Lorna Sheridan: Rugged Maniac fun, new textbooks, bored with board games, girls who quit sports and more.

If you can't ban them altogether: It looks like California will raise the legal age to buy cigarettes and e-cigs from 18 to 21. The bill passed the Legislature and heads now to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk for approval.

Quitting a team: Around 70 percent of children in the U.S. are dropping out of organized sports before the age of 13, according to new research from Michigan State. And girls drop out of sports at six times the rate of boys. This trend is particularly concerning because there is a strong correlation between girls' success in sports and success in the business world (and female athletes are more likely to graduate from college).

Speaking of athletes: The Sonoma Stompers is seeking host families for players for the 2016 season. My family hosted last year and really enjoyed our player Kristan Gayday. Host families are a critical element to any professional, minor league baseball team. Families are needed starting in mid-May.

Better games to play with kids: Reporter and researcher Oliver Roeder has found that some of the most beloved childhood games – Candy Land, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly – aren't very good for the young brain. He says that the best games require meaningful action and decision-making rather than merely blind luck. He recommends a diverse array of lesser-known board and card games including The Little Orchard and Richard Scarry's Busytown: Eye Found It! for under age 7 and Galaxy Tracker, Puzzle Strike Shadows, BattleCon: Devastation of Indines and Wings of Glory for older kids, all of which are available on

Course changes: A handful of exciting new courses have been proposed for next year at Sonoma Valley High. Depending on enrollment, students may be able to take two new AP classes: environmental science and government and politics; as well as viticulture and 3D design.

Textbook changes: Are you interested in what instructional materials are being proposed in our schools? The Sonoma Valley Unified School District's Curriculum Advisory Council (CAC) is reviewing new textbooks and the public is invited to weigh in on their choices weekdays at the district office at 17850 Railroad Ave. between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Online materials can be requested by calling 933-4010. The new textbooks align to those above-mentioned new courses in agriculture, viticulture and soil chemistry classes, 3D design, AP government and politics and introduction to engineering and design. The Curriculum Advisory Council is composed of parents, teachers, administrators, students and members of the community.

Parent ed: Derrick Gay, an internationally recognized consultant to schools and educational organizations on issues of diversity, inclusion and global citizenship will be running a workshop at Sonoma Academy on Wednesday, March 16 on student empathy and cultural competency. The public is invited to attend. The free workshop starts at 6:30 p.m. Register by emailing

Pop-up save the date: A pop-up dinner benefiting the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance will take place from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 18 at a secret, but definitely Sonoma Valley, outdoor location. Ticket resale begins today. The first 100 tickets are $30 (remaining tickets are $40). Ages 21 and older.

Anxious teens: Save the date for “Teenagers and parents: the role of anxiety in teen-parent relationships” at Hanna Boys Center on Wednesday, March 30. Guest speaker Robert Macy provides persuasive evidence that anxiety disorders are the most frequent mental disorders in children and adolescents. The interactive seminar is open to parents and teens and will explore the role anxiety plays in the relationship between parent and youth, and how parents and their kids can regulate stress in their joint environments. Macy's next talk on Wednesday, April 27 tackles “Violence in the Valley: Where is it, is it here to stay and what can we do about it?” Visit

Bored kids?: Sonoma Community Center is offering a Craft Club for Kids on Wednesdays, March 23 to April 27 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Each week will feature a different lesson – multimedia art, painting, silk screening and block printing. The Craft Club is made possible by support from the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation.

Experiences not things: If you are looking for something really memorable to do with your teen, I highly recommend the Norcal Rugged Maniac 5K obstacle course event on Saturday, May 21. You need not be an athlete … just game for anything. The event is held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds and it features 25 obstacles over a three-mile course. You climb towers of shipping containers, rocket down a massive water slide, crawl through underground tunnels and leap over fire – then there is a day-long party where you can ride mechanical bulls, jump in adult bounce houses and dance. There are various start times, it costs $59 and you register online.

Protect or expose: Peanut and tree nut allergies nearly tripled between 1997 and 2008. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found giving peanuts to kids early on can protect them from developing a peanut allergy. In the study and a new follow up, high-risk babies under 12 months who were fed a peanut mush were about 80 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy by age 5, and thereafter.

Costlier than Harvard: The tuition at University of Southern California (USC) now tops that of Harvard, and in fact is the costliest in the country at $51,442 (Harvard comes in at $45,278 in tuition and fees). By the way, that doesn't include room and board. Add those in and the figure is almost $70,000 a year, according to USC officials. Maybe the money is well-spent, however, the university has climbed from 51st to 23rd in U.S. News & World Report's rankings of national universities.

Contact Lorna at

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