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What About Me?

April 5th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

Optimism is essential to achievement and it is also the foundation of courage and true progress.
Lloyd Alexander

A few weeks ago, I mentioned I was preparing to run in the Valparaiso YMCA Ringing in Spring 5k run.  Well, I did it! I’m not even extremely embarrassed about my finish time!  To top it off, I even walked home – it felt great.  Mostly, it felt great to accomplish a little something I’d set my mind to!

The weather was a bit gloomy.  It threatened to drizzle the entire time, but by the time we were finishing up, the sun peeped out and the day became glorious!  So glorious in fact, we decided we should all go celebrate (and diminish the calorie deficit I might have had from the run) by going out for breakfast at Jimmy’s Diner downtown!

While the best part of Saturday was reaching a goal, it was also great to be a part of a hugely successful community event.  Surrounded by hundreds of people from the Northwest Indiana community was great. Knowing that everyone there had a goal to reach, wanted to participate in a community activity or wanted to support the YMCA was fantastic.

I may never run a marathon, or break the tape at a 5K, but doing something for yourself is a guilty pleasure that us parents rarely take advantage of.  This is the year I change that.  This is the year I pay a little more attention to myself.  I might have mentioned this before here. Ok, I have definitely mentioned it.  What can I say? It’s on my mind.

My children are young, so it’s normal that I’m still lolling around in the fog of days and nights solely devoted to them but now that my youngest is approaching three, I can take a few steps back.  I can go out for a nice dinner and not have to worry about rushing back to feed her.  I can head up to Chicago for an evening with friends and know that she’ll be alright with her dad until I get back.  I can work hard to go from a non-runner to a “jogger” (if that’s what you call the little shuffle I do) and finish a 5K with good time.  I’m taking back a little “me” time.  What are you doing?

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It’s Springtime Whether You Like It or Not

March 23rd, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

While our friends and family down South are basking in the sunshine and warmth of 80-degree weather already, we were excited to finally be able to venture outside this week and play.  We made the most of it from playing in our neighborhood, to playing at Butterfly Park.  Still, it was a little windy.  And you know, a bit of a chill made its way here or there.  But we played, and played.  We came home and played a bit more.

Then came the rain, and coming soon, the plummeting temperatures (well to me anyway).  Snow?! A bit of snow expected?!  That little Spring-tease wasn’t entirely unexpected for me, but for a 5-yr-old who is grasping the intracacies of the monthly calendar, this was a travesty.

Promptly on Sunday, March 20, she declared to the household, “Household (or however she greets us as a group), Today is the FIRST day of Spring! Winter is OVAH!”  She proeceeded to dance and prance around, throwing in a little “Woot!” here or there. She proceeded in telling us all she’d soon be wearing shorts and t-shirts and running barefoot in the grass any day now.

The week was off to a great start, the weather was mild, the sun was out – it was time to party like it was Springtime.  The aforementioned playtime blitz happened on Monday.  Tuesday was a tad cooler, but she managed – puddles be darned.  Wednesday – she noticed things were digressing.

“Mom, UH…Why is it colder?  It’s Spring?!”

I detected a bit more than friendly frustration in her voice.

“Well, you know, when the seasons change, the weather does a bit of back and forth before it can really make up it’s mind and become Spring.  It’s just really noticeable after our long Winters here.  Just think – a little over a month ago, we had a blizzard, so this is much better, right?”

Apparently not. Basically, the conversation ended with a semi-tantrum about how the calendar declared it to be Spring and it should be Spring.  And Spring to her is barefeet in the grass, a long-sleeve t-shirt and sunshine! And because the calendar said it was Spring, we were all going out to ride bikes and walk whether I wanted to or not.


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Chellburg Farm – Maple Sugar Days!

March 15th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

What do you know, I’m entertaining guests again.  I love having close friends and loved ones around to find new things to do – it inspires me to get out and about and find out about something I’ve never seen.

I decided to take my grandmother to the shore to see the magnificent dunes and lake.  She’s been all over the place, but never Chicago and never to Lake Michigan.  On my way, there was a detour.  Not being one to have any sense of direction, I never made it to the lakeshore.  But, I did wind up at Chellburg Farm just in time for Maple Sugar Days – Win!

Maple Sugar Days at Chellburg Farm are over, but you still have a chance to check out the history of Maple Syrup in Northwest Indiana at Deep River County Park.  You can find complete information at the Lake County Parks website (scroll down):

  • Deep River County Park General Public Program
  • March 19 & 20, 2011
  • 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • FREE

We wandered about the property, watched all the different ways that maple sugar has been rendered throughout the years.  Bought some Indiana Maple Syrup, a few maple sugar candies for the ride and there you go – something new.

But, if you give a mom a bottle of maple syrup, she’s probably going to ask for some pancakes to go with them.  If you give her some pancakes, she’s probably going to wind up with sticky kids.  If her kids are sticky, they’ll probably need a bath.  And before you know it, it’s time to go to bed.  Once they wake up again at the crack of dawn, they’ll probably be hungry (again).  And they’ll probably ask for some pancakes.  And if you make them pancakes, they’ll probably want some maple syrup to go with them.  :D

Chellburg Farm Maple Sugar Days

Chellburg Farm Maple Sugar Days

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All About Kids – My Community Treasure

March 1st, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

My child has a speech delay.  It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s a hurdle nonetheless.  At almost 3 years old, her intelligibility is considerably behind most children her age.  It’s apparent within a few minutes of meeting her.   We’ve received help from many places – friends, family, therapists.  The help and support we’ve received have been a blessing to us – to her.  A blessing we don’t take for granted.  Aside from our regular therapist, who has been an irreplaceable asset to her progress, there is one place that has been such a treasure in helping all of our family conquer this hurdle together – All About Kids.

The All About Kids program of Opportunity Enterprises is an exceptional place for exceptional children.  Through a loving and nurturing environment, children of all abilities are welcomed into the program.  It’s been our experience that work in the form of play has been an incredible asset in my daughter’s quest to overcome her hurdles.  All About Kids has helped make this happen.

It’s easy to feel alone when your child doesn’t develop at the same pace as others (or even their siblings).  It’s hard not to compare, even though each child is different.  All About Kids has helped me understand that because every child is different, every child can shine in her own way.  Read what The Northwest Indiana Times had to say about All About Kids here.

The programs website states, “Our developmental programs provide children with positive beginnings during critical formitive early years. Our committed, caring staff works with you, your child’s physician, and educational and therapeutic services to ensure that your child maximizes his or her development.

Most importantly, we add a degree of personal love and nurturing that you simply will not find anywhere else.  Visit our facility to experience the pure joy in children’s faces as they learn something new.  It will change your life in the same way that we are dedicated to changing theirs.”

The statement that they “add a degree of personal love and nurturing that you simply will not find anywhere else” couldn’t not be closer to the truth.  From my first contact with the administrators to the daily interaction with the group leaders, All About Kids has proved to be a wonderful experience for our entire family.

It is through All About Kids that I was introduced to the incredible community asset Opportunity Enterprises.   This amazing program “is a non-profit organization whose mission is to create sustainable life choices and opportunities for individuals with unique challenges and abilities.”

It just makes sense to support places like these in our community.  Whether they’ve had a direct impact on your family or not, they are truly and asset that shouldn’t be overlooked.  To learn more about how you can support this community treasure, visit this page to learn about the Endowment Fund for children through Opportunity Enterprises.  If you’re looking for an even easier way to support Opportunity Enterprises  - go indulge in some luscious fudge or gourmet popcorn from the Simply Amazing market. Or you could run in the Chicago Marathon!

Lastly, if you suspect a developmental delay with your child, help is available.  Reach out to your doctor or contact First Steps, Indiana’s Early Intervention Program.

And I ran.

February 22nd, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

Running.  That’s what I’ve been doing lately.  I’ve always been a semi-active person but a runner, I am not.  Or maybe have not been.  Anyway, I decided it was time to challenge myself and push myself further than I’d ever dared before.  For me, that mountain was running.  It makes my knees hurt a bit.  And that was my excuse.  What’s more logical than the thought of “if what you’re doing hurts, stop”?

But, I want to prove to myself that I can run longer than 5 minutes at a time.  So, here I am.  Four weeks into a Couch to 5K running schedule and what do you know?  My knees are ok.  What’s more, I look forward to running.  Turns out, it’s a bit of a little zen moment for me.  You see, I can’t bombard my brain with the images and words from magazines as I can when I’m on the elliptical machine.  When I’m running, it’s just me, the track and my ipod. Some days I turn the music up. Sometimes, I just run to the beat of my own thoughts.  In the last month, I’ve worked out a lot in my head by just having this little chunk of time to myself.  It’s like a little mini-break when I can zone out and regroup.  Some people get massages (I’m ticklish), some people meditate (I’m squirmy) and some people run (I stumble.  A lot).  I wanted to run, and here I am – and I’ve yet to fall down.

The best part of all this is changing my approach to life in general on so many things.  It used to be (and ok, likely still is on loads of things) if it was too hard, I’d quit. I hate that.  I would make sure there was a good reason to let go, but those aren’t usually hard to find, right?  This time however, when it got hard, I just kept telling myself that it wouldn’t be this hard forever.  I kept telling myself just one more step.  I kept telling myself that this was about more than running, it was about my outlook.

Will I run forever, probably not (I swear it really does hurt my knees after a while).  But I am thankful for the lessons it has taught me.  Next stop, the Valparaiso YMCA Ringing in Spring 5K.  Come walk or run with me!

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I love you snotty face

February 14th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

I awoke Sunday morning to a note which read:

Dear Mom and Dad,
I’m seck (
that’s sick).  Love, Me

Sick she was.  It started with a dry cough, bit of a runny nose, progressed to a fever and culminated with vomit (Yay!).  Not the way any of us would like to start off a Sunday morning.  And then, it really hit her.  Around noon, she charged into my room. It had just dawned on her that she would miss her class Valentine’s Day party Monday!  She’d been counting down the days for a week, so, the tears came.

Then, she reminded me that she’d missed her first class field trip due to a tummy bug and her class Christmas party because we had to visit family.  Just her luck – now she would miss the only big party she was going to make this year yet!

I felt so bad for her.  She absolutely loves spending time with other kids.  She was so excited about having a party with all of her classmates and then she had to go get sick.  So, guilt-ridden as I was, Monday morning I started pouring on the charm.  Charm in the form of a bunch of daisies, a Valentine’s Day morning spectacular filled with candy (which she couldn’t eat yet – see vomiting), a trip to Starbucks for a hot apple cider (we decided to tempt fate) and a trip to redbox to rent yet another movie with talking dogs – for some reason, she just can’t refuse a Laborador puppy with a cute voice.

But even with all of my (*ahem* bribes *ahem*) attempts to help her forget about all she was missing today, she would still trade it all to just be at school.  I love that.  I love her eagerness to be with her classmates.  I love her eagerness to learn new things.  I love her.

I’ve never really cared for Valentine’s Day.  I don’t know, I’m not mushy gushy.  Then I had kids.  I smother them with kisses and hugs to the point where they both yell “Stop it Mom!”.  But on Valentine’s Day – I have a free pass! So, to my little snotty-faced kid upstairs, I love you.  Love, love, love you!


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The Quest for the DS

February 10th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

My daughter is at that tender age of 5 years old.  The age where she’s gone from life that revolves around her, to life that incorporates others more than it ever has before. She’s become impressionable, probably on a mission to make friends and find similarities.  She likes what other kids like.  Don’t get me wrong, she still has an affinity for Star Wars and Mamma Mia – things some kids don’t go for. But, she is learning to navigate life outside the nest, and sometimes that means considering what others like and maybe even liking it herself.  For example, a recent one-sided conversation in the car went like this:

Daughter: Everyone in the car raise your hand if you love Justin Beaver! (I didn’t have the heart to tell her it isn’t Beaver)

Everyone in the car:  {sound of crickets}

So, it was no surprise to me when she announced shortly after Christmas (when she saw so many of her peers with one) that she wanted a Nintendo DS.  Saying she wanted one isn’t exactly what happened.  She drew cards for me every morning before I awoke that read:

  • Dear Mommy, I love you.  You are the best parent ever.  Can I please have a DS?
  • Dear Mommy, I want a DS more than anything in the world.  Please, PLEASE, may I have one?
  • Dear Mommy, Did you know you can get a DS in pink?!

(This is all translated from her phonetic spelling – Paleez = Please, etc…)

I don’t hate handheld entertainment devices.  Seriously, just ask my iPhone.  If it isn’t lost, I’m likely playing Words with Friends or tracking my mood, or even chronicling each day with a pic. But I bet I annoy others with my constant phone fidgeting.  My problem with the DS is this – I have experienced being in the room with many (MANY) kids who went from hustling and bustling to virtual zombies once a DS was propped in front of their face.  I don’t want that.  Not yet.

I like the hustle and the bustle.  I like simple.  I don’t want something to entertain her.  I want her to find ways to entertain herself.  But, I’m caving.  She’s decided she has to have this thing.  I’ve said no in every possible way without actually saying no, and now, I’ve agreed to it on my terms (time limits, only during periods of good behavior, etc…) and one more thing. A 15-week responsibility chart.

15 weeks is probably asking a lot from a 5-yr-old.  I recognize this.  It is likely a reflection on how much I don’t want this thing.  But, I feel like if I can help her to work hard for something, she will likely take very good care of it.  That coupled with learning to play with it responsibly, rather than all zombied-out after six straight hours, maybe I can make peace with the DS.

We already use a responsibility chart at home for two everyday responsibilities that get no reward – tidying up her room and picking up 20 things in the basement.  I feel like these are things she can handle, and both are just part of towing your own line a bit.  So, I’ve added two more “extra job” slots to help her earn her DS thingy.  We’ll see.  This plan is likely to either go really well, or really bad.  Nevertheless, I don’t like it.

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Just When I Think I’ve Got the Hang of This…

February 2nd, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

Blizzard.  Just when I think I have the hang of this snow thing, a blizzard comes along.  I’m currently huddled at my desk, in my pajamas wondering how on earth we’re going to move all this snow around and return to normal life.  You lifers are probably thinking, “eh, no biggie”.  Me, I’m freaking out.  I hit the grocery store twice on Monday, then CVS that night.  My pantry is stocked for a complete infrastructure meltdown – although we’d have to survive on goldfish crackers and Kashi Dark Chocolate Cookies (those are mine.)  So, nutritionally, we’re in a mess, but otherwise, we won’t starve.

So now, I am struggling to manage two kids who already have cabin fever, a husband who is worried about what is happening at work and a dog who is very confused about things.  She’s twelve inches tall, so it doesn’t bode well that the snow outside is currently 15 inches + deep.  By 8 am, we’ve already played 4 games of Uno, mixed up hot chocolate to deliver to our neighbors later, and read books.  It’s going to be a long day.  I would send them outside to play, but I’m worried the short one (my toddler) might get lost.  So, here I sit.

I have plans though!  We’re heading to the Field Museum soon!  We’re going to check out The Crown Family Lab! “Dig in… Dress up… Explore and grow! Little explorers have their own place in a big museum! The Crown Family PlayLab starts with a child’s innate curiosity and a family-friendly environment, adds real artifacts and specimens, and encourages young explorers to discover the wonders of nature, and learn about the world’s diverse cultures.”  I’ve never taken my toddler with me to the museum, so I’m hoping she enjoys it as much as her older sister and I do.”  If you want to check it out, visit the Field Museum website.

stella snow small

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A Visit With Public Enemy No. 1 – The John Dillinger Museum

January 25th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

A few weekends ago, I curled up and finally watched Public Enemies, a movie I’m certain most everyone around here is familiar with.  Unfortunately for me, the movie addict, I did not live here while they were filming, but I can only imagine the excitement.

So, John Dillinger.  I came upon the “legend” of Dillinger mostly by the movie.  I kind of knew who he was, and when he’d lived, but I didn’t know much else.  Only that he lived around the “outlaw glamour” days when criminals were creative enough to have memorable names like “Baby Face” Nelson or “Pretty Boy” Floyd.

I did happen to be at the Indiana Welcome Center a few weeks ago, while checking out the A Christmas Story exhibit and stumbled into the John Dillinger Museum that is also housed there.  It was incredibly awesome.  The short little walk was absolutely packed with interactive information (and even a few artifacts) on Dillinger, his partners, his lifestyle and life.  The museum’s website introduces us to Dillinger and others like this: “With the crash of the stock market in October 1929, a new class of criminals moved towards the forefront as bank robbers. This new generation of gangsters seemed to be heroes to the millions left with nothing during the depression. These “Robin Hoods” stole from the banks whom the public felt had cheated many of them out of their money.”

Since I like to do this kind of thing, I also found a great list of historical locations in Chicago connected to Dillinger.

The museum is open 10-3 during the winter.

There is a small price for admission, because, as they like to say ” Crime Doesn’t Pay, But It Does Charge Admission”.  The cost for the museum is:

$4 for adults
$3 for seniors
$2 for children ages 6-12
Free for children 5 and under
50% Discount for Law Enforcement Professionals



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The Sunny Side

January 19th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

I remember friend once said, “You just never know what a person is really going through.”  I try to remember that as I go through each day.  I try to treat people with a little extra kindness, even if it’s just a little eye contact and a simple smile.  It’s perfectly normal to focus on our own needs and problems, but sometimes I think we just get so caught up in ourselves that we forget about everyone else – or maybe it’s just me.

The other day, someone did something for me that they probably didn’t think twice about.  But it just happened to come on the heels of a really tough day.  It was a sweet little gesture that was meant to spread a little cheer, but for me, it changed the course of the day.  It helped me find the sunny side (sort of) and I made it through.

Almost a week later, I’m still thinking about it.  And now, I’m left wondering how I can help to brighten someone else’s day. If it’s something as simple as dropping off a surprise latte or asking a few kiddies over for a play date (thus giving Mama an hour of peace and quiet), then I can SO do that. Even  just being there to listen or ask how someone’s day is going can make all the difference, it did with me.

Then, I realized I can do this at home more too.  I get so wound up in scheduling activities and running errands, that I sometimes forget to just pull up some couch and talk about the day with my husband.  I often get so hurried in the morning that I don’t stop to think how a syrup-happy-face could make today’s waffle fantastic, and maybe make today a little fantastic too.

IMG_0107Look, I’m not one of those lets-sing-Kumbayah-because-life-is-always-lollipops-and-rainbows kind of gals.  But, I do think that we can all spare a little bit of a break for others….So, I’m wondering, what will you do to spread a little cheer?  Today, I choose to dole out a few unexpected lollipops.

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