Category Archives: Santa Rosa Mom

The end of my newspaper column

I just found out that tomorrow’s family article I write for the newspaper will be the very last one to be in print. This makes me so sad! Thankfully, you can still catch me online at the Press Democrat’s family blog at, or here in my personal family blog at, where I will continue to write tips on raising families and share our family stories. You can also catch me at my writing blog at, where I give writing tips and share tidbits of my latest projects.

For the record, I will still be writing feature articles for the newspaper. But my regular column will no longer be in print.

Thank you for the past two years of reading my columns in the paper. It’s been an absolute honor to see my name in print every couple of weeks, and I’ve enjoyed all the kind notes I’ve received throughout this time. Come visit me online, and leave a comment to let me know you’re there!


Crissi Langwell

P.S. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for an easy way to be kept up to date!  I follow back, so leave me a link when you do!

The wicked stepmother, part 1

There was an elephant in the room, and ignoring it wasn't going to make it go away.

Frizz, my (future) stepson, milled around the kitchen putting his lunch together for the school day. We were both moving around each other, doing our best not to disturb the other in the dance we did every morning. He moved like I wasn’t even there. I just tried to stay out of his way. Neither one of us spoke more than an obligatory “good morning” greeting to each other. And even though I wished him a good day before he left, he said nothing back as he rushed out the door for school.

I wasn’t sure how to act around this teenage kid. First and foremost, I was sensitive to his place in the house. He had lived here all his life, most of it with his mom and dad together under the same roof. Me, I was the intruder, the one who took his mother’s place in the house – even when I made every effort not to take his mother’s role in his life. He already had a mom. And I was hoping to take on the part of “friend” rather than parent.

But I didn’t even know how to talk with him, and he felt more like a stranger than someone I had gotten to know over the past 3 years.

I genuinely liked the kid. He was smart and slow to anger. When my 10-year-old Taz was bouncing off the walls and both Mr. W and I were ready to throttle him, Frizz would just look at him and calmly say “Chill out, dude.” It was way more effective than anything I could ever say.

But there were things about this teenager that drove me nuts. He had no concept that after 11pm he should move around a bit more quietly. Flushing toilets seemed a foreign concept to him. His favorite music was a pounding beat with no melody whatsoever played at ear-splitting volumes and on a loop. Random moments of jumping jacks weren’t uncommon from his second story room. His videogaming slowed down the rest of our Internet usage. He claimed we were (and I quote) “robbing him of his childhood” by expecting him to do chores and help out around the house. He slept in on weekends till the afternoon after staying up till the early hours of the morning….

And then there was his habit of blatantly ignoring all of us.

“I just don’t feel like talking,” Frizz eventually explained to his dad when Mr. W tried to get a response out of him repeatedly, only to be met with silence. It was infuriating, his silent way of giving us the finger just because he knew it would piss us off. He didn’t talk back (unlike my 13-year-old daughter DQ was famous for) or say anything that could be held against him. He just didn’t speak when spoken to.

I was concerned over my growing feelings of resentment coming out of the lacking relationship Frizz and I shared. I took all his teenageness personally, as if it were a direct attack on me. And I worried that neither one of us would be able to move past this awkward phase we were stuck in. I longed to be able to joke around with him the way I could with my own kids. And I was jealous that I never got to see the funny, insightful, sarcastic kid that Mr. W kept bragging about in Frizz.

I had always hoped that I could be that cool stepmom, like the awesome non-judgy stepmom in the movie Juno, or something reminiscent of Kim Rosenthal-Doonesbury, that hip young thing Mike Doonesbury married in the infamous comic strip.

I wanted to be the one Frizz would go to for dating advice since no teen can actually talk to their parents about the opposite sex. I was hoping we could have regular hangout time when we could talk about how teenage years suck and share some of our favorite MP3s. Being more than a decade younger than Mr. W, I was hoping Frizz would find me a welcome addition to the household.

What the heck was I smoking?

To be fair, I had no idea what the kid thought of me. Most of my energy was spent trying to not piss him off or step on his toes, and the rest was spent resenting the fact that we weren’t bosom buddies and I couldn’t joke around with him the same way I could with my own kids. However, I didn’t know him. And he didn’t know me. Never once did he express dislike for me, but he also never expressed any kind of feeling about me whatsoever. Overwhelming every emotion I had involving this kid, the biggest was a hope that we could overcome this sense of distance.

Something needed to change.

To be continued…

Martha Stewart, sports for kids, and more

Check out what’s going on at this week!

Local shop Bella Ariana was featured on Martha Stewart's website this week (photo by Jessica Remmele Photo Design)

Bella Ariana featured on Martha Stewart’s website!
That’s right, our local designer of toddler-wear, Francis Farmer-Cheda, had her smiling face on Martha Stewarts list of Dreamers of the Week. If you have a toddler, you’ll definitely want to check out Bella Ariana’s sweet tutus.

Ectopic Pregnancy
One of our moms on the forums suffered an ectopic pregnancy this week. She’s looking for advice or even another mom to share their experience with her as she recovers from this loss.

Sports for kids
Another mom is hoping for ideas regarding sports for her 4 year old. There’s already been several great replies to this subject! If you have an idea to share, or are looking for something for your own young child, you’ll definitely want to check out this post.

Teenage mortification
I recently found that it doesn’t take much to embarrass my child. A lot of moms (and dads!) could relate. Read up on my article of several Sonoma County families and their experience with teens.

Child Obesity
Another battle I’m experiencing has to do with my 10 year old and his weight. Knowing I’m not alone in this battle, I’m sharing what’s working for us, as well as my tip for a great book that’s helped to jumpstart our plan.

Events this weekend:

My Gym Anniversary Open House
Friday Jan 13, 4-7pm
Celebrating 8 years, My Gym is holding a fantastic party this Friday with playtime, games, gymnastics, face painting, and more – FOR FREE! There will be plenty of opportunities for savings and discounts on parties and enrollments, and there will definitely be fun for the whole family.
My Gym Santa Rosa (3267 Airway Drive)

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

Crissi Dillon moderator

Fit Family FIVE

Swinging on the zip lines at Expedition Island

Is exercise one of your family goals this week? Looking for something active to do as a family this weekend? Here are a few ways to have fun and be fit!

Little League signups
For many Sonoma County Little Leagues, sign-ups begin this week. CLICK HERE to discover when and where your league will be conducting theirs.

Family Night at Cal Skate
Saturdays 6-8:30pm
Cal Skate (6100 Commerce Blvd, Rohnert Park)
Every Saturday, a family of 4 can take advantage of the “Family Pack”. For $39, you can get 4 admissions, 4 quad rentals ($2 more apiece for inline), and a 16″ pizza. Additional family members: $6 admission, $3 quad, $5 inline.

Sunday Night Family Bowling
Sundays 5-7pm
Double Decker Lanes (300 Golf Course Dr, Rohnert Park)
Another $39 special. Check in between 5-7pm and get two hours bowling and shoes, a 12″ pizza, and a pitcher of soda.

Rock Climbing “Climb Time”
Saturdays/Sundays, noon-2pm
Vertex Climbing Center (3358a Coffey Lane, Santa Rosa)
Climbers aged 5 to adult can enjoy a two-hour coached climbing session for only $20. This is suitable for all levels, whether beginner or veteran. Reservations are required.

Family Fridays at Expedition Island
Fridays, 4-7pm
Expedition Island (755 Southpoint Blvd, Petaluma)
Open Play sessions on Fridays are buy one, get one free. Purchase a 90 minute admission for one child, and one adult or sibling can play for free. Admissions are generally $20, giving access to zip lines, a climbing wall, and many other ways to monkey around.

Weather a little glum? Check out out guide to indoor places to have fun!

Have a fun, and ACTIVE weekend!

Crissi Dillon

Holiday Letter 2011

Dear friends and family,

This has been a whirlwind of a year, and I can’t believe we’ve actually reached the end! So much has happened in 2011, making this one of my favorite years yet.

Earlier this year, DQ became a girl. It’s true. She traded in her tomboy looks for more feminine clothing and a bit of make-up. But not to worry, the skater shoes will never leave my pretty daughter’s feet. And I had a bit of a girl revolution myself, making a new step to nurture my female friendships instead of focusing solely on being a mom.

I also had to come to grips with the fact that my daughter is changing as she grows older – and that’s not such a bad thing.  While we’ve always been close, and I suspect we always will, this year I finally had to accept that some walls are ok to be in place between a mother and her teenage daughter.

As for the Taz, we actually survived the dreaded 4th grade Mission Project.  Ever have to do one of those?  Let’s just say I never thought I’d have a need to paint cardboard with sand-infused white paint, or ever have to unstick myself from so much hot glue.  Wait, whose project was it?

This year, the Taz also got to spend a ton more time on the pitcher’s mound.  It was incredible to see my son show his true talent and maturity in baseball, even if it still meant his forgetful nature never truly left…

Having done the single mom thing for so long, I learned the importance of asking for help. Of course, that single mom adventure came to a close when Mr. W asked our little family to move in with him in the spring, transforming us from a family of three to a family of five. The sudden changes, however, caused a little bit of strife – particularly with DQ. Middle school was already tough enough, as middle school usually is. However, a lesson from my own childhood taught me that a cup of coffee can go a really long ways.

This year I became friends with my thighs, finding beauty in my imperfections. I also discovered that imperfection could be beautiful in love as Mr. W and I got used to moving around each other in our newly blended home.

In October, all of our lives changed with one tiny question….. Mr. W asked me to marry him! We were on cloud nine….until we had to break it to the kids. Needless to say, they just didn’t take it that well. Fortunately, a family vacation gave us a chance to get used to the idea while also working at blending as a family. It’s been an uphill battle ever since, including a family adventure of picking out our first tree together as a family.

2011 holds so many wonderful memories, and 2012 has much to look forward to. Thank you for coming along with me on our adventures as they unfold.  Your comments, advice, and friendship have meant more than I can tell you!

Here’s to another New Year!

Crissi and family

Happy holidays!

This time of year brings about tons of emotions and levels of feeling in what is supposed to be a joyous time of year. For some of us, we’re scrambling just to get it all done. For others, we’re sitting back comfortably and enjoying the holidays. Some of you are enjoying your first exciting holiday with a tiny new member of your family, and some of you are just trying to survive your first dreaded holiday with an empty nest.

I wish each and every one of you a wonderful holiday season filled with love, and remembrance as to what this season is all about. When everything is said and done, it’s not about the presents or how much money you’ve spent. It’s about the people you call friends and family, and a time to focus on all there is to be grateful for. Friends, we are all truly blessed.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Season’s Greetings, and love to you all!

Crissi Dillon

Family FIVE Dec 16-18

Sebastopol Ballet performs their 20th annual Nutcracker this weekend

Family fun abounds this weekend with sugarplums and gingerbread doghouses.  Even Santa can’t help but get in on the fun!  Where will you be?

Gingerbread Doghouse Workshops
Dec 17-18
Schulz Museum (2301 Hardies Ln, Santa Rosa)
Happiness is a warm puppy atop a gingerbread doghouse you made yourself. Make one with your child, as well as ornaments and cards, at the Schulz Museum this weekend. See site for age appropriate times. $25.

Sebastopol Ballet’s 20th Nutcracker
Dec 16-18
Analy High School (6950 Analy Ave, Sebastopol)
It’s the 20th year of nutcrackers, dancing mice, sugarplums, and snowflake ballerinas. Come early for the Sugar Plum party of cookies and a meet-and-greet, and then catch the very talented Sebastopol Ballet perform the holiday show.

Model Building Day
Sat Dec 17, 10a-6p
Hobbytown Petaluma (171 N. McDowell Blvd.)
All types of modelers meet at this monthly event to create their projects, get advice, and have the opportunity to add more to their model with the vast supplies found at Hobbytown.

Helicopter Santa
Sat Dec 17, 11am
Pacific Coast Air Museum (2230 Becker Blvd, Santa Rosa)
Santa ditches the sleigh for a shinier set of wings as he flies in by helicopter. Kid-friendly events include face-painting and slides. Adults can oogle the heavy machinery while munching hot dogs.

BVAPT Holiday Boutique
Sat Dec 17, 9a-2p
Strawberry School (2311 Horseshoe Dr, Santa Rosa)
Local crafts, art, tasty treats, jewelry, and more at the 8th annual Bennett Valley Alliance of Parent and Teachers Holiday Boutique. There will be live music and raffles throughout this fun event while you shop. Proceeds benefit Bennett Vallley District students.

Have a wonderful weekend of fun, and I’ll see you on the forums!

Crissi Dillon

Family FIVE, Dec 9-11

From children’s theater productions to seasonal events, there’s so much to do this weekend!

Posada Navideña
Fri Dec 9, 7p
Wells Fargo Center of the Arts (50 Mark West Springs Rd, Santa Rosa)
20 dancers and 16 musicians lead a south-of-the-border celebration laden with seasonal accents, traditional song and dance, and vibrant imagery in this Mexican Christmas production. The show is $15 child, $20 adult, but the pre-show arts & crafts and post-show Posada celebration is free.

Murder’s in the Heir
Dec 8-11, 7pm (plus a Sunday 2pm matinee)
Clear Heart Gallery (368 Petaluma Blvd N)
Talented 11-14 year olds will perform in this comedic murder mystery whodunnit. The fun part is that the audience decides the outcome, so every show is different. A side note, the Clear Heart Gallery is slated for demolition in the future, so you’ll definitely want to check out a show before it’s all gone.

Family Day
Sat Dec 10, 11a-2p
Sonoma County Museum (425 7th St, Santa Rosa)
Their Filipino-themed family day will include dance & martial arts demos, traditional children’s games, face painting, hands-on musical instruments, plus their Singgalot exhibition. Admission is free for members and for families with children.

Children’s Holiday Party
Sat Dec 10, 10a
Cornerstone Sonoma (23570 Arnold Dr, Sonoma)
Kids will love decorating cookies, creating crafts, hanging at the Sweet Treat Buffet, sipping at the Hot Chocolate Bar, and more! Have photos taken with Santa or take part in a sing-a-long with Santa’s Elf. And Raffle Prizes include a romantic getaway, a kids day outing, a spa getaway….too much to list. The event is to raise funds for the Ella Bisbee Fund to create an Art Room in her memory at the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County.

Community Boardgame Day
Sun Dec 11 ,12-5p
Hobbytown Petaluma (171 N. McDowell Blvd, Petaluma)
Monthly event that has boardgames making a comeback. Guests aged 8 and older are invited to bring their own, or play with the ones owner Steve supplies. Hobbytown will also offer 10% off any boardgame purchased that day.

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

Crissi Dillon

To see more events or to share your event, visit the Events Calendar, or visit

Family FIVE, Dec 2-4

FREE pie this Sunday in Petaluma!

Lots of great stuff happening this weekend.  Where will your family be?

CraftalumaAdd to my Calendar
Sat Dec 3rd, 10am
Petaluma Veterans Hall (1094 Petaluma Blvd S)
The alternative to your grandma’s craft show is back with even more fresh, raw talent to help you find unique gifts for everyone on their list. The show has an indie vibe, gathering artisan crafters from Sonoma County and beyond to showcase their handmade wares with an edge.

Free Pie!Add to my Calendar
Sun Dec 4, 1-4p
Petaluma Pie Co (125 Petaluma Blvd N)
To celebrate their first anniversary, Petaluma Pie Company is passing out free slices of pie at Putnam Park in Downtown Petaluma. Performers will play live music to set the tone during pie tasting, pie tin activities, wine happy hour for the grown ups, and apple cider for all.

Luther Burbank Holiday Open HouseAdd to my Calendar
Dec 3-4, 10a-4p
Luther Burbank Home & Gardens (corner of Sonoma & Santa Rosa Ave)
The historic home is decorated for the holidays, and docents dressed in Victorian costumes are leading tours through the house and around the gardens. Enjoy cookies and spiced tea in the greenhouse while the kids make a holiday craft project. And shop for memorabilia in the gift shop.

Snoopy’s Holiday Tree LightingAdd to my Calendar
Fri Dec 2, 6pm
Snoopy’s Home Ice (1667 W Steele Ln, Santa Rosa)
Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and friends will be performing a mini ice show at the ice rink, lighting a 20-foot Christmas tree in the center of the rink. For those who miss it, there will be encores performed at 12:15p on Saturday and Sunday.

Holiday Lighted Boat ParadeAdd to my Calendar
Sat Dec 3 6-11p
Petaluma’s Turning Basin
Boats decorated and lit aglow with holiday lights will travel from the Petaluma Marina and into the Turning Basin.  Come early to take part in the Downtown Merchant’s Holiday Open House (with deals and holiday events galore), and stay late to enjoy the view from one of the fine restaurants that border the water.

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

Crissi Dillon

For more events, be sure to check out the Event Calendar at

Family FIVE

Happy Thanksgiving! The kids and I have been having fun adding up all the things we are thankful for this past month. From my first sip of coffee of the day to being blessed with comforts many take for granted, there are plenty of things to add to our Grateful Lists. I hope you all find plenty of things to feel grateful for as well.

Here are a few things that are going on this weekend for you and your family to do together.

Santa Rosa Holiday Open House & Tree Lighting
Downtown Santa Rosa
Fri, Nov 25th, 12-7
Holiday shopping is kicked off on Black Friday with a Downtown Holiday Open House from 12-5. Stores will be open with sales and specials, free gift wrapping, validated garage parking, music, and a raffle for the Downtown Gift Basket. The Sutter VNA & Hospice Lights of Life Tree Lighting Program begins at 6pm with more kids’ crafts, free pictures with Santa, live holiday music and the candle lighting and tree lighting ceremony.

Pirates, Legends, & Lore
Petaluma Museum – 20 Fourth St, Petaluma
Aye, ye scurvy bilgerats. Get ye to Petaluma Museum for the largest pirate exhibition in the Bay Area. View flintlocks, swords, a grappling hook, real cannon balls, plates from Sir Francis Drake, and more. Kids can make their own pirate flags, learn to tie different sailor’s knots, earn prizes, and a vast treasure chest of fun to be had. Plus, a real treasure hunt will unfold with a map that gives clues to a rare pirate coin worth $500. Exhibit open now till November 27th.
Cost: $5 adults, $3 children

Hawaii Christmas Craft Fair
Sat Nov 26, 10a
Kehaulani Hula Studio (3210 Coffey Ln, Santa Rosa)
Hawai’i Christmas Craft Fair. Hand Crafted: Scarves, Bags, Prints, Cards, Ornaments, Baked Goods, Candles. Kēhaulani Hula Studio. Kumu Hula C.Pōmaikaʻi Gaui. Kēhaulani Hula Studio welcomes any and all who appreciate “All things Hawaiian!”

Santa’s Riverboat Arrival
Historic Downtown Petaluma
Sat, Nov 26, 11a
Watch as Santa and Mrs. Claus are brought in on the Petaluma River by tugboat, ready to meet all the kids and pass out candy. Come early and stay late to enjoy various street performers and festivities going on around the Petaluma shops.

Holiday Gift Faire
Nov 25-27, 10a
Sonoma County Fairgrounds (1350 Bennett Valley Rd, Santa Rosa)
There’s a reason this faire is scheduled for the biggest shopping weekend of the year. The list of vendors is endless as craftiers and artisans set up booths holding treasures untold for your holiday gift giving. Delicious food vendors, eclectic crafts and gifts, as well as visits with Santa.

Looking for more things to do? Check out our list of family events going on Thanksgiving week, as well as fun things to do indoors when the weather outside is frightful. You can also check out the SantaRosaMom events calendar, as well as the calendar on

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

Crissi Dillon