Page 1


Real Solutions for Real Families

KID BITS Southlake Children’s Choir

FEATURED SPONSOR New beginnings at Fair Oaks


School may be a month away, but some transitions are tougher than others.

OUR KIDS Making waves in NWI



DYER || 219.934.2492 219.934.2492 DYER

919 Main Main Street Street || Suite Suite 102 102 919 Susan Ramirez, Ramirez, MD MD Susan Biljana Uzelac, Uzelac, MD MD Biljana

MERRILLVILLE || 219.736.1400 219.736.1400 MERRILLVILLE 300 W. W. 80th 80th Place Place 300 Clark Kramer, Kramer, MD MD Clark Sarah Kats, Kats, NP-C NP-C Sarah

MUNSTER || 219.924.2500 219.924.2500 MUNSTER 1950 45th 45th Street Street || Suite Suite 201 201 1950 James Cantorna, Cantorna, MD MD James Shah Chowdhury, MD Shah Chowdhury, MD Gilbert Given, Given, MD MD Gilbert Alicia Noonan, Noonan, NP-C, NP-C, FNP FNP Alicia

ST. JOHN JOHN || 219.365.0970 219.365.0970 ST. 10200 Wicker Wicker Avenue Avenue 10200 Biljana Uzelac, Uzelac, MD MD Biljana

Most insurances insurances && Medicaid Medicaid accepted. accepted. Most




features 26 COUNTDOWN TO SCHOOL The first day of school is still a month away, but it’s not too early to start thinking about easing transitions. 28 FAIR OAKS FARMS A marvel of technology and scale, combined with the most basic of Mother Nature’s gifts, this charming facility is a treat for the whole family.

departments 16 KID BITS The scoop on our county fairs, Southlake Children’s Choir, and United Way’s “I Need a Hug” program 18 OUR KIDS Three Northwest Indiana children who demonstrate character and honesty 10 HEALTH CHECK Some answers about gastroesophageal reflux in infants, and avoiding plantar warts 12 SCHOOL NOTES The school lunch program revolution 16 TOT SPOT Extending your preschooler’s learning environment into the home 18 MEAL TIME Packing a sustainable lunch


20 FIT FAMILY The importance of good posture, both at home and at school 24 TEEN SCENE Encouraging your student to partner with a mentor 30 REAL REVIEWS The latest in family-friendly gadgets and products 32 FAMILY ROOM The parent-projected perils of entering high school


in every issue 14 Editor’s Letter 14 Calendar 22 Destinations

aug/sept 2010



Three floors of hands-on exhibits and daily programs make learning come alive for kids through age 10 and their families!

40%= and PIEVRMRK connect! where

Chicago Children’s Museum Located at Navy Pier (312) 527-1000

Š2010 Eileen Ryan Photography

NWI Parent Advisory Board Fair Oaks Farms 856 N 600 E Fair Oaks, Indiana 877.536.1194

editor’s letter

Omni Health & Fitness Connection 221 US 41 Schererville, Indiana 219.865.6969 Peoples Bank 9204 Columbia Ave Munster, Indiana 219.836.4400 Sylvan Learning Multiple locations 1.888.EDUCATE

Publisher Bill


Director of Product Development Chris Managing Editor Kathy



Art Director Joe Designers April


Masterson, Jr.

Associate Publisher/Editor Pat


Burford, Matt Huss

Assistant Managing Editor Julia Online Editor Ashley



Contributing Editors

Heather Augustyn, Sue Bero, Juli Doshan, Jane Dunne, Rob Earnshaw, Rick Kaempfer, Mark Loehrke, Debi Pillarella, Stephanie Precourt, Erika Rose, Carrie Steinweg, Sharon Biggs Waller Advertising Managers

Deb Anselm, Frank Perea, Jeffrey Precourt

Sales Offices Crown Point - 219.662.5300 Munster - 219.933.3200 Valparaiso - 219.462.5151

Tell Us Whka!t You Tthtoinhear

We wan so please from you, co mments email your tions and sugges to us at: edback@ NWIParentFe

hard to believe that this is already the third annual “Back to School” issue of NWI Parent magazine. Less hard to believe, of course, is the fact that in both of the editor’s letters from the previous two editions, I talked about the joys of going out for ice cream. So in the interest of changing things up, I decided to try a couple of new outings this past summer, one of which was a fascinating visit to this issue’s featured sponsor, Fair Oaks Farms. My mother-in-law and teenaged daughter accompanied me, and we marveled at the technology and efficiency of the vast dairy operation. But at the end of our visit, we found ourselves—three generations of MacNeil women—in the “Birthing Barn,” waiting in silence as two cows labored in the theater-like setting. As the drama unfolded, I had to remind myself to breathe, while I white-knuckled my purse and inwardly cheered for the exhausted moms-to-be. When the first cow finally gave birth— and even the most jaded of spectators spontaneously erupted into cheers— the only thing more heartwarming than the proud mother examining and licking her new little calf was when the other laboring cow took a

published by Lee Enterprises/ The Times of Northwest Indiana/ Niche Productions Division 601 W 45th Ave., Munster, Indiana 46321 Copyright, Reprints and Permissions: You must have permission before reproducing material from NWI Parent magazine.

Volume 4 — Issue 4

August/September 2010

break from her own work, got up from her bed of straw, and walked over to greet the curious newcomer herself. Feeling a renewed appreciation for life, we walked through the “nursery” to gush over the other wobbly babies that had been born that morning, and finished our trip with—okay, you guessed it—generous servings of ice cream at the café. I guess some things never change. But some things do change. A few weeks later, I found myself on the opposite end of the parenting spectrum, because the other trip my daughter and I took this summer was to visit prospective colleges. As we giddily imagined her bright future at the academic institutions, I couldn’t help but periodically hesitate in disbelief: In one short year, my baby would be moving out. Just like giving birth, letting go is hard work. Transitions are difficult—for both parents and children—but planning ahead can help. Our “Countdown to School” feature on page 26 explores ways to increase your child’s comfort level when entering grade school, middle school or high school (even when Dad may be projecting his own fears onto the situation, as described by Rick Kaempfer in his Family Room essay!). Our Meal Time and School Notes departments focus on the never-ending lunch dilemma, offering some great tips on what to pack, plus good news regarding healthy trends in our local school cafeterias. And for the rest of you whose children are just starting—or finishing—their educational journeys, we have advice on how to extend the preschool learning experience into your home, as well as some compelling reasons to encourage your older teen to seek out a career mentor as he or she enters college. For some of you, the latter may seem like it’s a long way off, but take it from me: it’s right around the corner. Kathy MacNeil

Check out, where you’ll find: • • • • •


NWI Parent magazine is published six times each year by Lee Enterprises, The Times of Northwest Indiana, Niche Division, 601 W 45th Ave, Munster, IN 46321. aug/sept 2010


fresh new articles and information every day entertaining and inspirational blogs by area parents our comprehensive calendar of events local destination and resource listings the place to sign up for our weekly “New Arrivals” newsletter, packed with up-to-the-minute news and happenings

kid bits

News and Notes from Northwest Indiana

all’s fair

Nothing caps off a summer like a good ole county fair. For Northwest Indiana residents, two county fairs offer 21 days of carnival rides, live music, farm animals, 4-H exhibits, demolition derbies and plenty of food and refreshing drink.


he Porter County Fair celebrates its 160th anniversary this summer from July 22 to August 1 with some “unusually powerful, fun entertainment that a wide variety of people are going to enjoy,” says fair general manager Lonnie Steele. “I really feel that we have some extraordinarily good grounds entertainment that cost people nothing after they pay their admission price to get in,” he says. One of the new acts this year is hypnotist/magician Tyzen, who will perform July 23 in a free show for spectators. The fair features country rocker Jason Aldean on July 25 and the return of last year’s popular hog wrestling. “I feel that we got a message from our fair-goers last year that they like to be actively involved in what we put on in the grandstands,” Steele says. “The hog wrestling was the biggest hit we had last year, so you’re going to see more of those kinds of involvement activities.” Admission prices, like last year, remain at the 2007 level and visitors can enter free before 1 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends. Steele says the fairgrounds at the Porter County Expo

Center have never looked better. “There’s a whole bunch of pride in what we do,” he says. For more information, visit The Lake County Fair at the fairgrounds in Crown Point runs August 6-15, and for the first time visitors can purchase all-day wristbands for the carnival rides. “We always had wristbands, but normally they were for time periods like morning or evening,” says fair secretary Arlene Marcinek. “Now we have full-day ones for all rides.” New this year are the lawnmower races in the grandstand on August 7. “They did a demo last year during the monster truck show, but we’ve never had actual racing—and local people can compete as well,” Marcinek says. Also new this year is Festival Latino’s “Battle of the Bands” in the grandstand on August 8. Marcinek says a lot of people who attend the fair include those who’ve moved out of state but spend their vacations at a longtime tradition. “People like to come back and relive their youth and see how things used to be,” she says. “There’s something here that appeals to everybody.” For more information visit —Rob Earnshaw

aug/sept 2010

The winners of the 1st PUC “Hug Challenge.” A total of 761 new stuffed animals were collected.

I NEED A HUG The I Need a Hug program was developed in 2003 by the United Way Regional Volunteer Center, in partnership with the Valparaiso Softball Team. This partnership began because of the VU softball coach’s belief that the girls on his team should be involved in the community, and give back in such a way that would leave a lasting legacy. Throughout the year, new, small stuffed animals are collected by businesses, groups, churches and schools, as well as local campus-wide drives. These animals are given to guidance counselors in elementary schools to be used as counseling tools. I Need a Hug is currently in 84 elementary schools throughout Northwest Indiana, and provides a way for counselors/teachers to comfort children without physical contact. In 2008, Nicole Norvell, social worker at Edison Elementary School in Hammond, asked United Way to provide additional stuffed animals for each of their 2nd grade students in order to pilot a literacy program called “Reading Buddies.” The children are pre-tested at the beginning of the year, and then the stuffed animal (Reading Buddy) is introduced. Each student names his or her “buddy” and reads aloud to it for 15 minutes each day. At the end of the school year, teachers found that both reading scores and the motivation to read had increased significantly, and data shows that most students with higher reading scores will also score higher academically overall. Over twenty schools will be implementing Reading Buddies in the fall, and it is hoped that United Way will be able to provide enough new stuffed animals for every school to implement the I Need a Hug and Reading Buddies programs. Currently it takes over 5,000 stuffed animals to support just the counseling piece of the program, so they need to increase that annual amount by at least 2,000. The community is encouraged to help support the programs by conducting a stuffed animal drive at their place of business, church, group or school. Money donations are also accepted to help purchase stuffed animals in bulk at a reduced price. For more information, contact your local United Way, or visit


Southlake Children’s Choir This summer children have a chance to become part of a 25-year musical tradition in Northwest Indiana.


ounded in 1984, the Southlake Children’s Choir, a nonprofit choral ensemble for children ages 7 through 14 in Lake and Porter counties, will hold summer auditions for its upcoming season. “Typically, they have a strong passion for music and performing,” says artistic director Aaron Riegle about those who audition for the choir. Riegle, who is also the choral director at Portage High School, says the auditions are “low-stress” and no preparation is necessary. “We’re just checking to see if students can match pitch and we’re getting to know them and their voice,” he says. The SCC season runs during the school year and includes community concerts and a performance with the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. The choir’s varied repertoire includes early music, musical theater tunes and some popular songs. Riegle says the choir brings together students from different backgrounds and communities. “It’s nice to be around highly motivated musicians,” Riegle says. “They’re young, but they’re musicians. They’re serious about what they do.” Riegle’s wife Ann, the choir’s assistant director, says many of the children go on to a career in music or become music teachers. “It’s for kids who are really passionate about

The choir presents a check to the Red Cross at the Grand Ole Opry during their Nashville trip. Pictured from left to right: Aaron Riegle, Kelly Merrill, Reagan Airy, Sasha Lilovich, Reagan Holderby, Brick Ban.

music, who want it to challenge them as well,” she says. Former SCC board president Lee Rademacher says the choir brings a certain kind of musical culture to the community. “It’s done so much to teach kids about music, and that’s one thing I really enjoy about it,” he says. The SCC made a special trip to Nashville, Tennessee, where the students raised money to help with the devastation of that area’s recent flooding in addition to performing at the renowned Ryman Auditorium and Studio B where Elvis Presley recorded. The SCC’s annual fundraising gala, “Leap into the Arts,” will be held February 25 at the Halls of St. George in Schererville. The Southlake Children’s Choir rehearses in two locations: Bethel Church in Crown Point and Liberty Bible Church in Valparaiso. Auditions are held by appointment through early September by calling Aaron or Ann Riegle at 866.662.1151. For more information visit —Rob Earnshaw

aug/sept 2010


our kids by Sue Bero

Sue Bero, freelance journalist and mother of two adult sons, lives in Schererville with her husband, Bill.

Do you know a child in Northwest Indiana who deserves special recognition? If so, please email us at


Character and Service Christen Melton, 15

Ian Norris, 11

Geneva Kolavo, 14

Christen Melton’s fondness for dogs was inspired by a video a few years ago. Now, she raises puppies for the Leader Dogs for the Blind organization. “My dad and I watched More Than Puppy Love, about a family that raises a guide dog and has to give it up. I thought raising the dogs was so cool,’’ says Melton, daughter of Darlene and David Melton of Cedar Lake. She contacted the Rochester, Michigan-based organization after talking with a woman who was affiliated with the group. Melton is raising her third leader dog, Piper, a yellow Labrador retriever. “She’s 6 months old now and I got her when she was about 7 weeks old. Piper is really good. Some might say she’s lazy because she likes to sleep—she’s so funny,’’ Melton says. Training, which involves ten basic commands, takes about a year. “You send in an application and Leader Dogs tells you when they have a group of puppies in,’’ Melton says, adding the group also provides supplies. Although giving up a dog after training is difficult, Melton says it gets easier. “It’s not that hard—I can say that now, because this is my third dog. It was hard to give up my first dog, Bailey, but then it got easier.’’ The 10th-grade, home-schooled student also is active in Lake Hills Baptist Church, where her father is a pastor, and volunteers at the Cedar Lake Library.

If character breeds success, then 6thgrader Ian Norris has a bright future. Norris, of Valparaiso, who just completed a perfect-attendance 5thgrade year at Central Elementary School and heads to Benjamin Franklin School in the fall, is a winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence and an honor roll student—in more ways than one. Besides the academic achievement, the son of Robb and Ruth Norris demonstrated a sense of honor as a fifth-grader when he found a wallet, containing $50 and credit cards, on the school bus. Other students urged him to keep it. “But I said, ‘I’m not going to keep it.’ I gave it to the bus driver,’’ Norris says. Turns out the wallet belonged to an 8th-grade middle school student. “The bus driver said the student told him to tell me thanks. I didn’t see it as anything special. I don’t need to be recognized for doing the right thing,’’ Norris says. He already has been recognized for numerous “right things,’’ among them achieving straight A’s in classes, participation in science and math bowl competitions, service as a Boy Scout and participation in a media fair. The fair involved ocean research (Norris’s work focused on crabs) and a PowerPoint presentation. Norris also plays soccer and dodgeball, and is a cross-country and track enthusiast. He says reading is his favorite subject. “I feel school is important because to get a good education is to get a good job. When I study, I’m not distracted. I concentrate.’’

Geneva Kolavo hasn’t had an easy life, but that hasn’t stopped her from achieving success at the tender age of 14. She and her siblings, Michael, 12, and Shelby, 10, were put into a foster home when Kolavo was age 7. They were adopted by Christine Kolavo of Hammond three years ago, after she became their foster parent two years prior. Geneva Kolavo, who recently graduated from East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy, was named class valedictorian after achieving straight A’s and academic honors and will attend Hammond Academy of Science and Technology in the fall. “Misfortunes in life are not an excuse to do poorly,’’ she said in her speech at the graduation ceremony. “For me, school became an escape from my problems. I worked diligently so that I would have something to feel proud about. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s what we do with these experiences that matters.’’ Outside of classes, Kolavo is a member of the Hammond Optimist Youth Softball League and enjoys basketball. She is involved with her church, Holy Trinity Croatian in East Chicago, as a lector, choir member and altar server. Kolavo also loves playing with the family’s three dogs, often taking them for walks and to dog parks. She says she is inspired by her mother. “I’m lucky that she adopted me. She does a lot for us.’’

aug/sept 2010


ection &

itness Conn F & h lt a e H 1 4 i n m Join O

w e N r u O f o e g a Take Advant

Learn about our all new year-roun d, environment Learn about our all new year-round, environmentally educationfriendly, al activities, our care drives to “re ally friendly, -use” and our educational activities, our care drives to “re-use” and our commitment to this com mitphilosophy. ment to this philosophy. All New Names: S SEEDLINGS (6 WEEKS - WALKING) Seedlings, 6 weeks--walking GROUPLL SPROUTS (WALKING - 2 YEARS) Sprouts, walking--2 yearsFOR A ! ! BR ! ANCHES (2 - 4 YEARS) Branches, 2-4 years AGES GREEN LEAVES (5 - 12 YEARS) Green Leaves, 5-12 years Each Quarter will represent one of our four natural elements (Sun, Earth, Water & Air Each Quarter will represent one of our four natural elements ) and their effects with in the ecosys tem (Sun, Earth, Water & Air) and their effects withEdu in the ecosystem. . cation will come in the form of the mes in the rooms, craft projects, and learning activit ies. Education will come in the form of themes in the rooms, craft projects, and learning activities.


9i`e^`e,gXZbX^\[`k\d j]fik_\9XZbkfJZ_ff c:Xi\;i`m\ (School Supplies, hats, socks, & gym shoes.)

Receive $10.00 off Init iation fee* & the opportunity to b e apart of our Planet Kid

s Playroom!

221 US Hwy. 41, Suite A Schererville, IN Open 24 hours, seven days a week

)(0%/-,%-0-0›NNN%FDE@+(%:FD *offer expires August 31, 2010. Certain restrictions apply.

health check


by erika rose

At back-to-school time, lots of time and attention is spent on teaching youngsters to avoid spreading cold and flu viruses by hand washing. Giant bottles of hand sanitizer are a staple on classroom supply lists these days.

regarding reflux In Grandma’s day, inconsolable babies who cried incessantly for no apparent reason were labeled as “colicky.” Today, doctors have a different name—and some new insights—for many of those irritable infants who exasperate their parents with more than the occasional episodes of crying, vomiting and spitting up.

For some families, back-toschool also means back to swim lessons or the swim team, which brings up another important point: viruses also thrive in the warm moisture of pool decks and public showers—specifically, the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes another common childhood nuisance: plantar warts. Plantar warts are noncancerous skin growths that form on the bottoms of feet, typically when the HPV virus has entered through cuts or broken skin. Depending on where they are, they can cause discomfort and pain and can take a long time to resolve. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) says plantar warts occur most frequently in kids between ages 12 and 16. Crown Point podiatrist Dr. Michael Nirenberg adds that children are more susceptible because their immune systems aren’t as developed as an adult’s. Nirenberg points out that surely no one would walk across a bathroom floor on their hands, yet many don’t think


r. Gloria Buentello, a pediatric gastroenterologist who sees children and adolescents in Hammond and Munster, says the diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) has come about in only the last 30 years, providing some answers for scenarios which previously yielded a shrug of the shoulders and a nondescript label of “colic.” Commonly known as reflux, GERD is a condition in which the stomach contents back up into the esophagus during or after a feeding, resulting in vomiting or spitting up. While it is normal for the lower esophageal sphincter muscle to open and close during digestion, prolonged exposure of stomach acids in the esophagus frequently causes pain and discomfort, Buentello says, resulting in extreme irritability, arching of the back and squirming, coughing, and in more severe cases, more persistent vomiting, failure to gain weight, gagging or gasping for breath. Buentello points out that reflux can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma and those with asthma who are not responding to treatment could be suffering from GERD. The good news, Buentello says, is that the condition is primarily due to immature muscles, and babies typically outgrow the condition. Statistics say about half of infants younger than three months old suffer from reflux, but that most of those cases spontaneously resolve by around 12 to 18 months as the baby gains muscle control and maturity. Still, while it may be comforting to know that most cases of reflux will resolve, to flustered parents dealing with their baby’s discomfort day in and day out, this can seem an eternity. Buentello offers some tips to help relieve a baby’s discomfort, including feeding infants smaller amounts more often, feeding more slowly, and sitting the baby upright while feeding. For children eating solid foods, avoid acidic and high-fat foods. If there is no improvement and it’s apparent the baby is miserable, seek the Erika Rose is a freelance advice of a pediatric gastroenterologist who may journalist who primarily covers look to rule out more serious diagnoses with diaghealth news in Northwest nostic tests. Often, pharmacological treatment is all Indiana. Erika and her husband that is necessary, Buentello says.

Kevin live in Highland with their two girls, Morgan and Alexandra.

aug/sept 2010

twice about walking barefoot in public showers or in bathroom stalls. If they did, they certainly would wash their hands afterwards, yet scrubbing the bottom of one’s foot and in between toes is frequently neglected. In most cases, plantar warts are nothing more than a nuisance, but they can often be painful, Nirenberg says. If they grow under the toenail, for example, the toenail has to be removed in order to treat it. Nirenberg offers the following prevention tips: • C  heck your child’s feet and instruct them to do so as well. • Insist that children wash their feet well. This means scrubbing the bottoms and in between toes. Even when done hours after walking on a pool deck or shower, this makes a difference. • Remember that cuts, abrasions and dry skin increase your risk of contracting the virus that causes plantar warts. • Nirenberg says most people don’t think of cleaning their shoes, which should be done periodically by spraying them with Lysol or letting them sit in the sun, which also kills germs. • Explain to children that warts are contagious and when touched can easily spread to hands, body and genitals.

For plantar warts that are few, small and caught early enough, Nirenberg says an over-the-counter treatment such as salicylic acid is very effective, although it requires much time and patience.


Invest in our leaders of tomorrow ... today!

With a low-maintenance 529 Plan, you can set aside funds for future college costs and HQMR\VLJQLÀFDQWWD[ savings. Your investment JURZVWD[GHIHUUHGDQG you—the account holder— stay in control of the funds.

Save For more information contact a Peoples Bank Wealth Management Specialist today at (219) 853-7080.

Easy Smart

school notes by Sharon Biggs Waller

school lunch

Revolution Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution USA, broadcast on ABC this past spring, raised the question about the nutritional quality of school lunches. If you are worried about the school lunch program in your children’s schools, take heart. We spoke to food service directors in three school systems: Portage, Crown Point and Munster, and discovered that they are way ahead of Chef Oliver. You may not want to replace the hot lunch with a bagged lunch, after all.


hef Oliver gave great publicity to the school lunch programs, but his actions came across somewhat negative,” says Pam Maloney, food service director for Crown Point Community School Corporation. “School corporations have strict guidelines mandated from state and federal regulations. Not only do we have to follow the guidelines, but we also have to keep costs down and serve meals students will buy. Food service departments are selffunded, so they must make good business decisions. Students must be given healthy choices with good quality food. School corporations in our area and throughout the nation understand that thought process and improve their programs every year.”

Nutrition Policies Portage has a fairly strict wellness program in place, discouraging high-fat and highsugar foods for parties, snacks and lunches. Jan Black, food service director for Portage Township Schools, says although the school would never assume to be the “brown bag police,” the kitchen staff tries to be aware of what children are bringing in from home. “If a child brings a soda, the principal will ask him not to bring it again,” she says. “Parents can send what they want to, but we try to discourage things that are [unhealthy].” Crown Point is introducing their “Bulldog Bites” nutritional education program in the new school year, which will include meals prepared from recipes of local chefs, as well as a “Go Green” day, where no ovens are used; instead, healthy subs and salads will be offered. Elementary schools will have two additional programs: a “taste the alphabet in fruits and vegetables” and “reach for the stars,” which tracks how many healthful choices the students make. aug/sept 2010


“We do understand the importance of eating healthy and teaching good habits to our students in our corporation,� Maloney says. “We established the program to encourage the dietary guidelines which promote fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole-grain products and less processed food. I have also been working with our state dietitian, Barb Wine. She has been kind enough to look over our menus and give us approval. Our program will focus on choices, emphasizing if you make healthy choices most days, go ahead and have pizza one day, but get back on schedule the next day.� Paulette Livak, food service director for the School Town of Munster, says that Munster has always worked hard to provide healthy meals and serve food that kids will eat—but they put a healthy spin on them. “The pizza has whole-grain crust and low-fat mozzarella cheese,� she says. “We also offer pizza with pineapple, ham and veggies. If you add a salad and milk to that, you have a complete meal. In my elementary and middle schools we’ve never fried anything. We do offer shoestring fries in high school, but that’s not offered every day and not on every line. We’ll also offer a baked fry or a potato. I always say there are no bad foods; it’s how often you eat them and how much you are eating.�

Challenges Budget is a big part of creating a menu. School lunches generally cost around $2 per meal, so food service coordinators have to break out the fixed cost of labor, milk, fruit, vegetable and bread. What they are left with is 55 to 60 cents per entrĂŠe. Black oversees twelve kitchens within the Portage system, which serve around 7,000 meals a day. That’s like managing twelve restaurants. “It would be boring to eat at the same restaurant 180 days a year, so we try to bring in interesting creative choices,â€? she says. “Food services is self-supporting, so we have to pay our employees and benefits, just like a restaurant. And we have to keep our customers, which are the students.â€? There’s no point in offering meals that students won’t eat, which will be thrown away. Our sources say they listen closely to what students like and dislike, and try to offer healthy versions of favorites. Childhood obesity is a problem in this country, and Michelle Obama and her “Let’s Moveâ€? program, and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution are steps in the right direction. “But it’s really a cultural change,â€? Black says. “Until you change that culture you aren’t going to have a revolution, and I think that is what Jamie Oliver was saying. But it’s not going to change overnight. I think we have to give kids an opportunity to try new things at a very young age.â€?

What can parents do?

• If you have concerns or suggestions, communicate with the school manager or food service director.



29 U.S. Rt.%  # IN


 %$$$"m Mon - Sat: 10am - 8pm; Sun: 11am - 5pm

• Look at the menus and talk to your children about what they are eating. Get the nutritional information on the menus. Not all schools have them available, but inquire anyway. They can always get you product labels.



• Support the cafeteria by purchasing the school lunch. The cafeteria is a little restaurant and it depends upon its customers.




• For more information on school lunch guidelines, visit factsheets/school_ meals.htm. aug/sept 2010





calendar By JULI DOSHAN

Festivals JUL 23-25 Pierogi Fest, 11am-10pm Fri-Sat, 11am-5pm Sun, 119th St, Whiting. 877.659.0292. A truly one-of-a-kind festival, this tribute to Whiting’s ethnic heritage offers authentic Polish food, ethnic dancers, a beer garden and the Polka Parade. SEPT 11 Valparaiso Popcorn Festival, 7am-6:30pm, downtown Valparaiso. 219.464.8332. A true salute to Valparaiso native Orville Redenbacher, the Popcorn Fest offers family-fun activities for all ages, including a 5-mile run called the Popcorn Panic, a 5K walk, live entertainment, more than 500 food and craft booths and the nation’s only popcorn parade. SEPT 17-19 Wizard of Oz Festival, downtown Chesterton. 219.926.6283. Since 1981, this free festival has been the largest and second-oldest festival of its kind in the United States. With many activities inspired by the 1939 movie, including the Horse of a Different Color Parade, Brunch with Munchkins and Dorothy’s Birthday, the festival also features more than 150 specially selected food and vendor booths.

Health, Fitness and Nutrition JUL 31 KidFest, 9am-1pm, Family Christian Health Center, 155th & Paulina Sts, Harvey. 800.221.2199. School physicals, immunizations and fun family activities, including music, entertainment, games and prizes, characterize this annual event. Participants should bring children’s previous immunization records, if possible. AUG 3 Lakeshore Kids Immunization Fair, 10am-2pm, U.S. Steel Yard, 1 Stadium Plaza, Gary. 219.756.5656. Free vaccinations and screenings will be offered at this event, sponsored by Lakeshore Public Television. Children ages 4-10 can enjoy meeting and greeting PBS television characters while their parents gain valuable health information. Participants will also get the chance to win raffle prizes.

Performance, Arts and Exhibits ONGOING Broadway in Chicago, various venues, Chicago. 800.775.2000. A joint venture between the two largest commercial theater producers and owner/operators in the U.S., Broadway in Chicago offers the finest of professional stage productions in multiple

theaters, all residing in Chicago’s lively Loop. Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W Randolph. Through Sept 5: Shrek the Musical; Sept 29-Nov 27: The Lion King. Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theatre, 24 W Randolph. Ongoing: Billy Elliot the Musical. ONGOING Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 E Grand Ave, Chicago. 312.595.5600. Prominently located on Navy Pier in Chicago, the theater’s mission to reach out to younger audiences is well accomplished with its offerings of children’s productions and student matinees. Through Aug 29: The Emperor’s New Clothes. ONGOING Planet Explorers, Adler Planetarium, 1300 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago. 312.922.7827. adlerplanetarium. org. Families with children ages 3-8 will learn what it takes to be a part of a mission to outer space. Each child can get the chance to be a scientist, astronaut or Mission Control specialist while participating in interactive activities like performing experiments or guiding a land rover over Planet X terrain. AUG 28 The Wiggles Wiggly Circus, 12:30pm & 4pm, Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N River Rd, Rosemont. 800.745.3000. The Wiggles, the family entertainment quartet from Australia, is bringing its new, fun and colorful show on the road. The Wiggly Circus features some of the group’s classic songs, and their favorite friends—including Captain Feathersword, Dorothy the Dinosaur, Henry the Octopus, Wags the Dog and the Wiggly Dancers—will be on hand for some wiggly fun.

Sports and Recreation ONGOING City-wide Youth Sports Recreation Program Registration, 219.853.6371. The City of Hammond will provide low-income youth with the enrollment fees for entering into organized sports activities. Examples of the organized sports activities include Little League, golf, boxing, cheerleading and soccer. To obtain an application, contact Marcus Williams, community development planner at the Department of Planning & Development, at 219.853.6371. AUG 6 Pool Party, 6-8pm, Pulaski Pool, 3732 Sheffield Ave, Hammond. 219.853.6378 ext 304. Hammond residents of all ages are invited to attend a free pool party at the Pulaski Pool, weather permitting. A DJ will be on hand to provide musical entertainment and refreshments will be available. Also, Aug 11: Hessville Pool (7225 Kennedy Ave, Hammond).

aug/sept 2010


camps THROUGH AUG 12 Bellaboo’s Summer Camp, Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center, Three Rivers County Park, 2800 Colorado St, Lake Station. 219.963.2070. Children will get all of the best of Bellaboo’s and more at this imaginative and active summer camp. The camp includes two and a half hours of supervised activities—including inside and outside games, stories, snacks, songs and dances—in a clean and safe environment. THROUGH AUG 20 No Bummer Summer Camp, Portage High School West, 6400 US 6 and Portage Township YMCA, 3100 Willowcreek Rd, Portage. 219.762.9622. Children entering kindergarten through eighth grade can enjoy the Portage Township YMCA’s “No Bummer Summer Camp,” which features the Annual Summer Day Camp Olympics and trips to the Lincoln Park Zoo, Fair Oaks Farms, Navy Pier’s Children’s Museum, a RailCats Day Game and more.

Special Events JUL 23 St. Jude House Fundraiser at RailCats Ballgame, 8am-noon, US Steel Yard, One Stadium Plaza, Gary. 219.662.7066. Ticket sales from this RailCats game will serve as a fundraiser for the St. Jude House, which assists adults and children of domestic violence and sexual assault. Fireworks follow the game. SEPT 25-26 31st Annual Fall Harvest Craft Fair, 10am-5pm, Central Park, Broad St, Griffith. 219.844.3891. Hosted by Griffith Boy Scout Troop 264, this craft fair will feature gifts, great food and handmade works by talented crafters.

For more local events, destinations and resources, please visit

Get the word out! If your organization has a familyfriendly event that takes place in late September or later, and you would like it to be considered for inclusion in NWI Parent magazine, please send a detailed description of your event— with complete contact information— to by September 1, 2010.

Should I have my wisdom teeth removed? When should I have them removed?




322 Indianapolis Blvd., Suite 100 (Behind Steak N’ Shake) Schererville, IN


These are a few questions that are commonly asked in our office. We would like to have the opportunity to see you for a consultation to determine if you will benefit from wisdom tooth removal. Consultations are always complimentary for wisdom teeth and dental implant patients. Dr. Platt has been serving Northwest Indiana for over 19 years with quality oral surgery care in Wisdom Teeth Removal, Dental Implants, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Extractions, General and IV Sedations. PATIENT FINANCING AVAILABLE

We welcome new patients Monday -Thursday: 8am - 5pm Friday: 7am - 2pm We are currently scheduling for summer appointments. Please consider scheduling your wisdom tooth consultation early for the most convenient appointment times.

Dr. Jay Platt and his staff work closely with you and your dentist to ensure your treatment exceeds your expectations. Choosing an oral surgeon is an important decision. Our team is composed of experienced professionals who are dedicated to your care. We are looking forward to fulfilling your dental needs in the future.

tot spot By Jamie Bissot

Jamie Bissot is a freelance writer who lives in Northwest Indiana with her husband, two kids and a bulldog. You can catch more of what she has to say on her blog, “Oh, the Places We Will Go,” at

making the most of preschool 4 ways to extend the learning environment into your home Somehow a few precious years have slipped by and your darling little baby is now a preschooler. He’s off to learn about shapes and colors, sights and sounds. Just because he is officially going to school, doesn’t mean the learning stops once the school bell rings. In fact, the learning continues all day, whether he is at school or at home. Create a supportive environment A supportive environment is a key factor in providing an atmosphere that is exciting to a child who is eager to learn. Steven Graham, Ph.D., instructor at Kumon Math and Reading Center in Valparaiso, believes that modeling behavior is a great way to influence academic habits. “Research indicates that the best readers have a very supportive environment at home, with lots of examples of reading, have books around, controlled screen time of video games and television. You want to have an environment conducive to reading, and then you will have children who will likely become good readers and enjoy reading,” Graham says.

Be consistent In addition to a supportive learning environment, Graham also believes that consistency is critical to giving children a good start. “You have got to have a half hour or an hour a day, every day, when the television is off, the radio is off, the dishes are

done, you sit down and you read. You’ve got to have it. Even picture books, kids just look at the pictures and make up a story. That’s fine. Kids are just excited that they are reading!”

doing at home. “When you’re cooking in the kitchen, if you have sauce you can draw a letter in the sauce before you put it on something. If you’re baking with flour, draw numbers (with clean hands) in that flour before you make something. It doesn’t all have to be paper and pencil.”

Use everyday activities as teaching tools Everyday activities can also translate to learning fun. Debbie Moore of Leaping & Learning Preschool at Perpetual Motion in Valparaiso believes that learning can be integrated at home anytime. “Parents need to work with their children. Kids can work in the kitchen along with their parents. They can get out measuring cups and measuring spoons, and then look at the sizes: which one is smaller, which one is larger, what’s the correct name for this . . . there are so many ways activities can be brought home.” Moore also suggests incorporating learning into the things you’re already aug/sept 2010

Direct their attention for closer exploration Spending time exploring everyday items is very effective. “You can look closely at plants or look at pictures. When you read to your child, the pictures are fascinating to them, but it doesn’t hurt to point out who’s doing the action at the time. Or maybe ask about the expression on that animal’s face. Direct their attention, because sometimes it is just overwhelming for them to process everything,” Moore says. While your preschooler may be learning his ABCs and 123s at school, reinforce those foundations at home and you’ll make learning fun for everyone. The easiest way to do this is to share your everyday life with your child. “Share the things you enjoy. If a parent approaches all things with wonder, like ‘I wonder how that works,’ then the kids learn to appreciate those things also,” Moore says.


everyday activities to reinforce preschool learning Practice matching.

Grab a deck of cards, socks, kitchen utensils, or anything else you have two or more of and lay them all out. Have your child match up the identical/ similar items.

Play the letter game.

Go through the alphabet and have your child name something that starts with each letter.

Trace shapes.

You’ll need some paper and a writing utensil. Grab as many items as you can that will produce familiar and nonfamiliar shapes. Have the child trace the outside edge of the item. Items could include: cups, cereal boxes, wipe containers, pretzels, sticks, etc. This is an excellent way to teach and encourage proper pencil grasp.

Play “I Spy.”

This traditional game not only reinforces observational skills, it also exercises listening and thinking skills.

Go on a nature hunt.

Take a walk through your backyard, your neighborhood or the park and help your child identify the things around him.

Play the name game.

Ask your child to name something that walks, name something that hops, something that cries, and something that says “neigh”— the possibilities are endless, and it encourages listening and thinking skills.

Count your world.

Practice counting wherever you go. Count the stairs you climb, the steps you and your child take as you walk across your backyard, or count the number of people in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Childcare for those who want the best for their child.

NAEYC Accredited State Licensed Teaching Lab School Full Day Kindergarten (including wrap around care) Preschool/Summer Program/Childcare

Full-Time Weekly Full Day Half Day Degreed Teachers Security Systems Ages 3 yrs. - 6 yrs. 7am- 6pm


Over 20 Years Experience Providing Services to Children of Students, Staff, Faculty and Community

CALL TODAY FOR A TOUR 219-989-2343

2250 173RD ST. | HAMMOND, IN | 1-800-HI-PURDUE ext. 2343 1/3-mile N. of I-80/94, 3 blocks E. of Indianapolis Blvd. to campus and S. at the light into the S. parking lot.

›N\cZfd`e^e\ngXk`\ekj]ifd`e]XekjkfX[fc\jZ\ekj ›F]ÔZ\Zfdgc\k\n`k_n\ccXe[j`ZbnX`k`e^iffdj Xe[jkXk\$f]$k_\$Xikk\Z_efcf^p ›;i%GXk_Xbf]]\ijfc[\iX[fc\jZ\ek^pe\Zfcf^`ZXc\oXdj% PARUL G. PATHAK, MD, FAAP



meal time

Barb lives in Crown Point with a hungry family that includes three kids. You can find her out running, playing at the beach, on Twitter and on her weekly food blog, “Food with a Dash of Fun,” at

By Barb Ruess

Packinga SustainableLunch The school year brings plenty of challenges to any parent. For many of us, one of those challenges is packing lunches. You might be in a rut of packing the same lunch every day. Or maybe you find yourself appalled by how much waste is involved in packing a lunch. You’re not alone. Read on for a few fun ideas to feed your child a sustainable lunch—one that not only will give your children a meal that will provide them with the energy they need for a full day of learning and fun, but also a lunch that doesn’t generate trash, so it’s good for the environment.



’m the parent of three children and I pack a lot of lunches. One can only make so many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before the kids start complaining. What’s a mom with two hands and limited time to do? Get creative—without consuming too much time. I figure out what to pack in their lunch approximately 52 minutes before my kids head out the door. I don’t have time to slice and dice or prepare gourmet lunches. I do, however, have time to assemble some healthy ingredients in a few fun ways that my kids really enjoy. Here are some of my most-requested lunches: The Wrap: Whole-wheat tortillas are a staple in my refrigerator, and sometimes we even get creative and buy the tomato or spinach wraps, too. I lay out the tortillas, let the kids pick which ingredients they like, roll it up, cut it in half and have a healthy fun lunch!

 eli wrap: a slice of cheese, a slice of deli meat and D some lettuce.

Here are a few items that I have purchased and use again and again:

The Build Your Own lunch: The kids have fun putting together their own lunches—it’s both lunch and entertainment!  “Lunchable”: Pack a bag of crackers, a bag of deli meat cut into squares, and a bag of sliced cheese cut into squares. Toss in some fruit or veggies and you’ve got a well-rounded lunch.

Reusable lunch box. No brown bags happening here. You can find lots of cute styles and designs at your local Target, Walmart or Meijer.

 alad: I use a variety of small plastic containers so the S kids can put it together at school. Nothing gets soggy and they get to build it however they want. Pack one medium-size container with salad, two to three small ones with diced veggies, hard-boiled eggs and cheese, plus another small one with dressing.

What do we put in them? Salad in a wrap: lettuce or spinach leaves, sunflower seeds, cranberries, cheese.

 he dipping lunch: Fill one container with peanut T butter or yogurt, and pack sandwich bags filled with dip-able items. With the peanut butter we include apple slices, celery sticks and pretzels. With the yogurt we pack lots of fruit and sometimes some granola.

 izza wrap: your favorite pizza toppings (such as P pepperoni, mushrooms and bell peppers) and some mozzarella cheese.


 obb wrap: chicken (great way to use leftovers), C ham, diced hard-boiled eggs, lettuce, cheese and/or diced tomatoes.


rown bags. Plastic sandwich bags. Juice boxes. Is it even possible to pack a sustainable lunch? It is, and while it does require a bit of up-front investment, I’ve found that I’m saving money by year’s end. aug/sept 2010


Reusable ice packs. You can find a good selection of these in the aisle with coolers. I’ve got a variety of sizes, some soft-sided and some hard. I keep them in the freezer at all times so I’ve always got some ready to toss in the lunch box and keep things cool. Small plastic containers. I have an assortment of extra small and small bowls with lids that are just right for slices of fruits or veggies. Reusable baggies. Available in snack size, sandwich size and larger sub sandwich size. You can wash them in your dishwasher and they come in fun bright colors. My kids love them. I love them. And the earth loves them, too! Made by a company called LunchSkins (, they are made from food-grade cloth, so they are safe and very durable. Water bottles. One of the best purchases I’ve ever made was small-size water bottles. You can fill them with water, lemonade or juice, and they are small enough to fit in the lunch box. Bring them home to wash and reuse.

OPEN HOUSE JULY 30TH, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM


Valid only on day of Open House. Valid 7-30-10.

fit family

Debi Pillarella is the exercise program manager for the Community Hospital Fitness Pointe, National Youth Spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise, certified personal trainer, and, most importantly, mother of two children. You can reach her at

By Debi Pillarella, M.Ed.

back to basics Posture-perfect activities that can be done at school and at home to promote spinal health as well as improved learning Do you remember your teacher telling you to sit up straight and put your feet on the floor? How about the times your mom reminded you to stand tall and pretend that you were balancing a book on your head so you looked your tallest? Although it didn’t make much sense back then, nowadays, more attention is being paid to how good posture not only improves our spinal health, but also our ability to stay focused and be at our best to learn. • Posture affects the way we move, our whole range of motion, and what we can and can’t do. Good posture means you have a body that works efficiently using coordinated flowing movements with an uplifted and open chest. When the chest is unrestricted, breathing is easier, which brings in more oxygen, and results in more energy and mental clarity. This increases the focus, attention and the ability to learn new skills. There is no doubt that kids with good posture have an advantage in sports, and often exude an air of confidence. But good posture also has a positive effect in classroom learning, and in social relating as well. • To have good posture, you have to be aware of always holding yourself in a way that puts the least strain on your back, whether you are sitting, standing, lying down or moving.

Tips for Standing Tall

Tips for Sitting Tall

• S  tand up straight with your body weight evenly distributed on both feet. • H  old your head up with the chin drawn in, to a neutral position (not jutting forward), and look straight ahead. • D  raw your shoulders back so they align under your ears (imagine gently squeezing a $100 bill between your shoulder blades). • K  eep your chest open so you can take a relaxing, full breath. • G  ently squeeze the belly button in as if it were moving toward your spine. This will help support the low back to reduce any sway back posture. • K  eep your knees and feet relaxed and pointing straight ahead.

• Sit up straight. • Imagine your shoulder blades are “glued” to the back of your chair. If the glue “unsticks,” you’ll find yourself slouching. • B  oth feet should be flat on the floor and your knees should form a right angle while sitting in your chair. • If you’re at a desk or computer station, make sure your chair is close, so your arms can extend while resting on the desktop with your shoulders relaxed. NOTE: If your child is playing a video game, he’s bound to get into a slouched position the longer he plays and as the game gets more intense. Make sure he takes a break and moves around every 20-30 minutes. Have him twist from side to side as well as bend backwards a few times to stretch the muscles that are contracted and tight from slouching.

NOTE: If you turn to the side while standing tall, you should be able to draw an imaginary line from the top of your head down to the floor, finding the head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles all in a straight line.

Tips for School and Home • B  e a Role Model – Next time you’re in the bathroom fixing your hair, step away from the mirror and take a good look at your own posture. Not just from the front, but also turn to each side. Can you draw an imaginary line from your head to the floor? How does your posture line up? Setting a good example for your kids to follow is one of the best gifts of health you can give. • G  ive Reminders – Just as you remind your child to brush her teeth, wash her hands, and put away her toys, so too should you remind her about having good posture. • S  uperman – This is great to play during commercial breaks. To start, have your child lie on his stomach while on the floor. Ask him to imitate Superman flying, with arms outstretched and shoulder blades squeezed together. The game leader calls out, “Fly, Superman, fly” and your child lifts his torso, arms, head and neck to soar over imaginary buildings. Have your child count backwards from 10, designating how long Superman will fly until he has a safe landing, when he returns to starting position.

For more information and activities on perfect posture, visit aug/sept 2010


Valparaiso has a new high standard in child care.

Growing Kids, northern Indiana’s premier child care provider, is now serving Valpo. Here’s what that means for you and your child.

Excellent Education: Our team of highly qualiďŹ ed educators will provide your child with structured educational activities designed to inspire growth . . . intellectually, emotionally, and socially. And we’ll have fun along the way.

Extraordinary Care: The new Valparaiso Center was designed with one thing in mind: growing kids. Special for-kids-only features ensure a creative learning environment, and state-of-the-art technology and staff training provides an unmatched level of safety and security.

Exceptional Value: We encourage you to visit other child care facilities in the area. Then come by for a personal, noobligation tour of our new Center. That’s the best way to see for yourself that Growing Kids is the best child care value in town. • 219-462-7777 • Campbell @ Bullseye Rd.

Can You Find Happy, Healthy Kids in These Photos? Yep ... All of Them. 7ANT9OUR#HILDTOBE(APPY4OO#HOOSEA#LASSAT0ATTIS!LL !MERICAN


Gymnastics focuses specifically on development of skills while preparing your child for athletics and becoming more fit and having fun!



Be a part of the only fitness-based educational preschool in NW Indiana

Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Hip Hop, Combo Classes for all ages, and home of the Dancing GymBears for ages 2-5.


Schedules at... The Leader in Gymnastics, Dance and Swim


*OLIET3T$YER ).s  

destinations By JULI DOSHAN

OUTDOOR RECREATION 3 Under Par Golf Center, 1504 N Main St, Crown Point. 219.663.6371. This golf center, which includes a driving range and golf simulator, offers a junior program to provide youngsters with an opportunity to experience the game of golf and learn its rules. 49er Drive-in Theatre, 675 Calumet Ave, Valparaiso. 219.462.6122. Known as one of America’s top 10 drive-in theaters, this nostalgic destination offers great double features, plus a top-notch concession stand. Blast Camp Paintball, 563 W 600 N, Hobart. 219.947.7733. Chicagoland’s longestrunning and most unique paintball field is located on a retired Army base from the Cold War, complete with a mess hall, communications room, barracks and various other buildings which are free game to paintballers. With expanded hours, field upgrades and more big games, this is the place to have the ultimate game of paintball in Northwest Indiana. Buckley Homestead, 3606 Belshaw Rd, Lowell. 219.769.7275. Settled by the Buckley family in the mid 1850s, the homestead is now a source of historical learning. Visitors may tour the farmstead, schoolhouse, barnyard and museum. They may also enjoy barbeque facilities, hiking and crosscountry trails, picnic areas and open play fields. Chellberg Farm and Bailly Homestead, Mineral Springs Rd between US 12 & 20, Porter. 219.926.7561. Visitors can explore the Bailly Homestead and Cemetery and Chellberg Farm and help the farmer feed the animals every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The Chellberg Farm is also home to the Annual Maple Sugar Time Festival. Gary SouthShore RailCats, US Steel Yard, One Stadium Plaza, Gary. 219.882.2255. America’s favorite pastime is celebrated throughout the spring and summer in the heart of Gary as the independent RailCats compete for a Northern League Championship. Fireworks Fridays, Souvenir Saturdays and individual tickets no more than $10 each combine to make this an affordable and fun warm weather option. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, 219.926.7561. The beautiful shores of Lake Michigan offer a variety of opportunities for outdoor family fun, including bird watching, picnicking, horseback riding, hiking, fishing, boating and more.

Inman’s Fun and Party Center, 3201 E Evans Ave, Valparaiso. 219.462.1300. Visitors can enjoy bowling, billiards, bean bags, an arcade and food from Panhandler’s Pizza. Sandy Harbor, Inman’s outside attraction park, offers a mini-golf course, go-karts, and bumper boats. The Shrine of Christ’s Passion, 10600 Wicker Ave, St. John. 219.365.6010. Visitors will experience the Passion of Christ as never before along this interactive half-mile winding pathway that features 40 life-size bronze statues. Six Flags Great America, 542 N Rte 21, Gurnee. 847.249.4636. Featuring dozens of roller coaster rides that range from mild to max in thrill ratings, plus a huge water park, this attraction provides fun for all ages. Special events and entertainment also draw crowds. Taltree Arboretum, 450 W 100 N, Valparaiso. 219.462.0025. Trained docents offer nature hikes through the woodlands, wetlands and prairie and can incorporate special activities that include Bird & Worms, the Web of Life and Deadly Links. Washington Park Zoo, 10am-5pm daily, 115 Lakeshore Dr, Michigan City. 219.873.1510. See lions, tigers and bears close to home at this Michigan City zoo. Situated on 15 acres on top of a hilly sand dune close to the lake, this zoo is home to more than 200 animals. Whihala Beach County Park, 10am-6pm daily, 1561 Park Rd, Whiting. 219.945.0543. lakecountyparks. com. Covering 21 acres, Whihala Beach offers a pleasant beachfront for bird watchers, swimmers, boaters and sightseers. This park provides the following amenities: boat launch, fishing, food concessions, jogging trails, picnic tables, toilets and more. Zao Island, 1050 Horse Prairie Ave, Valparaiso. 219.462.1194. Filled with fun, this location offers a game room, miniature golfing, go karts, batting cages, a wild wave slide and more.

INDOOR DESTINATIONS Albanese Candy Factory and Outlet Store, 5441 E Lincoln Hwy, Merrillville. 219.947.3070. At this factory, families have the opportunity to watch the creation of gummies and chocolates and admire a tall chocolate waterfall. An immense selection of unique and tasty treats is also available for purchase.

aug/sept 2010


Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center, Three Rivers County Park, 2800 Colorado St, Lake Station. 219.963.2070. This colorful and imaginative facility features 23,000 square feet of handson activities, including a block play and construction zone, face painting and dress-up, an art studio, water table, climbing structure, slides, ball pit, a room for toddlers and infants, a Wi-Fi café and much more. Challenger Learning Center, Purdue University Calumet, 2300 173rd St, Hammond. 219.989.3250. This center nurtures excitement about space through missions, voyages and other creative programs. The Courts of Northwest Indiana, 127 E US Hwy 6, Valparaiso. 219.465.1111. This 60,000square-foot sports complex features four basketball courts and three tennis courts. It is open to the public and offers youth and adult leagues, camps and programs. Crown Point Family Fun Center, 1301 Merrillville Rd, Crown Point. 219.663.3663. This Mardi Grasthemed family fun center features go-karts, mini golf, batting and soccer cages outside and an arcade inside, with new games such as Deal or No Deal and classic games like Skee Ball and basketball. Also, available for rent is a 55-foot-tall air dome that may be configured for soccer, baseball, softball or golf team training. Jean Shepherd Community Center, 3031 J. F. Mahoney Dr, Hammond. 219.554.0155. Covering 30,000 square feet, this center features three full basketball courts and an indoor track. Volleyball may be played in the center court. Soccer is also a popular sport at this center, and a variety of other activities are offered.

For more local events, destinations and resources, please visit

Get the word out! If your organization has a familyfriendly event that takes place in late September or later, and you would like it to be considered for inclusion in NWI Parent magazine, please send a detailed description of your event—with complete contact information— to by September 1, 2010.

ive s n e t n I e v i s Comprehennt Programs Outpatie ts run IOPs)

Obstetrical & Gynecological !SSOCIATES )NC Board CertiямБed Obstetricians & Gynecologists





Cheryl Short M.D., FACOG

L. Jennifer Murphy M.D., FACOG

Crystal Strickland M.D., FACOG

Chrys Davis MSN, FNP

s!$($#HILDREN!DULTS 7/-!.3'2/50 s$EPRESSION s0ANIC!TTACK!NXIETY s'RIEF s$IVORCE,OSS s"IPOLAR$ISORDER s&AMILY%DUCATION-EETINGS 3ANKER*AYACHANDRAN -$ a board certified psychiatrist in psychiatry and neurology and also board certified in addiction psychiatry. 6IJAY*AYACHANDRAN -$ &!0! is board certified in adult psychiatry, adolescent psychiatry, and addiction psychiatry. She is a Fellow of American Psychiatric Association.


GLENDALE MEDICAL CENTER 1101 E. Glendale Blvd., Suite 102 s6ALPARAISO ).s  

TH3TREETs-UNSTER ).s0HONE   Confidential Care is an integrated group practice with psychiatrists, counselors, and social workers. Most )NSURANCE!CCEPTED

teen scene

Melinda Dalgarn is vice chancellor for student affairs at Purdue University Calumet.

by Melinda Dalgarn, Ed.D.

making connections

responsibility for their own schedules. As sophomores and juniors, students have most likely selected their majors and may need faculty mentors in their course of studies to help initiate them into the field or profession. As seniors, students may need mentors who can help make the transition from college into the world of work. Students may need to seek a variety of mentors as they progress through college and their needs become more clearly defined. Oftentimes, mentoring focuses on career development issues. Mentors can challenge students to learn new skills and accept new responsibilities; sponsor students for desirable projects; encourage self-reflection about career plans and opportunities; assist students as they learn to navigate organizational politics; serve as advocates to opportunities; provide access to other members of the campus community who may be helpful; facilitate visibility and recognition within the school, college and/ or department; and guide students toward research opportunities, internships and honors projects. Students may also become better informed regarding opportunities for publishing in undergraduate journals, presenting at local, regional or national conferences and applying for renowned scholarships like the Truman, Rhodes and Fulbright through their contacts with mentors. From roommate challenges to course selection and leadership opportunities to graduate school options, mentors can play a very important role in your student’s life. Mentors can enhance students’ sense of identity and value by affirming their competence and skills, challenging them appropriately, encouraging their thought and creativity, facilitating selfreflection and self-awareness and serving as a confidential, trusted, supportive and open soundboard.

The Value of Mentors What do Oprah Winfrey, Tom Brokaw, Denzel Washington and Hillary Clinton have in common? Each of these successful individuals identified a mentor who played an important role in his or her development.


ost of us have identified trusted teachers we look up to for guidance, support and inspiration. Mentors can be friends, relatives, supervisors, teachers or coaches. Most often, mentors are more experienced, older persons who are seen as role models, advocates, guides and/or cheerleaders. Some high school and first year college students may hesitate to initiate meetings with teachers, professors or administrators. Students may feel it’s presumptuous of them to think that these professionals wish to share their time and expertise with them. In reality, these individuals are generally willing and, quite frankly, flattered to be asked to establish personal connections with students. I’ve always found it wonderfully rewarding to be asked to contribute to the growth and development of bright, energetic, enthusiastic young adults! Students and mentors alike agree that students should begin trying to identify a mentor as early as possible. Students should consider those who embody the characteristics that the student aspires to develop and refine within himself. While we often think of mentors as faculty members within the field of study that a student is pursuing, students might also find a mentor in a teacher or administrator who oversees extracurricular activities like student government, residence life, the honor council or athletics. Once students identify a mentor, they must work to cultivate a relationship with him or her. Students should get to know the mentor’s personal beliefs on a variety of issues, learn about contacts he/she may have in the field, and begin utilizing him/her as you would a great library resource. Frequency of meetings is the single most important indicator of success for both mentors and students. Those who meet more frequently have higher perceptions of mentoring received and given. It is clear that students need mentors throughout their careers for various reasons. As college freshmen, students may need mentors to help them make the transition from being high school students with curfews to young adults who take

aug/sept 2010


As parents, encourage students to: Make contact with each of his/ her professors within the first two months of class. I dentify areas of academic, social and recreational interest. Explore the departmental home page for specific information on areas of faculty/ staff interest. Talk with her/his faculty advisor about colleagues who may share similar interests. Ask upper-class students about professors they know who share similar interests. Schedule appointments with several professors and discuss his/her interests, goals and objectives.


It’s more than just preschool.

©2009 MIDS

5935 HOHMAN AVENUE Photography by Ann Latinovich © 2010 MIDS mcs00309

| HAMMOND, IN 46320 | 219.932.5666

Accredited by American Montessori Society Montessori Children’s Schoolhouse welcomes children of any sex, race, religion, color, national and ethnic origin.


Thinking ahead can ease even the toughest transitions By Mark Loehrke

T.S. Eliot may have offered April as the cruelest month, but had he still been a schoolboy in 1922 when expressing that notion in his poem “The Waste Land,” he certainly would have given at least passing consideration to instead tabbing August with that unfortunate designation. After all, few things in life are crueler or more unfair than the callous intrusion of back-toschool planning and preparation into what should be the last few remaining carefree weeks of summer vacation. True relaxation and blissful idleness are hard to achieve, after all, with looming registration deadlines and persistent back-to-school advertising bearing down throughout the dog days of August. Still, the reliable old Boy Scout axiom of “be prepared” is rarely more apt than in the case of back-to-school planning—and significantly more so for students moving not just from one grade to the next, but from one school stage to the next. More than simply shifting attention from beach parties and baseball games to class schedules and study habits—monumental tasks in and of themselves—the incremental moves up the educational ladder are often best achieved with special attention from students and parents during the weeks leading up to that first day of school. This is not to suggest, of course, that simple preparation is the magical key to a stress-free transition between school levels—even the best prepared families are sure to face new pressures and challenges as the school year gets underway, after all. But just as the process of researching and assembling a science fair project tends to be more orderly and less stressful when considered and plotted several weeks before the big fair, a new school year probably has a better chance of getting off on the right foot if some of the potential pitfalls have been addressed well before that first bell rings. It might even be enough to justify the otherwise unforgivable trespass of academia onto the sacred summer playground of August. ➤ ➤ ➤

countdown to

school aug/sept 2010


Young Folks

Kindergarten ➤ Elementary School


ounger children thrive on routine, which is why a move from one grade level— and its established set of rhythms and routines—to another can be difficult for some. But coming out of summer, the change in routine can start from the time the alarm sounds on that first day of classes. Long daylight hours and abundant activity options often mean later bedtimes throughout the summer, and this is a habit that can often be difficult to realign over the course of just one or two nights right before school starts. A week (or two) of gradually earlier nights and mornings can help phase in acceptable school bedtimes and keep kids more alert during those first few weeks of September. The good news for many kindergartners is that their classrooms are often housed in the same building as the elementary school to which they’ll be moving, helping to make the physical transition, at least, a little more subtle—the more significant alteration generally comes on the academic side, as focus shifts to an increasingly structured curriculum-focused school day. However, for children who are having anxiety about the move to elementary school, a visit to their new environment a few weeks before school begins may provide some comfort and sense of recognition. Call the office to see if it’s possible to set up a brief pop-in to look around, but try to be as flexible as possible, keeping in mind that this is undoubtedly a busy time for teachers and administrators as well. Finally, as much as kids may hate the idea of a back-to-school shopping trip, an early-August outing for supplies and clothes is nevertheless a good idea. Pick a rainy day and take a few hours to fill that backpack and get things set well in advance of the first day of school. Not only will this help alleviate any last-minute scrambling for notebooks and glue, it will also give kids a chance to mentally organize their supplies and start thinking about what kinds of things they might be doing once school begins.

In the Middle

Elementary School ➤ middle School


hat notion of simple organization is far more pronounced when students reach fifth or sixth grade and begin considering middle school. After a fairly prolonged stretch in the same physical environment with many of the same daily routines, middle school often means moving to an entirely new building with an entirely new organizational setup. From changing classrooms and dealing with lockers (for perhaps the first time) to managing an increasingly complex workload, middle school forces students to develop the skills and acumen that they’ll need as they approach high school. As transitions go, this period can offer more than its share of challenges, but it’s also a very exciting time as students cautiously take on more independence and self-sufficiency. Guidance counselor Sarah Smenyak agrees that many of the issues

confronting incoming students at Taft Middle School in Crown Point revolve around some of the practical basics of settling into a new routine, such as class schedules and locker issues. But the pressure of increasing expectations in terms of assignments and homework is another area where good preparation and organization can help smooth the transition immensely. “We stress to our students that it is important for them to use their planners to write down all of their assignments so they know what books they need to take home from their lockers in the afternoon, what work needs to get done at home and when bigger projects are due,” she says. “Students also need to have a system in place to help them keep track of their papers so that work gets turned in on time.” Counselors at Taft actually laid the groundwork for incoming middle school students back in May by visiting the area’s sixth grade classes to discuss the transition and what to expect after the summer break. Students in Crown Point can also begin surveying their online schedules as early as August 1st to get a feel for how their days will unfold and plan strategies for getting from one class to another on time and with minimal stress. Despite the obvious intrusion of school matters into summertime, having a few weeks to really absorb and process these changes can be invaluable for many students in trying to get the year started right.

Getting Serious

middle school ➤ high School


s a counselor at the middle school level, Smenyak has the unique perspective of following students through two major transitions in a relatively compressed time frame, observing their attitudes and anxieties coming out of elementary school all the way through to their occasional apprehension as they prepare for high school just two short years later. While both transitions involve a handful of similar themes and issues, she believes the move to high school is much more notable for its social component and its “big picture” concerns— less “Where’s my locker?” and more “Where do I fit?” “Finding a positive way to fit in is one of the big challenges I see,” she says of the typical high school freshman. “There are so many more opportunities at the high school level, and freshmen need to look for activities that allow them to have positive experiences that match their interests and abilities. Sometimes this means making new friends and being willing to try new things and be open to new experiences.” To that end, Smenyak recommends that incoming freshmen spend part of their summer thinking about activities they might want to try when they get into high school, particularly fall-focused clubs or sports that may be already getting underway in early August. A brief spin through the school’s website can be an easy, noncommittal way to get a feeling for the variety of activities that are available. This little bit of planning and preparation not only will result in a diverse range of interests and activities to help bolster a student’s academic resume for eventual college applications, it will also help him or her get the most out of those upcoming four years. aug/sept 2010


Support System Regardless of the grade level, the common sense river that runs through this landscape of academic transitions is parental involvement and support. Even as students grow older and start gaining more independence, they will continue to look to the people they’ve relied upon all along to be there—if not always with definite answers, then at least as a sounding board and a shoulder on which to lean. Smenyak advises parents to stress the positive aspects of any move—like opportunities to get involved and make new friends—to help relieve any anxiety a student (or they themselves) may be feeling as August winds down. “Avoid saying things like, ‘At the middle school, they will never let you get away with that,’ or ‘You are going to have so much more work when you get to high school,’” she says. “Talk to your children about what they’re nervous about and find ways to support them. Often, parents of incoming sixth graders are just as nervous as their children, and it’s important they do what they can to alleviate their children’s fears rather than creating more stress with their own nervousness.”

special sponsor feature

fairfarms oaks

dairy tales

The path of I-65 takes drivers through the heart of Indiana farm country, with field after field flying past the car window in a seemingly endless parade of crops and cattle. Aside from the occasional out-of-the-way industrial facility or somnolent country town those fields seem to stretch out forever, and after a while from that perspective, everything starts to look more or less the same—with a moo, moo here, a cluck, cluck there, here an oink, there a snort, everywhere a barn, barn. But not all Hoosier farms are created equal, a notion that becomes readily apparent to anyone who takes Exit 220 just north of Rensselaer to Fair Oaks Farms.

aug/sept 2010


If the sprawling grounds, hordes of wandering visitors and regular influx of tour buses don’t provide a clear picture of the scale on which Fair Oaks is operating, perhaps a quick glance at some of the staggering numbers will help drive it home:

• 17,000 acres • 550 employees • 30,000 cows, each earning her keep with up to three milkings (roughly 10 gallons) per day • 80 to 100 calf births every day • 140,000 annual visitors

Staggering, but just another day down on the family-owned farm at Fair Oaks, which has developed into one of the country’s largest dairy operations in just a little over a dozen years. Of course, these impressive numbers wouldn’t add up to much of anything if not for the component that truly sets Fair Oaks apart—its standing mission to welcome visitors and educate them about the ins and outs of a dairy farming operation and engage them with a variety of interactive initiatives. As exurban creep continues to claim more and more acres of farmland across this once largely agrarian nation, Fair Oaks marketing manager Tony Wiedman believes that a chance to really explore the rural experience is something that is becoming less and less commonplace for most people. “As one of the largest dairy farms in the United States, Fair Oaks wanted to give the public the chance to see 21st-century agriculture up close, since most Americans no longer have the opportunity to visit a farm,” he says. Of course, those visitors will discover much more than a sleepy little farm at Fair Oaks. One of the centerpiece attractions, for instance, is the elaborate Adventure Center, a fully operational dairy facility supplemented by over thirty informative exhibits focusing on topics like animal care (Fair Oaks employs a staff of veterinarians and nutritionists) and quality control in the milk-processing industry. Walking tours lead visitors through the complete production process—including live

How Does Their Garden Grow?

milking demonstrations and a look at how some of that milk is turned into cheese and ice cream—while 45-minute bus tours give participants a better feel for the vastness of the operation. The Adventure Center is also home to a wide array of interactive and first-hand exhibits, including the popular theater-style Birthing Barn, where visitors can witness live calf births—a memorable event that happens every day at this massive facility. For all of the technology that surrounds modern life—and, indeed, lends Fair Oaks itself much of its whiz-bang magic—the Birthing Barn is a good reminder that some of the biggest thrills in this world are often the most basic. “The theater layout allows you to become part of the birthing experience,” Wiedman says. “This is truly one of the most popular attractions at Fair Oaks Farms.” Another option in the Adventure Center is the 3D/4D movie, which immerses viewers in the sights, sounds and smells of dairy production. Of course, summer and fall also mean big crowds of little ones in Mooville, the expansive outdoor play area that includes a challenging rope maze, a climbing wall, an inflatable jumper, a train ride, and mini tractor races—all with a dairy theme, naturally. “The Adventure Center,” notes Wiedman, with just a bit of understatement, “is not your ordinary information center.” Visitors also have a chance to learn more about the environmental control measures that Fair Oaks employs—a vital consideration at an operation of this scale. The farm grows tens of thousands of acres of silage corn and alfalfa hay using sound nutrient management practices to ensure sustainability, and puts cutting-edge anaerobic digesters to work to turn loads of manure into electricity, heat and an odorless topsoil product. Fair Oaks has also set aside over 3,000 of its acres to protect streams and ditches in the immediate area as a wildlife habitat. But while the bus tours and the Adventure Center are certainly big hits with most visitors, the one stop that everybody makes time for is the Cheese Factory café. After all, observing the many steps in the dairy-making process first-hand is all well and good, but there’s nothing quite like sinking your teeth into the finished products—fresh milk, award-winning cheeses, grilled cheese sandwiches and, of course, made-on-site ice cream—to truly get the flavor of the Fair Oaks experience (and to take a little something delicious home from the store as a soon-to-be-consumed memento of a big day on the farm). Many locals, in fact, make a point of stopping at Fair Oaks as a matter of course just for a bite at the Cheese Factory, which offers a full menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yet however one chooses to experience Fair Oaks—be it a full day of exploration and enjoyment, or just a quick pop-in for a tasty cone— CONTACT there is little doubt that the memory that lingers Fair Oaks Farms will be the experience. —Mark Loehrke 856 N 600 E, Fair Oaks, Ind.

One of the most recent additions at Fair Oaks Farms is the 10,000square-foot Green Gate Garden, an opportunity for visitors to discover how all of those fruits and vegetables in their local produce departments came to be. “If people’s only experience with fruits and vegetables is what they see at the supermarket, the Green Gate Garden helps them take a step back to see how everything is grown, picked and harvested,” Wiedman says. • From planting to reaping, this is a front-to-back look at sustainable farming, with dozens of crops taking a turn in the spotlight throughout the year, including: • 10+ varieties of herbs • 10 varieties of lettuce • 24 varieties of heirloom tomatoes • 10+ varieties of flowers • Seasonal fruits

Best of all, visitors can even pick up a salad for lunch in the café made with some of the vegetables grown in the Green Gate Garden, giving them a true field-totable view (and taste) of farming.


aug/sept 2010


real reviews

Stephanie Precourt lives with her husband, three boys and daughter in Valparaiso. For more great product reviews, and to read about her life as a proud stay-at-home mom, check out her blog, “Close to Home,” on

By Stephanie Precourt

Light Up the Night

Kids can fall into sweet sleep with their own portable, huggable plush night-light. ChuChi [$30] has two modes that transform it to be a personal lantern for extra sight in the night or to make sounds with a soothing heartbeat. Just one squeeze will activate ChuChi, and the glowing heartbeat rhythm changes organically over time to offer peace and solace for a child trying to sleep or relax. It produces a nice ambient glow in a dark room, or by a bedside. Recommended for ages three and older, ChuChi’s ultra plush and cuddly body will give the extra comfort a child needs to reduce nighttime anxiety for a good night sleep and sweet dreams. Find ChuChi at and

shake it like a polaroid picture The original Polaroid camera is baaaaack and perfect for the big kids (and moms and dads) to experience the classic instant photo with a new twist. The Polaroid 300 Instant [$89.99] has an automatic flash and comes in red, blue and old-school black. The business card-size instant color photos are the new party favor—perfect for passing around with friends and sticking in a pocket. Ideal for capturing the moment and not leaving it forever on a memory stick or computer for all eternity. (We’re all guilty of that.) Four scene settings ensure the perfect shot in any light. The film is easy to load and comes separately in ten packs for $9.99. Camera and film available at

Take Flite

The latest trend in wheeling little ones around is the compact stroller—all the function and none of the weight that the big deal strollers have. A new kind of “entry-level stroller”—the Bumbleride Flite [$249.99]—is taking the lead with its outstanding versatility and fashionable color palette. And absolutely perfect for the modern family on the go with less cargo space in the car or garage, the Flite’s compact package makes it easier than ever for parents to go where they want without having to sacrifice the functionality they need. The accessories included might be the icing on the cake: rain cover, removable cup holder (my personal favorite), headrest and shoulder pads, and carrying strap for easy transport when folded. A zipper pouch on the back of the canopy is perfect for cell phone, keys and anything else you need at a moment’s notice while you ride along. The larger seating area, extra headroom, and extended seat recline make it an ideal option for older children, and the Flite is also compatible with most infant car seat carriers. The matching Bumbleride Carrycot can be purchased separately as well. Available at Babies R Us and other popular children’s products retailers.

Green Their Lunch Box

Finally Have Your Family All in One Place

C, the well-designed website of the future, will change your family’s chaotic and busy life. Oh, and it’s free. Sign-up is easy and within minutes you can start organizing and simplifying family life with realistic online tools you’ll actually use. Manage schedules and activities, track shopping and to-do lists, organize household chores, and share family moments and photos with friends and relatives—all from your mobile phone or computer. If you prefer pen and paper, print off the lists and date book. Sync to home and work calendars and add reminders to be sent by text message or email to family members associated with the appointment or event. You can even call Cozi’s toll-free number and have your lists sent via text message or read to you over the phone. Let’s hear it for finally getting your family’s act together this year! Start now at

Reduce and reuse when brown-bagging it this school year with Snack Happened Reusable & Washable Snack Bags [$9.95 each]. In a perfect 7-by-7-inch size, these small, machine washable zipper pouches are BPA-free with a PVC-free waterproof lining interior, and secure with a lead-free zipper to keep your stuff in. Not just for pretzels and carrot sticks, use ’em for cell phones, toiletries, cameras, hiking, camping, travel, beach gear—pretty much anything you’d normally put in a disposable plastic baggie. The price is a bit, well, pricey for only one pouch, but if you think about the overall use (and reuse), eco-friendliness, and novelty of it all, it might just be worth it. Find Snack Happened reusable bags at and aug/sept 2010


Braces Schedule a FREE Orthodontic Consultation TODAY!



Our Everyday Low Fee Includes: s!LL8 2AYS s!LL-ODELS s!LL0HOTOGRAPHS s2ETAINERS

3 495

$ ,




*Additional fees apply for cases requiring surgical intervention.



Dr. Jeffrey Meister is a Past President of the Academy of GP Orthodontics





DRS. NIRENBERG AND LACEY of Friendly Foot Care are among the nation’s top foot and ankle doctors. They strive for excellence when treating foot and ankle problems, specializing in state-of-the-art laser surgery, the revolutionary shockwave treatment for heel pain, and use tiny-incision arthroscopic surgery for ankle and heel pain. DRS. NIRENBERG AND LACEY use the latest techniques to solve the toughest foot and ankle problems. Between them, there are few problems they cannot solve.

50 W. 94th Place, Crown Point, IN (219) 663-2273


1630 45th St. | Suite 104 | Munster, IN 46321

family room

Rick Kaempfer’s business card says author/writer/blogger, but his real job is “stay-at-home dad” for his three school-aged sons. For more adventures-in-parenting tales, check out Rick’s “Father Knows Nothing” blog at

By Rick Kaempfer

The perils of entering high school are different for every incoming freshman

high drama My son Tommy is going into high school this year, and I think I’m actually more freaked out about it than he is. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was entering high school myself, and I still remember how scary it seemed. The older brothers of my friends told me horror stories of things that can and often do happen to hapless freshmen. I can recall in vivid detail the story of the unfortunate freshman being forced to push a penny across the sidewalk with his nose. I remember my friend’s brother (a senior at the time) measuring me with his hands from afar and declaring with cackling glee: “Yup, you’ll fit in a locker perfectly.” And every incoming freshman heard the rumor about the kid that almost drowned when a senior

shoved his head in a toilet . . . and flushed. Of course, I never actually saw any of those things happen, and none of them happened to me, but I lived in constant fear that entire year. Tommy is about the same size I was at his age (short and skinny), and has several of the same handicaps I had going into high school (smart and nerdy), but he doesn’t seem to have any of the same fears I had. When I asked Tommy what he feared most, he had only one worry: too much homework and paperwork. Judging by the packet we got in the mail this summer, there’s good reason to worry. We read the tips for high school freshmen together, and it does sound pretty intimidating:

extracurricular activities, the better. Tommy: Groan.

Tip #1: Keep a notebook of all activities, including outside commitments, school activities, awards, volunteer work, employment, and a portfolio of your best schoolwork. Tommy’s reaction: Employment? Dad’s response: That’s right, pal. You’re going to have to get a job soon. Tommy: Groan.

After our discussion he took quite a bit of time looking at the list of extracurricular activities. “Dad, these sound like torture.” I tried to calm him down. “Don’t worry, buddy,” I said. “That’s not torture. Torture is when a senior makes you push a penny across a parking lot with your nose. Torture is when you get locked in a locker. Torture is when you nearly drown because someone is trying to drown you in a toilet.” He looked at me like I was from outer space. “That’s ridiculous, Dad.” You know, maybe I should stop worrying about him. At least he’s worrying about the right things. That puts him a step ahead of me already.

Tip #2: Become an expert in understanding your high school records, including your transcript and your extracurricular list. Tommy’s reaction: Extracurricular list? Dad’s response: Colleges are looking for well-rounded kids. It says here, the more

aug/sept 2010


Tip #3: Create a standardized testing portfolio, keeping track of when each test is scheduled, and what sort of preparatory work you can do before each test. Tommy’s reaction: Groan. Tip #4: Keep organized, so that the amount of homework doesn’t become overwhelming, especially if you are taking advanced placement classes. Tommy’s reaction: OH, NO! (Tommy is taking four AP classes. And let’s just say that “organization” is not his middle name.)

NWI Parent  
NWI Parent  

August/September 2010 The Back-to-School Issue