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