Category Archives: Guest Blogger

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.


Limit computers in house

In response to THIS BLOG that posted today on the front of the Press Democrat’s Find It section, Matthew Gollub, a local children’s author had some sound advice I wish to share with you… 

(From Matthew Golub)  Thank you for your article “Clicking our way to future” which I just read in the PD. You put your finger on a new reality for family life in our community.

Like yours, my family watches little of anything produced for TV. Also like yours, my wife and I spend a good deal of time in the evenings on-line. And, like families everywhere, we’d probably do better to divert our eyes from the computer screen and personally interact a little bit more. Here’s the thing that saves us, though, and keeps our son (age 15) focused on school work and off-line pastimes like sports and music.


In fact, we have just one computer in the home, and that remains in the family room. How many times have my wife or I walked in only to see our teen sheepishly exit his FaceBook page and get back to work on a school assignment? How many hundreds of hours would be lost each year if he had full freedom to network on-line without interruption in the privacy of his bedroom? Would he get less sleep? Yes. Would his school work suffer? Probably. Would we have to have more discussions about how he should be using his time? Undoubtedly. My own computer is a laptop which migrates with me between home and office.

So here’s the one thing I can say with certainty: limiting the household computers to exactly one and requiring that household members share that computer in a central space necessarily limits the amount of time that each person is free to use the darn thing!

Matthew Gollub is a local children’s author-publisher-speaker. His latest book with audio CD is titled JAZZ FLY 2: THE JUNGLE PACHANGA. Free reading tips and more at

Sex series: The sexually healthy adolescent

On November 5th, an article I wrote about a conversation I had with my daughter regarding abstinence was published.  Since that day, I have received so many letters in regards to that article.  The opinions ranged from outrage, believing that encouraging abstinence left kids without vital information – to elation over the topic of abstinence, believing that kids needed the encouragement to just say no.

For the next several weeks, I will be revisiting this topic sporadically, allowing for voices other than mine to speak their piece.  Today’s post is by Remi Newman, a sexuality educator here in Santa Rosa who offers some vital information on having “the talk” with your child, right from the very beginning.

Sex Matters: Raising a sexually healthy adolescent
Guest post by Remi Newman

From the moment they are born, our children are learning about their bodies, learning how to love and who to trust. In other words, they are learning about a fundamental component of their personality- their sexuality. And we, their parents, whether we realize it or not, are their primary teachers.

Being a parent can be overwhelming enough, never mind taking on the responsibility of becoming your child’s primary sexuality educator. Many parents feel they didn’t receive much sexuality education as kids and don’t even know where to begin. Sexuality is a highly charged and sensitive subject that can be hard to talk about with anyone, especially our own children. Meanwhile, we live in a society with conflicting messages about sexuality. Our society’s veneer of chastity discourages us from having open and intelligent discussions about sexuality. At the same time, we are bombarded with misinformation and the exploitation of sexuality primarily as a marketing tool.

It’s not surprising that when it comes to sex and our children, fear often steps in. Rather than seeing themselves as sexuality educators for their kids, parents instead see themselves as gatekeepers of sexuality information, not wanting them to know too much too soon. In no other area of life do we see a value in withholding education from our kids. Parents may worry that the information itself is inherently damaging or that it will encourage sexual activity. Yet, studies have shown that teens who learn about sex and sexuality from their parents are more likely to postpone first sexual intercourse and more likely to use protection when they do have their first sexual intercourse. The only thing you may be withholding from your child is the chance to learn correct information and the opportunity for you to share your personal values about sex and sexuality.

 A parent who says they will wait for their child or teen to ask them about sex, before broaching the subject, may be in for a never ending wait. So instead of waiting to have “the talk” with your child, no matter what age, look for teachable moments. For example, a teachable moment for a toddler could be seeing a pregnant woman and telling your child that that woman has a baby in her belly or teaching them the correct names for their genitals when you’re washing them in the bathtub. A teachable moment for a pre-teen may be seeing something on the news about HIV. This is an opportunity to ask what they know about how HIV is transmitted.

If a parent takes advantage of these moments throughout their child’s youth, by the time that child is experiencing puberty and the stakes often get higher, having a conversation about sexual abstinence, sexual intercourse, contraception, condoms—whatever direction you choose to take it in—doesn’t have to be painfully awkward for parent and teen.

 Aside from using teachable moments as you raise your children, listen (if at all possible without judgment) to their thoughts and opinions on sexuality. Give them honest thoughtful answers if they come to you with questions. If you don’t know the answer to a question let them know you will help them find the answer. Giving dishonest answers or withholding information will only come back to hurt you later on. Your child will eventually learn the real facts of life and will also have learned that you, their parent, are not a reliable source of information on sexuality. Share your personal values around sex and sexuality with your children. All of these things can help make you an “askable parent” – a parent that an adolescent actually feels comfortable talking to about sex and sexuality.

Recommended books:

Everything you never wanted your kids to know about sex (but were afraid they’d ask), Justin Richardson, M.D. and Mark A. Schuster, M.D., PhD

From Diapers to Dating, A parent’s guide to raising sexually healthy children, Debra W. Haffner, M.P.H.

Beyond the Big Talk: A parent’s guide to raising sexually healthy teens, Debra W. Haffner, M.P.H.

Sex and Sensibility, The thinking parent’s guide to talking sense about sex, Deborah Roffman

 Remi Newman, M.A. received her master’s degree in sexuality education from New York University and has over 10 years of experience developing and facilitating sexuality education workshops. She is the proud mother of her 4 year old son, Leo, who, so far, knows all the correct names for his body parts. She has created “Having ‘the talk’ before they can talk”, a bilingual sexuality education parenting workshop for new and expectant parents. For more info email

Girls on the Run Sonoma County

Guest post by Courtney Keeney, senior at Sonoma State University and a coach for Girls on the Run Sonoma County.

Clockwise from upper left: 1 – Penngrove & McNear Elementary GOTR girls handing out water at the Carousel Fund Run water stop in Petaluma, 2 – Penngrove Elementary & McNear Elementary GOTR girls volunteering at the Carousel Fund Run Race in Petaluma, 3 – GOTR team from McNear Elementary in Petaluma, 4 – GOTR team from Strawberry Valley Elementary in Santa Rosa

The clock strikes 3pm. A flock of young girls rush out of the classroom doors, fill up their water bottles and munch down a tasty snack from the lunch Mom packed that day. The youngsters can hardly wait for the program to begin. Sporting their bright seasonal colored Girls on the Run t-shirts, with running shoes laced, hair tied back and energy levels rising out of the roof, the feeling of being a part of a team and working towards a goal is an apparent form of excitement for these young girls.

With the mission “to educate and prepare girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living”, Girls on the Run Sonoma County reaches out to nearly twenty elementary schools and clubs in the local community. As a non-profit prevention program, Girls on the Run touches the lives of countless 3rd through 6th grade girls in the most pivotal years of their development.

After school, twice a week, the young girls come together with their team and two dedicated volunteer coaches to participate in interactive curriculum, addressing real life issues such as dealing with body image and the media, resisting peer pressure and making healthy decisions-while incorporating running and hands on activities.

“The energy, excitement, and how proud they feel is so emotionally inspiring”, said Strawberry Valley Elementary School Girls on the Run coach Shelly Bolander.

Bolander is in her second season at Strawberry Valley Elementary School and stands behind the program with all her heart.

“The program has an incredible message of being active at a young age, which is very important. Girls on the Run is the perfect balance of exercise, fun, and education”.

Any girl can benefit from the program and learn to work as a team. Don’t let the name scare you away. Participants in the program do not have to be strong runners. Running, walking, jogging, skipping; any form of exercise will do as long as movement is involved.

According to Bolander, the curriculum is very valuable and touches on extremely important life issues these girls will soon be faced with in their process of maturation.

Discussing difficult topics, addressing and confronting tough issues, learning the importance of respect and compassion for one another, admiring good role models, and understanding how to stand up for themselves are only a few positive perks the program instills in these young innocent minds.

At the end of this twelve week program, each girl has a goal to complete a non-competitive 5K run/walk event.

In her two seasons of coaching, Bolander remembers two particular youngsters that stand out in her mind, which were positively impacted by the program in a huge way.

“I had two girls struggling with their weight; they had a hard time committing at first. However, once that 5K event came around, these girls fought the hardest. Their determination shined through and they completed every last step of that run.”

Accomplishments such as these make this program very beneficial to not only the children, but also the supportive adult role models. Stepping aside from their busy lives to volunteer four hours a week to these young children, speaks volumes.

Girls on the Run participants will complete a community service project, volunteer at a local race and complete a 5K event in November to round up the season.

Empowered with a greater self-awareness, sense of achievement and a foundation in team building to help them become strong and confident young women, Girls on the Run Sonoma County strives to make an impact in the life of girls everywhere…one step at a time.

For more information or to become involved with Girls on the Run, please visit or email Executive Director Catrina Dierke at

Welfare to Work and Back Again?

Guest blog by Suphatra Laviolette

For four generations, Beckie Moralez’s family has been on welfare, but she believed that the cycle, finally, would end with her.

CalWORKs, California’s family assistance program, provided Moralez with cash assistance and subsidized daycare for her two children. The benefits also took Moralez out of homeless shelters, covered her treatment for substance abuse and paid for Moralez to go back to school for training as a drug-and-alcohol counselor. Since August 2008, she has held down a job at Butte County Behavioral Health Department – completely free of public assistance.

“My mother was on welfare, her mother was on welfare. When I had children and we were on welfare, I knew I had to break the cycle,” said Moralez, convinced that CalWORKs was, at least briefly, her ticket out of poverty.

“When my kids see that Mama is doing things, they are happy,” she said. “It gives them permission to be kids. I remember being 4, 5, 6, and worrying about my mother when we didn’t have food, when the manager came banging on our door for the rent. My kids don’t have to worry about that.”

But now, the worries have returned. In mid-May, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed to eliminate subsidized child care from the state budget as a way of saving $2.3 billion to help close the state’s budget deficit. If that measure passes, it will force Moralez to leave her job in order to care for her kids, which would put her right back onto the public assistance she worked for years to leave.

But Moralez won’t return to welfare without a fight.

From a podium on the steps of the state capitol, Moralez rallied alongside 500 other parents last month: “We are all here with one thing in common: we are fighting for the hopes and futures of our families!” she shouted. As a member of the statewide advocacy group Parent Voices, she advocates for her children at the annual “Stand for Children” rally that takes place in Sacramento every May.

The organization, Parent Voices, is comprised of working parents from across California. It teaches low-income mothers and fathers to advocate for themselves through community organizing and leadership development. Parents practice simulations of the legislative process, playing each different role – governor, senator, and assembly member – to educate themselves about public policy and improve their public speaking skills.

The rehearsals, however, cannot fix a system riddled with delays and stymied by bureaucracy. Earlier this year, a busload of 45 parents from Fresno traveled more than three hours to speak at a Senate Budget Committee hearing, only to wait almost six hours, so long that their bus driver finally had to head back. The mothers and fathers were able to fill out comment cards that were submitted on their behalf, but they rode home with their stories unspoken. It was a stark reminder that they must constantly fight to make sure they are not forgotten.

Jackie, a mother to three girls in Santa Rosa, also participates in the Parent Voices annual rallies. “Every year, I always cry – it is just so empowering,” she said. “I didn’t grow up with much, and I had very little self esteem. When I started going to ‘Stand for Children,’ it was because I wanted different for my daughter.” That child, now 9, attended her first rally at age four. This year, she took the podium and spoke on the capitol steps.

Jackie’s long term partner Earl, a day laborer, sacrifices work days to attend budget hearings. “Earl is like me – poor background, low self-esteem, never thought he’d ever talk to a legislator,” said Jackie, her voice brightening with pride. “Now he speaks for himself. He tells them about his son.”

At 25, Earl’s son is on welfare and struggling with substance addiction – in part, Jackie believes, because of trauma he endured growing up in a family without money for childcare. “When his son was little, he had to leave him with whoever, wherever he could afford care,” Jackie said. “His son became withdrawn, quiet – it turned out he was being abused.” Jackie and Earl now have two daughters together and every chance he gets, Earl tells lawmakers about the difference quality childcare has made.

“Our girls are thriving,” Jackie said.

Patty Siegel, founder and Executive Director of the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network believes parent testimonials are crucial to policy reform. Despite her decades of advocacy work, she was told in early 2009 by California Congressman George Miller: “We need to hear from people that this would make a difference. And I don’t mean, politely, people like you, Patty.”

The parents involved with Parents Voices are not merely unlike Siegel. They differ significantly. “The families using subsidized care – mainly single mothers – are usually coming from backgrounds of homelessness, domestic violence, and substance abuse,” said Gloria Balch, deputy director at Valley Oak, a program that aids Butte County parents with finding quality child care and utilizing government resources. “The aid lets them take opportunities to grow, to go back to school, to obtain work.”

The fate of child care subsidies has parents and providers on edge – especially as the deadline ticks closer. If the state legislature cannot agree on a budget by July 1, a stalemate could threaten the entire child care system. In past years, such impasses have halted payments to child care centers, leaving providers to choose between refusing care or closing down centers altogether.

“Families would be forced to leave their jobs so they could care for their kids. Staff at the centers – also struggling parents – would lose their jobs,” said Balch, who has worked in child care for 30 years. “The cuts don’t just affect parents on subsidies. Any provider that accepts subsidies will suffer. If they close their doors, then private pay parents lose their care and have fewer options.”

Jackie confirms that she would have to return to welfare. She or Earl would have to quit working to care for their youngest children, ages 1 and 2. For Moralez, a cut would freeze her progress towards a Bachelor’s degree. “I wouldn’t be able to use the education I’ve already earned,” she said incredulously. “It would all stop.”

That is perhaps why Moralez seized her moment at the capitol, calling out from the podium, urging other mothers and fathers to act. “This is your opportunity to stand for your children!” she cried. “Our children learn what they live. We don’t want them to learn defeat. We want them to learn empowerment!”

Like Jackie, Moralez’s kids are the reason she participates in Parent Voices. She says the grass roots organization has given her strength. “I used to be in a place where I thought my kids would be better off without me. And now I know they need me.”

Suphatra Laviolette is a writer for Equal Voice, an online newspaper created by the Marguerite Casey Foundation to address issues of concern to working families. She can be reached at

Guest Blogger: Surviving Finals Week

Many students are entering finals week in the weeks to come.  Dr. David Sortino has offered up some great suggestions for parents and students to get through this week.  So I am turning this blog over to him.  Thanks David! 

And Remember, It’s Only a Test!
by Dr. David Sortino

With finals week approaching for most middle and high school students, here are some suggestions about how students can improve their test taking skills or strategies. We need to realize that doing well on a test is not based solely on the student’s ability to recall information, but also on his/her knowledge about test preparation.

For example, the obvious and one of the most important strategies is to review regularly course content from beginning to end. This is critical. The earlier you review, the less you forget. Moreover, studies about learning and memory show that you will remember most information at the beginning and end and forget the middle. Reviewing the material will keep beginnings, middles, and ends current. Also, ask your brain how it likes to remember and it will probably say “review and review and review.”

Another important strategy is to learn the material in chunks or what learning specialists call “chunking.” And always remember the brain responds best to organization and “chunking” supports good organizational skills.

The next obvious point is to think about what your teacher considers most important. We all know teachers have certain interests; therefore, their particular interests could be on the test.

Know vocabulary, special terms, or formulas for the type of test you expect. You would not expect to prepare a meal without knowing the recipe’s language, so learn the test’s language.

Form questions about the test and see if you can answer them. The more you practice, the more you are duplicating the test situation, which could eliminate test anxiety and/or performance anxiety. Professional athletes do this all the time — it is called visualization. Further, it helps if you close your eyes and visualize the test questions and answers. Try and see yourself going through all the emotions of taking the test.

Study end-of-chapter questions. This will reinforce the theory of beginnings, middles and ends. Also re-read, review summaries, notes, outlines and previous assignments. Furthermore, compare your notes with a friend. The notes are often only another version of the test.

Recite specific facts to yourself. You can do this when walking, driving a car, or riding a bike. This strategy ties in with multiple intelligence theory and learning styles. That is, active and kinesthetic learners study best when they can use their bodies to learn or express their intelligence.

Get a good night’s sleep — it is critical for successful test taking. Some of us are morning, afternoon or evening people. If you stay on a schedule, you can learn to regulate your biorhythms or cycles supporting your physiological, emotional, or intellectual well-being or prowess.

Last but not least — eat a good breakfast the morning of the test. Again, most adolescents eat at all times of the day or nothing at all, which is why most nutritionists believe adolescence is the unhealthiest period of our lives. In short, the brain is an engine that needs to run on protein. Find a diet that you like and stick with it. Good luck and remember, it’s only a test!

*Dr. David Sortino is a cognitive psychologist and currently Director of Educational Strategies, a private consulting company catering to teachers, parents, and students. Dr. Sortino can be reached at or 707-829-8315

Guest Blog by Wine Country Daughter

Summer 008Santa Rosa Mom isn’t writing today. Instead, her twelve year old daughter is. Today is “Take Your Kid to Work” day, and I, DQ, am a guest writer. I, like my mom, love writing. So being able to write on her blog is super cool.

My mom says when she was little she wanted to work at the Press Democrat. She got her wish and now I hope I’ll get that lucky. I want to become a novelist and move to New Zealand. New Zealand is full of exotic sea life and I love the world underwater. I, as a writer, have to go through the normal writing stuff. My teacher will use my writing pieces as samples and usually I get twenty blank stares. Writers often get people who just don’t understand. But I also have to get over it because, most likely, I’ll get that often.

I’ve been going to “Take Your Kid to Work” day since I was nine. The Taz has never been able to come. When I first came kids had to be eight to attend. So I fit the age limit. My brother and I have a three year difference, so while I joined Mom at work, he had to go to school. For the next couple years I enjoyed my alone time at my mom’s desk. Then the year that I had been dreading came, the year my brother turned eight. I would now have to share this special day I had been spending with my mom. But it just so happens that with the next “Take Your Kid to Work” day, they moved the age up to ten! So this year I get to go alone, again. It is awesome being the older child! But next year I will have to share. Maybe they’ll change the age again (hint, hint Mr. Publisher).

My day at the Press Democrat has been way better than school. We had a tour of the building and learned what people do all day. The third floor is pretty much the break room and the publisher’s office. Most stuff happens on the second floor. That’s where all the news stories are written. Then the first floor is all advertising. My mom works on the first floor. Later in the day we went to the publisher’s office and he answered questions the kids had. We also got cookies.

The best part of the day, though, was being able to go to the mall after we ate lunch. But first we just had to stop at the Holy Roast. Mom got an Americano and I got a Mango Italian Soda with a splash of cream. We then went to the mall and browsed through all the good stores (Macy’s, The Apple store, Bath and Body Works). We even stopped at the AT&T store to see how expensive the phones were since I recently dropped my phone in the toilet (don’t ask how) and I’m hoping to find a nice inexpensive one. Fail. I was then welcomed back by Sift Cupcakes thanks to a co-workers birthday. I have noticed that whenever I come to the office there is either a birthday, some sort of celebration….or treats just to have treats.

I don’t see my future anything like my mom’s, but I have to say there is definitely action in the Press Democrat. There’s always someone coming to her about a mistake or something like that. I don’t think office work will be for me. But thanks for giving me a look at what an adult’s life is like, Mom!