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FEB/MAR 2010

Real Solutions for Real Families

OUR KIDS Outstanding local children

HEALTH CHECK The truth about toe walking

TIME TO GET MOVING!

It’s a new year— and a new decade— and NWI offers healthy activities for everyone

TOT SPOT Taking care of baby’s teeth

A PUBLICATION OF

NWI.COM/PARENT


DYER | 219.934.2492 919 Main Street | Suite 102 Susan Ramirez, MD Biljana Uzelac, MD

MERRILLVILLE | 219.736.1400 300 W. 80th Place Marc Connery, MD Clark Kramer, MD

MUNSTER | 219.924.2500 1950 45th Street | Suite 201 James Cantorna, MD Shah Chowdhury, MD Gilbert Given, MD

ST. JOHN | 219.365.0970 10200 Wicker Avenue Mark Greenberg, MD


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contents

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february/ march 2010

feature 24 FIND YOUR NICHE Not every child is a budding soccer star, but most can enjoy creative and healthy alternative activities while having fun at the same time. BY MARK LOEHRKE

departments 6 KID BITS A book to ease the difficulties of moving, how to get your child involved in acting, and the Imagination Café 8 HEALTH CHECK Toe-walking toddlers, and childhood lupus symptoms 10 SCHOOL NOTES Reducing bullying in our schools, and the About Special Kids center 14 TOT SPOT Taking care of baby’s teeth, and the prenatal learning debate 16 TEEN SCENE The teen brain—what you should know 18 MEAL TIME Recipes and tips for cooking with your children 20 FIT FAMILY Indoor suggestions for staying active with your child 22 BEHAVE YOURSELF Staying home alone, and toddler strategies for meal- and bedtimes

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28 REAL REVIEWS Products for fun and safety 30 OUR KIDS Three Northwest Indiana children who exhibit excellence in their communities 32 FAMILY ROOM Kids are sometimes our best motivation to get fit

in every issue

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4 Editor’s Letter 12 Calendar 29 Destinations feb/mar 2010

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David A. Bochnowski

5IBOLTUPPVSDVTUPNFSTy

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

We’re Celebrating 100 Years of Community Banking Since 1910, Peoples Bank has been honored to serve the residents and businesses of Northwest Indiana. From our proud but humble beginnings 100 years ago in East Chicago, Peoples has grown in stature and reputation to play a major role in the communities we serve. Because our employees live here, work here, volunteer and serve on community boards here, we are committed to promoting growth and development in our local neighborhoods. We plan on being a significant force in our communities for a long time to come. The strong values and culture that formed the cornerstone of our Bank have endured through the years, evolving into our core philosophy of You First Banking. Those who bank with us know that it’s not just a phrase. It’s the way we do business…by putting our customers first. We recognize that Peoples Bank would not be where it is today without the good will and loyalty of our customers, neighbors, community leaders and businesses of Lake and Porter counties. We thank you for your support, and we pledge to continue our involvement here providing you with an unparalleled banking experience. To learn more about Peoples Bank and our plans for the next 100 years, just call us at 219-836-4400. Or, you can visit us on the web at www.ibankpeoples.com.

personal banking

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wealth management

Member FDIC


feb/mar 2010

Publisher

Bill Masterson, Jr.

Volume 4 — Issue 1

editor’s letter

Associate Publisher/Editor

Pat Colander

Director of Product Development

Chris Loretto

Managing Editor

Kathy MacNeil Art Director

Joe Durk

Designers

April Burford Matt Huss Assistant Managing Editor

Julia Perla

Contributing Editors

Heather Augustyn Ashley Boyer Juli Doshan Jane Dunne Rob Earnshaw Patricia Gurnak Rick Kaempfer Mark Loehrke Debi Pillarella Stephanie Precourt Erika Rose Carrie Steinweg Sharon Biggs Waller

it’s

Photographers

Robert Wray

Advertising Managers

Deb Anselm Frank Perea Jeffrey Precourt

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

Tell Us Whka!t You Tthtoinhear

We wan so please from youur, co mments email yo ggestions and su s at: to u eedback@ NWIParentFes nwitim .com

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.

hard to believe that a new year has already arrived, bringing with it our annual Family Fitness issue. It’s even harder to believe that I—an average mom with legendary fitness struggles—am charged with the task of starting this issue with words that are somehow going to inspire you to embrace a more active and healthy lifestyle. Let’s face it, we all already know the right things to do (eat more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff, exercise a little—okay, a lot—more often, get adequate sleep, drink tons of water, and reduce stress), but we just can’t seem to get started. Unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers. But I do know this much: I know that you parents of infants and toddlers consider yourselves lucky if you even get a daily shower, much less string together more than a few hours of sleep in a row. I know that you parents of school-aged children are constantly “running”— not on a treadmill, but in a minivan strewn with McDonald’s wrappers, crumpled permission slips and lost mittens. And I know that you parents of teenagers are struggling with college savings, new drivers,

peer pressure/dating concerns, and a return to sleep deprivation as you anxiously wait to hear that front door open at curfew time. So how are we supposed to find the time and energy for diet and exercise? I suppose this is the point in an inspirational essay when the writer is expected to encourage readers to start out by making “small changes” in their lifestyles. But if you’re like me, you tend to resist the small changes most of all . . . because small changes lead to small results, right? Maybe. Or maybe not. In fact, research has told us time and time again that simply eating dinner together several times a week—yes, around a table, not in front of the TV—provides tremendous benefits for the entire family. And perhaps cooking that meal together with your children (see “Cook It Together,” page 18) can establish habits that will have a lasting impact on their attitudes towards food. Or, even if your children are not naturalborn athletes and are intimidated by organized team sports, it’s easy for them to still get active in one of the creative alternatives offered in Northwest Indiana. So check out our “Find Your Niche” feature on page 24 and explore something new (and fun!) in 2010. There’s no doubt about it: We’re busy. We’re tired. But we love our children and wouldn’t have it any other way. And believe it or not, maybe one of these small changes—or something entirely different, like taking the dog for a brisk walk in the morning, substituting a banana for your nightly bowl of ice cream, joining your child in some invigorating indoor activities (see page 20)— just might give you that extra confidence, that extra burst of energy, to make a big change. And wouldn’t that be a great way to start out a new decade? Kathy MacNeil

Check out nwi.com/parent, where you’ll find: • • • • •

TimeOut feb/mar 2010

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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

nwi.com/parent


kid bits

News and Notes from Northwest Indiana

You Ought to Be in Pictures

Elena’s Big Move

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oving to a new city and a new home can be a difficult transition for an adult. But imagine how traumatic it can be for a child who leaves old friends and a familiar school behind. A second-grade teacher from Munster aims to help children adjust to relocation with her new children’s book, Elena’s Big Move. Author Sarah Olivieri draws from her own experience in the tale about Elena, a 9-year-old girl who moves with her family from Puerto Rico to Indiana. “It deals with the problem of a child moving,” Olivieri says. “I see this all the time, because I’m a teacher. When they come here, they’re scared.” A lot of parents who’ve had to relocate their families contacted Olivieri after the book came out. She told them to do exactly what Elena does in the story. Make a scrapbook for old friends and places and leave space for new ones. “Let your children know they have to add to the memories—not forget them,” she says. “So then they look at moving as an adventure.” It was quite an adventure for Olivieri when she was a child and her family moved to East Chicago. Olivieri “tried anything,” even provoking herself to vomit, to get out of class so they’d call her father. “It was difficult,” she says. As a teacher, Olivieri says she always assigns “a new friend” to guide new students around the school. Elena’s Big Move is available at amazon.com and tower.com.

Your child is cute and talkative, and people have often told you he or she should be on television. But where do you begin? Your child doesn’t have to have an agent. There are often casting calls in the local paper, on the radio or television. And many websites now help connect actors with casting directors in your area. Tony DiMambro, lead agent and owner of the iGroup, a model and talent management in Michigan that reps children throughout the Midwest, says it doesn’t matter if your child hasn’t worked yet, he will still consider him or her. “It’s our job to get those roles!” he says. “Mail or email us two digital pictures—a simple snapshot of a head-to-toe shot and a head shot, smiling and showing teeth—plus a cover letter telling of any experience and extracurricular activities. We like to see kids who are into sports, dancing, playing an instrument, because that shows they have discipline. That’s more important to us than experience. If we like what we see, we’ll call your child in for a face-to-face meeting.” Be aware of scammers that say you have to pay a certain amount per month for representation. Agents get 10 percent commission of your contract for union work and maybe a bit more for non-union. Managers have no cap on commissions, but the norm is 15 percent. Be very careful and have a lawyer look at your contract before you sign. –Sharon Biggs

Check out these websites: Association of Talent Agents (ATA): agentassociation.com Talent Managers Association (TMA): talentmanagers.org Casting Society of America (CSA): castingsociety.com Breakdown Services: breakdownservices.com Online casting system that links casting directors to talent reps and actors. Scripts are posted instantly, and actors and reps can submit resumes, pictures and videos straight to the director online. Children in Film: childreninfilm.com Fee-based social networking site that connects kid actors to professionals. Has multitude of information on labor laws, workshops, casting calls and more.

Café for Kids Imagine a 24-hour café that caters to kids with an eclectic menu like no other. One in which children can hang out without ever leaving the safety of home. Imagination Café (imagination-café.com) is an interactive website developed by Rosanne Tolin, a Valparaiso mother of four. It’s a place where children can “feed their minds” by way of educational activities, games, writing projects and quizzes. “I love to use the Web to communicate to kids, because that’s their medium,” Tolin says. “I really wanted to put out something where they could learn a thing or two.” Tolin says the website has experienced steady growth since she developed it in 2007. While games remain a popular item on the site, kids can also look to their future by checking out the Career-o-Rama section, which features first-hand interviews with people in various jobs. It’s something Tolin says is unique to Imagination Café. “That’s one area I wanted to

–Rob Earnshaw feb/mar 2010

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be different,” she says. “It’s about following your dreams. I didn’t see it on other kids’ sites.” The website also allows kids to post a picture of their favorite pet and has a “suggestion box” for them to submit their ideas for the Café. “I definitely take those to heart,” Tolin says. “Sometimes I’ll get really good ideas from them.” Imagination Café has received several awards and honors, including its listing on the American Library Association website as one of its “Great Websites for Kids.” “That was cool, because they don’t choose very many,” Tolin says. –Rob Earnshaw


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is board certified in adult psychiatry, adolescent psychiatry, and addiction psychiatry. She is also a part of the Fellow of American Psychiatry Association. She specializes in the treatment of women and adolescents. She performs individual, group therapy and medication management.

· Trouble making/keeping friends · Declining grades/truancy · Loss of interest in normally focused activities · Anger/irritability/hostility · Weepiness/sadness · Excessive sexual behavior · Declining self-care and hygiene · Negative self-talk/low self-esteem · Disordered eating habits/change in appetite · Isolationism/withdrawal · Difficulty with concentrating and/or decision making · Personality changes · Substance abuse · ADHD Children & Adults

Dr. Jay and Dr. Vijay are available for patients by office or phone 24 hours a day. Confidential Care 720 45th Street Munster, IN Phone: 219-934-6410

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health check

Erika Rose is a freelance journalist who primarily covers health news in Northwest Indiana. Erika and her husband Kevin live in Highland with their two girls, Morgan and Alexandra.

By ERIKA ROSE

toe-walking toddlers

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hen children begin to walk, pay attention to whether they walk with a heel-to-toe gait or if they occasionally walk on their tiptoes. Dr. John Rachoy, a podiatrist with Medical Specialists Center for Podiatry in Munster and St. John, says there are generally three reasons children may walk on their toes: It could be strictly behavioral, such as because of habit or excitability. It could be because of an underlying neurological condition, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or spinal cord abnormalities. Or, it could be due to a functionally tight Achilles tendon, or heel cord. Most often, he says, it’s a behavior they will grow out of. Rachoy suggests a simple test. Simply bend the child’s ankle to see if it extends 90 degrees and pay attention to if the child occasionally reverts back to a normal heel-to-toe gait. If so, it is likely to be something they will outgrow, typically before age five. Dr. Sunil Dedhia, an orthopedic surgeon with Orthopaedic Specialists of Northwest Indiana in Munster, says to be aware of whether the toe walking begins after a normal gait pattern has been established. “Toe walking that begins after a mature heel-to-toe gait pattern has already

CHILDHOOD LUPUS Roughly 15 to 20 percent of lupus cases occur in children under the age of 16. Early diagnosis of this autoimmune rheumatic disease, critical to reducing damage to tissues and organs, is difficult, spelling out a need for more awareness of the disease. Phyllis Simko, president and CEO of the Lupus Foundation of America, Indiana Chapter, says there’s a need for more awareness about lupus. In an effort to educate doctors and health care professionals about a sometimes puzzling and difficult to diagnose disease, the Lupus Foundation of America recently sponsored a medical conference at the Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus. But the need for more awareness goes for parents as well as doctors. The Lupus Foundation of America offers some facts about this disease.

been established can signify other causes like muscular dystrophy, peroneal muscular atrophy, spinal cord tumors, things that are sort of more worrisome, so if the child starts walking normally and then develops the tiptoe gait . . . that is sort of a sign that something more serious is potentially going on.” But with neurological causes, Rachoy says, parents should not jump to conclusions, as toe walking is typically not the first symptom observed of such conditions. A short Achilles tendon could be suspect if the child’s foot cannot be flexed upward. In this case, after an underlying neurological reason is ruled out, treatment could range from stretching exercises and home therapy to casting. Early diagnosis is key, as repair becomes more difficult as the child ages. A diagnosis that is made by exclusion of other disorders is idiopathic toe walking, or toe walking with no known cause. Fortunately, this is the most likely diagnosis, the doctors say, and the one parents are relieved to hear. “Usually, kids with idiopathic toe walking, it’s sort of a habit that if you ask them to stand still, they can stand with their heels on the ground as well, meaning their Achilles tendon isn’t contracted,” Dedhia says. Dedhia says a child who toe walks beyond age three should be evaluated by a pediatrician or possibly a pediatric neurologist. feb/mar 2010

What is lupus? Lupus is an autoimmune rheumatic disease, in which the body’s immune system can’t distinguish between healthy tissue and viruses, bacteria and germs. As a result, the body makes autoantibodies to fight the “invaders” and destroys healthy tissue, causing pain, inflammation and damage to healthy parts of the body. Lupus is commonly called “the great imitator,” because its symptoms are similar to so many other conditions. The symptoms can also come and go and change, making it difficult to diagnose. Symptoms The most common symptoms, according to the Lupus Foundation of America, include: extreme fatigue; headaches; painful or swollen joints; fever; anemia; swelling of feet, hands, legs and/or around the eyes; a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose; sun- or lightsensitivity; hair loss; abnormal blood clotting;

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fingers turning white and/or blue when cold; and mouth or nose ulcers. Diagnosis In general, doctors study signs of inflammation inside and outside the body to diagnose lupus, specifically pain, heat, redness, swelling and loss of function. There is no single test that can identify lupus, although various laboratory tests—along with an assessment of current symptoms, medical history and family history—can help a doctor confirm a diagnosis of lupus or rule out other conditions. Doctors may use a list of eleven criteria developed by the American College of Rheumatology. The ACR says at least four of the following criteria at present or in the past could signal a strong chance of lupus. They are: a butterfly-shaped rash over cheeks and nose; a rash that appears as red, raised, disk-shaped patches; sensitivity to light or sun that causes a rash; oral ulcers; ar-

thritis; inflammation of lining of the lungs or heart causing chest pain that worsens with deep breathing; kidney disorder; neurological disorder; blood disorder; immunologic disorder and an abnormal antinuclear antibody (ANA) test. Resources for families dealing with lupus Thanks to a grant from Kohl’s, the Lupus Foundation of America is providing free copies of the book Loopy Lupus Helps Tell Scott’s Story about a Disease Called Lupus to young people affected by the disease. It’s a story written by a third-grader and his class, with help from his teacher, that discusses the technical side of lupus and living a quality life with the disease. For more lupus resources, a copy of the book, or information on a Lupus Symposium the foundation is planning in Merrillville this spring, contact the Lupus Foundation of America, Indiana chapter, at 219.762.6575 or visit lupusindiana.org.


school notes The experience of school can be completely different from one child to another. While one child may see it as a magical place of learning and opportunity full of friends, for others it can be a scary, anxiety-inducing, miserable place to be when they’re subjected to bullying on a regular basis.

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e’ve seen news stories where kids who have been constantly tormented turn violent—hurting themselves and others—and parents and administrators want to prevent it from happening again. In the region, school administrators are addressing the issue of bullying in the elementary schools to combat its effects early on. More severe discipline methods have been put into place, and some have implemented programs that take a positive approach to decrease bullying. At many schools around the nation, bullying policies were first introduced following the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999. At St. Paul Catholic School in Valparaiso, a program was introduced about nine years ago, and while parent input favored a discipline focus, Principal Jane Scupham says, “We thought we’d like to go more toward the positive.” What was eventually organized was a “family” environment to build relationships among students in different grades. Each family consists of ten to fifteen students, spanning all grades, led by an eighth grade “mother” and “father” and overseen by a staff member. The families usually stay the same from year to feb/mar 2010

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year, allowing them to bond over the years of spending time together. The families design their own shirts, attend a “family dance,” do service projects together and spend one afternoon a month together as a group. “It’s created more of a family atmosphere. The little kids aren’t so scared of the bigger kids,” Scupham says. “Has it eliminated all bullying? No, that’s just a dream, but it’s made it a friendlier school. The kids feel safe, and that’s our whole goal.” At Flint Lake Elementary School in Valparaiso, the C.A.S.S. (Creating a Safe School) program is followed. Fifth-grade teacher Annette Aust is the organizer of the program, with a curriculum geared toward second and fourth graders. The district-wide initiative began a decade ago, and Aust says it emphasizes the golden rule and importance of showing peers respect. “Everybody is part of it, and it’s something we try to live every day,” Aust says. Each year the children sign a pledge, which is recited daily along with “words of wisdom” read over the public address system by students. Aust says the staff and student body have also benefited from staff seminars conducted by Barbara Coloroso, author of The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander, which has led to role-playing exercises that allow students to experience what it feels like to be in one of those roles. Older students serve as conflict managers to help with problem-solving, and younger students


are matched with an older buddy that they can go to if they are • operationrespect.org having prob• bullyingawarenessweek.org lems. • bullying.org Evidence of the pro• nobully.com gram can • bullypolice.org be seen • antibullyingprograms.org throughout the school, Books: from banners that hang in • Nobody Knew What to the hallways Do—A Story about Bullying, by Becky Ray McCain to tracking behavior • Jay McGraw’s Life through a Strategies for Dealing with Bullies bucket visual which empties in the event of inappropriate behavior, to activities that follow the monthly theme (for example, December’s topic was friendship). “In my opinion, it puts a positive slant on the whole issue of children respecting each other and it gives them a way to think about how they would feel if they were in someone else’s position,” Aust says. “I just like the positive aspect of it and how it really fosters respect.” Jane Bomberger of Munster broached the topic of bullying in her book Benny Gets a Bully-ache, which features Chicago Bulls mascot Benny the Bull. Bomberger and friend Dan LeMonnier of Munster, who played the real mascot, traveled to schools to relay the effects of bullying and encourage compassion among peers. While no longer performing as Benny the Bull, LeMonnier continues speaking to groups as a storyteller and covers similar topics. At Thornton Fractional South High School in Lansing, students and staff sat in on a recent assembly, with a separate evening session for parents entitled “Rachel’s Challenge.” It is named for Rachel Scott, the first victim in the Columbine massacre. Using lines from an essay she’d written on how reaching out with kindness “may start a chain reaction,” the mission is to combat bullying and violence and foster positive change among students to embrace others despite differences. According to rachelschallenge.com, over 11 million people have been reached in every state and six countries, and potential suicides and acts of violence have been prevented as a result of the organization inspired by Rachel. –Carrie Steinweg More resources for kids, parents and educators:

about special kids

“If you don’t ask the right questions, you don’t get the right answers. Sometimes, I didn’t even know the right questions to ask.” That is often the dilemma faced by parents of kids with special needs. “When I found out my daughter, Sydney, had Down syndrome, I started doing tons of research and got heavy into the Down syndrome pipeline for Northwest Indiana. I quickly found out that if you don’t ask for specific information from organizations you don’t get anything. So I signed up for inclusion camps, fundraisers, newsletters . . . everything,” Paula Mock recalls. “Then, while my daughter was attending preschool at the Center for Possibilities in Hobart, I met Toni. Toni didn’t work for the center. She worked for About Special Kids. That’s when my life really changed.” Toni Modglin is a parent liaison for About Special Kids (ASK) and is also the parent of a child with special needs. Paula says, “I had no clue ASK even existed or what they did. We were involved with First Steps, but no one ever brought ASK to my attention. I was so surprised.” First Steps is an early intervention program for infants and toddlers with special needs. ASK helps families of children with special needs from birth through age 22 navigate complex systems and access the resources they need to better care for their child. Paula wanted her daughter to attend regular kindergarten rather than be placed in a special education classroom. Paula visited the kindergarten and was asked if her daughter could keep up. Paula wasn’t certain if Sydney could keep up. She then visited the special education classroom and found most of the students had severe problems. She felt that this placement was definitely not appropriate for her daughter. “The teachers told me Sydney needed to be placed in a special education classroom setting and I finally accepted everything they told me. It’s so easy to get discouraged and get worn out trying to keep up with everything you have to do for a child with

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special needs . . . so you just accept things the way they are or what you’re told. I just wanted my daughter to be happy,” Paula says. Concerned about the transition and regression her daughter would suffer if placed in the special education classroom, Paula turned to Toni and asked for help. “Toni told me something quite simple, but remarkable. She said I needed to realize that as a parent of a child with special needs, I have the same rights as other parents and my child has the right to be treated the same as every other child. She also told me that if the other kids in the neighborhood don’t see Sydney in school, they won’t think she’s a part of the neighborhood. Sydney deserves to be included and be part of the community where she lives. It’s crucial for a child to have that opportunity.” Paula adds, “From that point forward, Toni became my little ball of knowledge. I just can’t believe I found someone who is up to snuff on so many things!” Previously, Paula’s calls to the school went unanswered. Toni advised Paula to submit her questions to the school in writing and things began to change. “Toni told me the school could make modifications to accommodate my daughter. She told me what to say and what to ask at meetings and the team came up with a solution that worked for Sydney.” Sydney is in a regular kindergarten and thriving. “My daughter is doing awesome in kindergarten thanks to Toni! I’ve never met anyone who gave me so much helpful information.” Toni provided the Mock family with other information including Medicaid waivers and insurance. Paula admits, “I still call Toni every couple of weeks . . . She knows so much… she is such a gift to my family.” ASK offers their services free of charge to families.

Paula says, “Our special kids don’t come with booklets. Your own research is so limited compared to what the ASK parent liaisons know. I told Toni I wanted to pay her . . . I couldn’t get over that the ASK service is free! I tell everyone I encounter about Toni and what ASK does for families. What ASK does is priceless. That parents can have access to all this information and help at no cost is amazing . . . it’s huge!” Toni says, “I want people to know at ASK, we help all kids with special needs, not just specific disabilities or illnesses. And we help the families too, not just the child. Having a child with special needs changes family dynamics drastically and children cannot thrive if the rest of the family is overwhelmed. Everything we do is free and completely confidential. Our only agenda is helping Indiana families so they can help their child. All you have to do is call us.” About Special Kids has relationships with organizations, programs and professionals throughout Indiana that serve families of kids with special needs. A one-stop shop, a call to ASK can help parents access resources to help their child. If you know a child with a disability or chronic illness, or one who is struggling to learn in school, call About Special Kids at 317.257.8683 or 1.800.964.4746. –Lynda M. Peterson


calendar Education

Performance/Arts

ONGOING Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, call for information, 219.755.3240. ces. purdue.edu/lake/efnep.htm. This federally funded nutrition education program is completely free to limited income families with children 12 and younger. Trained paraprofessionals will meet families in their own home or in small group community settings in Lake County and provide a series of lessons on understanding food labels, the food pyramid and the importance of breakfast.

ONGOING The Center for Performing Arts at Governors State University, 1 University Pkwy, University Park. 708.235.2222. centertickets.net. The Center for Performing Arts is celebrating 11 years of promoting cultural enhancement on the South Side of Chicago through world-class performing arts productions and arts education. Mar 6: If You Give a Pig a Pancake and Other Short Stories.

ONGOING Native Programs, Southlake YMCA, 1450 S Court St, Crown Point. 219.663.5810. slymca.org. This program encourages parents to set aside a couple of hours a month for their young child by participating together in a variety of activities that nurture mutual understanding, love and respect.

ONGOING DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame Campus. 574.631.2800. performingarts.nd.edu. The state-of-the-art, 150,000square-foot facility, newly opened in 2004, is host to some of the world’s most celebrated artists. Feb 26: The Enchantment Theatre Company presents The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon; Mar 5: Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona, the Musical.

THROUGH MAR 3 Education through Theatre Program, The Theatre at the Center, Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, 1040 Ridge Rd, Munster. 219.836.3255. theatreatthecenter.com. Seven exciting educational workshops for children of all ages will help the Theatre at the Center ring in its 20th anniversary season. Kids will get the chance to explore the world around them through the theater, build self-esteem through creative expression and expand their communication and p roblem-solving skills.

ONGOING The Theatre at the Center, Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, 1040 Ridge Rd, Munster. 219.836.3255. theatreatthecenter.com. This theater, just 35 minutes from downtown Chicago, has the distinction of being the only professional equity theater in Northwest Indiana, and showcases the artistry of professional actors, musicians and designers from throughout the Midwest. Mar 15-20: The Diary of Anne Frank.

STARTING FEB 3 Healing Hearts for Kids, 4-5:30pm Wed, Return to the Center, 18225 Burnham Ave, Lansing. 708.418.8671. This six-week program is a free support group sponsored by Hospice of the Calumet Area for children ages 6-12 who have lost a loved one. FEB 5 Rocking Rhythms, DuPage Children’s Museum, 301 N Washington St, Naperville. 630.637.8000. dupagechildrensmuseum.org. Toddlers ages 18 to 24 months can experience rhythm, music and motion in this lively class. They will get to use their gross motor skills and learn about patterns and sequencing, spatial visualization, creativity and artistic expression while they hop to the beat and bop on their feet. Pre-registration is required. MAR 7 Open House, 1-3pm, Montessori Children’s Schoolhouse, 5935 Hohman Ave, Hammond. 219.932.5666. mcshammond.com. The Montessori Children’s Schoolhouse provides an enriched learning environment to toddlers and children up to sixth grade. Dedicated teachers provide guidance, encourage independence and celebrate individuality while emphasizing respect for others and oneself through the Montessori philosophy. Individual visits can also be scheduled by phone.

THROUGH FEB 19 Red Kite Round Up, Jay Pritzker Pavilion Choral Rehearsal Room, Millennium Park, Chicago. 773.227.0180 ext 15. chicagochildrenstheatre. org. Part of the Chicago Children’s Theatre’s Red Kite Project, this 40-minute multisensory adventure is created for children with autism spectrum disorder and their chaperones. Children ages 5-13 will be led on a digitally simulated outdoor trip where they can chase butterflies, hike trails, stargaze and more. Advanced registration is required. THROUGH MAY 24 Pizza—Any Way You Slice It! Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago, 2100 Patriot Blvd, Glenview. 847.832.6600. kohlchildrensmuseum.org. Children will learn the basics of math without even knowing it at this fun, interactive exhibit. Every activity will be tied to ever-popular pizza as kids will learn counting, sorting, measuring, sequencing and sharing while they play in a pizza parlor and on a giant pizza couch. FEB 17-28 Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E Congress Pkwy, Chicago. 800.982.2787. joffrey.org. The timeless rags-toriches fairy tale comes to life in a dazzling ballet performed by the Joffrey Ballet, complete with wicked step-sisters portrayed by male dancers.

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By JULI DOSHAN

With beautiful sets and costumes designed by David Walker and set to Sergei Prokofiev’s hauntingly brilliant score, there is no way the audience won’t be moved when love conquers all.

Special Events FEB 13 CSRI Winter Party, 9:30-11:30am, Deep River Waterpark Ice Skating Plaza, 9001 E US 30, Merrillville. 219.769.PARK. info@lakecountyparks.com. Hosted by the Cooperative Special Recreation Initiative, this private iceskating party is just for families with special needs for all ages and abilities. In addition to outdoor skating, indoor concessions, crafts and games will be available. Call to purchase tickets by Feb. 8. FEB 26 Leap into the Arts, 6pm, Halls of St George, 905 E Joliet St, Schererville. 219.942.4810. leapintothearts. org. Sponsored by the Southlake Children’s Choir and the South Shore Dance Alliance for the third year, this fundraising event will feature performances by the Indiana Youth Ballet, South Shore Youth Orchestra and Wolffgang, a high school girls’ choral ensemble. A family-style dinner, complimentary cocktail hour, raffle and silent auctions will accompany the evening, which helps to keep the arts alive in Northwest Indiana. MAR 17 2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, dusk, Crown Point Courthouse Square. 219.662.3290. crownpoint.in.gov. This celebration kicks off with a Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner at the Crown Point Fire Rescue Department from 4-6:30 p.m., and vendors will be present on the Square at 6:45 p.m. prior to the start of the parade. For more family-friendly events, resources and destinations, please visit nwi.com/parent.

Get the word out! If your organization has a familyfriendly event that takes place in late March 2010 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 kmacneil@nwitimes.com by February 24, 2010.


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tot spot

Heather Augustyn is a freelance journalist and “full-time mom.” Heather and her husband Ron live in Chesterton with their two boys, Sid and Frank.

By Heather Augustyn

tinyteeth

take care of those So your son or daughter has finally gone through the teething process! It’s tough breaking those first little chompers through. But now that the teeth have finally made their appearance, taking proper care of them is essential.

Dr. Jim Arnold, who sees many children at his Chesterton and Valparaiso offices, says Mom and Dad can begin caring for teeth right away. “We recommend that parents begin brushing their child’s teeth two times each day as soon as they appear. Initially, you should use an infant brush without toothpaste.” When children are able to begin brushing on their own, and chances are they will want to try to be a big kid and give it a go, Arnold says, “Allow them to do so while you watch. They should brush after breakfast and before they go to bed. It is generally a good idea to follow up by helping them to complete the job. Have your kids use a toothbrush, toothpaste, and ‘flossers’ designed specifically for children. This will make them much more likely to continue this healthy habit when they begin taking care of their own teeth.” And when should they see a dentist? Arnold says, “Some pedodontists [children’s dental specialists] like to begin

seeing children by age one. My partners and I generally begin seeing children at the age of three, unless there is some obvious problem before then. It’s a good idea to schedule their first appointment by three in order to ensure that any early problems are attended to quickly and to get them acclimated to visiting the dentist.” Between visits, Arnold says, “Make sure that your kids are eating a balanced diet with items from all of the basic food groups. Limit their junk food and pop intake as much as possible. If you are able to minimize the amount of sweets they eat at an early age, they will be less likely to eat too much of this type of food when they get older. Additionally, many brands of bottled water do not contain fluoride, so encourage your kids to drink ‘tap’ water, because its fluoridation will help strengthen their developing teeth. If you have ‘well’ water, they may even need to take fluoride tablets. Many kids eat too much sugary cereal and drink too much juice. Many types of juice are extremely high in sugar and can increase the likelihood of cavities. It would be wise to check on the packages to determine how much sugar these foods and beverages contain.” Arnold concludes, “If these basic guidelines are followed, and you bring your kids to the dentist consistently while they are children, they are more likely to grow up with healthy teeth and gums.”

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The Prenatal Learning Debate We all know that prenatal care has a physical impact on our fetuses, so getting proper nutrition is essential. If the things we put into our bodies help baby’s development, couldn’t the things we expose baby to mentally also have an impact on development? Such is the premise behind prenatal learning. One field of research has shown that what fetuses hear in the womb, such as their mother’s voice, has an impact on their learning after they are born. David B. Chamberlain, editor of Life before Birth, a publication of the Association for Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPH) says, “Babies are learning their native language before birth. This is made possible by the development of hearing as early as 16 weeks gestational age. A mother’s voice reaches the uterus with very little distortion as the sound waves pass directly through her body. Acoustic spectroscopy, which makes possible elaborately detailed portraits of sound similar to fingerprints, has documented prenatal learning of the mother tongue. By 27 weeks of gestation, the cry of a baby already contains some of the speech features, rhythms and voice characteristics of its mother. Newborn reactions to language are based on the sounds heard in utero: French babies prefer to look at persons speaking French, while Russian babies prefer to watch people speaking Russian.” Music also causes response to fetuses in utero, according to some experts. “The powerful connection between sound/music and prenatal memory/learning has been revealed in formal experiments, parental observations, clinical records and first person reports,” writes Giselle E. Whitwell of the APPPH. Whether or not this response has an impact on brain development is still debated by experts, since such an influence is difficult to measure conclusively. Can talking to your baby-to-be have an impact on its language skills or socialization skills? Can playing a little Mozart to your bulging tummy make baby better at math with knowledge of tempo and rhythm? Such links are hard to make, but one thing is for sure. Talking to your baby or singing a lullaby can’t hurt, and it does get both Mommy and baby ready for the exciting days to come!


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Step inside to discover why so many families choose Montessori Children’s Schoolhouse. Meet our dedicated teachers, explore our enriched learning environments, and see how a Montessori education can benefit your child.

Come in and see for yourself at our

OPEN HOUSE

Sunday, March 7, 1-3pm

5935 HOHMAN AVENUE

| HAMMOND, IN 46320 | 219.932.5666 | www.mcshammond.com

Accredited by American Montessori Society Montessori Children’s Schoolhouse welcomes children of any sex, race, religion, color, national and ethnic origin. ©2009 MIDS

Photography by Ann Latinovich

© 2010 MIDS mcs00101

TODDLER | PRESCHOOL | BEFORE & AFTER SCHOOL | KINDERGARTEN | ELEMENTARY

It’s more than just preschool.


teen scene

teenbrain the

NWI Parent talks to: Dr. Carl S. Hale is a clinical neuropsychologist in Merrillville who specializes in learning and achievement in youngsters with ADHD, learning disabilities and autism. He currently has a U.S. trademark pending for NeuroLearning techniques.

When does the adolescent brain mature? Although adolescents officially become adults at 18, there is considerable research indicating that the frontal lobes don’t mature until 25. The frontal lobes coordinate and direct cognitive processes such as reasoning, planning and learning. Adolescents do not fully learn to use their frontal lobe capabilities until their mid-twenties, or even later in youngsters with ADHD, learning disabilities, and a history of developmental delays. Thus, even young adults in their early twenties retain some of the adolescent’s impulsivity and limited planning abilities, which is why it is important for parents to continue to offer

insight and guidance about relationships, career choices, education and finances.   How relevant is sleep to academic performance? Bedtime and breakfast are the best times to review for an exam. Staying up late actually prevents information from being stored in long-term memory, which occurs during the first hour and a half of sleep. A youngster who decides to “pull an all-nighter” is less likely to do well on exams, and his or her sleep cycle will be out of kilter for several days. Cramming for exams should be used as a last resort, but never as a routine study skill. Teens retain more information by studying for short

Why can’t my adolescent go to sleep earlier? Adolescents are “wired” to go to bed later. Their circadian rhythm (24- to 25-hour cycle) shifts toward the evening hours, which explains why high school and college students get a “second wind” later in the day. Most adolescents can’t get to sleep before 11 p.m. This delay in sleep onset often results in difficulty getting out of bed, sluggishness, and poor learning in the morning. Accordingly, if possible, you may want to schedule more difficult classes, which require a higher level of effort, later in the day. feb/mar 2010

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17 teen scene

intervals over several days (for example, reviewing 20 minutes a day). Short study sessions allow the brain more time to store information effectively (mostly during sleep) so it can be recalled on exams.    What about driving? The research is clear that age 15 to 16 is too young for many adolescents to drive on their own. Due to neuropsychological immaturity, adolescents lack the judgment, impulse control, experience and processing speed necessary to drive safely. Moreover, an adolescent who does not get enough sleep performs like a driver who is legally intoxicated. If you add a disorder like ADHD and/or alcohol use, the chances of a motor vehicle accident are greatly increased. My advice: delay driving a year or two. Find a safety-focused teen driver training program, including a “survivor� course that teaches crash prevention. Until legislators change the laws and teens receive better training, we will continue to see crosses commemorating fatal crash sites on our highways, many involving adolescents.      What about alcohol and marijuana use? New research indicates that adolescent marijuana use contributes to a higher incidence of depression, psychosis and other forms of mental illness later in life. Although alcohol is readily available, it still can be dangerous, especially during adolescence when the frontal lobes are immature; in fact, 70 percent of homicides and suicides involve alcohol, not to mention fatal automobile accidents. Over half

the alcohol sold in the U.S. is consumed by alcoholics, most of whom start drinking during adolescence. Alcohol causes disinhibition in the frontal lobes, contributing to behavior that would never be acceptable when sober.       How do adolescents make decisions? Teen decision-making is, at best, incomplete but operative, and at worst, risky and shortsighted. Adolescents have far less life experience than adults, limited impulse control, and emerging abstract reasoning skills. As a group, they tend to be risk takers, partially to avoid boredom by stimulating pleasure centers in the brain, which contributes to spontaneous and even reckless behavior. Teens are more influenced by their own experience, emotions and peer group. Finally, adolescents have difficulty anticipating the consequences of their actions (another function of the frontal lobes) and they tend to conceptualize issues using “all or none� thinking. Allow your youngster opportunities to test his ideas and beliefs about the world. Provide freedom incrementally; for example, allow him to drive in a parking lot before driving on the street, or permit her to go to a party with a friend and be picked up promptly at midnight. Providing freedom in small steps gives your youngster time to feel the consequences of actions without risking harm. Talk to your teens about the consequences of their choices. Model problem-solving skills. If they make poor choices, ask them, “What are you going to do differently the next time?�      

feb/mar 2010

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meal time By jane dunne

Jane Dunne has two sons, each married with three children, and she loves to cook with her grandchildren.

MARVELOUS MEAT LOAF (6 servings)

Little kids can (with a little help) add the eggs. They can also crumble the oyster crackers, “smoosh” the meat loaf and decorate it with the cherry tomatoes and bacon. Older kids can make the entire dish in a breeze.

cook it

2 pounds ground chuck or combination of lean ground pork, veal and beef 1 thin slice smoked ham, finely diced 1 medium-large onion, finely diced 2 large eggs, beaten 1½ cup crumbled oyster crackers 1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano Salt and ground black pepper, to taste 4 cherry tomatoes, halved ½ cup tomato ketchup

TOGETHER

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a medium-size rectangular baking dish with nonstick spray. Place ground meat and diced ham into a large mixing bowl. Add the onion, eggs and crumbled crackers. Add the Worcestershire, oregano, and salt and pepper (easy on the salt) to taste. With clean hands, mix the contents of the bowl thoroughly. If meat loaf mixture seems too wet, add more crumbled crackers. Tip the bowl over onto a counter and, with your hands, sculpt the meat loaf into a free-form football shape. Transfer it to prepared baking dish. Press cherry tomato halves decoratively into the meat loaf. Bake uncovered for 1 hour. Slightly dilute the ketchup with 1 tablespoon water. Lightly spread the top and sides of the meat loaf with this mixture and bake a final 20 minutes until meat loaf is glazed. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

Many of us have great childhood memories of helping our moms—and dads—in the kitchen. To share in the preparation of something both delicious and healthy makes for great family bonding time, and dinners together are beyond price in these hectic times. Even pre-kindergartners can put a culinary oar in with small tasks that little hands can manage—like making meat loaf.

BAKED BLUEBERRY FRENCH TOAST (serves 6 to 8)

This is an easy dish from start to finish for older kids to put together. As long as they are proficient with a knife for cutting up the bread and are able to use the oven, the rest is duck soup (pardon the pun). Little children can garnish each dish as it is served. Frozen blueberries are fine. Recipe takes an hour to bake, so it’s good for weekend breakfasts. It also makes a super dessert. 1 loaf crusty French bread, cut into ½-inch squares 12 ounces soft cream cheese 8 3 large eggs, beaten ½ cup maple syrup, plus extra for serving ½ cup sour cream, plus more for garnish ½ cup plain nonfat yogurt ½ cup 1 or 2 percent milk ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1½ cups blueberries, plus extra for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13 x 3-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Process the cream cheese, eggs and maple syrup in a food processor until smooth. Add sour cream, yogurt, milk, cinnamon and vanilla. Process again until well combined. Place half the bread in a single layer in the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle on the blueberries. Pour on half the cream cheese mixture, spreading it evenly. Layer on remaining bread and pour on remaining cream cheese mixture, spreading evenly. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 30 minutes more until bread is well set, puffy and lightly browned. Serve with sour cream and blueberries as garnish, with maple syrup on the side.

little children in the kitchen [Excerpted from “Cooking with Children—Kids in the Kitchen” from the National Network for Child Care Connections Newsletter.] Children ages 2 to 3 are learning to use their hands and the large muscles in their arms. They can: • scrub vegetables and fruits • wipe tables • dip vegetables and fruits • tear lettuce and salad greens feb/mar 2010

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• break bread for stuffing • pour liquids into a batter Children ages 4 to 5 are learning to control smaller muscles in their fingers. They can: • roll bananas in cereal for a snack •m  ash soft fruits and vegetables •m  easure dry and liquid ingredients •b  eat eggs with an egg beater • s pread peanut butter on firm bread


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have some remnants lying around. Place the squares in a straight line and have your child jump from square to square. Separate the squares so there is a small distance between them. Continue to increase the distance to encourage your child to jump farther distances. Try hopping on two feet, one foot, etc.

By Debi Pillarella, M.Ed., C.P.T.

indoor

fitness Fun ideas for staying active with your child this winter

W

hen the weather outside is frightening and frigid, why not engage in some indoor activities that’ll not only stop your family’s boredom, but also help them get fit while having fun? The following activities and games are sure to bring life to the doldrums in your household while you wait for spring to arrive.

Circus Fitness Turn your basement or playroom into a circus “tent” and designate “circus acts” to occur around the perimeter of the room. For example, in the right corner, place a long piece of duct tape on the floor to simulate a tightrope. Have your child walk forwards and backwards. Let your child get creative and design a tightrope act. Dancin’ with the Stars Put on your child’s favorite music and put together a fun parent/ child dance routine. When you’ve got it to your liking, record your routine on video so you can watch it and enjoy. Indoor Skating Place your feet inside old shoes boxes (one shoe box per foot) and “skate” around a carpeted room. Play upbeat music and have your child choreograph a skating routine for you both to follow. Four Squares This indoor remake of a famous youth game is played with carpet squares. Your local carpet store or home improvement store may even

feb/mar 2010

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Plastic Cup Relays Turn large plastic cups (about 10-12 cups) upside down and set up a zigzag line. Allow enough room so your child can weave in and around them. After the zigzag activity, have your child stack the cups (for example, three on the bottom, two atop the bottom row, and one at the very top) and attempt jumping over them using two feet, one foot, from a stationary position or from a walking position. Time It Fitness Use a stopwatch or your kitchen timer and see how long it takes your child to complete a variety of directed physical tasks. For example, tell your child to walk as quickly as he can to his bedroom, get a pillow off his bed, place it on his head and walk back to you before placing it on the floor and jumping over it ten times. Record the time and attempt two more trials. Have a goal of “beating” the previous trial. Parachute Play Use an old large sheet (King or Queen size) as a parachute and grab some small, Nerf-like balls. Place them in the center of the sheet as you and your child hold the edges of the sheet. Roll the balls around the center of the sheet, but don’t let them fall off the sheet. Get creative with other types of movements, such as making small waves by moving your hands in small quick movements. Action Games Why not tap into the wide array of action based games? There’s nothing more fun than getting fit without even knowing you’re working out. Games like Dance Dance Revolution, Nintendo Wii, or Twister are great for adults and children alike. Winter Fit-lympics Ever thought about turning your home into an Olympic Superdome? Partner up with your child and hold Fit-lympic events such as doing as many push-ups as you can in a minute, timing how fast you can go up and down the stairs ten times, etc. Log the results and develop an award incentive program for the team winners. Don’t forget to get creative and design coordinated costumes, team flags and logos, and make sure to remember your mascot. Integrate the above activities into your family’s indoor workout and avoid the boredom, weight gain and doldrums typically associated with winter. You’ll not only stay fit, but also spend quality time with the one you love . . . your child.

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 dpillarella@comhs.org.


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behave yourself

Louise Chickie-Wolfe, Ph.D., educational/behavioral specialist, is an adjunct professor at Purdue University Calumet. She taught general, special and gifted education at the elementary, middle and high school levels for 35 years. Author of Lucky to Be a Teacher and Fostering Independent Learning, she is a consultant and public speaker for Schoolhouse Treasures Ink.

1)

My 3-year-old daughter insists that I read her the same story at bedtime every single night, often more than once per night. Is this normal? At all ages, it is normal to repeat behaviors that bring us pleasure. Most young children have a favorite story they enjoy hearing repeatedly. Having a parent read that story becomes a comfortable part of the child’s predictable bedtime routine. There are many other examples of repetitious behaviors that are quite common. Young children often ask “Why?” and “Are we there yet?” Older children may frequently wear their favorite outfits. Adults demonstrate normal repetitive behavior by watching their favorite weekly television shows or by repeatedly listening to their favorite songs. Repetition can become a problem, however, when it interferes with normal life functioning. If repetition becomes a necessity rather than a pleasure, if your daughter becomes excessively upset when the story is not read, and if other ritualistic behaviors exist that suggest compulsive behavior, you may want to have the situation evaluated. Does she become anxious when items are not placed in perfect order or when she cannot repeat a pattern over and over? Is she seriously fearful of change? If so, it might suggest that requesting the same story repeatedly may be part of a larger problem. To change your daughter’s behavior regarding the book, you might try saying, “From now on, Mommy and Daddy will get to pick one story to read at bedtime. Then you will get to pick one that you would like to hear.” In this way, she will get exposure to additional stories that you choose, and perhaps she will vary from her pattern and begin to pick other books. For your choice, you might select another story by the same author, one dealing with the same topic, or one that resembles the same style of writing, such as a story that rhymes. Finding out what she likes best about her book will help you expand her interests. –Louise Chickie-Wolfe

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Elsa Weber is associate professor of early childhood development at Purdue University Calumet and coordinator of early childhood development programs. She raised three children, taught preschool and kindergarten for 15 years, and is interested in children’s social development.

3)

My 4-year-old son is not a picky eater, but he always eats so slowly and plays with his food so much that I’m afraid he’s not getting enough to eat. Is there any way I can encourage him to focus on eating, or should I just continue to let him go at his own pace? Not being a picky eater suggests that your son eats most foods and does not refuse certain foods altogether. Therefore, the problem is not about nutritious food, but rather that his pace of eating is significantly slower than the rest of your family. When children repeatedly dawdle in completing a task, it usually meets some basic need. It could be power and control (I can make my family wait on me until I finish), attention (Everyone in my family focuses on me when I take too long to eat), preference (I don’t necessarily like hot food, so I’ll waste time until it gets cold), enjoyment (I like playing with my food more than I like eating it), or avoidance (If I take a long time to eat, I can delay getting ready for bed). To change this behavior, announce that there will now be a time limit on eating meals. Take whatever time you believe would be appropriate for him to complete his meal, and set a kitchen timer for that amount of time. Be very consistent in keeping your word, and when the timer goes off, simply remove his plate and say nothing. Be sure he has no access to food afterward. When the next meal comes around, he’s going to be a bit hungry. This should naturally encourage him to focus more on his eating rather than on playing with his food. If this does not work at first, just continue to remove his plate when the timer goes off. He will soon learn that you mean what you say, and that if he plans on eating his meal, he had better get to it right away. Also, have fun. A challenge like “Who can take a bite out of something round?” adds novelty. Get your son interested by letting him help prepare the meal or choose the entrée or dessert. Make having an enjoyable mealtime a family goal. –Louise Chickie-Wolfe

2)

My 11-year-old son insists that he is old enough to stay home alone, but the idea of it is scary to me. What is the acceptable age for leaving a child alone at home? The National Safe Kids Campaign suggests that no child under 12 be left unsupervised. It is the case, though, that many children under 12 are home alone for some period of time during the day. Most states, except for Maryland and Illinois, have no laws that say when children can be left alone at home [National Child Care Information Center]. At 10 or 11, many children are beginning to feel pretty confident. They often are quite competent, so supervision may not require your constant and immediate presence. Though it is hard, parents need to recognize what children can do. There are no set age guides, but there are some important considerations. Children vary a lot in their maturity. (Children older than 12 may still need support.) How confident are you about your child’s judgment? Do you expect that generally he’ll come out on the right side of a sticky situation? Or is he a child that often seems to end up in a stew because of unfortunate choices? Have you discussed and practiced various safety procedures? Ultimately you want to make sure that he has what he needs to stay safe and to get help if he needs it. At first, you might try leaving him for only a very short time while you run to the store to pick up a few things. To prepare, there are a number of things you should put into place. He should certainly know how to reach you if he’s feeling insecure. Consider your neighborhood and network. Are there neighbors who can help in an emergency in case he can’t get help from you? Of course, he should know how and when to call 911. All emergency numbers should be posted. Provide structure that will help him to make wise choices about what he does. Where should he be? When should he be there? Who else, if anyone, may be there to keep him company? What is he allowed to do when you are not around, and what is off limits? Often a specific activity or chore that he is expected to accomplish, such as setting the table for a meal, will encourage responsibility. Being on his own lets him organize time and activity in his own way. That can be liberating. When you are gone, check on what’s happening. Sometimes just talking with someone in a challenging situation is comforting. Keeping in touch serves an indirect supervisory function. It is reassuring to you and to him. You can call to see if he has arrived at an expected place, or you can have him call you at specified times. Your job is to provide him with support for beginning to make more and more of his own decisions, including, eventually, taking care of himself. –Elsa Weber If you have a question about your child’s behavior, email us at nwiparentfeedback@nwitimes.com, and one of our experts will tackle your problem!

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find your niche By Mark Loehrke

Fitness, off the beaten path As with most things, when it comes to kids and physical fitness, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s both good and bad news to consider. â&#x20AC;˘ The bad news, of course, is the well-documented rise in the rate of childhood obesity in this country. Despite current trends toward all things on-the-go, technological advancements have mostly served to immobilize children and teens, putting all of their communication and entertainment needs right in the palms of their hands, yet further allowing those hands to be attached to mostly sedentary bodies. â&#x20AC;˘ The good news, on the other hand, is that there appears to be more participation than ever in organized team sports and activities for kids as well. Between park district teams and club sports programs, the growing legions of youth baseball, soccer and basketball players would seem to suggest that families are, at long last, making some headway in the fight against this problem. feb/mar 2010

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Somewhere in the middle, however, are the kids who haven’t quite found their sporting niche among the popular traditional options. Getting them off the couch can be hard enough, but the task becomes that much more difficult when the activity in question isn’t necessarily their activity of choice. That’s when a little creativity and a few under-the-radar alternatives can come in very handy. • Fortunately, there are plenty of places throughout Northwest Indiana to help get kids moving—especially during these often inert days of deep winter—whatever their interest or skill level. For those who could use a little organized activity but can’t quite see the draw of the “traditional” team sports, here are seven potential opportunities that may be well worth considering.

Martial Arts Possible Fit: Given the extraordinary levels of youth participation across its various iterations, the martial arts could conceivably be grouped with some of the major team sports. From judo and taekwondo to karate and hapkido, a wide range of disciplines helps ensure that almost any youngster can find a good fit. Selling Points: Speaking of good and fit, each of these slightly different variations provides an excellent combination of both mental and physical activity for kids, focusing on both the body control needed to master various self-defense maneuvers and the concentration and self-confidence required to match wits with one’s opponent. The martial arts also tend to hold the attention of young participants over the long term by linking achievement to advancement in a graduated system of skill levels and colored belts.

Swimming Possible Fit: What kid doesn’t love a pool? Most parents probably have a harder time getting their kids out of the water than getting them into it, but there can be more to a dip in the chlorinated deep than cannonballs and a game of Marco Polo. Early initiation to the water is almost always a great idea, whether or not a child eventually takes up the sport in earnest. But for those who show a desire to advance beyond just basic safety skills or splashing around, lessons dedicated to advancing in one or two particular strokes can be a natural way to keep that love for the water alive. Selling Points: While the muscular and cardiovascular benefits are fairly obvious, another major draw of swimming for kids is the ability to approach the sport from either an individual or team perspective. While working to improve personal times and techniques on a variety of strokes, some kids may also swim as part

of a team or a relay squad, helping to foster a sense of cooperation and camaraderie even while maintaining a focus on individual goals and achievements.

Dance Possible Fit: What decades of clutch-and-sway “dancing” at junior high mixers did to create the misconception of dance as an almost immobile pursuit, a couple of seasons of televised dance competitions has all but upended. While young dancers are unlikely to hazard the extreme moves— or, thank goodness, the threadbare outfits—of reality TV’s finest, the levels of skill and athleticism on display have nevertheless served to reinforce the notion that many forms of dance can be at least as strenuous and demanding as seemingly “tougher” sports. Selling Points: One of the primary attractions for both boys and girls is the variety of different styles available, allowing kids to literally dance to their own beats. From jazz and ballet to tap and tumbling—or all of those in the combination classes that Jeanne Laich likes to offer at Jeanne’s Dance Academy in Griffith to get young participants started—kids may be having too much fun to even realize how much exercise they’re getting. They’ll also likely be too busy to appreciate how much better off they’ll be in ten or twelve years, when they’re not stuck against the gymnasium wall as the music starts playing. “It’s such a great activity for kids to improve their physical, mental and social skills,” Laich says. “All the children have a great opportunity to interact and really develop their self-confidence.”

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Ice Skating Possible Fit: Skating is yet another “stealth” fitness activity that most youngsters will probably enjoy too much to even realize that they’re exercising. Kids may also appreciate learning a skill that adds one more option to their list of things to do during the cold winter months. Selling Points: While early lessons may involve remarkably little actual movement, as kids learn how to get up, stay up, and make some semblance of forward progress, the ability of new students to quickly grasp the basics means that those tentative little shuffles will likely give way to effortless gliding in no time. Once a student’s focus turns to advanced instruction in one specific aspect of the sport—such as figure skating, hockey or speed skating—the true physical nature of a little time on the ice quickly becomes apparent.

Gymnastics Possible Fit: Like swimming, gymnastics seems to be the type of activity that is innate for most kids long before they’re involved in any type of formal training. As such, it’s a great way for kids to get plenty of healthy physical activity without even knowing they’re doing something good for themselves. And just as a serious swimming regimen often starts with little ones splashing mindlessly in the pool, so too does a budding involvement in gymnastics begin with the natural tumbling that most children can’t help but enjoy. Selling Points: Those teenagers performing spectacular leaps and contortions on the narrow beam or dashing through a series of high-flying flips across the floor likely all got started years before as tiny tumblers figuring out things like balance and leverage and how to fall without getting seriously hurt. That’s why Patti Komara feels the introductory classes for toddlers and kindergartners at Patti’s All-American Gymnastics in Dyer are just as important as the more advanced and rigorous training available for teens. After all, today’s Olympic hopefuls

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rocking the rings and pummeling the pommel horse were once those same little mat rats, somersaulting with abandon and having a ball long before they knew anything about form or technique. “The earlier kids start with gymnastics the better, because at a young age so much of it comes naturally to them,” Komara says. “Then they can start developing the flexibility, strength and coordination—not to mention the self-esteem— that can serve as a basis for so many other sports.”

Horseback Riding Possible Fit: There’s a logical explanation for why you’re so likely to find things like pony rides and petting zoos seemingly illogically tacked onto otherwise non-agricultural and non-equine events—quite simply, there’s nothing quite like an animal to grab the attention of kids. So it goes with horseback riding as an option for getting the little ones active. Kicking a ball around or running a few laps may not get the motor running for some kids, but throw in a horse and suddenly things get a lot more interesting. Selling Points: Now you’ve got their attention, but there’s just one problem—isn’t horseback riding a lot more exercise for horse than rider? Frankly, it is, and that’s why this is probably a better choice in situations where the goal is to just get the youngster out of the house and moving on a regular basis. That said, however, while a couple of hours up on a horse may not provide the vigorous athletic equivalent of a tennis match or a bike ride, it can help children develop in important areas like muscular coordination and balance.

Yoga Possible Fit: It may be difficult to get kids excited about the spiritual/New Age side of some yoga disciplines, but the physical aspects might be an easier sell. Contrary to getting them “pumped up” as some of the more vigorous team sports might, yoga provides a more restrained and introspective way for children to get some activity in a calm, low-key environment. Selling Points: Like several of the other options presented here, yoga is less about sweating and competing and more about developing a child’s coordination, self-confidence and flexibility. Even though kid-specific yoga classes often focus on rhythms and activities designed to appeal more directly to the short-attention-span set, the lack of nonstop excitement and stimulation still makes this an activity better suited for older children who may have a bit more patience and tolerance for imposed relaxation. In fact, it is likely that children around the age of middle school may most benefit from the stressreduction techniques of yoga, as the demands in their lives begin to pile up.

nwi.com/parent


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real reviews

Who Ya Gonna Call?

By Stephanie Precourt

You’re probably already using your phone as a toy, so turn it into a real and safe plaything for your little ones without the accidental calls to Japan. The world’s largest online resource for parents—BabyCenter—just released the new kid-friendly PhonyPhone application for the iPhone. Download PhonyPhone [$.99] for the iPhone or iPod Touch and the entire screen is a phone with colorful buttons and sounds. (Personally, I say thank goodness for volume control.) They’ll learn their numbers as the phone repeats each one pressed. Pretend to call the grandparents and even teach them a secure way to practice dialing 9-1-1. The safety lock prevents little hands from exiting the application and roaming around on your phone, and saves the day as you’ll always have a toy on hand. Find PhonyPhone at itunes.com.

Sleep Safe

A

new technology is on the block (or in the crib) to help prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The Snuza Halo [$199] is a compact mobile monitoring system that clips to your baby’s diaper. The leading edge sensor located in the flexible rubber tip monitors breathing movements and gently vibrates to rouse the baby 15 seconds after movement stops. The indicator light will flash and record if an incident has occurred, and if movement stops after 20 seconds, an alarm will sound. Snuza can be used with premature babies and cosleeping multiples, and it will not interfere with other electronic devices. You’ll want to use it along with your regular baby monitor if you won’t be nearby at all times to listen for the alarm. The price point is high, but comparable to other movement monitoring devices and video monitors available today. Visit snuza.com for online store locations.

that’s my kind of pet They’re furry and they’ll scurry, but they are not real! Zhu Zhu pets [$14.99 and up] are soft, battery-operated interactive hamsters with all the sounds and movements of real live ones minus the allergies and cleaning out the cage! The intelligent audio and mechanical responses inside the Zhu Zhu Pet allow them to explore their little hamster world and toys. Each hamster has two modes— they can either cuddle and purr in nurture mode or zoom about in adventure mode. Build a fun habitrail world with over a dozen add-ons of tubes and wheels and houses for the hamsters to roam in and out. Assembly is quick and easy, although it can take up quite a bit of floor or table space. Give Zhu Zhu Pets a home—available at Walmart and ToysRUs.

Fashionably Aware

Whether it’s winter or summer, intense sun exposure during childhood may increase the risk of cancer later in life. Purdue University alumnus Patricia Swanson wanted to teach her science students the importance of sun protection and created UV Sol Beads [$4.99], trendy ultraviolet light detection bracelets. These fun friendship-like bracelets are made with beads that change color in the sun to alert the wearer of exposure to potentially harmful UV rays and remind them to seek proper sun protection. The intensity of the beads’ color increases with the amount of UV exposure, and the beads will remain off-white in the absence of UV light. Sol Beads are made in the USA by adults with disabilities and are available in hip colors and designs, including those supporting charitable causes such as the U.S. Troops and Breast Cancer Awareness, among others. A portion of the profits from UV Sol Beads goes to organizations that help promote keeping skin healthy, including the Skin Cancer Foundation. They can also be custom designed for a school fundraiser and even personalized with your own logo or message. Check out uvsolbeads.com for ordering information.

Stephanie Precourt lives with her husband, three boys and baby girl 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 nwi.com/parent. feb/mar 2010

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destinations By JULI DOSHAN

indoor destinations Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center, 9am-5pm TueSat, 11am-5pm Sun, Three Rivers County Park, 2800 Colorado St, Lake Station. 219.963.2070. mybellaboos. com. This colorful and imaginative facility features 23,000 square feet of hands-on 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. Blade N Skate Roller Skating Rink, all ages skate: 6:308:30pm Wed, 4:30-6:30pm Fri, 2-5pm, 7:30-9:30pm Sat, 2-5pm Sun; adult skate ages 18+: 10am-noon Fri; skate lessons: 1-2pm Sat; teen skate ages 12+: 7-11pm Fri, 221 US Hwy 41, Schererville. 219.865.1662. This indoor rink offers adult and youth inline/roller hockey leagues and public skating sessions. The facility is also available for parties. The Courts of Northwest Indiana, 9am-9pm Mon-Thu, 9am-10pm Fri, 9am-9pm Sat, 12:30-9pm Sun, 127 E US Hwy 6, Valparaiso. 219.465.1111. thecourtsofnwi.com. This 60,000-square-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, 11am-10pm Sun-Thu, 11am-11pm Fri-Sat, 1301 Merrillville Rd, Crown Point. 219.663.3663. cpfun.com. This Mardi Gras themed family fun center features go-karts, mini golf, batting and soccer cages outside and an arcade inside. Fair Oaks Farms, 856 N 600 E, Fair Oaks. 877.536.1194. fofarms.com. Families can visit this family-owned, heartland dairy to take a tour of the dairy barn, the Birthing Barn, and the cheese factory. Other fun features include a 4-D theater, a Dairy Fun Room with interactive activities, and more. Inman’s Fun and Party Center, call for hours, 3201 E Evans Ave, Valparaiso. 219.462.1300. inmansfunandpartycenter.com. Visitors can enjoy bowling, billiards, bean bags, an arcade and food from Panhandler’s Pizza. Jean Shepherd Community Center, 3031 J. F. Mahoney Dr, Hammond. 219.554.0155. gohammond.com. 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.

Zao Island, call for hours, 1050 Horse Prairie Ave, Valparaiso. 219.462.1194. zaoisland.net. Filled with fun, this location offers a game room, and Oceans Dance Club, a safe environment for the older crowd (ages 13 to 17) to experience a club-like atmosphere on Friday nights.

Museums Adler Planetarium, 9:30am-5pm daily, 9:30am-10pm first Fri of every month, 1300 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, Ill. 312.922.STAR. adlerplanetarium.org. Children will love Fly Me to the Moon, a 3-D space show in the planetarium’s recently renovated Universe Theater. After the film, families can visit the Adler’s most popular permanent exhibition, Shoot for the Moon, which features the fully restored Gemini 12 spacecraft. On the first Friday of every month, families can enjoy even more activities during Far Out Fridays. Albanese Candy Factory and Outlet Store, 9am-8pm Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm Sun, 5441 E Lincoln Hwy, Merrillville. 219.947.3070. albaneseconfectionery.com. At this factory, families have the opportunity to watch the creation of gummis and chocolates and admire a tall chocolate waterfall. An immense selection of unique and tasty treats is also available for purchase. Chicago Children’s Museum, 10am-5pm Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun, 10am-8pm Thu, 700 E Grand Ave, #127, Chicago, Ill. 312.527.1000. chicagochildrensmuseum.org. The museum provides an outlet where children can learn and play at the same time. Children gain physical, social and emotional development, further linguistic abilities and exercise creativity. Curious Kids Museum, fall-spring: 10am-5pm WedSat, noon-5pm Sun, 415 Lake Blvd, St. Joseph, Mich. 269.983.CKID. curiouskidsmuseum.org. This museum is an interactive, hands-on discovery center dedicated to stimulating curiosity and awareness in the areas of science and technology, history, culture and human perception. Exhibits include Awesome Apple Orchard, Body Works and Simple Machines. The museum also offers workshops and camps. For children of all ages. DuPage Children’s Museum, 9am-1pm Mon, 9am5pm Tue-Wed, Sat, 9am-8pm Thu-Fri, noon-5pm Sun. 301 N Washington St, Naperville, Ill. 630.637.8000. dupagechildrensmuseum.org. This interactive three-floor museum offers fun and hands-on activities, and encourages children and adults to play and learn together with exhibits, creative activities and special events.

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The Field Museum, 10am-5pm Mon-Sat, 11am-5pm Sun, 1400 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, Ill. 312.922.9410. fieldmuseum.org. The museum offers a permanent exhibit about nature, cultures, Africa and the ancient Americas. For children, the museum now provides the Crown Family Play Lab. Children may dig up dinosaur bones, wear an animal costume and more. Kohl Children’s Museum, 9:30am-noon Mon, 9:30am5pm Tue-Sat, noon-5pm Sun, 2001 Patriot Blvd, Glenview, Ill. 847.832.6600. kohlchildrensmuseum.org. Because they believe that young children learn best through play, Kohl Children’s Museum’s mission is to “create exemplary, developmentally appropriate hands-on educational experiences for young children in a fun, intimate environment.” Designed for children ages birth to 8, exhibits range in themes from art to pets, to groceries and music. Museum of Science and Industry, 9:30am-4pm MonSat, 11am-4pm Sun, 57th St & Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, Ill. 773.684.1414. msichicago.org. Visitors may enjoy the following exhibits: The Great Train Story, Ships through the Ages, Farm Tech and much more. The museum also features online and new exhibits and Omnimax and 3-D theaters. Shedd Aquarium, 9am-5pm Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm SatSun. 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, Ill. 312.939.2438. sheddaquarium.org. With more than 8,000 aquatic animals, the Shedd Aquarium is the largest indoor aquarium in the world. The public may now see six exhibits featuring sharks, penguins, dolphins, anacondas, turtles, lizards and more.

For outdoor sledding and skating destinations, as well as family-friendly events and resources, visit nwi.com/parent.

Get the word out!

If your organization has a familyfriendly event that takes place in late March 2010 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 kmacneil@nwitimes.com by February 24, 2010.


our kids TimeOut

by Sue Bero

Recognizing

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

Achievements

Bailey Perez/12

B

ailey Perez is on a mission to help children smile as Miss Indiana Pre-Teen 2009. Perez, daughter of David and Maria Adams of Schererville, won the title July 4 in Indianapolis. She was Miss Indiana Junior Pre-Teen at age 10 and Miss Indiana Princess at 6. During each of her reigns, she has supported the Smile Train, an international charity that provides cleft lip and cleft palate surgery to children in need. The organization sends her posters and she helps raise awareness and money for the

organization. “I tell people it’s $250 for the operation and then they have a smile like mine and yours,” she says. “So far, I’ve raised $6,500 for the Smile Train and helped pay for twenty-six surgeries. My goal is to get one hundred surgeries, and I hope the Miss Indiana title helps me get to that goal.” Perez describes the Miss Indiana contests as “natural’’ pageants, saying they are about inner beauty. In December, she traveled to California to compete in the national pageant. “I didn’t make the top ten, but I had a great time doing it and made a lot of new friends,” she says. Perez did receive first runnerup in Photogenic and Most Promising Model honors. Perez is a sixthgrader at St. Michael School in Schererville, where she helps with the school newspaper and is a cheerleader. She also is a Tri-Town Raiderette for Pop Warner Football. The squad recently traveled to Florida for the national competition, and placed third in the nation. feb/march 2010

Eric Richardson/11

E

ric Richardson finds learning rewarding at Kumon Math and Reading Center in Valparaiso. The son of Gary and Sarah Richardson of Chesterton recently earned an Acer Aspire mini-laptop computer as a reward for his four-year commitment to weekly sessions of math and reading at the center. His parents saw Kumon as an opportunity for their son, who struggles with English and needed to be challenged in math. His mother felt it was important to get extra help in the early years.

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“Eric has a gift for math and wasn’t getting challenged enough,” Gary Richardson says. “We knew about Kumon, the programs, and how it takes kids who have an average knowledge and challenges them. Eric is now a couple of years ahead in math and caught up in English.” When he goes to Kumon, Richardson works on two packets of assignments and is there for about 30 to 60 minutes. “I love the people who work here and how they have helped me with my grades,” he says. “My homework is so much easier and I love school.” Winning a computer is within the grasp of any student that enrolls at Kumon—it is part of a bonus incentive built into the program. “I earned points by coming to Kumon and then I got more points every time I passed a level in math or reading,” he says. “Before I


service directory knew it, I had 300 points in the top level.” Richardson had his pick of an iPod, Xbox gaming system, a telescope or the computer. “From the beginning, I wanted to work toward having my own computer. I thought about it a lot and now I finally got it.” The sixth-grader at Liberty Intermediate School also plays piano and golf. He is a member of the Northwest Indiana Junior Golf Association.

her solo performance, another in the duo and small group category and a Senior All-Star Scholarship that will allow her to return as a guest next year. This past summer she competed in nationals at Wisconsin Dells, where she received a High First for her solo and was invited to dance in the Dancer of the Year competition. “I like the competition aspect,” she says. “I like going there, doing my best and seeing what the judges liked and didn’t like. I like to express myself in so many styles.”

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Michelle Gentz/13

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he movement of dance frees Michelle Gentz to express her emotions. Gentz, daughter of Greg and Pam Gentz of St. John, started dancing at age 4 in park district programs before joining Donna Brum Dancers in Schererville. She takes classes and is part of the studio’s senior dance team, Danz-Elite. Members are selected by audition for the performance and competition team and travel to various conventions and competitions throughout the country. At the DuPree Dance Expo in Oak Brook, Illinois, this fall, Gentz received a Gold Award for

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Gentz is an eighth-grade honor student at Clark Middle School in St. John. She takes merit classes, is a member of National Junior Honor Society, works on the video yearbook and is on the track team, for which she holds the school record for the 100meter hurdles. She’s also on the school dance team. “It makes me feel very happy and really good,” she says of dancing. “I know I’m doing my best and it’s a way to relieve stress and to have fun.” Gentz Sue Bero, hopes to be a freelance member of the journalist and Centralettes mother of two dance team adult sons, lives when she in Schererville attends Lake with her Central High husband, Bill. School next year. feb/mar 2010

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family room

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

By Rick Kaempfer

off the couch

brother Sean implored, “he needs a prop for this. C’mon.” “Okay,” I relented. Johnny walked the ten steps from our dining room to our living room couch. He plopped down on the corner of the couch and grabbed the remote. He turned on the news and just sat there. “Go ahead,” I said. “Do the impersonation.” “I’m doing it,” he responded. His brothers guffawed again. Oh, I get it. It appears ol’ Dad spends the bulk of his time sitting on the couch watching television. Very funny. Johnny didn’t realize he was doing it, but holding that mirror up to my couch potato existence was exactly the kick in the pants I needed to get active again. Spring had sprung, the weather was getting nice, and that couch needed a break from my ever-expanding girth. So, I went out to the garage and dusted off the ten-speed. I pumped up all of our bicycle tires, handed out five helmets, and we began the healthiest year of their young lives. We realized that some of our most common destinations were well within biking distance, so we began to bike instead of drive. That only whetted their appetite for more, so we planned and organized several multiple-mile bike rides as a family. We found a great bike trail near our house and went exploring. It was a lot of fun. That seemed to

sometimes your fitness motivation is right under your nose

I

t all started with a simple joke. At the dinner table one night, my middle son Johnny said that he had perfected a new impersonation. His brothers giggled with anticipation as he begged me to let him do it. “Who do you impersonate?” I asked suspiciously. “You,” he said. His brothers guffawed. This obviously wouldn’t be the first time they saw his impression. I’ve always

encouraged the comedic development of my boys, so even though I knew this wasn’t exactly going to be complimentary, I allowed it. Johnny got up from the table. “Where are you going?” I asked. “I need to get something.” “No props.” “Aww, c’mon.” “Dad,” his little

feb/mar 2010

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change the way our brains worked. We began to walk more. We played more sports in the backyard. I even took it a step further. I developed an actual workout ritual, which included a 5- to 10-mile bike ride every single day. By the end of the summer, I was actually in relatively good shape. Certainly the best shape I’ve been in for the last ten years. Ah, but then the cold weather arrived. I thought about pulling that dusty old exercise bike out of the mountain of junk in our basement storage closet so that I could keep my new fitness routine going, but I never could find the time to unearth it. The winter became a series of “I’ll do it tomorrow” days and nights. Before I knew it, the couch was my best friend again. The TV remote was once again my regular companion. And Johnny’s impersonation would be funny again. I need him to bring that insulting Dad impression out of retirement. Every fitness routine begins with a good swift kick in the pants.


NWI PARENT  

Feb/Mar 2010 OffBeat Fitness

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