NWI Parent

Curtain Call

May 24th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

My daughter is borderline obsessed with musicals. Her favorite? Mamma Mia. She requests the soundtrack in the car all the time and after 2+ years, well Meryl Streep singing ABBA can get a bit…old. Don’t get me wrong, I love her. LOVE. But you know.

So, her favorites in addition to Mamma Mia – Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, Annie, The Sound of Music… If they dance and sing, she’s in.

About a year ago, she starts getting it that the same people were pretending to be different people. You know – what we call, acting. She spotted Judy Garland first. Then Julie Andrews. She was fascinated and intrigued.

Last summer, we spotted a summer acting workshop put on by The Memorial Opera House here in Valpo. I knew it would be perfect, unfortunately we had already planned some extensive travel during the time of the final few weeks and performance. I didn’t even tell her – she would’ve opted to stay home, I’m sure of it.

Thankfully, they ran another session in the spring and she finally made her on-stage debut. Every week before class she rehearsed in her room with her CD. She read the lyrics in her music book as best as she could.  She even *sigh* practiced her bow. A star was born. Well, sort of.

She tends to get really shy in situations like that – you know, situations where she’s in front of anyone and on the spot. She usually hides behind me until she warms up, so we didn’t really know what to expect. Ok, we expected her to stand there and maybe mouth a few of the words and hide behind her friend who was also in the show. I even had a little warm-up talk before the show that basically consisted of “What would Taylor Swift do?”

To our delight, she didn’t do that at all, thank you Taylor Swift. She got up there, did all her steps, sang her heart out and beamed the whole time. We had a great time and so did she.

For more information on The Memorial Opera House and their programs, check them out – Valparaiso Memorial Opera House

Memorial Opera House

Memorial Opera House

Mom on the Run

April 13th, 2011 - By Jamie Bissot

Busy.  Bizzay.

These past few weeks have been a dizzying haze of appointments, errands, to-do lists and to-don’t lists. And, news to me, it’s April.

Sometimes I think back to the time when I didn’t have kids and remember what it felt like to be free as a bird. Sometimes I long for those ole days. Days when I….

  • Didn’t feel like cooking dinner at 8 pm?  No problem! We’ll go out.  There were no bedtimes to take into account.
  • Could stay up late watching Annie Hall because it’s on AMC (even though I’d swear I own a copy somewhere?) No problem.  I only have to get myself dressed and out the door in the morning.
  • Get my car detailed and it stayed clean for longer than 45 minutes. You betcha.
  • Remembered what day it was without having to ask a 5-yr-old.

But with all the hurry and scurry of parenthood, I wouldn’t change a thing.  My life was far from empty before I had kids.  But now that I have the little darlings, my cup runneth over.  It’s easy to look back and remember fondly how easy life was before you were completely responsible for the well-being and health of another human! (Ack! That’s pressure)

But, my life then was just a shadow of the one I have now.  Parenthood is a funny thing.  Some days, I feel like crumpling into a ball on the floor and crying.  But, I can’t.  I’ve got laundry to do, dinner to cook and errands to run.  Most important, I have two kiddos to hug.

If you’re not busy and want more stuff to do – check these out:

Earth Day Celebration at Sunset Hill Farm County Park – Saturday, April 16th 10-3pm

3rd Annual Valparaiso Community Egg Hunt – Free Community Egg Hunt for Porter County Residents – Saturday April 23rd 10 am at Porter County Expo Center (age 0-12 years – Rain or Shine)

Free Spring Movies at Goodrich Quality Theaters/IMAX in Portage – 9 am and 10 am Saturday and Sunday (call or check site for times and movie)

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.

Valparaiso Popcorn Festival & Hot Air Balloonfest – NWI Your Weekend is Full

September 7th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

I’ve noticed a few leaves going gold as they approach…FALL!  Fall here means a lot to me.  Fall was when I fell in love with Northwest Indiana, just one little year ago.  There’s a particular stretch of road that is breathtaking as the leaves paint the view gold, it’s stunning. But, fall means something else to me, and probably you too – festival season! (You thought I was going to say ‘winter is around the corner’ didn’t you?) The local festivals are the hopping place to be on any given weekend. Communities rally around each other and the theme of the festival to mingle,  shop and parade themselves until they can’t festival it anymore.  Well okay, until the next festival. First up on my agenda, The Popcorn Festival in Valparaiso!

This was (fittingly) our first festival here.  I was living in a cramped apartment and was down about not finding a home to live in right away, missing my family and friends and just generally having a good case of the blahs.  At first I didn’t really get it.  Then I was told one more than one occasion that this business or that would be closed for the festival.  I was even more confused.  The town shuts down to celebrate popcorn? But the husband dragged me out anyway and what-dya-know? I had a good great time.  It’s hard not to have a good time when there’s a funnel cake involved.

Back to the Popcorn Festival – held annually the Saturday after Labor Day, this year Valparaiso’s Popcorn Festival is this Saturday the 11th.  Valparaiso’s Community Festivals & Events thankfully provided me with an explanation on why we were celebrating popcorn (Thank you for that as it all makes a bit more sense to me now than when I was a newcomer!)

“It all began in 1979, when the idea to bring a festival to the city popped up in the minds of the Valparaiso city leadership. Who better to solute than a Valparaiso native who became a household name with his very own brand of popcorn? Orville Redenbacher – was the inspiration behind the very first Popcorn Festival and the Nation’s First and Finest Popcorn Parade.

Also, don’t miss the Lit’l Kernel Puff Race and Popcorn Panic 5K and 5 Mile Run (The kids and I may participate if I can get my legs moving).  There’s still time to register! So, I will see you Saturday, along with the rest of NW Indiana!  Cheers to popcorn!

For more information, visit the Valparaiso Popcorn Festival Website

Another happening this weekend (September 10-11, 2010) that we may just have to check out is the Valparaiso Kiwanis Clubs Hot Air Balloonfest. The club’s website says “The Valparaiso Noon Kiwanis Club will conduct our 20th annual Kiwanis Hot Air BalloonFest at the Porter County Fairgrounds in Valparaiso, Indiana this September. Our 90 year old Kiwanis Club of 200 members has been using funds generated from the BalloonFest to support sponsored youth clubs (Key, Builders, K-kids, and AKtion) and other club projects that benefit the children of our community and of the world. We are anxiously looking forward to this year’s balloon launches during the evenings of September 10 and 11. Over 20 colorful, enormous hot air balloons are expected at this year’s event. Nothing is more beautiful than to see these multicolored balloons ascend into the sky at dusk.”

For more information (and a $1 off coupon/carload for the event) visit the Valparaiso Kiwanis Club Hot Air Balloonfest Website

And finally, coming up, I’ll tell you all about the magic of apple season (for me) as well as next weeks Wizard of Oz Festival in Chesterton.  But, if you get a free afternoon, the apple orchards are open!  Check them out (and let me know if there are others out there):


Garwood Apple Orchard (with weekly specials!)

County Line Apple Orchard (check out their events!)

Park Pioneers: Valplayso

July 27th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

I’ve been running all over Valparaiso to catch up on the local parks and this is my last stop in the city.  We like to go to this one when we’re in a playful mood – it’s positively cut out to be a pretend paradise.  However, the neurotic mom in me suffers many panicky moments as the kids play here, because the structure has so many tucked away spaces, it’s easy to lose sight of your kids for a few seconds.  So, when we’re here, I’m that woman who is always frantically scoping out the playground and peeking under the bridges and forts looking for one of my offspring.


located on Glendale Blvd. just east of Roosevelt

This park is the ultimate destination for those who dig forts, pretend play and good times.  We like to go to this park with our older daughter because she loves to pretend she’s a pirate, a bug explorer, and half-a-dozen other things.  We’ve found that it can be busy during “peak play” hours, but at other times, we’ve had it all to ourselves.

There are swings and slides, plenty of climbing structures, and endless nooks and crannies to play wildly.  She loves it here!


  • Structure isn’t your run-of-the-mill play set – plenty of room for the imagination
  • Play area off-set from parking lot, helping frantic parents (like me) keep up with the kids
  • Picnic tables – so you can cool off with a juice box!


  • It can be crowded, as it’s not a large, open-spaced playground like others in the area
  • Due to the arrangement of the play structure, it can be hard to see your child at all times
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Park Pioneers: Butterfly Park & Caterpillar Crossing

July 20th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

For the past two weeks, I’ve been visiting area parks and giving you my little take on the good and great of them.  This one holds a special little place in my heart – it was the first park we visited when we moved to NW Indiana almost a year ago.

Since we moved here, this one has been a favorite, because of it’s soaring, twirly slides, it’s fun colored cabanas and its unique little learning stations.  It’s always filled with kids playing and having a blast – and there’s one reason why – it’s awesome! It’s also our go-to spot when things are creeping a bit downhill in our house.  Nothing perks up the kids like a trip to “Butterflies Park” (as my oldest calls it).  See you there – I’ll be the adult woman whose 2-yr-old is forcing her to “ride the caterpillar” with her.

Butterfly Park & Caterpillar Crossing

located at Foundation Meadows Park (just off Campbell Street north of Valparaiso High School)


  • Rubber mulched playground, softening even the toughest of falls (which we know all about)
  • Clean, maintained playground and restroom facilities
  • Park playgrounds set far from main road and nicely shielded by beautiful grass fields
  • Picnic tables for dining in
  • Smaller play set for the younger kids, although I can’t keep my 2-yr-old off the big set with her sister.  So, I’m that mom always following behind the toddler and yes, making my way down the slide too.


  • It’s sunny.  There’s little shade to be had at this park, so be prepared with sunscreen and hats.
  • It’s busy.  This park is always busy, so if you’re looking for something a little more low-key, try it before peak times (early morning, late afternoons…)
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Park Pioneers: Bicentennial Park

July 13th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

Look you guys (or Y’all as I am still inclined to say), my kids are bored silly with this summertime stuff.  We have a love/hate relationship with it.

We love setting our own schedule – sleepover in the basement on a Wednesday night?  Why not?! Wanna go to Chicago for the morning?  Sure thing.  Spend a Sunday evening at the movies?  You betcha.

But they also crave that routine of going to their normal activities and school.  And, well, I hate to admit it, but I *occasionally* find them wandering around the house with that bored/mischevious/zombie look on their face.  So, outside we go.

But sometimes, the backyard just isn’t as exciting as…. well anywhere else.  So, when the mood strikes, we hop in the car and head to the park. Being new(ish) here, I’m making the rounds of local parks!  Maybe I’ll see you around sometime!

Last time, I explored Sunset Hill Park, this time, it’s round 2 of my little park exploration project.  The summer is glorious here and I can’t help but get outside and enjoy the gorgeous wide-open spaces all around.

Bicentennial Park

Burlington Beach Road ( just east of Campbell Street)

Stephanie first introduced me to this park.  And immediately I loved it.  The playgrounds are set far enough from the main road and the parking lot that you can keep a good eye on your kiddos and feel safe while they explore the grounds a bit.  With a nice “big kid” play set, as well as a smaller one, swings, tennis courts, a basketball goal and a softball field behind, Bicentennial park is a great little spot to hang out for the afternoon.


  • Well-kept playground area that’s spread out, accommodating many kids
  • Baby swings!
  • Covered picnic shelter to dive into your picnic basket – with restrooms (which can be reserved through the Parks department)


  • It can be a bit muddy when it’s been raining.  And well,the last few weeks have been quite rainy, so we’ve left quite muddy each time.  So – bring some galoshes!
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Park Pioneers: Sunset Hill Farm County Park

July 6th, 2010 - By Jamie Bissot

It’s prime park season here in Northwest Indiana.  There’s also no school and slower activity schedules, so heading to the park for a last-minute play down is a perfectly sensible way to let the kids blow off some steam, manage to grab a few quick “action” photos of the kids for Grandma and a chance for me to sit back on a park bench and watch the kids play a bit.

I’m checking out a few parks and I’m going to tell you all about it!

First up:

Sunset Hill Farm County Park
Route 6 & Meridian
775 Meridian Rd
Valparaiso, Indiana 46386.

We have passed this park quite a few times when it was hosting one special event or another.  But today, we went in to check it out. According to Porter County Parks & Recreation’s website, “Sunset Hill Farm County Park is a beautiful 238-acre park complete with prairie land and wooded hiking trails. The front of the park is utilized for festivals and events while the back is left for nature to take its course.”


  • Nice and shady or wide-open and sunny – whichever you prefer, it’s here.
  • Lots of room to roam
  • Picnic shelter with tables to nibble on your eats
  • Gorgeous views of rolling fields and clustered trees
  • Hiking Trails (although I did not venture to these today)


  • Small playground (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing)

All in all, this is a great little get-away park just waiting for you to stop in and enjoy.

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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!


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


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