Category Archives: Uncategorized

Best places for Trick-or-Treating

Want the best bets for Halloween Trick-or-Treating?  Look no further!  I have compiled a list of neighborhoods that I know of around the county that are sure to have your pillow cases overflowing with candy!  Did I miss any?  Be sure to mention your favorite neighborhood in the comments.

Jose Ramon Ave in Santa Rosa
4 neighbors put together a Halloween display close to Fulton and West 3rd that has been stated by some as the best Halloween display in Sonoma County.  Every year it gets better and better, and this year will be no exception thanks to an upgrade in the lighting system and over 100 props.  This is a must see!  It is guessed that this is going to be Santa Rosa’s new hot spot for trick or treating.

McDonald Ave in Santa Rosa
This is Santa Rosa’s favorite spot for trick-or-treating!  One of the members of this neighborhood reported spending $800 on candy, and having 1400 visitors the past Halloween! Be prepared to see live performances and spooky happenings in the neighborhood that makes Halloween come alive!

D Street, Petaluma
Each Halloween, Petaluma’s historic D Street is the place to be. Both adults and children dress in elaborate costumes and travel up and down both sides of the Victorian lined street, trick-or-treating at the many decorated homes. Ask anyone in Petaluma where to go for door to door candy pan-handling, and this is the direction they’ll point you in!

Armstrong Estates (5th Street East off of Napa St.), Sonoma
This is where the winners from HGTV won their new house. It’s also where John Lasseter of Pixar used to live. As kids, we always went through that neighborhood just to see the decorations alone. From what I hear, it’s also a great place to reap the benefits in candy!

Other neighborhoods I’ve been clued in to:
Sunshine Ave in Rincon Valley, Santa Rosa (off of Montecito Blvd)
Sonoma Mountain, Petaluma
Johnson St, Healdsburg (Mill St, left on Healdsburg Ave to Piper to Johnson)
Sunnyvale Dr, Healdsburg (Dry Creek Rd, left on Healdsburg Ave to Sunnyvale)

Any others????? Leave them in the comments.  And don’t forget your cameras so you can enter your Halloween photos in the SantaRosaMom.com contest!

For more tips on best bets for trick-or-treating, be sure to check out these great sites:
santarosa.about.com
sonomaonthecheap.com

A parents' guide to Halloween costumes

Creative, affordable and easy options exist for outfitting your youngsters.

There is a week left until Halloween. Still don’t have a Halloween costume? Don’t feel bad, neither do my kids. By now there is no doubt that the costume shops have been completely cleaned out, save for a few mismatched items to a costume that no longer exists.
But consider yourself lucky. You are about to save yourself a lot of money by creating your child’s costume instead of just buying something off of a rack. Truth is, you don’t even need to know how to sew. It is definitely possible to create a great Halloween costume on a budget and even at the last minute.
When my daughter was only 3 years old, I decided to be Susie Homemaker and make her Halloween costume for the first time. My mother is the original Susie Homemaker, having made our costumes every year.
She made me a pink nightgown and a gold foil crown with a tin foil star wand so I could be a princess. Another year she made bunny costumes for the whole family, including my baby sister. Those bunny costumes became a bear costume the next year, and a gremlin costume the year after that. Another year my sister and I wore matching poodle skirts with an embroidered character in the corner of the skirt. In preparation for Halloween, my mother would whip out her sewing machine months in advance and create original costumes that we would proudly wear to school and to trick-or-treating that night. So it was my dream to recreate my own childhood and make my own daughter’s costume.
Now, by admission I am not really Susie Homemaker. Sewing machine? Isn’t that what you rest your clothes on top of when you’re too lazy to put them in the closet? I knew I couldn’t really sew my daughter a costume like my mother could for me. But I was quite adept with a bottle of puffy paint, scissors and safety pins. With a little bit of tulle from the fabric store, an old turtleneck of hers, and various items from my mother’s costume box, my daughter became a sparkly fairy princess who twirled and danced around the house until trick-or-treat time. So really, if I can do it, so can you.
Kids have specific ideas about what they want to be for Halloween. Preschoolers tend to lean towards Dora the Explorer, Elmo and Cookie Monster. Dora can be created with an orange pair of pants, a pink shirt and a backpack, and then let your little munchkin run around with a monkey stuffed animal. For costumes like Elmo, it just takes being creative with sweats, or a pair of Elmo pajamas. There was one year that my son was Superman, and I bought him Superman pajamas. He wore that costume every night for his PJs after Halloween until they were way too short. I definitely got my money’s worth out of that costume!
While we’re on the subject of superheroes, that theme seems to be the winning trend among school kids. Spider-Man, Power Rangers, Wolverine, Captain America, Transformers, Wonder Woman. … You get the point. But beyond superheroes, there are a few new ideas that will be popping up around the neighborhoods Halloween night. Expect Michael Jackson to make an appearance on your doorstep. Zombies (uh, thanks “Zombieland”), Harry Potter, G.I. Joe and President Barack Obama are also costumes that we’re going to be seeing a lot of this year.
And there are also themed costumes. These are the simplest of all because your child can look any way he wants. And it’s easiest for you because you can base the costume off of things you already have in your home. Have your child dress like a hippie, or like a blast from the ’80s — you know we all have clothes left over from that decade.
Or be creative with balloons.
Purple balloons pinned to a dark sweatsuit and topped with a green hat become a bunch of grapes. Pink and white balloons pinned to a pink or white sweatsuit turn your child into a bubble bath. For added emphasis, clip a couple of half-inflated balloons in your child’s hair with a barrette.
So you’ve waited until the last minute. Or maybe your kid has changed their mind a million times about what they want to be. Don’t even sweat it. Just a little bit of creativity can go a long way in making your child someone else for one evening. At the very least, know that you’re not the only one who waited until the last week to finalize a Halloween costume choice.

This post can be found online in Lifestyle, or in the Press Democrat newspaper in the Sonoma Living section.

Calling All Moms!

As a mom, what kind of information do you want at your fingertips? Are you looking for more things around the county to do with your kids? Are you wondering what preschools are best, and what schools have the best academic scores? Are you curious about how to get your child enrolled into sports, and which one is right for you? Is there something specific you would love to see as a giveaway in one of our many contests? As the moderator of SantaRosaMom.com, I want to know how the site can best serve you – specifically what you would like to see more of. Leave me a comment, visit the site, or email me at crissi@santarosamom.com and share your feedback!

Same Room, Opposite Sex

Picture a family.   There’s a mom, a dad, and two kids – a boy and a girl.  They live in a house with a white picket fence that is bordered by daffodils poking their green tips out of the earth.  Coming in and out of the house freely is a black lab with a smile in his wag and excitement in his breath.  The house is a Victorian with a wide front porch, hardwood floors, and crown molding.  Step inside and you will see a room for each of them.  The first room on the left is the 4 year old girl’s room, and it sits directly across from her dad’s office.  A little farther in is the master bedroom, a large King size bed in the middle of the room and a closet for each spouse on both sides of the room.  Walk through the bathroom and you reach the last bedroom with the 1 year old drooling boy grinning out at you from his crib.  Everything is in its own place, every person has their own space, and all is harmonious in this family of four.

Now picture the same family two years later.  A lifetime of hurts has torn them apart and there is no choice but to divorce.  The mother and two children leave the house they had made a home, give away the dog, and let the daffodils die where they grow.  The father disappears into his own tragedy – the result of poor choices and resulting circumstances.   There is no money.  The mother is forced to go on any kind of aid there is just to be able to feed herself and the kids.  She moves in with her parents for several years to get back on her feet.  They sleep all in one bedroom, but are greatful for the roof over their heads.  The kids are 3 and 6.  The toddler sleeps with his mother, while the 6 year old sleeps in a bed on the other side of the room.  

After some time, the mother is able to find a job that pays well, but not well enough to be able to afford an apartment at today’s rental prices.  Luckily she qualifies for low-income housing.  She applies for an apartment after searching everywhere for the right fit, and is accepted.  The draw?

The apartment has only 2 bedrooms.

At this point the kids are 5 and 8.  And the mother knows that her choices are slim.  “When they are a little bit older I will surely be able to afford a bigger place so that they can have their own space.”  She knows that right now there really isn’t as much of an issue of privacy.  They are still young enough that it really doesn’t matter, and truthfully, they are all more thrilled at having their own space than to nitpick over the particulars.  She takes the small apartment gladly, proud of the fact that she is able to afford to take care of her kids on her own and that they will now have a new apartment to make into a home.  The kids are placed happily in their new room, ecstatic over the new bunkbed they will now sleep in. 

3 years later, and the family still lives in this apartment.  The mother has since gotten more pay and hours with her job.  But all it has allowed her to do is to get off of public assistance.  While the mother is happy to not have to accept money from the county to be able to live, she is no better financially.  She lives very simply and frugally, and there is still no extra money.  Her ex still contributes the same amount as he did before – zilch.  Her kids are older now: her daughter is 11 and her son is 8.  And they still share the same room, and sleep in the same bunkbed.  The room is a disaster – clothes and toys litter the floors since there really is no room in one tiny bedroom for a proper place to put their things.  The walls near the top bunk hold posters of the latest movie stars and pop singers.  This is where her daughter sleeps.  The bottom bunk is decorated with contraptions and Hot Wheels hanging from yo-yos by strings off the top bunk.  This is where her son sleeps.  The clothes on the floor are mainly the boy’s, as the girl is very careful to put all of her clothes away in her drawers.  The top of the dresser is taken up by all the novels her daughter is in the middle of reading.  In the morning when they wake, the daughter grabs her clothes from the dresser and quickly dresses on the top of the bunkbed before her brother gets up.  If he wakes up, she instructs him to stay where he is so that she can finish dressing.  Or she will wait till he gets up to go to the bathroom, and then locks the door behind him.  He has no choice but to wait outside the room till she is done so that he can get dressed as well.

The mother tries to apply for a three bedroom in the same complex.  When it comes to low-income housing, the choices are slim.  Many low-income areas have very poor living conditions and a lot of crime.  Her biggest concern is that her kids grow up positively.  Despite their thin pockets the mother insists that they will live in a place where they can feel safe.  This home, while small, has a high level of comfort and serenity.  The neighbors are kind and friendly.  The evenings are quiet.  The kids have friends that come by every day to see if they can play, and all the parents have formed an alliance with each other to look out for each other’s children.  It is a bonded community, and the mother knows that if she were to leave to find a bigger home she could afford, it would not be like this.  She knows because she has looked.  She knows because she has read the news stories from the same areas that hold the lower income houses.  So the mother is forced to be at her manager’s mercy when it comes to getting a bigger apartment.

Unfortunately, the mother is not the only one in her predicament.  There are many families – some with single parents, some with both parents in the home – that have small children and require a bigger home.  The mother puts herself on the waiting list for a three bedroom, even as she wonders how she will some up with the extra $300 a month it will cost her.  And she waits.  And she waits.  But the thing is, with the economy the way it is, no family is willing to let go of their apartment, and no family is able to exceed the guidelines for living in such a place.  So the mother is forced to endure living in a small apartment where her tween daughter and adolescent son are forced to share a room.

Meanwhile, the daughter and son have grown to hate each other more than anything. They bicker constantly, mostly over the small amount of space made even smaller by the son’s messy habits.  The daughter bosses the son around.  The son purposely aggravates the daughter.  The privacy issue is visited time and again as each complains about having to be locked out of their own room.  And it gets tiresome for each to take turns using the room or to have to go in their mom’s room to dress.  Their tight quarters cause them to feed off each other, and then cry out to their mom to referee.  And the mother finds herself at her wits’ end, unknowing how to resolve this issue once and for all in a situation that seems hopeless, and knowing more than anything else that as the kids get older the need for their own space is getting more vital.

The issue on brothers and sisters sharing a room is never black and white.  Sure, it’s ideal if they have their own rooms.  But what if the choices are slim and it just isn’t possible?  What then?  Leave your thoughts in the comments, or join the discussion in the forums at SantaRosaMom.com.

Raising a Reader

I was a reader as a child. My favorite afternoons were spent on rainy winter days, sitting on the floor heater while it rushed hot air up my back, totally engrossed in some huge book. I am the kind of reader that gets very affected by the story, actually placing myself in the main character’s shoes, and then living out the rest of my day feeling as if the main character’s plight were my own. If it were a sad story, I was quiet and forlorn. If the character was angry, I got into fights with my sisters or my parents. If the character was in love, I walked on air and twirled circles in the living room. I was the old man cutting his weathered hands on the fishing line as he held on to the lively marlin pulling his boat in The Old Man and the Sea. I shimmied my way through garden parties in stylish hats and short bobs in The Great Gatsby. I felt the jealousy and rage over an overly perfect sister who got everything I ever wanted in Jacob Have I Loved. I felt like an outcast and made friends with spirits living in the bodies of dolls in Behind the Attic Wall. And to this day, I am still alive in the story I am reading, taking it with me long after I have shut the cover on the written pages.

Is it healthy to be so engrossed this way? Absolutely! The stories I read were my first glimpses into feelings and situations I had never experienced before. And it helped me to sort out feelings that I was already experiencing and couldn’t quite put a finger on. Besides, to be that affected by the story meant that the book was so well written I could relate.

Both of my kids are readers. My daughter is consistently in the middle of a large novel, sometimes even reading a couple in the same period of time. My son will read if there are no electronics to play. He is not allowed video games during the week and only 1 ½ hours a day on the weekends. He has since taken to grabbing a book and sitting quietly while thumbing through it. His reading vastly improved over the summertime thanks to some misbehavior that got his video games taken away for the whole summer.

At the Back to School night I attended this last week at my son’s school, the teachers were going over homework expectations. For a third grader like mine, they are expected to be spending 30 minutes on homework and then 20 minutes on reading. The teacher mentioned that many kids begin to enjoy this time. I watched as two moms with raised eyebrows looked at each other and shook their heads. It was obvious that their kids did not fall into this bracket. The truth is, MOST kids won’t fall into this bracket.

So how can you make your kid a reader?

Read to your kids. If nothing else, this is the most important. Even a newborn baby responds to your voice as you read. And even a 7th grader will enjoy that window of time when it’s just the two of you venturing off in an adventure in a land far away. Pick a comfortable and quiet area to read each night, helping your child to associate reading with feeling secure, relaxed, and loved. And when you read, capture the story in your voice. When the pace picks up, let your voice show it. If the character is an elderly woman, get that little old lady voice out. Have you ever listened to a lecture where the speaker spoke in an even, monotone voice? How easy was it to stay awake? A story is only as interesting as the storyteller makes it.

Be patient with your new reader. Let him read at his own pace, as painful as it may feel to sit through it. He’s still learning. Refrain from offering help unless he asks for it or if he is absolutely stuck. If he is corrected too many times he is liable to lose confidence in his own ability. With regular practice your child will be reading pages without stuttering in no time at all!

Discuss the story. Help your child to not just hear words, but to actually think about what is going on inside of the story. This develops a tool they will need for the rest of their lives – in school and in real life. By asking them how they think the character feels, or what the character should do or what might happen next, you are helping to develop your child’s skills of intuition and understanding. And when they are listened to as they share their ideas about the story, they are becoming more confident and at ease with speaking their own ideas out loud. Imagine the effect this will have in the classroom!

Always carry your young child’s favorite books with you wherever you go, teaching them the habit of filling time by reading a few pages. Bring the book out when waiting in line at the bank, when they are sitting in the grocery cart while you shop, sprawled out in the dressing room while you try on clothes…. By substituting a book during times they could potentially be bored, you are helping them feel that reading during downtime can make everything more interesting.

Encourage trips to the library. When I was a kid, the library was a magical place. There were shelves upon shelves of books. I learned how to find books by using the computers in the center of the library. And I found books that I never even knew existed. The library is free, and has lots of special events that go on throughout the week such as Toddler Time, Preschool storytime, After Nap Wiggle time, and “Read to a Dog”. Check out September’s calendar for the days and times of these events and more at Santa Rosa’s Central Library.

The best way to raise a reader is to BE a reader. Be a role model to your child and curl up with a good book now and then. When your child sees how much you enjoy reading, they are bound to follow suit and read on their own.

Speaking of reading, Saturday Sept 19th marks the date for the annual Sonoma County Book Festival in Courthouse Square. What a great time for the whole family to stock up their library, meet authors and writers, and check out numerous displays celebrating the literary arts. I know I’ll be there. Will you?

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Have you read any good books lately?  Give other moms a mini book review on the forums at SantaRosaMom.com!

Ultra Low-Rise Jeans

Recently I received an email from a mom that I could relate with only too well. With school shopping going on right now, I thought it only appropriate to share. Read on:

“I have a twelve year old daughter who looks much older than twelve. I wanted to share with you the fun (not really) trying to find jeans that actually cover her bum. She has a slim figure so it is not her shape. Have you noticed as a mom this trend towards “low rise” and now “lowest rise” jeans? It is amazing to me how tight and low both pants and tops are now. Add the skinny jean factor in and there is nothing left to the imagination. Remember when people would laugh at the plumber? Did I miss when a hiney crack became attractive? I know your daughter is younger but I am sure her or some of her friend are seeing the same problem.
Thanks
Cracking Up Mom”

I don’t know how many times I had to tell my 11 year old daughter, “Pull up your pants.” It wasn’t because she was trying to show off half of her bum. Truth is she’s actually quite modest when it comes to her body. But the way they make pants these days for tweens is just appalling. Like her mom, my daughter is not built like a stick, so imagine my dismay in finding her jeans that cover her whole derriere. Not fun. And clothes shopping usually ends prematurely due to her feelings of being fat. It’s sad, really. And it’s even sadder that girls younger and younger are being targeted to dress “sexier”.

On that note, what is up with young girls’ clothing and words printed on the bum? I have a hard time understanding what is going on in retailers’ minds, let alone parents’ minds, when I see a 10 year old girl walking around in little tiny shorts that say “JUICY” on her bottom. What happened to letting young girls stay young? Where do you think a man’s eyes are going to travel to when your daughter has “JUICY” written on her bum?

Perhaps it’s the marketing for teens through their favorite pop stars.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, and the Cheetah Girls are cute as the dickens – for 25 year olds. But their styles are being targeted to girls that are way too young to be dressing like a lot of these stars dress. And several of the above-named fall into that category that should be a little more innocent than they are, being that they aren’t even old enough to drive a car.

There are some clothing trends that are coming back into style that seem to be going away from the tight, sexy clothing being targeted at tweens. Dresses with leggings and long tees over jeans are among some of the cuter, safer styles. Even my own tomboy daughter is softening up with the punk girly looks coming out, and may possibly put herself in a dress over jeans before the school year ends (hey, a mom can only hope).

What are your gripes about young girls’ clothing? And what are some of the styles that are rockin’ the back to school sales?

As always, if you have a topic or concern that you want to share, visit us at the forums at SantaRosaMom.com, or email me at crissi@santarosamom.com.

Moms Pushing for Education Changes

My friend, Joe Manthey, sent me a link to this article from the Sac Bee today, and I found it really intriguing.  It’s about a group of moms who take California’s education crisis seriously, and are actively working to put the spotlight on California’s education needs while having fun at the same time.

Burning Moms use humor to push for education changes in California

They think of themselves as street-theater activists who are willing to get in the face of the powers-that-be to bring equity to the state’s school funding system.

So between driving kids to soccer practice and helping with homework, these moms are hooking up online to organize their next rally or blogging about what bill in the Legislature might bring transparency to education finance.

At the Capitol last week, a loosely formed coalition called the Burning Moms staged its second annual rally at the state Capitol to protest school funding cuts.

Instead of marching with placards and chanting slogans, the Burning Moms and their kids built sculptures out of trash and danced to rewritten rock tunes performed by a band called the Angry, Tired Teachers.

Their goal is to make political activism fun and irreverent, while shining a spotlight on a public school system in crisis.

Read more……

Videogames

videogames

My name is Crissi, and I am the mother of a video game junkie.

It’s true. During the school year I limit it to weekends only. The weekend started on Fridays after we got home from school and work, and ended at 9 pm on Sundays. I always swore I’d give him time limits, but I admit it, I never did. He would wake up at 8 am on the dot to start playing. I would not let him play any earlier in favor of my sleep. If I didn’t limit that, without exaggeration he’d be up at 5 am to start playing. And if I let him, he would happily play all day long, pausing only long enough to take a bathroom break or eat. I would even have to remind my usually healthy eater that he needed to stop and eat something, usually when he’d be reduced to tears over a hard part in the game because his blood sugar was getting low.

Take the video games away from him, and I would suddenly be around the Tasmanian Devil! He became a boy going through serious withdrawal. The first day is always the hardest. His anger is through the roof, and he’ll go through bouts of yelling and crying, and then yelling some more. After that it gets a little easier, but he counts down the days till he can have the games back. I can take away any of his toys and his reaction doesn’t even touch the video game reaction. Even his skateboards, his second most prized possession, only produce a few tears. But the video games, that is the magic item that cuts him straight to the core. I will say, though, that it takes the guesswork out of discipline. The video games are always the very first to go. And if I have to take away several items, he has to earn everything else back before getting the video games back.

Now that it is summertime, the whole week is like the weekend. I’m not putting a whole lot of restraints on it. We are gone during the day, so he doesn’t play all day long. He wakes up in the morning and quickly makes his breakfast and lunch, and then gets ready for day camp. And when he’s all done getting ready, he plays video games for an hour before we leave. I never have to wait on him in the morning because he is the first one in the household to be ready to leave. When we get back, he’s back on the video games. And on the weekends, he has more time to play. I have noticed, though, that since his allotted playing time has increased, he is more apt to put the video games down and play outside with his friends or even just sit and read a book. And if I tell him to turn it off, he is more willing to do so since he knows that he can play again soon.

Any other parents have a video game junkie for a kid? How do you handle it? What kind of limits do you place on their playing?

Kids Cleaning

“Crissi!” the neighbor kid called from downstairs.

“Yeah?” I asked, immersed in my work on the computer.

“Today’s Monday, the night I spend the night!” he exclaimed.

“Yes, it is,” I said.

“But my cousin is spending the night too,” he said.

“Oh, that’s too bad –“  I started, assuming he meant over at his house.

“So we can probably fit a third sleeping bag over there,” he said, pointing to a spot on the kids’ cleaned bedroom floor.

“Um, ok…” I said.

“So now you’ll have three boys spending the night!” he said happily before bounding down the stairs.

I think I got swindled.

The rule I made for my son was that the house had to be cleaned if he wanted his new best friend (and now his cousin, sigh) to spend the night.  He put his clothes away, and reluctantly (meaning he was already crying) went in the bedroom to clean it up.  His sister went downstairs and he threw a fit because he thought she was going to start playing his video games.  But all she was doing was getting her clothes.  Then, in the bedroom, there was more fighting.  She wanted it done a certain way.  He wanted to just throw everything in random boxes so that the middle of the room was cleared.  He came out in tears because he couldn’t work with that kind of pressure.  I told him that it would be easier if he just followed her direction because I didn’t want everything thrown in random boxes either.  She finally left the room and started cleaning the bathroom instead, followed by the dining room.  And he succeeded in making the room look clean on his own AND throwing everything in random boxes.

And my house is almost completely clean, and I didn’t have to do anything.

“I can’t wait till my toddler can clean,” my friend emailed me today, adding that her toddler did clear off the sink before my friend wiped it down.

As busy moms, it seems at times (in my case, ALL the time) that there is too much to do to finish up in one afternoon.  As soon as one room is clean and you’re onto the next, the precious angels are soaking up the novelty of a clean room, and messing it up in the process.  The work is never done, especially if you are the only one doing it.

This is where bringing the kids in is incredibly valuable.  At 11 and 8, my kids are capable of a lot more than they used to be able to do.  My son helps me take out the garbage, can sort laundry, and can sweep the kitchen floor.  My daughter can fold laundry, fill up the dishwasher, and make sense of random messes by making logical piles for me to sort through.  And it all saves time for me when I have to get down and dirty into the housework.  Even a toddler clearing off a bathroom counter one piece at a time is much like having a prep cook in a kitchen: it paves the way for the bigger job we have to do by chipping away at the menial tasks.

So don’t be afraid to get your kids to help you out…..even if they cry.  Truth is, eventually they’ll learn, like my daughter, that it’s just best to clean without arguing and get it done quickly, and that crying about it just slows the process down. Not only that, eventually it helps them to take pride in the house and keep it clean for a longer period of time.  I’ll let you know when that happens.

Alright, off to prepare for a sleepover with three boys…..

(As a girl, I have always called overnight parties “slumber parties”.  I recently got my hand kindly slapped by a dad when I referred to my son’s overnight that way.  For any moms that are confused like I was, “slumber parties” are for girls, “sleepovers” are for boys.  Now you know.)

The Lying Blogger

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About 7 years ago I was pregnant with my third child.  And like most pregnant women, the pregnancy was all I could think about.  I belonged to an online forum of women who were due around the same time as me, and through the months we became like family.  We knew about each other’s personal lives, offered each other advice, and supported each other emotionally through good times and bad. 

The community I experienced was important to me.  My husband and I never planned on having more than two children.  I was pregnant again by accident.  My son was only 1 when I found out I was expecting again.  He was an energetic child who took all the energy from me, and just the thought of raising him, and then another child who could be just as energetic….  Let’s just say I was slightly less than enthusiastic about the whole upcoming experience.  I joined the forum because I needed to talk about it, and I needed to know I wasn’t alone.  And what I got out of it was not only new friends, but an evolving feeling of anticipation for the child that was never planned but loved more and more every day.

Ask a pregnant woman what she is thinking about, and it will pretty much center around her expanding belly and the life inside of her.  Pregnancy affects the brain.  A pregnant woman could talk about her pregnancy at all times of the day and never run out of things to say.  And who can blame her?  There is so much going on in a pregnancy – from body changes to hormones to wondering about what’s normal and abnormal to how the family is being affected to swollen feet and peanut butter cravings….  Thing is, in real life, non-pregnant people are not interested in hearing about pregnancy 24/7. 

This is where my online community came in.

Suddenly I had a place where I could talk about even the most embarrassing change that was happening to me (hellllooooo hemorrhoids) and someone else would chime in with “Me too!”.  If I just needed a good cry, there was always someone there with a “listening ear” and a cyber hug.  Every doctor visit was detailed, as was every single flutter against our belly.  We filled that board with posts on every single topic relating to our pregnancy, as well as anything else.

When we were all about 5 months along, one of the ladies went into premature labor.  We prayed with her for her baby, a sweet baby girl attached to tubes in an incubator to keep her tiny body alive.  And privately we thanked God that it wasn’t us, that our babies were still safe and growing inside of us.  She continued to keep up with us on the boards, giving us regular updates on her premature baby.  A couple women put together a collection to get her a new computer so that she could easily keep us informed.  And through pictures we were able to experience her departure from the hospital and watch as she grew a little stronger every day.   Even women from the other boards visited ours to offer encouragement and love.

At 7 ½ months along I was sitting on the couch at home when I realized that I hadn’t felt my baby move all day.  In fact, the last time I had remembered feeling my baby was in the afternoon the day before when he had given me a series of quick frantic kicks before silencing again.  And on the ultrasound at the hospital that night I learned that my child’s heart had stopped beating.  It was later learned that his umbilical cord had cinched up tight, that the cord lacked the proper amount of Wharton’s Jelly to be able to stay full and allow food and nutrients to pass through.  In essence, my baby had died of starvation.

The support I received from the online boards at this time was overwhelming.  They offered me words of sorrow and love over my stillbirth.  These women had become like sisters to me in the past months, and were true to their care of me in the loss I experienced.  They were feeling the loss as well.  The mother of the premature baby was especially attentive with me.  She wrote me often in emails to see how I was doing and offer encouragement as I mourned.  She helped put together a care package that was sent to me from the ladies, a gift of little trinkets from the forum board to let me know they were thinking of me.  And I was grateful for her care.  The other women were still safe in their pregnancies, and were about to experience what I was not going to be able to experience – a happy and healthy birth to a living, breathing, wriggly baby.  At least this woman knew what it was like when things didn’t happen like they were supposed to.  The fact that she survived it and was doing ok even though her daughter now required constant medical care, it gave me faith that I would be ok too.

It was soon after that the boards received an alarming post from someone new.  The pictures that this woman was posting were not of her premature baby, but of her sister-in-law’s baby.  This woman had in fact lost her baby to stillbirth and was lying that her baby had actually been born prematurely.

The board was shocked.  And hurt.  And ANGRY.  I witnessed the verbal slander that these women hurled at the lying mother, furious that they had been tricked and made fools of.  She apologized profusely, and then disappeared from the boards, deleting her profile altogether.

A little while later, she emailed me, explaining her position.  She had hurt so much when her baby had died.  And to help process the pain, as wrong as she knew it was, she made up a make-believe world where her baby had been born and was real.  And having been through loss myself, I knew exactly what she was feeling.  We had been a part of a group of women who were all experiencing the same thing.  When circumstances changed, when the pregnancies ended without warning, we were suddenly the outsiders.  Since losing my baby, I sporadically visited the board to read up on the women who had become my friends.  But I found it more painful than reassuring because I could no longer relate.  And as their babies were born, it hurt like losing my son all over again.  She hadn’t wanted to lose that sense of community.  And she didn’t want to have to face the world where no baby existed.  So she made up a world of her own. 

I can understand the anger that has been fueled by the lying blogger who faked her pregnancy and birth of a terminally ill daughter named April Rose.  The heartstrings of people who supported her through emails and gifts were abused.  The people who had supported her were made to feel sympathy and love for a baby that never existed.

But I also understand the pain and hurt of a mother processing a life that should have been different.  She should have had a baby.  That baby should have been alive.  There never should have been a tragic ending.  I feel for her, this woman who went about things the wrong way to deal with the emotional scars left behind by pregnancy losses. 

This story is also a reminder that what we see online and what is real life can be two extremely different things.  The mask of the internet allows anyone to be whatever they project to the world, and easily do it without being questioned.  This story of the lying blogger is not the first of its kind, and will not be the last.  So please be careful in the information you put forth, and be aware that it is possible that there is more to an online person than what they are putting out there.