Sonoma Family Life November 2021

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November 2021

Shop Local

Vaccine Safety

Forever Family

Special Needs Find support

Here’s why

Adoption story

Get the facts





November 2021

Every Issue 6

Dear Reader


Cooking with Kids Hearty Calzone

12 Features 10 Inclusive Community An interview with Common Ground Society founder Larkin O’Leary.

12 COVID-19 Vaccine Safety UCSF challenges common misconceptions.


Bits and Pieces Get Thee to a Craft Fair Snoopy’s Turkey Day Lace Up Your Skates

14 Local Love Shopping locally serves the community in more ways than one.

16 Thanksgiving with Teens Why it’s great to hang out with adolescents during the holidays.

18 Kid Etiquette

Give & Get Free Stuff Circus & Song


Learn ASL Basics

24 Crafting with Kids Pom-Pom Play

28 Calendar of Events 34 Humor Break Revenge of the Romper

Picture books teach children about manners.

20 Forever Family One day the phone rang and everything changed.

22 A Home for Every Pet How to help a rescue animal.

8 4 SonomaFamilyLife

7 November 2021

Dear Reader


uring Thanksgiving, we pause to recognize our blessings. Katy Clark is grateful to be celebrating Sharon Gowan Turkey Day with Publisher/Editor older kids. “The only nap I have to worry about is my own,” she proclaims. Read her fun “Thanksgiving with Teens” (page 16) and find out seven reasons why it’s great to have adolescents at your dinner table. For younger kids, manners can be a struggle. That’s why Jan Pierce curated a collection of children’s books that teach little ones about what is, and is not, polite. See “Kid Etiquette” (page 18) for the list.

for Larkin O’Leary. The Santa Rosa mother of a child with Down syndrome, she knows what it’s like to feel alone. So she created a nonprofit, the Common Ground Society, to help create connections between families coping with disabilities. Find out more about her and her organization in “Inclusive Community” (page 10). Something that many of us are grateful for is the COVID-19 vaccine. If you’ve been worried about whether or not the vaccine is safe to administer to kids, check out UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital’s “COVID-19 Vaccine Safety” (page 12), which debunks common myths. One thing is for sure: We’re grateful for you, our loyal readers. Happy Thanksgiving!

Many people are thankful for community, especially after going through lockdown. It’s certainly true

Give the

Marketing/ Sales/Events Patricia Ramos 707-205-1539

Features Editor Melissa Chianta

Production Manager Donna Bogener

Contributing Writers America’s Test Kitchen India Blake Katy M. Clark Jessica Guerrieri Dierdre Littlefield Jan Pierce Sandy Sandler

Billing Jan Wasson-Smith

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November 2021

Cooking with Kids

Hearty Calzone Gooey & Filling Family Meal

By America’s Test Kitchen


his calzone is like a warm, day-after-Thanksgiving sandwich you don’t have to wait all year for. Instead of picking through leftovers, mix shredded chicken with dried cranberries (which plump up as they cook) and two kinds of cheese: herband garlic-packed Boursin and tangy, gooey sharp cheddar. Tuck the filling into rounds of store-bought pizza dough (letting it come to room temperature makes it much easier to roll out) and slide them into the oven for a much better than straight-fromthe-fridge leftover sandwich. You’ll need a light dusting of flour to roll out the dough. You can use a store-bought rotisserie chicken here or poach your own chicken breasts. ¶ Reprinted, with permission, from Five Ingredient Dinners (America’s Test Kitchen, 2021),

Thanksgiving-ish Calzones Serves: 4 Total Time: 45 Minutes 1 round pizza dough, room temperature, split into 4 pieces 2 cups shredded cooked chicken 8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups) 1 (5.2-ounce) package Boursin Garlic & Fine Herb cheese, crumbled (1 cup) 1/3 cup dried cranberries Staple ingredients: extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush foil with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place one dough piece on clean counter and, using your cupped hand, drag in small circles until dough feels taut and round. Repeat with remaining dough pieces and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Combine chicken, cheddar, Boursin, cranberries, ½ teaspoon pepper,

November 2021

and ¼ teaspoon salt in bowl; set aside. 2. Working on lightly floured counter, press and roll 1 piece of reserved dough (keep remaining pieces covered) into 8-inch round of even thickness. Repeat with remaining dough pieces. Working with 1 dough round at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), spread one quarter of chicken mixture evenly over half of dough round, leaving 1-inch border at edge. Fold top half of dough over filling and crimp edges to seal. Gently transfer to prepared sheet and repeat with remaining dough rounds and filling. 3. Using sharp knife, cut two 1-inch steam vents on top of each calzone, then brush tops evenly with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake until golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. 4. Transfer sheet to wire rack and let calzones cool for 5 minutes. Serve.

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Bits & Pieces

Get Thee to a Craft Fair


ince time immemorial, artists have created gifts for celebrations. The practice continues at area holiday craft fairs, where vendors will offer a variety of handmade items—everything from cookies and cutting boards to jewelry and paintings. Check out local artists’ work at the Gifts ’n Tyme Holiday Faire, which will be held at the Napa Valley Expo in Napa on November 19–20, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and November 21, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Later in the month, November 20–21, the Patchwork Show will take place at the Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. And post-Thanksgiving, November 26–27, the Rohnert Park Community Center in Rohnert Park will host the 42nd Annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Faire, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. See our Calendar of Events, page 28, for more holiday activities. ¶

Patchwork Show

Snoopy’s Turkey Day


noopy is famous for his impromptu Thanksgiving repast of toast, popcorn, and jelly beans. In tribute, every November the Charles M. Schulz Museum holds a Snoopy-style feast. But this year, COVID-19 regulations dictate that, instead of food, the emphasis is placed on activities, such as a big-screen viewing of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, family crafts, and games. Popcorn and jellybeans will be handed out to participants to take home. The Thanksgiving Celebration with Snoopy will be held on November 20, 1–4 p.m., at the museum in Santa Rosa and is free with admission ($5–$12, or free for ages 3 and younger). Bring two food items to donate to the Redwood Empire Food Bank and receive one free child’s admission. For details, go to ¶

Thanksgiving Celebration with Snoopy

Lace Up Your Skates


n ice rink that doesn’t use water? Yes, it’s possible. And it can be experienced at this year’s new Winter Lights Ice Rink. The rink will be constructed of a synthetic material, making it a drought-friendly way to entertain the family this holiday season. Find it at Old Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa, where it will run November 19–January 9. Tickets will cost less than $10 and will include skate rental. Find out more at ¶

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November 2021

Give & Get Free Stuff


he holidays generate a lot of consumption, and, of course, waste. In an effort to reduce what is both bought and chucked, Zero Waste Action Sonoma County is hosting its ninth annual Holiday Giftaway. Essentially a swap meet, the volunteer-run event welcomes donated gift items and clothing, and invites people to come and take what they would like. (Anything large, heavy, or toxic will be turned away.) Adults and teens who participate are required to donate 30 minutes of their time to the Giftaway or to pay $10. It’s free for youth younger than 15, though they, too, are encouraged to help. The mostly outdoor event will be held on November 28, noon–3 p.m., at the Sebastopol Grange in Sebastopol. The number of people on site will be limited. Masking, social distancing, and registration are required. See ¶

Cirque Musica

Circus & Song


aring feats and dazzling costumes are parts of any circus. But at Circque Musica the wild displays of aerial artists, contortionists, and jugglers are all performed to live holiday music. The troupe will bring its high-fliers to the Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa on November 16 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $39–$159 and may be purchased at Wearing a mask and showing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test are required to enter the performance. ¶

Learn ASL Basics


ot everyone speaks with the mouth. Those who are hearing impaired communicate with hands, using American Sign Language (ASL). The Sonoma County Library is offering kids ages 13–17 a chance to learn ASL at a free Zoom class, Intro to American Sign Language for Teens. Instructor Janel Schmidt will teach basic grammar, vocabulary, numbers, colors, and how to spell out ones name. The 60-minute class will be held on November 12 at 4 p.m. To register, go to events. ¶

November 2021

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Larkin O’Leary and her son James

LO: I was a teacher in the Rincon Valley School District for 15 years. Teaching is my passion; I call it my first love. I had to take leave and resign. It was just so hard. My district was amazing; they worked with me to keep me there. But my son had 50-day stretches in the hospital. There was just no way.

Inclusive Community An Interview with Larkin O’Leary

Family Life: You run the Common Ground Society, a nonprofit that offers support groups for families coping with disabilities and any sort of diagnosis. Tell us how it got started. Was it from personal experience?

surgery. He ended up having surgery on his esophagus; we landed in the hospital for 40 days and came home with a G-tube. We were in the hospital a lot—every winter for the first six years.

Larkin O’Leary: When my son was born in 2014, the doctors surrounded my husband and me and told us, “We’re sorry to tell you your son looks like he has Down syndrome. The first indicator is the large hole in his heart. He’ll need to have open-heart surgery. We aren’t sure how soon. We’re taking him to San Francisco right away.”

FL: Were you able to find support?

FL: You must have been devastated. LO: I was a first-time mom. It was a huge shock. Fast-forward three months: James had open-heart surgery and then a week later he had intestinal 10 SonomaFamilyLife

LO: We have a nice Down syndrome community here…but I didn’t really fit in with them. I was going through all this medical stuff. I found my people at the hospital, those [who had] rare diagnoses. So in 2018 I created a Facebook group [with] just the 30 people I had met [at the hospital] and also some of my friends whose kids had recently been diagnosed with autism. FL: How did what you were going through affect your work life?

We have a nice Down syndrome community here…but I didn’t really fit in with them. FL: What happened with your work with families with disabilities after that? LO: In 2018, at the same time as I started the Facebook group, my son’s preschool reached out and said, “Hey, for World Down Syndrome Day would you guys do a presentation in our class about Down syndrome?” And I was like, “You want me to come teach?!” So my friend Jessica and I did a presentation, and I invited the paper. They came and did this big story. All of my teacher friends saw it and said, “Will you come to my class?” FL: You were able to teach again! LO: Yes! But the demand was overwhelming so we started doing whole-school assemblies. Different districts started to hear about us. Professors at Sonoma State University [SSU] heard about us. FL: It sounds like interest just kept growing. LO: Yes. In 2020 we incorporated and became a 501c3. Our presentations now include different diagnoses.

November 2021

Our first one is about more visible disabilities: Down syndrome, limb differences, blindness, deafness and hard-of-hearing. And then we do invisible disabilities: ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, stutters, autism. Our Facebook group has almost 500 members. We welcome anybody who has a child with a medical issue or any sort of diagnosis. And we also do Meetups to help support family members.

a sibling group, but it was right when the cases started rising so we put it on pause and are just now getting back into it. I’m looking for someone to do the group that’s for ages 2–6. There is a group for ages 7-plus, which is run by a school counselor I worked with

FL: Tell us more about the Meetup groups.

at Rincon Valley. We have the New Family Meetup [for families who have received a new diagnosis], run by a licensed Petaluma therapist whose son has a one-of-a-kind diagnosis. That one is on Zoom. And then there are our Family Meetups. We usually have them in a fenced-in park and offer snacks. We work with SSU to get

LO: We usually meet at a park—all the meetings have been outside since we came back from doing Zoom groups. The dads meet once a month; they usually go hiking and then have lunch. There are mom groups. We did

Our Facebook group has almost 500 members.

student volunteers to help. Some of those students I actually taught when they were in elementary school! FL: Do you attend all the groups? LO: I try to. We have volunteers who are running them now. Fifty people volunteer in various ways. I have someone who is helping me manage them. But with our lives—pop-up medical conditions and therapies—life is hard; it is hard to count on people. We are always looking for volunteers. FL: What’s your vision for the future? LO: My endgame is to make Sonoma County the most inclusive place in California so no one ever feels alone again. For more information about the Common Ground Society, go to

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November 2021

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COVID-19 Vaccine Safety UCSF Debunks the Myths

Editor’s note: Many parents wonder about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. Here, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital addresses vaccine fears. Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for kids? We know that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine is safe and effective for kids ages 12 and up. This is based on data from a clinical trial involving thousands of adolescents. Because most negative effects from this type of vaccine—called an mRNA vaccine— occur within six weeks of receiving the shot, the FDA asked the manufacturer to provide eight weeks of safety data after the last dose. None of the 12 SonomaFamilyLife

vaccinated adolescents experienced severe side effects or became infected with COVID-19. Researchers are still studying the vaccine’s safety in kids younger than 12 as well as the safety of other COVID vaccines in people younger than 18. A very small percentage of people may have a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, to any vaccine, including a COVID-19 vaccine. If anaphylaxis occurs, vaccine providers have medication on hand to treat it immediately. Some parents have expressed concerns about the vaccine. Here

are the facts on a few common misconceptions. Myth: Due to the pandemic’s urgency, COVID vaccines weren’t tested as thoroughly as other medications. Fact: The vaccine manufacturers and the FDA followed all the usual protocols for testing vaccines. Thanks to ample funding and large numbers of clinical trial volunteers, the process was faster than usual, but no steps were skipped. The prevalence of the virus also allowed researchers to complete their studies relatively quickly. Myth: The vaccines are risky for adolescents because their bodies are still developing. Fact: The mRNA vaccines don’t affect hormone levels, and there’s no reason to believe they could impact adolescents’ development or reproductive health, either immediately after vaccination or years later.

November 2021

Myth: The vaccine can cause recipients to shed the virus and infect others. Fact: The COVID vaccines used in the United States don’t contain live virus, so getting vaccinated can’t cause someone to shed the virus. You can’t contract COVID-19 from the vaccine. If kids have a milder response to the coronavirus, why should my child get vaccinated? Although children have a lower risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, it still happens. Consider the following: • As of September 2021, more than 5 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 555 of them died of it. Nearly 60,000 pediatric COVID patients have been hospitalized in the past year.

• Some kids with COVID develop a dangerous condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. Since the beginning of the

The vaccine manufacturers and the FDA followed all the usual protocols for testing vaccines. pandemic, several thousand children have been diagnosed with MIS-C. About 60 percent to 70 percent of them required intensive care, and about 1 percent to 2 percent died.

Vaccination is highly effective in protecting people from contracting the virus and in preventing serious symptoms in those who do contract COVID. Vaccinating all eligible children and adults is also critical for limiting the spread of COVID-19 to vulnerable family and community members, such as those with underlying conditions that put them at risk of serious illness if they get COVID. Widespread vaccination has the potential to end the pandemic and allow us all to return to school, work, and all the activities we enjoy. ¶ Reprinted with permission from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital,

• We don’t yet know whether infection with COVID-19 has any long-term effects on kids’ health.

LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUTH VACCINES Clinics hosted in partnership between County of Sonoma, Sonoma County Office of Education, and local school districts

Learn more at

November 2021

Parents, guardians, and youth interested to learn more about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine are encouraged to visit our website

COVID-19 vaccine clinics are currently available at school sites around Sonoma County for students age 12+ and their families SonomaFamilyLife 13


Jobs Locally owned businesses create more local jobs, which are usually stable and embedded in the economy. A local person who starts a business “is less likely to move

Spending money at nonlocal stores is like blowing up a helium balloon that’s destined to float far, far away away and move their headquarters to another area than, say, some business that isn’t invested in the community,” Murray asserts.

Local Love 7 Reasons to Invest in Your Community


uring the holiday season, downtown businesses across the country encourage residents to “go local.” But why is shopping locally so important? We asked Janeen Murray, director of the Sonoma County business cooperative GOLOCAL, to answer that question. Here are her seven reasons for patronizing area businesses.


Local Return Basically this means keeping dollars in the local economy. “When $100 is spent at a locally owned business, more than three times [that amount]…gets reinvested locally,” Murray reveals. For instance, a company may use that $100 to hire a local printer, lawyer, or accountant. When

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that money is spent at a nonlocal business “a large amount of those dollars gets shunted off to the corporate headquarters outside of Sonoma County,” she says. Murray likens spending money at nonlocal stores to blowing up a helium balloon that’s destined to float far, far away.


Community Character “Communities that preserve one-of-a-kind locally owned businesses tend to have a more distinctive character,” Murray explains. And this can actually serve their economies. After all, tourists don’t come to Sonoma County to visit Wal-Mart; they want to stroll through its downtowns and visit its vineyards.


Donations “Locally owned businesses are much more likely to donate to local nonprofits, schools, and community organizations than businesses that aren’t based locally,” Murray says. These financial investments contribute to a community’s well being, increasing the sense of good will between businesses and their neighbors.


Community–Based Decisions Local business owners are more likely to take into account the needs of their communities when they make

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decisions whereas nonlocal owners may only have their businesses’ interests at heart.


Sustainability Shopping at area businesses can decrease the use of fossil fuels. For instance, walking around to different downtown stores uses less gas than driving from one strip mall or big-box store to the next. In addition, Murray notes, local shops tend to offer products that have been made in the area, and that means less fuel used for shipping. Calculate the amount of fuel it takes to ship jewelry crafted in Petaluma to a store in Sebastopol as opposed to jewelry made in China to the same store, and you get the picture.


Entrepreneurial and Product Diversity Buying local supports a variety of area entrepreneurs, from software developers to farmers. This creates healthy competition and a diverse

Locally owned businesses create more local jobs. selection of products from which the consumer may choose. As businesses grow, more local jobs are created (see number 2). “Buying a locally made soap…helps a local soap maker to increase [her or his] business and hire more people,” who do not have to commute out of the area to have jobs, Murray says. ¶ To find out more about GOLOCAL and its more than 400 participating businesses, go to Visit any participating business to get a GOLOCAL card, which, when used at some businesses, offers rewards to local consumers.

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they interested in the Thanksgiving menu, but also they’re interested in eating everything we’re having. This is in stark contrast to the Thanksgiving when my son was four

Gone are the days of 5:30 a.m. wakeups to watch Paw Patrol.

Thanksgiving With Teens

7 Ways Older Kids Make the Holidays Great By Katy M. Clark


hanksgiving is a holiday that gets better as the kids get older. Sure, those turkey drawings traced around pudgy preschoolers’ hands were sweet. So was hearing my elementary schooler talk about the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock. And watching the little ones dine at the kids’ table at Grandma’s house was adorable, too.

But Thanksgiving with my kids now that they are teenagers? It rocks. Here are seven reasons why. 1. Teens sleep in. Gone are the days of 5:30 a.m. wakeups to watch Paw Patrol or play Candyland. I can sleep in on Thanksgiving or, if I want to get up early to start cooking, I can get up when I’m ready—and not because someone is poking me in the eyeball. 16 SonomaFamilyLife

The only nap I have to worry about this year is my own. 2. They care about the menu and like the food. My kids want to know if the stuffing is sweet or savory, and whether I’m serving that green bean casserole they liked so much last year. Not only are

and ate nothing but brown sugar. Now he eats everything on his plate, even items that touch each other! 3. Teens can help out and clean up. Yup, the big kids can be trusted to put Grandma’s lace tablecloth on straight. They can handle the crystal and china with care, light the candles without setting the house on fire, and fold the napkins with sophistication. My teens can also clear the table and do the dishes. Sure, my kids were able to wash the dishes when they were younger, but they also fumbled my wedding china and dinged the gravy boat unless I supervised. 4. The conversation is more meaningful. Celebrating Thanksgiving with teens means I can have meaningful conversations about gratitude. It was cute when they were little and gave thanks for cartoons and their goldfish, but now it’s amazing to hear them voice appreciation for relationships, health, and faith. 5. I can nap again! The only nap I have to worry about this year is my own. While I indulge in some post-turkey shut-eye, I don’t have to worry that my kids are running into the street or licking the electrical

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Celebrating outlets. Heck, they might even join me in a snooze on the other end of the couch. 6. Teens can stay up late and put themselves to bed. Now that my kids are older, we can watch a movie after dinner and stay up as late as we want. It’s 10 p.m.? Bring it, Home Alone! I don’t have to worry about running a bath, washing hair,

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I don’t have to worry that my kids are running into the street or licking the electrical outlets. reading stories, or doing any of the other steps that used to make up their bedtime routines. Going to bed on Thanksgiving means saying, “Goodnight, I love you!” no matter who falls asleep first. (Okay, it’s me.) 7. It’s a low-key, stress-free holiday. Thanksgiving with teens is relaxed. It’s not Christmas, with its intense build-up and piles of gifts. And it’s not Halloween, with drama over who is too old, or too cool, to go trick-or-treating. It’s Thanksgiving, which means I get to spend the day with the family I love, eating good food, and being grateful for it all. This year as we gather to give thanks, I’m grateful to be celebrating Thanksgiving with teenagers. It doesn’t get any better than that. ¶ This piece originally appeared on Your Teen, Katy M. Clark is a writer who embraces her imperfections as a mom on her blog Experienced Bad Mom,

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Kids and their dog, Vitamin, cover a wide range of manners. You’ve Got Manners by Louise Elerding (Grandy Publications, 2004). Polly Politely and Milton Manners use the alphabet to walk children ages 7–9 through situations requiring good manners.

Children can tune out our reminders and admonitions, but they may respond positively to a story.

Kid Etiquette Good Reads on Good Manners

By Jan Pierce


aising polite and well-mannered children is a challenge. Good manners may be “caught” sometimes, but adults also have the responsibility to teach proper behaviors to kids. We need to be role models.

Once children understand how they are expected to behave, it’s wise to skip the verbal reminders and fall back on outside sources to reinforce skills. In other words, children can tune out our reminders and admonitions, but they may respond positively to a story that encourages the behavior we want to cultivate. Here are some fine resources to use with children of various ages as we encourage proper behaviors and manners. 18 SonomaFamilyLife

Table Manners Manners at the Table by Carrie Finn and Chris Lensch (Picture Window Books, 2007). This book’s bright illustrations encourage children ages 4–8 to talk about the polite ways to eat a meal. Soup Should Be Seen, Not Heard! by Beth Brainard (Good Idea Kids, 2012). This chapter book is excellent for very young children as well as primary-aged kids. The Good Idea

Speaking Politely How to Speak Politely and Why by Munro Leaf (Universe, 2005). Not just for children, this updated classic teaches polite speech and correct grammar in a friendly, humorous way. Every Kid’s Guide to Being a Communicator by Joy Berry (Children’s Press, 1987). For ages 6–12, this book is part of a series of 27 living skills books. Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book by Richard Scarry (Random House, 1973). Kids of all ages love Richard Scarry’s busy books, which are full of illustrations and funny characters. Public Behavior Everyday Graces by Karen Santorum (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2003). This anthology of stories and poems covers a wide variety of good behaviors for young children ages 3 and older.

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Good Manners in Public by Ann Ingalls (Lightbox, 2017). Written by an elementary and special education teacher, this book helps kids ages 3–7 to focus on respect and consideration of others. Manners at a Friend’s House by Amanda Doering Tourville (Picture Window Books, 2009). How should kids behave at a friend’s home? Do they remove their shoes? How do they know the rules in a different home? This book, for ages 4-8, answers these perplexing questions.

Kids of all ages love Richard Scarry’s busy books. Good Sportsmanship Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns About Sportsmanship: Winning Isn’t Everything by Howard Binkow (Scholastic, 2011). Part of a series of ten books on sportsmanship, this book features tips to help parents discuss what it means to be a good sport with kids ages 4 and older. The Berenstain Bears Play a Good Game by Jan and Mike Berenstain (Zonderkidz, 2009). This is a great book for ages 4–8. Papa Bear coaches the team, but the other coach just wants to win. Will the little bears learn sportsmanship? ¶ Jan Pierce, MEd, is a retired teacher and the author of Homegrown Readers and Homegrown Family Fun. Find her at

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“You’ll never guess what that was about,” I told the two friends who had joined me at the playground. “Oh run and go get him!” squealed the baby-loving friend, jumping up and down. The other just looked at me, uncertain. Each expressed exactly what I was feeling inside. I rushed home to ask my husband,

The entire process was not easy, but it was definitely worthwhile.

Forever Family A Foster Mother’s Adoption Story

who was mowing the lawn. I have never seen him count so fast, speeding to the age he would be at this newborn’s high school graduation. Then he smiled.

By Dierdre Littlefield

“Of course we can take him,” he said.


We were both scared of how our biological sons would react to this baby. What would we tell them if the little guy had to leave? What if we got too attached? But our fears were not as strong as the desire to give this brand new baby a loving, stable home—whether it ended up being a temporary haven while his mom got well or a forever home.

was a Sunny October afternoon and I was at a playground watching my five-year-old son hang out with his pals when the cell phone rang.

That’s odd, I thought. As foster parents, sometimes we’d get calls requesting overnight housing for a foster child. But this call was from the adoption department. “Sit down,” the social worker said. What is going on? “Can you take a one-week-old baby? In an hour?” Um…what?! The baby, who had been born substance-exposed, was six weeks premature and weighed just four pounds. The worker had called 20 SonomaFamilyLife

We were both scared of how our biological sons would react. me in hopes that I could care for him while his mom got healthy. If his mom didn’t improve, then the baby would stay with us and have a luxury that very few children in foster care experience—one placement. Fear gripped my chest. “I have to talk to my husband,” I said, hanging up the phone.

We decided to jump in and let faith lead the way. Within the hour, that beautiful baby was delivered to our door. He was tiny and frail, but oh-so perfect. Our home was suddenly filled with so many emotions; the love we felt was immediate, overwhelming, and contagious.

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The next morning I woke up with the intention of doing some new-baby shopping but was met with a surprise I could not imagine.

a carrier, and even a carriage. I was embarrassed accepting these gifts, especially since I was unsure whether or not I would be able to keep the baby.

“Oh my goodness!” My eyes widened at what was before me.

He was my third baby but it felt so different and scary because he didn’t actually belong to me.

“This baby deserves the best!” many assured me. And they let me know

that these were not gifts for me but for him—whether he stayed in our town or not. This still brings tears to my eyes as I remember it. I will forever be grateful for the love and help my community extended to me that first week. The entire experience was not an easy process, but it was definitely worthwhile. Almost four years later, we did adopt that little boy. Now he is a mischievous, capable, funny young man who we cannot imagine our lives without. The lessons he has taught my family and me are endless, just like our love for him. ¶ Dierdre Littlefield is a mother and freelance writer and blogger.

Contact us to find out if YOU would make a great foster parent. (707) 565 - 4274

w w w. S o n o m a F o s t e r C a r e . o r g November 2021




Neighbors, friends, and acquaintances had heard of this precious new baby and dropped off everything he needed: diapers and wipes, onesies and clothes,


He was my third baby but it felt so different and scary because he didn’t actually belong to me. And, I felt totally unprepared. My sister and I even had to google how much food to feed a preemie. The social worker had brought me some diapers and a can of formula, and his biological mom had sent a few outfits along with his bottle. I managed to dig out my portable crib. But that was all we had.

SonomaFamilyLife 21


adding a new furry family member, there are plenty of other ways to support local animal shelters. Fostering Shelters and rescue centers are always in need of foster homes for pets. There is no such thing as a perfect foster home and, of course, there are many things to consider before signing up for this type of responsibility. However,

Shelters and rescue centers are always in need of foster homes for pets.

A Home forHow to Help Every Pet Shelter Animals

fostering gives a rescue animal the opportunity to get out of a cage and experience what life is like in a home, even a temporary one. If you have experience taking care of a pet, and your heart is open, fostering can make a huge difference for the animal, and potentially for your family as well.

By India Blake


have a wonderful German Shepard I adopted from an animal shelter when she was a pup. I named her Gypsy because she went through quite a journey before we met. When the volunteers at the rescue told me what they knew of her story, it broke my heart. The experience even inspired me to write a children’s book, Gypsy to the Rescue.

If you are not ready to foster, consider transporting rescued animals to their foster homes. Transportation can be a limited resource for shelters and rescue centers. By providing a safe ride to a foster home, you are helping an animal to avoid indefinite placement in an overpopulated shelter. It may seem like a simple act of kindness but becoming an animal transporter can be a huge help.


Adoption should be a solution to animal homelessness. Unfortunately, there are too many unwritten stories about animals that are rescued and then returned to shelters. Luckily, compassionate animal advocates 22 SonomaFamilyLife

manage most animal shelters and rescue centers. They give love to the pets they house—love that these animals may have never experienced. If your home is not ready for a pet, or you’re still on the fence about

Volunteering Shelters and rescue centers are safe, controlled environments where kid

November 2021

volunteers can learn more about animals and how to take care of them. (Typically, there is an age requirement to volunteer with animals; so call and find out what it is.) Volunteering could include dog walking, animal socialization, or cleaning and kennel maintenance. Donating Rescues and local shelters always welcome generous gifts of time, money, and/or resources. A few of the most common items that most shelters will accept are: towels, leashes, toys, brushes, beds, food and dishes, cleaning supplies, and newspapers. Most animal shelters even have Amazon wish lists so you

can order what they need and have it shipped directly to their facilities.

dogs deserve the chance to find their happily-ever-after. ¶

By helping your local shelters, rescue centers, and foster families, you can play an integral part in providing a

For more information about adopting an animal, see, or the sonomacounty. Adopt-an-Animal.

If you are not ready to foster, consider transporting rescued animals to their foster homes. better life for innocent animals in need. Gypsy’s courage and ability to trust humans after all that she has been through is admirable and rare. Not every dog has as much fortitude as Gypsy, but all shelter and rescue

India Blake is an award-winning photographer, writer, and animal advocate. Her work includes Before the Curtain Goes Up, a photographic journey behind the scenes of small-town theaters, and Captured, which combines her two greatest loves, photography and poetry. Captured has earned the Indie Excellence Award, Reader’s Digest Critics’ Pick, and praise from Joy Williams, Joyce Carol Oates, and Kirkus Reviews. Gypsy to the Rescue is India’s first children’s book. Visit for more information.

Adoption is only the beginning...


From lifesaving medical care, lowcost community clinics and our pet food pantry, to compassionateyouth programs and dog training classes. See allthe amazing things your kindness can do at

FREE* MICROCHIPS & Pet ID Tag * Free for residents of Rohnert Park & Cotati Non-residents: $5 ID tag & $10 microchip Call for an appointment.


Rohnert Park Animal Services • 707-584-1582

©2021 Humane Society of Sonoma County

November 2021

SonomaFamilyLife 23

Crafting with Kids

PomPom Play

Make an Acorn Mobile By Sandy Sandler


elebrate autumn with this acorn pom-pom mobile. Makes a great display piece for your home.

Here are the supplies that you’ll need: • 10 acorn caps • Small branch 9–12 inches in length

3. If you can’t find the color pom-poms you want, color white pom-poms with markers to get fall hues. 4. Thread the needle with a 20-inch length of yarn. Thread an acorn cap onto the yarn.

• Large sharp needle • 10 pom-poms in fall colors • Five 20-inch lengths of thread, twine, or yarn • One 24-inch length of thread, twine, or yarn

5. Tie a knot on the inside of the acorn cap.

• Liquid glue Let’s make the Acorn Pom-Pom Mobile. 1. Gather acorn caps and small branch. Store these in the freezer for a couple days to kill any beasties. 2. Pierce a small hole in the center of the acorn cap. You can use a small hand drill; an awl; an ice pick; a large, sharp needle; or a slender nail and hammer. 24 SonomaFamilyLife

6. Repeat with another acorn cap at the other end of the yarn. 7. Repeat Steps 5 and 6 with the remaining 20-inch lengths of yarn. 8. Add glue to the inside of the acorn caps.

9. Glue a pom-pom to the inside of the acorn caps. 10. Attach the acorn pom-poms to the branch. Either wrap the yarn around the branch a couple times or tie in place. 11. To hang the acorn pom-pom mobile, tie the ends of the 24-inch length of yarn to the ends of the branch. 12. Enjoy autumn!! ¶ Sandy Sandler is the creator of Bowdabra. Her frugal, green, family-friendly craft projects are designed to transform the creatively challenged into creative pros. Find out more at

November 2021




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September 2021

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Children must be five on or before Sept. 1, 2022 to be eligible for kindergarten. Two-year Kinder Bridge program offered for children turning five on or after Sept. 2, 2022.



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November 2021

SonomaFamilyLife 25

Holiday Gift Guide

Discover How Much Fun A Haircut Can Be!

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A Thousand Years of Craftsmanship. Exclusive Offer For Readers •

Kamikoto Kanpeki Japanese steel knife set (would-be-retail price of $1,295).

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26 SonomaFamilyLife

November 2021

Karate is the BEST thing you can DO for Your Child!


WE LOVE TO DANCE AND YOU CAN TOO! The Keenan School works to bring the fun and joy of traditional Irish dance to all! From the age of 3 to the teen years, dancers of all levels of interest and experience have a place here.

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family dinner the game early holiday shopping Happy Hour specials through the week

and all day sunday November 2021

SonomaFamilyLife 27

November Tuesday 2 FREE Virtual Pride Club for Teens. Teens discuss books & other

media that showcase queer voices & experiences. Ages 13–18. Sponsored by the Sonoma County Library. Tuesdays. 4 p.m. Registration required: events.

Thursday 4

Calendar of Events

org. family-support.

Friday 5 FREE Teen Game On. Join other

Sonoma County teens on Zoom every other Friday to play a variety of games. A teen librarian will host. Nov. 5, 12 & 19. Registration required: events.

FREE Common Ground Meetups for

Toddler Time. Ages 10 months–2 yrs.

Families with Special Needs. Nov.

$11–$14. Babies 0–11 mos.: free. 10–11 a.m. Fridays. Children’s Museum of Sonoma County. 1835 W. Steele Ln., Santa Rosa.

4: New Family Meetup. For families who have received a new diagnosis. 10–11:30 a.m. Via Zoom. Visit calendar on website for Zoom info. Nov. 20: Family Photo Meetup. 11 a.m.–2 p.m. will take and provide 2 free family photos per family. Location TBD. If you have a large outdoor area for photo shoot, email larkin@commongroundsociety.

28 SonomaFamilyLife

Creation Station. Ages 5 & older.

Activities that spark creativity. $11–$14. Babies 0–11 mos.: free. Fridays. 1–3 p.m. Children’s Museum of Sonoma County. 1835 W. Steele Ln., Santa Rosa.

Sonoma County Holiday Home & Gift Show. Resources

for remodels. $7. Ages 12 & younger: free. Parking: $10. Nov. 5–7. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sonoma County Fairgrounds. 1350 Bennett Valley Rd., Santa Rosa.

Saturday 6 Alice in Wonderland. Performed by

North Bay Theatrics kids. $5–$10. Nov. 6: 4 & 7 p.m. Brook Haven School. 7905 Valentine Ave., Sebastopol. Public Star Party. The observatory’s 3 telescopes are available for viewing. 7–10 p.m. $5–$10. Ages 12 & younger: free. Parking: $10. Nov. 6 & 26: 7–10 p.m. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Robert Ferguson Observatory. 2605 Adobe Canyon Rd., Kenwood.

November 2021

Sunday 7

FREE Intro to American Sign

Friday 12

Little Parkies. For ages 4–6.

Shrek the Musical Jr. Performed

Exploratory walkabouts in the park, hands-on learning, nature-based games & unique crafts to take home. $15 per family (up to 4 people). Parking: $7. 9 a.m.–noon. Sonoma Valley Regional Park. 13630 Hwy. 12, Glen Ellen. Registration required:

by North Bay Theatrics. $12. Proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test required for admission. Nov. 12: 7 p.m. Nov. 13: 2 & 7 p.m. Brook Haven School. 7905 Valentine Ave., Sebastopol.

Santa Rosa Doll Show & Sale.

Antique, vintage, modern & miniature dolls. Admission is a donation to the Living Room, a women’s & children’s day shelter. 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Santa Rosa Veterans Hall. 1351 Maple Ave., Santa Rosa. santarosadollshow.

Language for Teens. Instructor Janel Schmidt will introduce teens to the significance of deaf culture & provide an overview of basic grammar, vocabulary, numbers & colors. Via Zoom. Ages 13–17. 4 p.m. Registration required:

An old style circus based on the French tradition of the 1920`s

Cirque de Boheme PRESENTS

Thursday 11 Gettin’ Crafty in Nature for Teens.

Paint a birdhouse. $16. Parking: $7. 4–5:30 p.m. Ragle Ranch Regional Park. 500 Ragle Rd., Sebastopol. Registration required: tinyurl. com/4d7najwt.

Behind the

FREE Veterans Day Celebration. 11


a.m. Rohnert Park Community Center. 5401 Synder Ln., Rohnert Park. FREE Veteran’s Day Parade. The theme, Welcome Home to All Vietnam Veterans, pays special tribute to the men & women of the armed forces who served from 1961–1975. Parade: 1 p.m. Begins & ends at Walnut Park. D St. & Petaluma Blvd., Petaluma. See for parade route. FREE Veterans Day at the Museum.

Veterans admitted free. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Charles M. Schulz Museum. 2301 Hardies Ln., Santa Rosa.

The New 2021 Circus Holiday Spectacle November 26, 27, 28 December 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26 Shows Daily at 1pm. 3pm. 5pm.

Tickets on sale

$38 Adults

$28 Kids (15 or Younger)

Cornerstone Sonoma. 23570 Arnold Dr, Sonoma, CA A portion of all ticket sales to benefit The Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance

November 2021

© CdB

SonomaFamilyLife 29

Holidays Along the Farm Trails.

Visit farms in Sonoma County for farm-fresh food & drink, ag-centric gifts, wreaths & décor. Cut-your-own Xmas tree. Thru Jan. 1.

Saturday 13 FREE Laguna Stewardship Day for Families. A day working in a native plant garden & wetland. Gloves, snacks & tools provided. Minors must be accompanied by an adult. 9 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Laguna de Santa Rosa

Foundation. 900 Sanford Rd., Santa Rosa. Sign-up required: wa2awsns.

Sunday 14

Annual Purple Pig Fundraiser.

Fun, food, games & entertainment. Roast pig on spit. $22. Noon–10 p.m. Petaluma Elks Lodge. 2105 S. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma. High School Open House. 10 a.m.–1

Brickpalooza. A huge exhibition of Lego art, play areas & hands-on activity booths. $10–$30. Ages 3 & younger: free. Parking: $10. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Placer Valley Event Center @ The Grounds. 700 Event Center Dr., Roseville.

Tuesday 16

p.m. Summerfield Waldorf School. 655 Willowside Rd., Santa Rosa.

Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular.

Acrobats, aerialists & holiday songs. For all ages. $59–$159. 7 p.m. Luther Burbank Center. 50 Mark West Springs Rd., Santa Rosa.


Friday 19 Winter Lights Rink.

Drought-conscious synthetic rink functions just like a conventional rink & uses no water or power. Old Courthouse Square. Downtown Santa Rosa.


DECEMBER 4, 10AM-4PM DECEMBER 5, 10AM-4PM Finley Community Center, 2060 W. College Ave. A $3 admission fee gets you in all weekend!


B Mî `ƒ


30 SonomaFamilyLife

FREE Gifts ’n Tyme Holiday Faire.

Highlighting crafts & wares of 80 local & regional artists. Nov. 19 & 20: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Nov. 21: 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Napa Valley Expo. 575 3rd St., Napa.

Saturday 20

MOVE-IN SPECIAL CALL FOR DETAILS 6001 Commerce Blvd. Rohnert Park

Disney’s Beauty & the Beast. Young Rep performance. $10–$20. Nov. 19, 20, 26 & 27: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27 & 28: 2 p.m. Cinnabar Theater. 3333 Petaluma Blvd N., Petaluma.

Thanksgiving Feast with Snoopy.

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View A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on big screen. Take home popcorn & jelly beans. Event included in price of admission ($5–$12, or free for ages 3 & younger). 1–4 p.m. Charles M. Schulz

November 2021

Museum. 2301 Hardies Ln., Santa Rosa.

Land Trust. 822 Fifth St., Santa Rosa.

FREE Patchwork Show: Modern

FREE Dog Man: The Musical.

Makers Festival. More than 100 local

One-hour virtual performance presented by TheaterWorksUSA. Runs all day. Nov. 20 & 21.

makers, plus craft stations, music & food. Selection of vendors will vary each day. Nov. 20 & 21. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Old Courthouse Square. Santa Rosa Ave. at 3rd St., Santa Rosa. tinyurl. com/sjkh4nvf. FREE Families Outdoors/Familias Al Aire Libre. Bilingual family nature

walk at Steamer’s Landing/Petaluma River Park. Meet at Sonoma Land Trust & caravan to the park together./ Caminata bilingüe familiar por la naturaleza en Steamer’s Landing / Petaluma River Park. Reúnase en Sonoma Land Trust y caravana al parque juntos. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Sonoma

Sunday 21 Juilliard String Quartet. Beethoven

Extravaganza. $25–$85. Masks & proof of vaccination or negative test required. 3 p.m. Green Music Center. 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. gmc.

Wednesday 24 FREE The Great Thanksgiving Banquet. Outreach to homeless &

Bennett Valley Rd., Santa Rosa.

Friday 26 Family Fun Weekend. Join cartoonist

& storyteller Joe Wos for live performances & cartoon workshops throughout the day. Free with admission ($5–$12 or free for ages 3 & younger). Nov. 26 & 27. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Charles M. Schulz Museum. 2301 Hardies Ln., Santa Rosa. FREE Winter Lights Tree Lighting Celebration. Family-friendly activities,

entertainment, holiday drinks & treats. Photos with Santa. 4–7 p.m. Old Courthouse Square. Downtown Santa Rosa.

low-income families. 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Sonoma County Event Center. 1350


The Downtown Santa Rosa Holiday Experience

YEARS as the #1 resource for local families



NOV 26 4:00– 7:00PM


A free, family-friendly celebration for the whole community More info and tickets for skating sessions at downtownsantarosa #winterlights

magazine • web • email • events

A drought-conscious, eco-friendly synthetic ice skating rink

November 2021

SonomaFamilyLife 31

happened after A Christmas Carol? This new musical, presented by 6th Street Players, answers that question. $22–$38. Nov. 26 & 27: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28: 2 p.m. Runs thru Dec. 19. 6th Street Playhouse. 52 W. 6th St., Santa Rosa.

Magical Christmas Train.

Scrooge in Love. What

FREE 42nd Annual Holiday Arts

Featuring children’s storybook reading & socially distanced visits with Santa. 90-minute round-trip. $10.95–$52.95. Departures from Willits & Fort Bragg. Runs thru Dec. 23. 299 E. Commercial St., Willits. 100 W. Laurel St., Fort Bragg.

& Crafts Faire. Nov.

26 & 27: 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Rohnert Park Community Center. 5401 Synder Ln., Rohnert Park.

FREE Healdsburg Holiday Arts & Craft Market. Saturdays. 8:30 a.m.–

noon. Plaza in downtown Healdsburg.

Cirque de Bohème. Old-style

Parisian circus. $28–$38. Nov. 26–28: 1, 3 & 5 p.m. Runs thru Dec. 26. Cornerstone Sonoma. 23570 Arnold Dr., Sonoma.

Saturday 27 Santa & Mrs. Claus. The Christmas

11 a.m.–3 p.m. $5 donation for local charities. Reservations only. See website. Montgomery Village. 911 Village Ct., Santa Rosa.

Sunday 28 9th Annual Holiday Giftaway.

Get gifts & new-to-you clothing & give away good, unwanted items. Every adult & teen must volunteer for 30 minutes or donate $10. Masking & social distancing. Noon–3 p.m. Sebastopol Grange. 6000 Sebastopol Rd. (Hwy. 12), Sebastopol. Registration required:

couple will be in their photo studio Saturdays & Sundays thru Dec. 19.



Turn the water off while you: • Brush your teeth • Wash your hands • Shave 32 SonomaFamilyLife

November 2021

Have More Fun & Create Great Memories Get weekly e-mail updates for the best LOCAL family fun calendar FREE visit

Sonoma Family

Humor Break getting them dressed—contortions and all—is how I show I care about them. But for them, it’s a fight for their very souls (or so it would seem).

Revenge of the Romper A Snapshot of Kindergarten Rebellion

By Jessica Guerrieri


ecoming a parent ultimately boils down to history repeating itself—I’m talking bittersweet karmic retribution.

I grew up in the simpler yester-year, before social media, when mothers didn’t feel the need to one-up their junior high nemeses in Instagram games of Whose Family Looks the Best in Matching Holiday Flannel. When my own mother dressed my sister and me, she did so because it brought her joy. She’d take care and pride in putting together coordinating, often hand-stitched, outfits for us. Until I wanted a say in the matter, of course. It was kindergarten picture day—I still remember it vividly. My mom wanted me to wear a brightly colored, classic eighties romper. I did not. It was the first, but certainly not the last, time we 34 SonomaFamilyLife

argued over an outfit. In the end, my mother won. Little did she know that I had thoughtfully plotted my revenge: an epic, grumpy, camera-ready pout. My photo looked like a child’s version of a mug shot. So I was first in line for retakes. And—wait for it—I got to wear an outfit of my choosing! Now that I have three strong-willed girls of my own, I have a different perspective on that picture-day power struggle. Since the moment they were born, my girls have regarded getting dressed as the ultimate form of torture. With every attempt to put legs in pants or arms in shirts, they contort their bodies like performers ready to audition for Cirque du Soleil. (As both of their parents stand more than six-feet tall, a future in dancing or any other dainty art is not likely.) For me,

When it comes to picture day attire, things like coordinating colors and matching patterns are about as relevant to my girls as finishing their brussels sprouts and kale. Don’t get me wrong; with the proper amount of cajoling and bribery, e.g. cupcakes or lollipops, we can stage the ultimate family photo. However, this isn’t a war I have the stamina to endure on the regular. A fashion fight on photo day is one thing but going into combat every single school morning? I don’t think so. I’d much prefer to save my energy for those teen battles that yield profound, soul-shaking revelations. For now, I’m content that our girls show us their passion in the form of vegetable and romper protests. It’s our job to create boundaries, and their job to push up against them. And as for that picture-day fight so long ago? I understand that, for my mom, it had nothing to do with trying to control my choices. But, rather, the outfit was an expression of her love and respect for me—and herself. She wanted to see her kids look their best, a simple joy that she dutifully deserved after so many years of caring for and comforting us. Of course, at five, I didn’t grok the complexities and sacrifices of the maternal role. But now, at 36, I do. And I can tell you, I’m forever grateful for the gifts of a mother’s love—rompers included. ¶ Jessica Guerrieri is a mom and a freelance writer/blogger. Find her at and on Instagram @ witandspitup.

November 2021

Shrek the Musical Jr.

We Grow Them★

REDWOOD STRONG! Classes for all ages Gift Certificates

Alice Meets Shrek


lice’s tumble down the rabbit hole and her encounters with the grinning Chesire Cat, the manic Mad Hatter, and the not-so-charitable Queen of Hearts are the makings of Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s tale Alice in Wonderland. The story’s fantastical characters will be brought to life when North Bay Theatrics, a children’s theater company, performs the play Alice in Wonderland at Brook Haven School in Sebastopol. Shows are on November 6 at 4 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $5–$10 and may be purchased at The troupe will perform, at the same location, Shrek the Musical Jr. on November 12 at 7 p.m. and November 13 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 and may be purchased at Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is required for admission to all performances. ¶

All Dolled Up


ids of all ages and genders love dolls. And at the Santa Rosa Doll and Toy Show there will be many to choose from, including antique, vintage, modern, and miniature dolls. The annual event will be held on November 7, 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m., at the Santa Rosa Veterans Hall in Santa Rosa. Admission is a donation to the Living Room, a Santa Rosa shelter for women and children. Parking is free. Find out more at ¶

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November 2021

SonomaFamilyLife 35