NWI Parent

Time to Blow Off Some Steam

August 31st, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

A few days ago, my daughter came to me crying. She was sad over a few things, but most of all, she was just emotional about everything. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, she just needed her mommy and she just needed to get it all out. So we sat, we talked, we hugged and we smiled….eventually.

I expected it. She’s always felt things intensely, and with school starting – and with it bringing a new teacher, new kids in her class and serious first grade responsibilities – she was feeling the pressure of change. As we are still struggling with getting into the swing of things, I’ve been trying hard to find ways to help her blow off steam, encouraging her to express her feelings and trying to be close for extra hugs and words of encouragement.

But, as a mom, you wonder if you’re ever doing enough – even when you’re doing the best you can do. I know in the long-run she will be just fine, but I still worry. I’m proud that she thinks about everything and others as much as she does. While I encourage her to not over-worry (*ahem* like someone she knows), I do try to help her work through her feelings so that she can continue to move forward and just be a kid.

Sometimes my support means keeping busy. Other times, it means having downtime to relax and regroup. Me, I live for Pajama-Day, so we do that when we can (which isn’t nearly often enough as far as I’m concerned.)

I hope you guys are adjusting to the new school year well. I hope your little ones are having a blast and having plenty of opportunities to just relax and be a kid.

Does your kid need to blow off some steam? Here are several upcoming events to help them do just that!

Popcorn Festival

Wizard of Oz Festival

County Line Orchard Opens for Apple Picking

Garwood Orchards Open for Apple Picking

Valpo Brew Fest (ok, so this one is for moms & dads only)

Blueberry Festival (Plymouth)

Got more on your agenda? Share!

Filed under: Out and About.

Bellaboos, I Thank You.

May 24th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

There is a place in Lake Station called Bellaboo’s.  I’m sure you’ve heard of it and probably been there.  Once you go, you’re ready to go back.  My kids would live there if I let them – in fact, my oldest said she could make a nice bed in the ball pit and I could come back for her the next day, I declined.

So, summer’s here and you’ve got to fill the days with something, right?  My vote – head here.  Why?  Well, I’m a big believer in “Pretend Play” – and they’ve got that covered.  Sure, Bellaboo’s has a massive climbing structure complete with ball pit.  They have a rockin’ art room for your child to work on her latest masterpiece.  They have a water table that my youngest thinks is a baby pool (Dear Management: Sorry about that).  They have a nice, quiet reading room when the kids need a little less stimulation.  They have this awesome padded room for babies that I would LOVE to have here. They have cooking classes daily.  They’ve got a bit of everything.  But my favorite our favorite is the pretend play wing.

She can spend hours checking out groceries, making pizza and serving it.  Then, she moves over to the “house” and gets dressed for the day in her chosen occupation.  It’s all there for her imagination to feast on.  Best of all, she is navigating the social side of the world as she pretends with others and graciously shares (yeah, I brag!) Meanwhile, I get to sit off to the side and watch as she pretends to be this or pretends to do that and I love it.

Also, don’t miss their line-up of summer camps and classes. What’s your kiddo’s favorite thing to do at Bellaboo’s?

Filed under: Out and About. Tags: .

Chesterton European Market

May 19th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

Before we moved, one of our favorite Saturday morning activities was heading to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning.  Fresh baked goodies, incredibly beautiful vegatables and fruits, artisanal cheeses, food tastings and music.  I was sad to leave it behind.  The smell of the food, the buzz of the crowd – it all convenes to create the incredible energy of a community coming together.

This week,  I ventured out to the Chesterton European Market.  It held all these things and then some! I was so excited to recommence one of my favorite traditions. I got to try some wonderful cheese, some awesome seedless raspberry spread (which made its way home with me) and the kids went crazy with some delicious cake truffles by Connie’s Cake Truffles – I can’t say I blame them.

The market features over 150 registered vendors, live music between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm and sometimes even live artisan performances like glass blowing.  In addition, they feature special events throughout the season – I’m marking the Zucchini 500 Race (August 28th) on my calendar!

This is an easy way to sneak in some great family time too.  We pulled up a bit of grass and nibbled on our lunch, wandered the rows of vendors a bit more, then made our way back home (a little stuffed).  It was an incredible way to connect with an old tradition in a new place.  Thanks Chesterton for a grand time!

Don’t take my word for it, check out Stephanie’s take on the market!

Filed under: Out and About. Tags: .

Libraries are cool

March 23rd, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

I should confess that I love books.  I devour them.  I even love the smell of them.  So for me, a library or book store is my idea of a little bit of heaven.  I often run off to Barnes & Noble after the kids are in bed just to hang out in the place where all those books gather.

But libraries, libraries are the coolest. Local libraries are so much more than a place to grab a good book (which I do – often!)  You can find plenty of information on your community, find out about local events and find local resources.  There’s always something going on at the library – children’s storytimes, craft events – I’m always surprised at what I find.  Our library was a practical goldmine when I first moved here.

Valparaiso LibraryChances are, your library even has a few little spots for the kids to hang out and well, be kids.  The Valparaiso Library’s Children’s Department is great.  Their book selection is immense, they have incredibly popular children’s storytimes (so popular they’re full!), and plenty of niche’s for kids to plop down and read, play with trains or hang out.

While the Library isn’t a loud place (Shhh!) I’ve often found that the children’s department is not a place where you must whisper – only be courteous to the other patrons.  Let’s face it – just try to keep any group of kids quiet – it’s a losing battle – might as well teach to be respectful of their surroundings instead.

So go show your local library some love – I’m sure they’d love to have you!

A Brief History of the Place I Now Call Home

March 17th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

It occurred to me that if I was going to do this “new resident to the State of Indiana” thing right, I needed to have a basic understanding of this place I now find myself calling “home”.  I got from the get go that I lived in a highly agricultural area – but I had a feeling there was so much more lurking beneath the surface.

Northwest Indiana

I realized, I had a few questions.  Like, what exactly is a “Hoosier”?  and  “Gee, Basketball is like all the rage here, huh?”  I felt I really needed to dig deep and know what all this meant.

Let’s start with Hoosier.

To say that I was literally clueless about this is an understatement.  I had a vague understanding that it had something to do with Nick Nolte and a basketball movie, but was quickly informed (by my lovingly patient husband) that I was indeed clueless (and it was Gene Hackman).  So, I went to the internet (isn’t that why God invented Google?)

Turns out – by just researching this one term, I became quite familiar with Indiana history and found an awesome website – The Indiana Historical Society, as well as the Indiana Historical Bureau on IN.gov.  Want to beef up on your state history, start there.

So, back to the “Hoosier” – what is it? I expected to find a simple answer.  I didn’t.  But I did find many great possible explanations – like these from the Indiana Historical Bureau.  Nothing short of fascinating.

Now on to basketball.  I like basketball, I do.  In fact, if I had to pick a favorite sport – well, it would be very high on the list.  But you see, I hail from the state of Alabama and my alma mater is  The University of Alabama.  So, we kind of eat, sleep and drink football.  From an early age you learn all about National Championships, Bear Bryant and Big Al.  Basketball is well, well, it’s not football.

But it turns out, basketball is HUGE around here.  Yay for me!  That means I get to watch an indoor sport!

In order to understand the nature of “basketball-love” here, I again, turned to Google.  Turns out there’s even this statement on Wikipedia

“The states of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky are particularly well known for their residents’ devotion to high school basketball, commonly called Hoosier Hysteria in Indiana; the critically acclaimed film Hoosiers shows high school basketball’s depth of meaning to these communities.”

Hoosier Hysteria! Sign me up!

AND – A ha! I was kind of right about the term Hoosier, basketball and a movie being like the six degrees of Indiana.  Well, sort of.

*For homework, I’ve Netflixed (what? it’s a verb, right?) Hoosiers.  I can’t wait to check out Gene Hackman (how did I get Nick Nolte?)

Filed under: Out and About. Tags: .


March 9th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

The husband ended up with a few free weekdays last week.  Not being a girl to let anything go to waste, I hopped in the car and yelled “Buh-Bye” as I pulled out of the drive.

I ran a few child-less errands – which amazingly took less than half the time they normally would and then….then, I, I… didn’t know what to do with myself.  I’m not really a mani/pedi type girl – rather, I wasn’t much in the mood for it.

So, I drove around for a bit.  Remembering that I had my trusty laptop with me, I thought, “meh” ((shrug)), I guess I could use a few hours of uninterrupted work.

So, I pulled up to The Blackbird Cafe (b/c I recalled they had wi-fi and I had heard what a great little spot it is), popped in and made myself right at home on a little black couch in the way back.  I ordered up some tea, a little soup and voila’ – I was in business!

The Blackbird Cafe


With it’s quiet jazz background music, it’s WAY friendly staff and my new best friend (this black leather couch) I got crazy amounts of work done.

All in all, The Blackbird Cafe is a definite winner for my escapes when I can wrangle one.  And I have to say, sneaking off and not having to answer when you hear “Mom!” has it perks!

Dear Blackbird, I shall return!

If you like twitter (I’m a twitaholic, maybe, I don’t know) – follow them on twitter for the latest! @blackbirdcafe

Cruising the Storytime Circuit in Northwest Indiana

March 2nd, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

I’ve been guilty of utilizing story time where ever I’ve lived for the past 4.5 years.  What can I say – I leap at the chance for someone else to take the reigns of entertaining the kiddos, while all I have to do is hang out in the background, hope they don’t cause too much of a distraction and breathe.  It’s the break I need so often.  In fact, I was once on a regular on a story time circuit -  I attended 3 story times a week at different locations. Kind of like a rodeo circuit, except, not.


The other day, I decided it was time to hop back on that train and visit a local story time here in Northwest Indiana.  This would be the first venture for the toddler, so I had my doubts about getting a real break.  However, I was pleasantly surprised!  She stayed in the designated “story time” area, didn’t act like too much of a fool and managed to even listen – once…I think.


However, she did decide that the Barnes & Noble carpet was as good of a place as any to pull up a little bit of floor and go on to sleep.  Seriously.  She squatted, then leaned over a bit (see above), put her thumb in her mouth and decided – “this isn’t so bad” and was on her way to sleepytown.  I intervened, she perked up and we finished story time.

Then, it was time for snack – she gobbled it up.  All in all, we had a very successful inaugural trip to story time.  Can’t wait to become “regulars”.

Training her early

For storytimes in our area, click here.  Also, check out the Porter and Lake County Libraries for their storytimes and activities!

Filed under: Out and About. Tags: .

On Eating Out. With Kids.

February 22nd, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

If you have children and you like to eat, chances are you might find yourself out at a public eating establishment, otherwise known as a restaurant.  Now, you go there, as do other people, for a dining experience in which other people make the food, possibly bring you the food and do the dishes.  You pay for the experience as much as the food.  And while I really enjoy eating out without my children, I sometimes have to bring want to bring my children along.

I have tried to raise my 4-yr-old to understand the basic etiquette of eating out.  If you stare too closely, you will likely be grossed out – but as long as you just give us a sweeping glance, you will (with hope) see a child who knows to stay in her seat, to say please and not to yell or throw (much).  I’ve worked hard – it’s been a trying 4 years.  She’d love nothing more than to run amuck around that new, exciting area called a restaurant.  After all, nothing is more stimulating to a child than a new environment. Am I right?

Anyway, kids.  In restaurants.  Not my favorite thing to do.  But it is my job to parent them.  To teach them that just as we are paying for the dining experience, so are the rest of the fine folks gathered at that spot.

Which leads me to the other day.  Dining with an 18-month-old.  Totally different ball-game.  I’m in the trenches,man.  I’ll take the 4-yr-old out any day.  The toddler is a different story.

Uptown Valpo Cafe

Today, we went to check out the new Uptown Valpo Cafe.   Good food, great service and then there was my kid.  She tried, bless her, she tried.  But she just couldn’t resist some chair re-arranging, a tantrum, a quick stroll around a few tables and maybe a squeal or two before our food came.  But after that, she settled in.  She loved the focaccia cheese bread (and *ahem* so did I).

Just as I was getting a little exasperated, she finished her food, we shuffled out of there and headed back to the car.  The battle had been fought, I would indeed live to see another day, another restaurant.  In fact, she hadn’t embarrassed me so bad this time -I actually felt I could  return to this restaurant!

But,  just as we were pulling out, I realized I left my to-go food there.  But that is where it remained as I will fight the toddler/restaurant battle another day.

Filed under: Out and About. Tags: .

Off to Shedd

February 15th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

One of our first trips into Chicago was spent at Shedd Aquarium.  It’s such a quick trip from Northwest Indiana and well, I love it there.  I’ve always loved aquariums, but this one is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  Now that we’ve been here a little over 6 months, I would guess we’ve gone 6 or 7 times.  That’s probably due to the fact that we have a membership and feel we should use it, but somehow or another, on a lazy day, we often find ourselves there, wandering through the up-close exhibits in awe.

One of the first things that struck me about the aquarium was the beauty of the building itself.  Nestled in the museum campus on the banks of Lake Michigan, its sprawling staircase and grand entrance immediately informs you that you are to prepare for an experience.  The breathtaking architecture is something that even this amateur can appreciate.

Once inside, you can’t help but notice the incredible doors, soaring ceilings and cool marble all around.  Indeed, before you’ve even paid admission, you’ve received a treat for the eyes.  You can only imagine the faces of people as they took the first steps into the aquarium in 1929.  Since then, the building has undergone renovations and expansions and has found its way onto the National Historic Landmarks registry.

But the exhibits, the exhibits here are my favorite.  I love the Waters of the World exhibits, while the kids prefer the Polar Play Zone – where they can spy on the dolphins, Beluga Whales and Penguins.  And,when they tire of watching, there are plenty of places to stop and play a bit.

We also took some time this trip to attend the new Fantasea show.  It was crowded – but the staff was very efficient in finding seats for as many as possible, while making sure that everyone could see and enjoy the show.  I loved it – but I am a sucker for those Belugas.  Always have been.  The show is as interactive as it can be with that many people in attendance, but it’s still a treat for everyone.

One thing that is also new there – although we did not participate, is the Beluga Encounter.  What an experience – although, with a hefty pricetag of $250 ($225 for members), it’s not for everyone.  But, if you do decide to cough up the dough, I believe it might be worth it – participants get to go up close and personal with a Beluga Whale trainer for an experience like no other!

So, while this trip wasn’t new to me entirely, it is one of my favorite things (so far) to do.  The quick trip to Chicago is worth it to see the looks on my children’s faces as the dolphins spin in the air, as they touch the starfish and giggle and as they pretend to be penguins.  A definite good time to be had by all.

Filed under: Out and About. Tags: .

And Away We Go!

February 11th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

I moved here on a hot summers day in early August.  Well, it was hot when I left the South, scratch that – August in the South is stifling.  Upon my arrival into Valparaiso, it was much cooler. In fact, to my standards – it felt like October.

I can’t say I was thrilled to leave my friends and family behind – in fact, I was heartbroken.  My entire life was built around the relationships I had cultivated in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, AL.  And here I was, leaving it all behind – 635 miles behind to be more precise.

I didn’t want to like it here. But, as I pulled into Northwest Indiana, I saw the beauty that I’ve continued to find as I explore this place.  It was that beauty that eased my heart a bit.  At that time, it was mostly cornfields – but that was all new to me – and still quite beautiful. And, I’ll confess that the sudden break from squelching temperatures was a little attractive too. So, I (begrudgingly) admitted that it was kind of nice.

As summer slipped into fall, I fell in love with the apple orchards – in fact, you could rarely find me any place else on the weekends.  And now, we’ve made it to winter and it’s a wonderland like I’ve never known.  We do get snow in Alabama, but nothing like this. I’ll tell you all about that some other time.

And ok, the snow can be a little aggravating – but it is quite beautiful as I sit here at my window peeking out. And, as long as I don’t actually have to go out and deal with it – it’s lovely.  In fact, we were so excited during our first “big snow” we made an igloo. But as I now know, dealing with it and playing in it are two very different things.

Our Igloo!

So, this is where I find myself – where I will now make my home. This itty-bitty piece of Northwest Indiana that I’ll make my own.  I plan to explore every little inch of it,and I plan to have a lot of fun making my way through.  So watch out Midwesterners! You’ve got an energetic Southern Belle loose on the land and she’s planning on having a ball!

Filed under: Out and About.


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