but chances are that you recall at least one or two special birthday parties from your childhood. Help your kids make the same great memories by hosting their next birthday party at home. It's easier than you think; read on for expert tips on planning for the festive day.
Frank Garcia was an Antelope Valley boy. His dad, a sergeant in the Army National Guard, often warned his son to stay out of trouble and get a good job with a good retirement plan and benefits. It was something Frank always remembered about his hardworking dad, but it was an uncle, a firefighter in the Air Force and for the Forest Service, who hooked him on the fire department. "I watched him and I liked what I saw," Frank said. Working at Station 111 on Seco Canyon Road, Frank Garcia remembers the days he would bring his three sons, Steven and twins Mark and Kenny, along with wife Joanne, to the station for dinners and special occasions.
I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was about 10. I lost my faith in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy around the same time. But I never stopped believing in Superman. How could I? He lived in my house. The Superman under my roof didn't wear a red cape and boots. On most days I'd spy him in a white shirt and a tie, carrying a briefcase out the door before anyone else in the house was even out of their slippers. I always suspected he was Superman because he fit the description so well. He was the fastest person I knew. I raced him on countless occasions and never came close to catching him except for the times he let me win.
Is it unmanly to admit I fear spiders? Probably. But there it is nonetheless, on the printed page for everyone to see. A risky confession? No doubt. But a risk I'm willing to take for you. Laugh if you want. Call me a sissy. Send me rubber spiders through the mail and make me the butt of your water-cooler jokes on Monday. If, in inviting your scorn, I can rescue you from sharing my fate over the past few weeks, I will consider it a fair trade. We are, after all, neighbors. My fear of spiders is born out of respect - a respect learned over a long and storied history with my eight-legged adversary.
Since the early 20th century, psychologist Alfred Adler has promoted the theory that a child's place in the family may determine his/her personality. I was the oldest, with a brother three years younger and a sister five years younger. I remember my brother and I frequently picking on my sister because we felt that, as the youngest, she got away with everything. One time my brother and I shoved her into the toy box, sat on the lid and wouldn't let her out because we were righteously sure she never got in any trouble.
Recently, I discovered a great team activity. The team mom for my soccer team suggested that we establish a "Secret Sister." After a fun and secretive selection party when each of us chose a name, we were able to surprise our selected teammate at every tournament with a small token. I had so much fun with this activity because it was as enjoyable to receive a gift as it was to pick out treats for my Secret Sister.
Have you ever been tricked by Saint Valentine? Have you ever bought flowers and candy, made reservations at the most romantic restaurant in town, worn your most flattering outfit and rented a limousine, only to find yourself on the wrong end of a date-night disaster? Or worse, have you ever felt the full force of the Valentine's Day breakup, that particularly nasty hangover that afflicts so many romantics this time of year?
We've all experienced a bad mood. Everyone understands that occasionally they're going to have a bad day. As parents we become all too familiar with the symptoms signaling when a family member is about to have one. But what happens when a child has a bad day and keeps having them consistently? Depending on a child's age and developmental stage, they may not recognize their own symptoms or understand why they feel and act the way they do. They often can't talk about it or feel embarrassed and scared because they're different than the other kids.
Are you searching for a good book to read? I recommend the 13th book in the "Series of Unfortunate Events" series appropriately titled "The End." This novel in the last book (obviously) in the series by author Lemony Snicket featuring the Baudelaire orphans: Violet, Klaus and Sunny.
Are you searching for a good book to read? I recommend the 13th book in the "Series of Unfortunate Events" series appropriately titled "The End." This novel in the last book (obviously) in the series by author Lemony Snicket featuring the Baudelaire orphans: Violet, Klaus and Sunny. As the book begins, the Baudelaire orphans are adrift in a small boat in the middle of the ocean with the evil Count Olaf. A terrifying storm quickly approaches, causing their boat to be torn apart and separating the Baudelaires from the villain.
Teenagers today are plugged in and ready to communicate like no other generation before them via e-mail and cell phones. The popularity of internet sites, such as MySpace.com, has launched a new world that has parents shaking their heads and wondering just how much multi-tasking a kid can do. Ever watch a teen text message a friend? Have you ever seen fingers move so fast? Technology has advanced at a rapid pace and the internet is a wonderful tool, but there are potential dangers facing young adults whenever they are online.
Since winter break is here, I have been asking people what they most enjoy doing over the vacation with their friends and family in the SCV. The following list includes some of the places and activities kids have recommended to me. Doing different crafts such as constructing gingerbread houses are a great way to have fun on a cold or rainy day. Let your artistic talents shine as you decorate your dream house with tons of candy. You can build by yourself, with a buddy or even have a group of friends over for a quick get-together.
It's the beginning of a new year and many of us will be taking a good, hard look at ourselves in the mirror and think... "Jeez, I need a makeover!" Whether it's droopy eyelids or saggy breasts, one too many wrinkles or a dull, unattractive smile, there are plenty affordable options for those looking for a quick pick me up and a little self-confidence boost. More than 10 million Americans opted for some type of cosmetic surgery last year. Lasers, microdermabrasion, Botox, veneers and implants are just some of the procedures that are now done safely without breaking the bank or requiring too much down time.

Click to view our experts "before" and "after" photos

It was a Christmas tradition. Every year, the Ewart family opened their home to the neighborhood and went all-out for the holiday. After last year's celebration, as the family settled upstairs into bed for the night, the flame from a still-burning candle started a house fire that left several members of the Ewart family severely burned and injured. Fifteen-year-old Michael Ewart suffered the most serious injuries with third-degree burns over 50 percent of his body. His father and 81-year-old grandfather also were burned and injured.
Several years ago, a friend at work gave me the soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas." It was a surprising Christmas gift, not because of what it was, but because of what it did. I popped the CD into my computer on the spot and was greeted by the soft minor chords of jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, accompanied by Chuck, Linus, Lucy and the rest announcing that "Christmas Time Is Here." If you were born between 1960 and 1975, you know that song very well, regardless of your religious persuasion. Every year it found its way onto our television sets. It was the holiday anthem of our generation, announcing that soon we'd be seeing beloved family members, stuffing our faces and opening presents.
You know what I hate? I hate hearing Christmas music before Thanksgiving. My guess is that piped-in versions of "Silent Night" are supposed to inspire me to make early purchases and spend more. If you are a member of the marketing brigade that came up with this idiotic idea, let me tell you: The only thing your saccharine tunes inspire in me is gas and a craving for apple cider.
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