KATHY MITCHELL AND MARCY SUGAR \ Annie's Mailbox Dad pushes sons into too many sports activities

Dear Annie: My husband insists that our two sons, ages 6 and 4, play ice hockey year-round, and in the spring and summer, he adds floor hockey. The older boy also plays soccer. We have a 2-year-old son who has been taking skating lessons since he was 18 months old. Now he wants our 6-year-old to start karate.
Between practices and lessons, the boys are constantly tired. My oldest is having a hard time keeping up with his schoolwork, and the kids are missing out on play dates with their friends and classmates' birthday parties. I have tried to tell my husband that they are in too many sports, but he ignores me. He will not let the boys miss hockey, even if they are sick. At one practice, my son vomited, and my husband would not take him off the ice until the coach insisted.
I am at my wits' end. I do not want our children to hate hockey, but I have no doubt they will burn out by the time they are in high school. I also am afraid they may get hurt, since they are so tired all the time. I, too, am worn out from driving the kids everywhere.
I am desperate to stop this craziness. How can I get through to my husband? Reluctant Sports Mom
Dear Mom: Some children thrive on such activity, but it sounds as if yours are overscheduled and exhausted, and your husband is oblivious to the damage he may be doing. Since the Sports Nut won't listen to you, enlist the help of your sons' coaches, the counselor at the school and your children's pediatrician. Explain the problem, and ask them to intervene on your behalf. P.S.: It wouldn't hurt to put your foot down a little harder.
Dear Annie: For the last six months, my family and I have been saving our money in order to attend my nephew's wedding across the country. My sister called this morning and asked me to be sure and bring my professional cosmetic case, as she would like me to do the makeup for the female members of the wedding party.
I readily agreed and then inquired about the women's hair. Sis said her hairdresser would open his shop just for her, and she was also paying to have her daughter's and our mother's hair done. I said, "Great, please make an appointment for me, too." She then replied, "I hope you're prepared to pay at least twice what you normally pay. It's more expensive in our town."
I'm a little miffed. I assumed that since I was doing everyone's makeup, at no charge, Sis would include me in the all-expenses-paid hairdressing excursion. What should I do about this? Angry Aunt in Memphis
Dear Aunt: It would have been gracious if Sis had paid for your hairstyling. However, since it did not occur to her to do so, you cannot insist. You can, of course, tell her that the hairdresser she has selected is over your budget and hope she will take the hint. If not, please don't back out of your end of the bargain. The bride is counting on you. And your sister may be planning another way to say "thanks."
Dear Annie: "Louisiana Lou" wrote about needing help for small jobs around the house, and she was hesitant to bother her children. May I suggest that she contact her town's Council on Aging or Senior Center? Many of them have volunteers who will come to her house to do these jobs for free or for a small donation. They also enlist high school students to do some of these services, which is a wonderful opportunity for the students to learn the joys and satisfaction of helping others. I know because I run such a service in my hometown. Mr. Fix-It in Belmont, Mass.
Dear Mr. Fix-It: What a wonderful resource for our readers! Bless you.
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