Category Archives: Local Moms

Stranger Safety

The answer?  BOTH of them.

This last Monday, a Santa Rosa mom came across a scene that left a funny feeling in the pit of her stomach. A man was talking to two children on the street, and something about the interaction didn’t seem right.

“I watched the two children and their interaction with the man for a few seconds,” Wendy Hilderman wrote, “and noticed that the man, as he talked to the kids, was bending down trying to hold the girl’s hand.”

She was driving at the time, and it would have been real easy to shake it off and keep right on going. But her instincts told her something was up, and she stopped her car to see what was going on. The man at first told her to go away, but he then ran off when she hopped out to come to the kids’ rescue.

You can read the story here.

I find this story terrifying. What if she hadn’t stopped? If I had been the one who saw this exchange, would I have stopped?

What if it were MY child in that situation?

I think what Wendy Hilderman did was incredibly brave. She put the kids’ safety in front of her comfort and own safety. She could have been wrong. Much worse, he could have been armed. And yet, her quick thinking saved two children from dangers untold. I shudder to think what could have happened had she not driven by at that exact time, or had ignored the instinct that was pulling at her. Because of her, these two kids are safe at home.

If my child happened to be in an unsafe situation and I wasn’t close enough to be the eyes and ears of safety, I would hope to God that someone like Wendy Hilderman were around with the courage to speak up and protect my children. I would hope that any child would have someone like that near them in times of danger.

And I take inspiration from this brave mom, for her determination in letting her instincts speak louder than her convenience or fear of the unknown. We should all strive to be like her – keeping alert enough to be aware of what’s going on around us.

Not only that, this is just one more reminder that it’s another great time to speak with our kids about the danger of strangers, and how to interact with them.

A common misconception with kids is that a stranger is someone that looks scary. But really, a stranger is someone they don’t know. A stranger can look menacing and like they’re bound to hurt them. But a stranger can also look like somebody’s grandmother, a friendly father, or a person the same age as their babysitter. The most important thing you can teach your child is that it is ok to say NO to an adult. It is not impolite to refuse to go with someone they don’t know. And if that person won’t listen, then, as the National Crime Prevention Council advises, the child should “No, Go, Yell, Tell” – Say NO, run away, make a lot of noise, and then tell a trusted adult what happened. A trusted adult is someone they know, or a “safe stranger” like a policeman, firefighter, or teacher.  Exchanges with safe strangers should be done in a public place if at all possible.

These same rules apply for when an adult they know gives them an uneasy feeling because of something they’ve done or said.

Have you talked with your kids about strangers? What are some things parents should share with their kids to help them to be safe?

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The courageous battle of Tika Hick

Tika Hick and her fiancé David Potts had a very special reason for coming to Maui a few weeks back.  It was their last hurrah before she was to rid her body of the cancer that had been slowly taking over.  Following their return, she was to have a double mastectomy and hopefully be done with cancer. 

But after a freak accident, Tika was alone in this battle the two of them fought together.

It was an act of God that dictated what would come to pass for Tika and David of San Anselmo.  The story was all over the news – “Marin County man missing after fall into Maui blowhole”.  Stories thereafter had witnesses describing a scene where a man was too close to the blowhole and was swept in and out to the ocean  on July 9th, 2011 when a rogue wave crashed down on him.  His body was never found, and Tika had to make the long flight home without him.  Now she is left to raise their infant son, Indigo, on her own, rejoicing and grieving as she sees the man she loves in the face of their child.

It’s unthinkable the loss this family is suffering, what Tika is going through right now.  And learning of their struggles before the accident, it seems so harsh that this woman lost her best friend and confidante in just a moment.  The couple had lost their home a short while back.  Weeks after this, Tika was diagnosed with breast cancer.  But in it all, she knew it would all be ok because she had her family – David and Indigo. 

And then, David was gone.

“David died just a couple days ago, and people said there’s no damn way you can go through surgery now.  And my response is, screw that.  I can go through surgery, and I’m going to be cancer free on Wednesday.  So you can’t tell me I’m not going to go through surgery.  I have to.  I have to for my baby.  I have to for me.  I have to live with a damn tumor in me?  I don’t want to live with a tumor inside my body.  It’s trying to take over my body.  It needs to be got rid of, I need to get it out of my body,” Tika told Michael Franti of Spearhead in a recent interview with him.  “And to be honest, right now in all this chaos and heartbreak, it’d be nice to have the pain of my body match the pain that I’m feeling in my heart.  It will, like, even out…  Also, just having surgery sounds relaxing.  Somebody gets to put me to sleep, and I have to sleep for hours on end.  To have surgery?  That sounds pretty good right now.”

It is said that we aren’t given more than we can handle.  I cannot even comprehend the strength Tika has to have been handed so much all at once.  Many more would buckle under this intense amount of devastation.  But through her tears and pain, Tika is determined to keep going and be strong for her son.  And that includes being cancer-free. 

Her surgery was on Wednesday, July 20th

Whenever I think of things being too stressful, or that I have too much on my plate than I can handle, I’m going to remember Tika.  Here’s a woman who lost her home, was diagnosed with breast cancer, and then lost her fiancé and the father of her child in a very short period of time.  

Tika’s story is one of devastation.  But it is also a story of strength. 

She is still getting up out of bed.  She is still surviving.   And faced with life’s greatest hardships, she is determined to be strong.  Compared to Tika, I have never suffered.  And being grateful for all the gifts and blessings of my life has taken on a whole new meaning. 

I have no right to complain.

Michael Franti met Tika a few weeks back at the Harmony Festival.  And he was amazed by her strength then as she told him of her fight with breast cancer.  When David died, he took it upon himself to set up a way for others to contribute to Tika and help her financially as she heals. 

You can donate to the cause by visiting Michael Franti’s website at www.michaelfranti.com, or you can go directly to the PayPal account by CLICKING HERE.

Flight attendant puts baby at risk

A San Rafael mother is furious that a flight attendant put her daughter in potential peril. (stock photo)

Sunshine Bradley is a world traveling 11 month old baby. She, and her parents Melissa and Robert, have traveled to numerous places around the world. And Sunshine has been on a plane more times than kids 10 times older than her – about 16 to 20 trips in the air.

At her age, Sunshine still uses a rear-facing carseat in the car and in the air. And the latest trip the family took on SkyWest Airlines was no different. It was December 23rd when the family was coming back home from Aspen. Melissa strapped her baby in only to be approached by the flight attendant just before takeoff who told her to remove Sunshine from the carseat since it was “not FAA approved”. He insisted that all children had to be in forward facing carseats, and that the plane could not take off until the baby was removed from the seat and in Melissa’s lap.

Melissa tried to explain to the flight attendant that this was the proper seating for an 11 month old baby. She showed him the FAA approved sticker on the side of the carseat, and then explained that babies under 20 lbs were safest when sitting in a rear-facing seat.

“My baby is not going to be safe,” she told him, nearly in tears. And that’s when the attendant gave her an ultimatum. Remove the baby from the carseat, or get off the plane.

See video HERE.

There are reasons that children under 20 lbs must be in a rear-facing carseat. When adults are in a car crash, a seatbelt holds on to the strongest part of the body – the hips and shoulders – distributing the force to these areas to help absorb the effects of the crash in a safer manner. A carseat is designed to be the object that absorbs the biggest impact of the crash, since a baby’s body is too small to take on that kind of force. And a rear-facing carseat does this most effectively by spreading the crash towards a baby’s strongest points – the back, head, and neck. This is why rear-facing seats are the safest way to sit, and why there are laws currently being urged through to raise the age and weight limits to encourage more time before the child is placed in a forward facing carseat.

An airplane is no different. Had Melissa submitted to the demands of this flight attendant and the plane had crashed on takeoff, her baby would have been seriously injured by not being placed in a rear-facing carseat.

Interestingly enough, the FAA clearly states on their website that it is recommended for any child under 20 lbs to be in a rear-facing carseat when flying on an airplane. There has also been talk about requiring children under 2 (who, as of now, can ride for free on their parent’s lap) to have a purchased seat on airplanes to increase safety measures.  

Melissa was forced to turn her 11 month old daughter’s carseat around and travel the rest of the way home (including several flight changes) in a seat that was installed improperly and wiggled with the slightest touch. If she didn’t, her family would have been forced to remain in Aspen. 

United Airlines, SkyWest Airlines partner, has since issued an apology regarding this incident, as well as two free airline tickets to the Bradley family for their ordeal. But Melissa isn’t satisfied. She would like to see flight attendants better educated when it comes to child safety on airplanes, as well as better safety regulations put in place. “I think the airlines give a false sense of security because babies can fly free under 2 on a lap. It’s not safe, even in mild turbulence a grip could be lost or the baby’s neck could snap.”

What would you have done if a flight attendant gave you the same choice – take your baby out of the carseat, or get off the plane?

Moms Night Out

A dancer waiting for class at Wine Country Dance

Jana Harrison is a mom to three who had a vision of bringing different styles of dance into the Healdsburg and Windsor area. Formerly of Healdsburg, Jana’s family lived several years in New York City. During their stay, Jana’s daughter had enjoyed being a part of a dance class that offered a variety of different styles. But upon their return to Healdsburg, they were dismayed to find that there was no other class quite like the one they left behind. Instead of kicking back with a “c’est la vie” attitude, Jana decided to change all that. Hence, Wine Country Dance opened their doors on August 23rd of this year, offering lessons in hip hop, jazz, tap, ballet, contemporary, cheer dance, and choreography. Classes are available for students of all ages; there are even classes especially for little tykes as young as 18 months. Laney Price, who has studied dance since she was 5 years old, has been hired on as Head Instructor and Creative Director. And the studio has become a space where kids, including Jana’s three daughters, can find their own passion and expression through the art of dance.

On Thursday, November 11th, Jana will be hosting her monthly Mom’s Night Out – a brilliant event for “women only” to freely move in the essence of jazz, leaving the kiddos and hubbies at home. The time is from 7-8:30pm. The first 55 minutes are dedicated to the dance class. The last 35 minutes will be enjoying some tasty nibbles from Jana’s husband and a fellow PD blogger, Proximal Kitchen’s Scott Kerson.

Speaking of the food… I must give a shameless plug to the Proximal Kitchen. You honestly have to check out the mouth-watering morsels he put together for the last Mom’s Night Out.
Salmon Roe, Salty Vodka Whipped Cream, & Dill on Yukon Gold Potato.
Smoked Wild Salmon, Lemon Creme Fraiche, & Chives on Yukon Gold Potato.
Prosciutto, Fig-Olive Tapenade, Pt Reyes Bleu, & Rosemary Blossoms on Costeaux Sweet French.

(Excuse me if I am gushing, but if it earns me free samples, then by all means, there is more where that came from)

The cost for the Mom’s Night Out event is an easy $10 if you register by November 8th, and $15 after that. Call 433-5522 or email jana@winecountrydancespace.com with any questions or to register. This month is dedicated to Jazz Dance.  Future events might be different. 

Wine Country Dance is located at 474 Moore Lane in Healdsburg.  Visit their website at winecountrydancespace.com for more information on classes, or on present and future events.

Santa Rosa MOPS

I have some news for you.

YOU ARE NOT A BAD PARENT.

You might feel like you have made every mistake in the world with your child. You might wonder how you could have prevented your child from doing such and such embarrassing action. You might feel like you could have handled certain aspects of your parenting so much differently.

You’re not alone.

This was the underlying message at the Santa Rosa MOPS meeting on Friday, October 8th when they opened up discussion with a panel of “Mentor Moms” – answering the juiciest and most burning questions that “new” and “experienced” moms had about every single aspect of being a mom. Questions like, “How do you get in the mood when you have small children constantly wrapped around your ankles?” Or like, “How do you deal with a stubborn 2 year old?” And even like, “What’s the best way to handle a child who prefers one parent over the other?” The group of 20 or so women became quite comfortable opening up about things they wondered about, and offering advice to other moms about what had worked for them. The “Mom Mentors” started out as the experts who had been there, done that. But soon, the room was full of advice as each mom shared their own experiences in certain scenarios, and how they could relate to what others were feeling.

Frankly, it felt good to be in a room full of women who understood.

MOPS stands for “Mothers of Preschoolers”. The group is made up mostly of moms of youngsters, but several moms had graduated from that title and were still an active part of the group. As the mom of a 9 and 12 year old, even I felt completely comfortable within this group, and look forward to future meetings.

Their next meeting is Friday November 12th, from 9:15am – 11am at 3300 Sonoma Ave (the church on the corner of Yulupa Ave and Sonoma Ave). They will be hosting a Shopping Extravaganza where they can buy gifts and fun stuff at the various booths set up at the event. By the way, they are also looking for momprenuers who would love to take part in this event. For only $25, you can set up your own booth to sell items from your home-based business. Space is limited, so contact Maureen Vaillancourt at Maureen @ gtiplants.com (no spaces) for more information.  At this event, they will also be offering a demonstration on fancy gift wrapping on a budget – something we can all learn from as the holidays come closer!

If you’re a mom of a preschooler, or even an experienced mom like me, I highly encourage you to check out this fun group. “Like” them on Facebook for more information about them: facebook.com/santarosamops

For more MOPS groups in the area (and there are several) check out the MOPS website and look for a location near you.

A mom who inspires

There’s a certain truth in the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”. On one hand, this includes every person that touches your child’s life – their parents, their teachers, their aunts, uncles… But it also pertains to the wisdom of the generations that have come before them, passing down their values and tendencies that will be carried on for years to come and to future generations.

As a single mother, the mom that inspires me the most is my grandmother, the matriarch of our family. On her own, she raised three kids in an era when single parent households were uncommon. She attended countless baseball games and band recitals, opened up her kitchen for her sons’ insistence on cooking the animals they had hunted (in this case, deer or squirrel), held several jobs to maintain the household, and became creative in her dinners to stretch her dollar (tongue, anyone?). She sacrificed and gave it her all in raising two boys and one girl, as a single mom. In those days, there was no support system for single mothers. Most families were not divorced. And yet, she did it, and she did it well.

There are times when I am bitter about the hurdles I have to overcome as a single mom. I get angry about circumstances and, admittedly, sometimes wish I were the kind of person who could throw in the towel. My grandmother has been my constant, the person I focus on in rough times. She is a tough lady from a tough line of women, and raised a daughter who became a tough mother. This only means that I come from a tough lineage, and it is in my blood. My grandmother has become my inspiration to keep going even when I think that I couldn’t possibly make it any further. Not only that, she is a great listener in those times when I just need to vent. It helps to swap stories with someone who’s been there and understands.

P.S. The picture above is a photo of my grandmother and almost all of her grandchildren and great-grandkids.

Do you have a mom in your life that has inspired you? How about a group of moms that have helped you to keep going when motherhood seems like the hardest thing in the world?

Cool Activities to Do With Your Kids This Summer

This was sent in from Jen Dahme and Kris Lee of Santa Rosa. Thank you for sharing this valuable list with the rest of us! I plan on printing this out to help formulate my own list!

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Cool Activities to Do With Your Kids This Summer

by Jen Dahme and Kris Lee

jen-dahme-left-and-kris-leeWe are two moms, best friends – each with two kids very close in age, two 5-year-olds and two 3-year-olds, also known as the “bigs” and the “littles.” At the beginning of the summer we made a list of fun activities that we wanted to do with the kids. Now that the summer is half over, we are reviewing our list and deciding what else we want to do before the “bigs” start kindergarten. Since we are fortunate to live in Sonoma County making our list was easy; there are so many fun activities right out our back door. Our list of summer fun looks something like this:

• Swimming – Lessons or open swim through the City of Santa Rosa, YMCA or just playing at a friend’s pool.
• Gail’s FUN Camp – www.smilingtreegail.com
• Farmer’s Market – Saturdays at the Veterans building or the Wednesday Night Market Downtown Santa Rosa.
• Sonoma County Library – summer reading program.
• Santa Rosa Plaza – the kids love to ride the escalators, those little vending machine rides (enjoy the years when that don’t know they take money).
• Gilroy Gardens – http://gilroygardens.org/
• Bike and hike around Spring Lake.
• Visit the grandparents.
• Friday date nights – parents take turns going out and kids have fun at each others’ houses.
• Hagemans Trout Farm -near Bodega Bay.
• Rockzilla climbing walls in Napa.
• Bodega Bay – find rock crabs, wear rain boots and go by west side camp grounds. The kids love turning over rocks and finding the crabs.
• Bay Area Discovery Museum – love it! Worth the trip to Sausalito – http://www.baykidsmuseum.org/
• Marine World in Vallejo.
• Kidspot – In Santa Rosa – http://www.kidspotimaginationcenter.com/.
• Sonoma County Fair – From July 28 to August 9.
• Zoos – Oakland and San Francisco.
• Traintown in Sonoma.
• Bike to Sebastopol for ice cream
• San Francisco – De Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, Marina, Coit tower,Academy of Sciences, Exploratorium.
• Safari West.
• Boat to Angel Island.
• Armstrong Woods.
• Point Reyes.
• Visit parks you usually don’t usually go to – Petaluma, Sebastopol, Sonoma
• Town Square, Healdsburg and Windsor Town Green.
• Take bigger kids on AMTRAK train ride to Sacramento.
• Cheese Factory tour in Marin.
• Hallberg Butterfly Gardens in Sebastopol.
• Howarth Park – all the rides with a hot dog.
• Picking blackberries.

So far this summer we have mixed bigger field trips with local activities and no matter what we did we had a great time. Along the way we have learned a few “to do’s” and “not to do’s.”

1. Always bring food. Even though you may not feel like it in the morning, it really doesn’t take that much time and it is so much easier to stay at the park or go wherever you wind up when you have food with you. Avoid meltdowns and have more fun!
2. Bring a travel potty in your car – that $20 item is priceless!
3. Always bring extra clothes – for the kids and you! There are bound to be times where water looks inviting or someone gets dirty. It’s easier to change than stop the flow of fun.
4. Always check the hours of your destination. Don’t go to the Bay Area
5. Discovery Museum on a Monday because you will wind up at Corte Madera looking at the fountains (which is why you have extra clothes).
6. Must haves – jackets, hats, food (including lunch and gummy treats, sunscreen, travel potty, wipes, extra clothes) because you never know what will happen on these outings.
7. Keep your attitude of adventure, because what you have planned usually does not work out the way you have in mind. It is not the destination that is key, but having fun along the way
8. After a longer car ride, have a planned run-around-stretch-play time for kids before doing anything that they would be expected to behave – like restaurants, museums, etc. For example, do not drive straight to the SFMOMA for a special exhibit without run around time with four preschoolers. It is a good idea to take them to museums but keep in mind their age and the length of the car ride.
9. Don’t wait too long to eat your packed lunch.
10. Keep in mind rush hour traffic times on 101. Can be fine if your kids nap in the car and you are patient, but can really be a pain if you are all ready to get home. Our main goal for the rest of the summer is to enjoy this special time with the kids. We hope to follow their lead and our own intuition about having a “stay day” or a “go day.”
11. Sometimes the best days are the days when we just hang out and enjoy the lazy days of summer. We have learned if the moms are happy and positive the kids feed off that energy and it doesn’t matter if we are looking for bugs in the back yard or going to Marine World because we are having fun together.

Through all these experiences and adventures we hope that we are ultimately teaching our children the value of friendship and the importance of just enjoying where you are and what you are doing, no matter what it might be.

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Alright moms, now it’s your turn. The dog days of summer are here, there is only one month left till school starts. I challenge you to make your own list of “Cool things to do with your kids”. And I invite you to share them here, or on the forums. Thank you so much, Jen and Kris, for sharing your wisdom with the rest of us!

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If you have any ideas you’d like to share, email me at crissi@santarosamom.com.