NWI Parent

Creative Play!

September 27th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

Creativity is pretty important around here. I love the possibilities of a blank sheet of paper, a bin full of dress-up clothes or some sidewalk chalk. I’ve been trying to rely less on the tv or wii to entertain the kids and more on the non-electronic activities around the house. After all, why have an art box if it’s going to sit in the corner? I found these great activities to get my wheels turning:

This was our take on the pounded flower prints, or what we called “Rock, Paper, Flower”. It was a big hit because apparently my kids like to beat things to death.

Pounded Flower Prints

Pounded Flower Prints

Pounded Flower Prints

We’re also lucky to have some great programs in the area to foster the creative spirit – some of which we are lucky enough to take part in. Here are a few places to help children take advantage of their natural creative abilities:

Children’s Classes at The Chicago Street Theatre (Valparaiso)- these spots go super fast, so get your info early and be prepared to sign-up when enrollment opens

Memorial Opera House (Valparaiso) – Watch for special children’s workshops – they’re a blast!

South Shore Arts (3 locations in NWI) – Drawing, painting, pottery, mixed media and more. Classes for children 2 and up

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Just Another Preschool Dropout

September 21st, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

I’ve shared some of the trials of adjusting to the new school year with my first grader – she’s really doing great now. She loves her teacher, is embracing her new challenges and is thriving in her environment. Things with my preschooler….well….not so great – I know right? She’s three!

I was thrilled to find a really sweet little nursery school where she would be encouraged to explore and be creative. I couldn’t wait for her to start her new school and get into a new environment filled with supportive teachers and a thorough little curriculum.

She’s three – newly three at that, and there are a few expectations she’s expected to meet in order to attend – one being pretty potty-trained. “Pretty” meaning she should pretty much be there.

Well, she’s not. I wish, oh how I wish she was, but she’s not. I’ve done this before and while I remember the road being long, I also remember letting my older child go at her own pace – and it worked out. Yes, she was trained by three, but why should I expect the same from a totally different little person? Not to mention this little person makes sure everything happens on HER terms, but I digress.

Every day since she started her new school two or three weeks ago, I’ve had to pick her up early – really early – because she’s had an accident. I feel bad for her because I know she’d rather stay at school and have fun, but her well-timed accidents (always within one hour of arriving) just aren’t compatible with the school’s potty policy. She just doesn’t see what the big deal is – what are all these grown-ups for, if not to change your pants and send you on your way?

The teachers couldn’t be sweeter or more supportive, willing to help us, offer suggestions, etc… But the little one is just on her own schedule and she’s going to do what she wants to do, when she wants to do it. I don’t believe in – nor will I – force her by making her feel ashamed or yucky over it. Instead (for us anyway) we try to encourage her and pay her in M&M’s for a successful job (translation: I bribe).

So, there it is, we may actually be failing preschool. Such is the life and times of a mom of a three-yr-old I suppose. There’s always next year, right?

Filed under: Uncategorized.

Non-Neurotic Parenting

September 14th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

I like to think of myself as a gal who has it all together. I can manage the ups and downs of parenting, as well as the logistics – schedules, chores and other responsibilities. But the truth is, I don’t have it all together. I’ve decided to be upfront with myself (and with you) and admit it. In fact, I’m going to be honest enough with myself (and you, again) and admit that chaos is a major factor of each and every day.

This is hard for me because I’m what you would probably refer to as a neurotic planner. I have my days and events planned down to the nitty gritty. I know who’s coming, who’s going, when, where and how. I’ve obsessed over the details and I’ve worked it all out, down to the fine print. Lately, however, I’ve been more of what you’d call a “pantser” – parenting by the seat of my pants.

By “pantsing” my way around every day, it’s not necessarily a given that the laundry will get done or that dinner will be on the table at exactly 5:30 – and dinner might just be a cold sandwich eaten on the way home from soccer practice. It’s no longer a given that I have a list for every day’s tasks so that I can approach things orderly and completely. Instead, I look for what has to be done yesterday and make sure it’s done by today.

This goes against the very grain of who I’ve always been, but life seems to have spun out of control lately – a teeny bit anyway. But you know what? The only person this really seems to bother is me. The kids know that I’ll come through in the clutch and that they’ll be taken care of. They might even be enjoying a little bit of the less-rigorous approach to life and *might* like the flexibility that “pantsing” is bringing to their daily lives.

Maybe if they’re enjoying a little of the laissez-faire approach to life, I can learn to enjoy it too.

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This One’s For the Moms

August 26th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

So, I didn’t really have the laid back, relaxing summer I’d intended to have. Things were crazy – crazy and fast. It seems like school dismissed in June and I blinked and here we go again.

Today with the hustle and bustle of the second day of school, I got to thinking about balance. Now, I’m not about to write that dads don’t have a hand in things, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Today, I’m giving credit to the moms out there.

We come in all shapes and sizes. We have different styles, different personalities, and different perspectives. But at the end of the day, we’re all moms. We make it work, make the best of it and make it last.

We balance it all. We pursue our own dreams while helping our significant others and children chase theirs.

We keep up with the dentist appointments, buy the groceries, make sure there are clothes that fit, grab the school supplies, plan the playdates with playmates and 100 other things in one crazy day.

When that’s done, we climb in bed, then wake up to do it all again.

Although I work very part-time (quarter-time is likely more accurate) from home, I’m here and try to be present and “in the moment” with my kids as much as I can. I tackle my projects in between walks to the bus stop and trips to soccer practice. Balancing act – that’s what it is.

I know moms who balance it ALL. They work full-time, they’re in school, AND they’re full-time parents of kids with full-time activities. My hats off (ok, my headband) to you ladies. I’m proud to be in the sisterhood of mom with you.

Somewhere mixed in all the chaos is a loving family, full of hope for the future and plans of growing together, not just growing up. So, while school gets off to a great start and life picks up its hectic pace, I hope you moms out there give yourself a pat on the back, a break when you can catch it and a little smile in the mirror – you (we) deserve it.

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How Are You Spending the Last Days of Summer?

August 12th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

This week, I could feel the end of summer bearing down on us. School starts in about two weeks and with school comes the other responsibilities. No more lazy days. This week, I got out and about and enjoyed all the things I might not get a chance to once school gets back in full swing – and I also took advantage of “Pajama Day” because that definitely won’t be happening once school starts.

We went to the Michigan City Zoo…We had Pajama Day….We went to the Treehouse Cafe in Long Beach…I spent a precious hour alone at the Central Park Plaza Market in Valparaiso!

How are you spending your last precious days of summer?

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Chesterton European Market and Art Fair This Weekend!

August 4th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

Sometimes there’s nothing better than taking a breather from life and having a nice…slow…weekend. No plans, no parties, no commitments….just summertime, livin’s easy. Sounds great, right? So why not?

I live for these weekends. I love to just sort of let go of everything and go where the wind blows. It looks like the wind is going to blow me to Chesterton this weekend. No, I’m not making “plan” plans, it’s just there are a few things happening that are so up my alley.

Chesterton European Market – Into great local food, produce, handcrafted goods and live music? The fresh market is a must. It’s a favorite. It’s a have to. I love walking around – even if just for a stolen 30 minutes to take in the people, the smell and the sounds. It’s a lovely start to your weekend, and you’ll likely return home with some wonderful, fresh jam (Froehlich’s is my favorite!) or a beautifully local zucchini.

After you make it to the market, you might want to stick around town for the Chesterton Art Fair. Art festivals are one of my favorite things to do. Ever.  With activities. local artists and community togetherness – it’s always a great time. The festival runs Saturday, August 6 and Sunday, August 7, 10 am – 5 pm

So, take it easy on yourself this weekend – go relax with a nice stroll through the farmer’s market, then peruse the wares of artist’s at the art fair. Before we know it school will be back in session, life will pick up  from its slow summer speed and we’ll all be waiting on winter. Let’s all get out to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air!

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Can We Please Have a “No Gifts” Party? Apparently Not.

July 26th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

Both of my children have July birthdays, this makes party planning pretty easy while they’re young – one party, double the fun. Last week, we held their party at the Oasis Splash Park in Michigan City. This was the first day of our week of mega-heat here in NWI, and the shade of the pavilion and the spray of the water was a welcome treat.

This year, things have been a little hairy around here. With the husband temporarily handicapped, I basically live everyday running around taking care of three people – morning till’ night. It was tough at first, but I’ve gotten used to it – we all have. With all the chaos, I’ve not exactly had as much time to, well, do much other than make sure everyone is clothed and fed.

I like to take the time to talk to my kids about things like respect, thoughtfulness, giving and gratitude. With all that was/is going on, I haven’t had much time to do a lot of talking. One thing I really like to point out to my children is how to be thankful. Being grateful is a very powerful thing for anyone, and I want my children to understand how easy it is to slip into taking things for granted. I knew that with the impending party – and gifts – that a gratitude talk was due.

To be honest, I don’t love the gift aspect of birthday parties. When we attend someone else’s party, my child is so excited to give a gift, but when my own children are the birthday gals, they are inundated with  way too many gifts, and it’s all just…too much. They are overwhelmed.

I really thought of hosting a “no gifts please” party once, but everyone I talked to said “No way!” Apparently, no one else thinks this is a good idea but me. My children have everything they could ever need. They don’t need to receive twenty gifts because twenty friends come to their party. But, as of right now, it seems I’m the only one in the “no gifts” party boat.

This year, I asked my oldest if she would rather have longer to play at the splash park, or stop to open gifts. She said she’d love having a longer time to play and open gifts later – so that’s what we did.

We lugged all the beautifully wrapped gifts home and placed them on the dining room table. That was when I had an ‘Aha!’ moment. The thing that bothers me most about receiving so many gifts at a party is that my kids are overwhelmed with the amount of gifts and can’t possibly take the time to enjoy and say thank you for each one.

By doing them at home, we selected one per day, we read the card, think about who it’s from, then play with that one – opening no more. This has worked beautifully. My children acknowledge that someone went out of their way to select a gift for them, they think about how much they like it and how much they love their friend.

So, while I can’t have everything my way, I did manage to get something just the way I wanted it – thankful, mindful children who understand it’s not the gift at all – it’s the friend.

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Splish! Splash!

July 19th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

Y’all, it’s getting hot here. Like, Alabama hot. And let’s not forget the humidity. I’m trying to remember to cherish the heat, as the oh-so-cold days of winter are coming, but really – it’s just plain hot.

I’ve dragged the slip-n-slide out a few times, but since my dog thinks it’s some type of waterbed, the kids have all but given up on it. Thankfully, I found a low-stress solution that doesn’t involve a soggy piece of plastic to drag in and out - the Oasis Splash Park in Michigan City.

It has several things going for it to put my neurotic tendencies at ease:

  1. It’s fully enclosed
  2. There is no water over 1/2 inch deep (I’m guessing here) – so it’s safe!!
  3. Did I mention it’s fully enclosed?
  4. There are plenty of sprinkler activities for the kids to run around in
  5. I can keep a good eye on them under the pavilion (Hello Shade!)
  6. It’s next door to the zoo and the beach
  7. It’s cheap!

Splash Park Michigan City

It’s located in Washington Park at the back of the parking lot adjacent to the zoo. With the beach on one side, and the zoo on the other, you can make a nice day of it there if you like. So get out, enjoy summer while it’s here – and cool off!

Hours: 10 am to noon / 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm / 3 pm to 5 pm

Cost: $4 for Indiana residents, $2 for Michigan City residents & $6 for out-of-state residents

For more information, visit the Michigan City Oasis Splash Park Website

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I Lub You Berry Much.

July 14th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

Sunshine. Cool breeze. Blueberry Farm.

The task we set was simple. Pick a few fresh blueberries to eat and to freeze. I’m pretty sure she ate two for every one we actually took home, but isn’t that why you pick them in the first place? The only thing she could manage to say was, “I lub bueberries! I lub dem!”

Blueberry Picking Northwest Indiana

We’re heading back to the farm this week to pick more. I love nothing more than to spend a day outside with a task, a packed lunch and wide open spaces. Now that makes for a great summer day.

To blueberries and summertime!

We visited Blue Sky Berry Farm in Wanatah. There’s a great coupon for Blue Sky Berry Farm located in the Northwest Indiana Times here. For more U-Pick farms in Northwest Indiana, visit this list at PickYourOwn.org

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On Beaches and Failures

June 27th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

I had grand plans for the first few weeks of summer break. We would alternate days of errands and responsibilities with days in our jammies vegging out on the couch or running through the sprinklers. For the most part, we hit our goal.

After being both productive and unproductive for a few days, we decided to switch it up a bit and head to the beach. We hopped into our swimsuits, loaded up with sunscreen (geez, I hope I got that right) and drove over to the dunes to have a little fun in the sun.

Fail. Ultimate Fail.

The kids just wanted to have a good time, but I was super-anxious about the short one running off and getting lost in the crowd (not really a huge crowd, but still) that I couldn’t relax. With two kids going two different directions, I was a basket-case. I spent 45 minutes of the hour or so we were there giving them lectures on safety and not eating weird things they find in the sand (you’d think this should go unsaid at this point, but…)

After about an hour, I gave up. We packed up and called it a day. Then, the guilt came. All the way home, I was the feeling awful, just sick with guilt. I couldn’t chill out long enough to just let them have a good time. They were behaving wonderfully, just being kids. I was just too uptight and nervous to let them do their thing. The beach fail was my fault – all my fault.

It’s hard as a parent to admit when you’re wrong. Heck, it’s hard as a person to admit you’re wrong – but I was wrong. Lesson learned. I don’t know about anyone else, but parenting for me is about going with my gut and learning from my mistakes.

I’m going back. I’ll be armed with toys and lunch and I’ll set up as close to the water as possible so that no matter where they want to play, I can keep an eye on them. Happy Summer and bring on the sand!

Indian Dunes State Park Beach

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