recap for 4/28

Curb your snack cravings with some healthy alternatives!

Tips for keeping out of the snacks, Kate’s somewhat gross lunch habit, and having coffee with my dad, as well as some really fun events going on this weekend. Check out what’s going on over at this week!

Vote for your Top 10!
We’re down to our Top 10 mom and daughter look-a-likes! Visit the contest site and vote for your favorite. The winner will be announced next week, and will win either a Spa Day for two, or a Poolside Soiree for up to 20 guests total! Good luck to any of you who made it to the finals!

5 tips to curb mindless grazing
Now that Easter is done, it’s time to get your hands out of those Easter Baskets and other snacky foods, and curb your mindless grazing. After all, bathing suit season is right around the corner! Here are 5 tips for ending the binge attacks.

Conquer food cravings
Further on the mindless grazing list is how to conquer food cravings. Here are some really great suggestions I found for keeping you from obsessing over food by replacing it with an activity. Read on for more.

Kate Gosselin repacks kids’ uneaten sandwiches
On the food topic is one of school lunches. Isn’t it frustrating when your kid comes home with the lunch you made for them that morning UNEATEN? Kate Gosselin deals with her kids’ school-time pickiness by packing the same sandwich in her kids’ lunches – sometimes up to 4 days in a row! Her ex-husband, Jon, disagrees with this method. Do you?

Coffee with Dad
Despite the caffeine issues for kids, I started drinking coffee at age 13. But it became a point of connection with my dad at a time when we had little to connect on. Read more about it in my blog.

Fun events
Don’t miss out on some events that are happening this weekend. Here is just some of what you can find in our Events Calendar:
April 29th – May 1st – Worth WeeCycling
Save some money while doing good for the planet at this awesome sale of gently-used family items.
April 30th – Kids Fishing Derby
Take the kids for a fishing expedition at Lake Ralphine in Santa Rosa! Fishing equipment required.
May 1st – Blossom, Bees, and Barnyards
Spend an afternoon discovering our county’s sustainable food and agriculture.

Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you on the forums!

Crissi Dillon

For the love of coffee

I had my first cup of coffee when I was probably 13. It was loaded with cream, and had more sugar than should be consumed in a 24 hour period. But it gave me a powerful surge of energy.

And it was how I realized that I loved coffee.

I experimented with my coffee palate some over my teen years. That plain coffee turned to mochas – my grown-up version of a hot chocolate. And sometimes, just to be even more “mature”, I’d add a couple more shots of espresso and be bouncing off the walls by late morning. And then I discovered vanilla lattes, the already sweetened coffee drink that held the perfect amount of milk to foam ratio. And this became my signature drink in high school whenever I hit up the local coffee shop.

While I definitely loved those fancy coffee shop drinks, they didn’t hold a candle to the coffee I drank first thing in the morning when everyone except my dad was asleep. It wasn’t flavored with vanilla or chocolate. It wasn’t served in a paper cup with an accompanying croissant. It wasn’t fancy at all. But it was the moment that made it special. Together, Dad and I would pour a cup and sit over the newspaper, taking turns reading it. (It’s interesting, when I got older I envisioned my perfect man as someone I could share the newspaper and a cup of coffee with. And I believe it was these early morning rituals that cemented that desire in me – just another piece of proof about how much impact parents have on their kids.) This was at a time when my dad and I didn’t have much to talk about. I was a surly, headstrong teen who hated school and loved her tatted boyfriend. He was a nose-to-the-grindstone worker who was never private about his expectations for all his daughters, and when we were falling short. He hated my lifestyle and wished better things for me. I just wanted to do my own thing and have my dad accept that. We couldn’t see eye to eye. And many times we’d go days without speaking because neither of us were willing to give in. But whenever our bond was severed by some trivial matter (usually a defiance on my part), it was over one of these morning coffees that it would be resolved. It may have been because I wasn’t fully awake enough to come up with a sound rebuttal. Or perhaps it was because there was no one else around to see me let my guard down. But I think it was really because this had become our moment of the day when we actually connected and were able to be honest with each other. Somehow, things that we’d avoided saying were blurted all over the table, scooped into neat piles, and then categorized until we were able to put them away with ways to solve them. Most of the time, my tough exterior was riddled with tears – tiny droplets that started out angry, but eventually weakened to apologies and need for a bit of love. And my dad never failed to react appropriately with a bear hug and an “I love you”, and sometimes even an apology of his own.

It’s not uncommon to see teens today walking out of coffee shops with a cup of joe. It’s become the social drink of the ages as we find more and more coffee shops popping up everywhere. It’s argued that caffeine isn’t healthy for the younger generation, and I agree. Too much caffeine from coffee (and yes, sodas too) can get in the way of sleep and take away from water consumption. And the desired effect of coffee can lead to even more caffeine consumption through energy drinks or boosters with not only caffeine, but stimulants like guarana and taurine that can affect different people in different ways, can decrease attention spans, and lead to high blood pressure.  And large amounts of caffeine can be dangerous to kids with ADHD, diabetes, sleep issues and eating disorders.

But remembering my own childhood and what that cup of coffee meant to me in terms of connecting with my dad, I don’t stop my own daughter from reaching for the coffee pot every so often as we’re both waking up. My coffee nowadays is rid of all sugar, thanks to a metabolism that holds on to every calorie I consume, while my daughter’s is reminiscent of my past sugary teenage brew.

And I don’t stop her from drinking it.

For in that simple cup of warmth is a magical bonding ingredient, allowing for a connection to be bridged even as every other aspect of our relationship strains in her beginning years of teenage independence.  And even if she doesn’t say it, I know it means just as much to her now as it did to me way back when…and as much as it means to me now as I sit on the parent side of the breakfast table with a cup of coffee and a partially read newspaper.

Local Exchange Students enjoy Butter & Eggs Day Parade

Brian Giandomenico 1st boy on left, Marcus Aavall 2nd boy on left, Ole Fischer 2nd from right.

Guest post by Dan and Deanna Corbin

Three local exchange students that are living and attending high school in Petaluma came out to enjoy the local hometown parade. These students are sponsored to come to America through EF Foundation for Foreign Exchange.  Casa Grande students are Brian Giandomenico from Switzerland and Ole Fischer from Germany.  Marcus Aavall from Sweden is attending Petaluma High School.  These students spend a full school year living with an American host family and attend the local schools, and look forward to learning the American way and becoming part of the local community.  They were all impressed at the “Home town” feel and spirit of Petaluma and the surrounding communities and really enjoyed watching the Butter and Egg Parade. Brian, Ole, and Marcus are all sad to be leaving in June. 

We would like to thank our community for making these boys feel at home and hopefully they will come back one day to show their own family the community that they have been part of for this past year.

If anyone would like more information about opening your homes and hearts to host an Exchange student through EF for Foreign Exchange please contact Dan & Deanna Corbin at or call 1-800-44-SHARE.

5 tips to curb mindless grazing

As you may remember, I gave up sugar for Lent – not added sugar, but anything that might resemble dessert. And while I’d love to say it was for religious reasons since Lent is a time of meditation, it was more to get over an obscene obsession with sweets following the winter holiday season.

The first couple of weeks giving up sugar were hard. I found myself snacking on anything else I could substitute for sugar. The food victim that suffered the most at my hands was a jar of peanut butter. Yes, you could argue that it has a lot of added sugar and should therefore be considered a cheat. But being that it only has 3 grams of sugar in it and doesn’t fall in the “tasting sweet” category, I used PB as an alternative to gorging on chocolate. Unfortunately, I found myself getting just as addicted to it.  I realized it needed to be on the “do not eat” list as well, especially since the scale was creeping up despite my “no sweets” diet thanks to 16 whole grams of fat in that “tiny” serving of PB.

At any rate, I made it to the other side of Lent with my cravings curbed. I also gorged on candy all day Easter Sunday. One piece of chocolate led to an invite to several more pieces of chocolate. And soon I was hosting an all-out chocolate rager in my mouth. Obviously I still need to keep strict restrictions on my sugar intake. But luckily, I came out of this experience with a few tips for curbing the sugar cravings, as well as mindless snacking that leads to unaccounted calories throughout the day.

1. Green smoothies. I have fallen in love with this little concoction. It’s a mixture of veggies and fruit to create a sweet snack without adding sugar, and while also getting the proper amount of veggies in my diet. As someone who is not very good at eating her greens, this has been my lifesaver! I make a large cup of it in the morning and sip it throughout the day to keep me from reaching for the salty or sweet snacks. And because it’s so filling, I’m not tempted to cheat. Of course, I have yet to find the exact recipe to entice my kids to enjoy these as well since I’m trying not add anything to sweeten it besides berries or bananas. But I’m getting closer. My personal favorite is banana and kale with a little almond milk and wheat germ. But you can make it as simple as adding one serving fruit to one serving veggie, and just adding water. For some healthy smoothie ideas (green or not), visit our forum discussion at

2. Plan it out. If you take the time out in the morning to list all the foods you are allowed in the day, and even when you can eat them, it will help to keep you from cheating against it with mindless snacking. If you’re going to work, pack a lunch every day to avoid eating out and consuming too many calories. Stagger your eating so that you don’t have a chance to get too hungry. An empty stomach can cause you to make bad food choices, so always allow for healthy snacks like a lower calorie yogurt (my favorites are Light Yoplait at 100 calories, or the Light Dannon at 60 calories), fruit, cut up veggies, or a small plate of lunch meat and a string cheese. And get in the habit of writing down everything you eat so that you’re holding yourself accountable.

3. Water yourself. Always keep a large water at your side, and drink it liberally. Many times when we’re hungry, we’re actually dehydrated. Our bodies need more water than many of us are supplying it with, so increasing your water intake is a great habit to get into. At first, it might be hard. But once you get used to drinking more water, you’ll find that you actually crave it. Also, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of other drinks you’re having as you increase your water intake. Nix the sodas and fancy coffees – drinks that add way too many calories to your diet for being just liquid – and drink water instead.

4. Do something – anything! I found that at times I was sitting around and bored, that’s when I wanted to snack the most. But when I was busy, I didn’t even find the desire to snack. I recently took up running, and the motivation from this simple form of exercise has motivated me to think twice before snacking as I feel more energized and way healthier than ever before. Of course, there will still be times when sitting and doing nothing is necessary. But make rules or habits that will curb mindless snacking – like no eating in the living room (to keep from grazing while watching TV), or busying your hands with knitting or the like.

5. Check out the additional tips we have listed over at

What are some ways you curb mindless grazing?

Pregnant teen divulges shocking secret

Gaby Rodriguez stands in front of her school at an assembly on April 20th, giving a speech on rumors and stereotypes. (AP Photo/Yakima Herald-Republic, Gordon King)

For 6 months, the student body of Toppenish High School in Washington watched as the pregnant belly of 17 year old high school senior Gaby Rodriguez grew. And during that time, Gaby, a straight “A” student, heard it all. Rumors circulated that she was irresponsible, there was no way she’d go to college, that it was bound to happen, and musings about whether she knew she had just ruined her life.

And one of many quotes that were read off of 3×5 notecards in a school assembly on April 20, 2011: “Her attitude is changing, and it might be because of the baby or she was always this annoying and I never realized it.”

Gaby stood before the whole school in a presentation titled “Stereotypes, rumors and statistics”. “Many things were said about me. Many things traveled all the way back to me,” she told the school. She admitted that she had been made to feel alienated and alone, and had several students and teachers read what others had said to her and about her to everyone there. The gym grew silent as many of the hurtful things said were revealed. And when they were done, Gaby faced the crowd and divulged a secret.

“I’m fighting against those stereotypes and rumors because the reality is I’m not pregnant.” And then she lifted her shirt to pull out a pregnancy pad that had given her the appearance of being pregnant for the past several months.

Could you imagine the reaction? A girl who had been walking the school in baggy clothes, and then sporting a pregnant belly for the past 6 months just divulged the entire thing had been a lie. Only a handful of people knew the truth from the beginning – her mother, her boyfriend, her principal, and a few select others. The rest of her family had no idea, including her own sisters and brothers. Neither did her boyfriend’s parents. Even her friends didn’t know that she wasn’t pregnant, and she lost some of them during her “pregnancy” as a result. When Gaby took the pregnancy pad off on stage in front of the whole school, the reaction was varied. Some nervously giggled, many gasped, some even burst into tears.

So why did she do it?

The idea came to her in her sophomore year in high school, creating a social experiment to gauge people’s reactions to a teenage pregnancy. She talked with her mother, and then her boyfriend, about the plan she wanted to carry out. At first, both felt uncomfortable with the whole idea.

“I thought I was going to end up getting into problems with her brothers. I didn’t really want to get into problems with anybody,” admitted her boyfriend, Jorge Orozco

“I thought she was crazy,” says 52-year-old Juana Rodriguez, Gaby’s mother.

While Gaby’s mother confessed that it didn’t feel good to lie to family members, she ultimately decided to support her daughter – even enlisting a couple mentors from the local hospital’s childbirth education program to assist with the project. And Gaby’s boyfriend agreed to it as well, even though it meant lying to his own parents. “My parents thought it was going to be a boy.”

When Gaby brought the idea to her principal, he fully supported her, though felt it necessary to enlist the permission of the superintendent. But the principal also admitted awe that Gaby’s mother was going along with this. “I have a daughter that will be here next year, and I would not let her do it.”

In essence, Gaby gave up her entire senior year to fulfill this social experiment. While she is now free to attend her Senior Prom in a form fitting teal gown, she spent the prior part of the year in baggy clothes and a large belly. But the research was done for a specific reason. She plans on writing a report on her findings and presenting it in May to community leaders to help other young women fight stereotypes and find courage when faced with teenage pregnancy. The report will include video and photos from the revealing assembly.

As for when Gaby plans on really being pregnant? She stresses it will be after college. “I’m not planning to have a child until after I graduate.”

What do you think? Was this social experiment crazy or brilliant? Would you allow your own daughter to conduct an experiment like this? recap 4/21

Has your child been immunized against Pertussis yet?

There’s a lot going on over at this week. In case you missed it, here’s a recap:

Vote for your Top 10!
There are 215 entries in our Mother-Daughter Look-a-Like contest! And you have until Wednesday April 27th at 11:59pm to vote for your Top 10. Have you visited the contest site yet? Oh, and we hope you caught a glimpse of all the entries in yesterday’s Press Democrat newspaper. There are a lot of lovely moms and daughters here in Sonoma County!

Kotex for Tweens
They’re smaller, more vibrantly colored, and geared for kids as young as 7 years old since girls are starting their periods younger than ever. Do you think the new Kotex brand will help the transition into womanhood be a little easier?

High School Senior takes mom to prom
When I first read the title of this story, I couldn’t help but wonder how tightly wound those apron strings are. But once I read the article, I couldn’t help but hope my own son grows up to be this loving. You’ll want to read more of this heartwarming story.

Pertussis invading the schools
A friend reported that SEVEN kids are out sick from her 10 year old’s class with whooping cough. And the cases are on the rise. Is your child vaccinated yet?

9 year old saves toddler with CPR
If it weren’t for the quick thinking of this 9 year old boy, his 2 year old sister would not be alive today. But wait till you read about where he learned CPR from?

Motherhood Busyness
Ever feel like you’ve forgotten how to just sit and relax, or even how to not feel guilty about it when you do? Many moms do. I wrote a bit more about this in my blog. If you can relate, leave a comment!

Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you in the forums!

Crissi Dillon

Motherhood Busyness

Ever forget how to just...relax?

At the end of my work day yesterday, I picked my kids up from their grandmother’s house where they stay after school. I dropped my son off at baseball practice, and my daughter off at the bookstore to kill some time while he practiced. While she read, I took a half hour out for a run, something I’ve recently taken up in my efforts to be more fit. I then picked my daughter back up, then my son, then off to home where I folded laundry in between coordinating my son setting the table while Mr. W made dinner. Afterwards, dishes were washed, more laundry was gathered, and finally a sit on the couch where I checked my email and Facebook while Dancing with the Stars was on (seriously, does anyone watch this anymore? It seems like no one can dance, and it was only worsened by the cheesy America theme). Then it was off to put the kids to bed where I discovered that my son’s room had exploded on itself, and his bed was rat’s nest. I taught him for the 300th time how to properly make a bed so that it was more comfy to sleep in and then kissed the kids goodnight. And without starting any new projects or sitting for a time or doing anything that didn’t require thinking, I went to bed so that I could do it all again the next day.

Kate Winslet was recently quoted in the UK’s Hello Magazine as saying “Any mother knows the last person you think about is yourself. I’ve been a mother for 10 years and I’m still trying to figure out how to give time to myself without feeling guilty about it. Sometimes I’ll sit down and I’ll go, ‘Oh it’s just nice to sit down,’ because truly, I’ve forgotten how to do that.”

I wouldn’t say that I don’t know how to sit, or even that I’m overburdened with all this busyness. I’m known for packing my day full of activities to take me from one moment to the next. And there are definitely times when I feel stressed out from too many obligations being scheduled too tightly together. But generally, it’s just the way I roll. Going from work, to baseball, to exercising, to shopping, to dinner, to laundry, to dishes, to clean up, to school projects, to….. And much of this busyness is on purpose.  It’s like I’m afraid to have a day when nothing is scheduled, when I might actually let the dishes sit for a time, or the laundry to remain unclean, or to not have to leave the house or do kids’ projects or check my phone or all the other things put in place to keep me from relaxing for a bit. And when I do, my mind races to all the things that still need to be done, or that I should be doing. Or worse, I’m just plain bored. And I’ve realized that it’s true – I’ve forgotten the fine art of sitting down. And not sitting down and then opening my laptop, or checking my phone, or flipping channels on the TV. But sitting down in a quiet room with no obligation but to do NOTHING. And it makes me wonder, how scary will life be when the kids are gone and the house stays clean, and there’s more than enough time to just sit and be still?

What does your day look like? Are your days filled with activities and obligations? Have you forgotten how to just sit and be still? Do you feel guilty when you do take time out for yourself? Recap 4/14

Have you entered our contest? You only have until Sunday!

Howdy parents! Just a heads up, I’m going to be slightly aloof this week, being that I am elbow deep in moving boxes, moving in with Mr. W this weekend. I do hope you’ll keep the boards hopping by sharing your thoughts, opinions, advice and more in the forums and on our Facebook Fan Page. Here’s what’s going on so far this week:

Mother’s Day Contest!
We’re in our second week of our Mother-Daughter Look-a-Like Contest! If you have a daughter, you’ll want to submit your photo to enter this contest. Prizes are a poolside soiree for up to 20 people, or a Spa Day for two. Did I mention there’s also a Pure Luxury limo that will bring you to Club One? I think this is one contest you’re going to want to enter. But hurry, you only have till Sunday, April 17th to enter.

Spring Spheres
Oh, you haven’t heard of those? You might know them by their other name – Easter Eggs. One school has decided that an Egg Hunt shouldn’t be linked with Easter to make things politically correct for those who don’t celebrate Easter. Does this make sense to you? Or is it going too far in the PC movement?

Imaginary Friends
I didn’t expect some of the sweetest stories I’ve ever heard over on our Facebook page, but there they are – tales of kids who have imaginary friends and how parents play along. Does your child have an imaginary friend too? Share with us!

Easter Basket
I don’t know about you, but I am eagerly awaiting to see what the Easter Bunny has in store for me and the kids this Easter. How about you? What do you expect to find in there?

Infant Sleep Solutions
If you have a little one, you undoubtedly have sleep issues going on, right? The Doula Connection, along with My Baby News, are presenting a talk on the issue TONIGHT at this month’s Speaker Series. And if you’d like your sleep back, you won’t want to miss it.

Merging without marriage
This weekend I’m finally biting the bullet and taking the plunge. No, not marriage. But Mr. W and I are moving in together and merging families. Due to many different opinions arising over this issue, I’m opening the floor to those who’d like to share how they feel about couples in general who choose to shack up before marriage. Are you totally against it? Do you see no problem with it? Are you one of those who are also “living in sin”? Leave a comment in my blog and share your thoughts on merging families before marriage.

Have a wonderful week, wish me luck in my move, and I wish you well in all your busy lives! See you on the forums!

Crissi Dillon

P.S. To be kept up to speed on news, sign up for our newsletter!

Dear Lashaun Armstrong,

Dear Lashaun Armstrong,

You are 10 years old, the same age as my son.  You are probably in the 4th grade at some school that gives out too much homework.  I’m willing to bet that you try and get out of it just as much as my son does – as much as any 10 year old 4th grader would.  Maybe you play sports, or prefer video games to anything else.  You may even hide your veggies under your plate just so you can get dessert after dinner.

I read about you in the news today. I read that you are the oldest of 3 younger siblings, and all of you have names that start with the letter L – Landon Pierce, 5; Lance Pierre, 2; and Lainaina Pierre, 11 months old.  Being the oldest probably made you grow up fast.  I know my daughter did when her brother was born 10 years ago.  But by the time your youngest sister was born, I bet you were a pro at helping out with the baby stuff.    Nevertheless, if you’re anything like my daughter, I’m also betting you’re a pro at the fine art of teasing your younger siblings even as you feel protective over them as the oldest.

And your family fights.  A lot.  At least that’s what I gather by the domestic dispute mentioned in that same article.  I imagine that has also made you grow up a lot, hearing the yelling and screaming, maybe even the hitting.  Have you had to talk to the police after your mom and stepdad fought?  Were you there when the police were called during the last argument they had last night?

Newburgh officials described a tragedy that unfolded rapidly around dinnertime on Tuesday night. Chief Ferrara said that a relative of Ms. Armstrong’s had called the police around 7:30 p.m., “saying they believed Lashandra Armstrong was involved in a domestic dispute” with the father of three of her four children. Chief Ferrara said the caller reported hearing “tussling in the background.”

He said officers were sent to her home, but it was too late: No one was there.

I wonder what you were thinking when your mom gathered all of you up to drive away from the house. At 10 years old, you probably knew more than your younger siblings did about hurt, and anger, and why your mom was crying in the driver’s seat.  Did you worry about whether you’d see your stepdad again, or the bedroom where all your stuff was?  Were you afraid?  Or was this something that happened often?  Did you reassure your brothers and sisters as you all drove away from your house?

And did you realize something was different this time when your mother drove off the road and headed down a pier at full speed towards the river?

A 10-year-old boy escaped and swam ashore after his mother deliberately drove their minivan off a boat ramp and into the Hudson River in Newburgh, N.Y., on Tuesday night, the police said. The mother and three younger children who were trapped in the minivan died.

The police said the driver’s-side window was down when the doomed minivan was towed from the water, suggesting that the boy, identified as Lashaun Armstrong, had crawled past his mother as he scrambled to get out.

I can’t help but feel haunted reading about your mother driving into the river with you and your three younger brothers and sisters in the car.  You knew what was going to happen, that was apparent by reports of you getting the window down before the car hit the water.  But at 10 years old, swimming past your drowning mother and siblings to save your own life is way too big of a burden for you to bear.  Did she see you escaping the vehicle?  Did you question why your own mother would do this?  Were you confused?  Did this change your whole view on mothers, family, life, and everything you thought you knew in your 10 years of life?

Michael Ferrara, the Newburgh police chief, identified the mother as Lashandra Armstrong, 25. Inside, along with Ms. Armstrong, were her three young children, identified by the police as Landon Pierce, 5; Lance Pierre, 2; and Lainaina Pierre, 11 months old. All had died, Chief Ferrara said.

What is going on in your 10 year old head now?  Are you beating yourself up for not saving your younger siblings?  Are you replaying that memory over and over wondering what you could have done to stop the car before it even hit the water?  Have you lost all trust that most 10 year olds have, that all 10 year olds SHOULD have, that parents are there to guide you and keep you safe – not drive you and your sisters and brothers into a river to drown?

He said the 10-year-old had been in the minivan when Ms. Armstrong steered the car off the boat ramp and into the river a few blocks from the row-house apartment where they lived. Lashaun “managed to hit the power windows,” Chief Ferrara said, and “climbed out before the vehicle sank.”

What haunts me most is what I can only imagine all of your reactions were as your mother attempted to take all of your lives, and succeeded except for you.  I think of you screaming at her to stop, of your sisters and brothers crying, of her feeling there was no other option in her out-of-control state but to end her own life and the lives of her children.  I want to cry when I think of you saving your life without being able to help the rest of your family – even your own mother who you loved, and who I know you still love despite what I’m sure is anger eating away at your 10 year old heart. 

Rescue workers in Newburgh, N.Y., search the scene where a woman drove her minivan into the Hudson River Tuesday night, killing herself and three of her children. Photo by John C. Miller/Times Herald-Record, via Associated Press

A woman and a 10-year-old boy appeared at a firehouse and said that a car had driven into the river.

The boy was soaking wet, Chief Vatter said, and firefighters “subsequently learned” that the boy had been in the minivan. The woman with him at the firehouse had picked up him after he had made it to shore and had driven him there to get help, the chief said.

Soon firefighters and state police divers were searching the river. It took about an hour to find the submerged minivan, which officials said was under eight feet of murky water about 25 feet from the shore.

Lashaun, you are only 10.  And I am so sorry.

(article quoted from the NY Times, written by James Barron with contributing reporting by Nate Schweber)

Update:  According to a NY Post article, contributions for LaShaun Armstrong can be sent to LaShaun’s great-aunt Angela Gilliam at 125 Lakeview Village, Spring Valley, NY 10977.

Merging families without marriage

Sound off: Is an unmarried merge of families setting a bad example for the kids?

Two weeks ago I wrote about moving in with my boyfriend, Mr. W.  This was a decision we did not take lightly in our 2 ½ years of being in a relationship with each other, and I’ll be moved out of my own place and into his by this weekend.  By moving in with each other, we are each giving up our total independence of having a space to call all our own – something that became very sacred in each of our single lives.  We’re giving up the separateness of our families as we combine them into something new.  But these are no longer sacrifices as we gain so much more – more time with each other, a shared life, a break in the financial obligations, and all the other perks of living with the one you love.

There was plenty of discussion before we finally came to this stage of feeling confident enough (and out of shellshock from our previous divorces) to be able to live with someone we love once again, plus going through the complicated process of combining families.  We’re making a bunch of decisions that are solidifying the permanent status of our relationship – but without yet being married.

Understandably so, several readers took issue with this – questioning the example that is being set for the kids, as well as feeling that “it’s a slap in the face” to those who are married.  I had originally written this article as a story of hope for those just starting their single parent adventure, feeling pulled apart by the financial hardships and lack of time that go along with that role.  But I realized there is a whole other issue at hand that needs to be discussed –

Merging families without marriage.

According to a survey conducted by the Census Bureau in 2007, 6.4 million couples chose to cohabitate before marriage – making up roughly 10% of all opposite sex coupled Americans, and rising almost 1.5 million since 2006.  And of that number, 45% of them had children living in the household that were related to at least one of the cohabitating adults.  And while past research showed a higher percentage of failed marriages in those who chose to live together before marriage, the present research shows there’s virtually no difference.

I have several friends who chose to live together before marriage.  One couple in particular just recently tied the knot, and is now in the final stages of an adoption process that will make their unified family complete.  Another couple, who has no children, is showing no interest in ever getting married.  And yet it’s unthinkable that they would ever split up despite their lack of marriage license.  My sister (also no kids) is in the process of planning a wedding with her fiancée while also living with him.  And one couple that swore off marriage yet raised a whole family together for 30+ years finally bit the bullet and exchanged rings a few years back – after their kids were raised, finished college, and making lives of their own.  Heck, even the royal couple, William and Kate, are setting their own cohabitation example for the world while in the spotlight by “living in sin”.  And another couple I know are raising their two children together and are unmarried.  In fact, they weren’t even allowed to marry until recently, being that they are also lesbian.

I have friends who did not move in together at all until their wedding night – planning a life together in separate homes, yet letting the reality of it be a mystery until they were legally joined. One I wrote about here, her marriage 6 months ago also symbolizing a sacred promise to her new husband.  My own parents just celebrated 34 years of marriage last week, starting their new life together on their wedding night.  And another couple I know who waited until marriage to cohabitate has been married for 40 years – yet are now living in, not only separate beds, but separate homes, just so that they can remain happily married without killing each other. 

And then there are my single mom friends who choose NOT to live with someone else while raising kids.  One in particular has only been divorced for 4 or so years, has a steady boyfriend, and promises she will never marry nor cohabitate again.  She enjoys her personal living space too much, and she’s adamant in her unwillingness to ever give it up – especially while raising her kids.  This same mom lived with her ex-husband before they got married and had children, and shared a wonderful marriage with him before they grew apart and divorced.  

So here’s your chance to sound off – no judgment.  I’d love to hear your point of view about living together before marriage in general.  Do you see a problem with it?  Does your view change if there are no kids involved?  Do you think relationships suffer from living together before marriage, or suffer if a couple does NOT live together before marriage?  Do you have a personal story to share?  Let me know.  And as always, anonymous comments are welcome, but mean comments are not.