Monday, December 17, 2012

Talking to your kids about Sandy Hook shootings

By Rex Robinson

      When Adam Lanza went on a shooting rampage, killing 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., December 14 the news traveled throughout the nation, and world, quickly. The incident impacted both adults and children.
      In the end, a total of 28 were dead, including the shooter and his mother, whom he had shot in the family home prior to coming to the school, according to published reports.
      When tragedies like this occur, parents are sometimes at a loss as to what to say to their own children.
      Lisa Pisha, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a columnist for Family Time Magazine, offered five tips on how parents should talk to their children about the school shootings in Newtown.
     1.) Don’t avoid talking with your kids about the tragedy. It’s likely they’ve heard bits and pieces at school, through social media, and have caught glimpses of news flashes on TV. Avoiding a conversation with them about this significant event can build levels of anxiety for both you and your children.
     2.) Address what they know and have them lead the conversation with their questions. It’s important that children are allowed to speak openly and as often as necessary in times of stress and trauma. But, it can be difficult to balance what they know with what they should know. Keep your conversations with your children developmentally appropriate, fact-oriented whenever possible and leave the horrific details out of the picture.

     3.) Talk to them about what makes their school, their playground – their world – safe.  It’s important to emphasize on the how’s and why’s of safety to give both children and adults a sense of relief. Talk to your children about your job as a parent in helping to keep them safe as well. Children need to be able to count on us as adults; they look to us for answers even when it can be a struggle to find them.
     4.) Keep your normal routine going as much as possible. Talk to your children about their school day, sports, Girl and Boy Scout events. Talk about their day-to-day activities and the exciting things they may have coming up.
     5.) Finally, empathize with their worries, fears, and all of the emotions that can be present or not. Don’t dismiss their feelings of worry and concern by telling them “not to worry.” Instead, tell them how you understand their worry, and their fear. Some kids are more emotional than others, just like adults. Regardless of whether or not their emotion is presenting outwardly, it’s still there. Sometimes the best conversation starters can include self-disclosures from a grown-up.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top 12 amusement parks for the holidays

Nationally acclaimed roller coaster and amusement park expert Pete Trabucco has released his 2012 list of the world's top 12 amusement parks to visit during the holidays.

The list is topped by perennial favorites Disney World and Disneyland.

1-Disney World/Disneyland's Magic Kingdom Park and Hollywood Studios, Orlando Florida and Anaheim California. 'Mickey's Very Merry Christmas' Celebrate the magic of the holiday season with your family at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, a special event held select nights in December at Magic Kingdom and if in Orlando, Fla., don't miss the Osborne Lights show at Disney's Hollywood Studios. You will be glad you didn't. More information is at

2- Silver Dollar City?Branson Missouri, An Old Time Christmas through Dec. 30. Weather permitting; many of the park's rides are open for the event and they are one of the best around when it comes to getting you in the holiday mood.  Special for the season, Silver Dollar City features 4 million lights, the Christmas on Main Street tree-lighting presentation, the Gifts of Christmas Holiday Lights parade, musical performances, and a presentation of "A Christmas Carol." New for 2012 is the musical show, "Its A Wonderful Life," based on the classic film. Santa holds court in Kringle's Krossing. Special holiday treats include hot wassail and ginger cookies. as shows such as the Mother Goose Guild and a Nativity Pageant. More information is at

3- Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure ?Orlando, Fla.  It's not Christmas until you visit here? The Grinch  makes personal appearances throughout the day, and you will love the show in Dr Seuss land. You can also ride 'Cat in the Hat' while you're there and you will truly have a great experience in this park especially for the holidays. More information is at

4- Hershey Park Christmas Candylane and Hershey Sweet Lights Hershey, Pa., 2012 is open most days through Dec. 31. The park will scrape off the ice and open some of its rides (weather permitting) for hardy souls to enjoy. Shows include the musical, "A Rockin' Music Box Christmas." Hershey also offers a drive-through holiday light display. Called Hershey Sweet Lights, it features 2 miles of trails with over 1 million lights on more than 500 animated tableaux. Hershey offers hotel packages and other holiday promotions as well.  More information is at

5- Dollywood?Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival Pigeon Forge (near Knoxville) 2012 will be open on select days through Dec. 30. Weather permitting; many of Dollywood's rides will be operating during the festival. If they are running, you could check out the park's 3.5 million twinkling lights from the top of one of the coasters. Lights are synchronized to holiday tunes. The park will also feature an ambitious production of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and other holiday shows" The park also presents The Polar Express 4-D Experience, a ride film based on the popular Christmas film. At Santa's Workshop, children will be able to make their own holiday craft projects. More information is at

6- Busch Gardens Williamsburg?Christmas Town Williamsburg 2012  will be open on select days through Dec. 31. Busch Gardens will transform its European hamlets, including Ireland and England into Old World Christmas villages. New for 2012, the park will present Retro lane, an old-school Christmas light display. Always well regarded for its shows, the Christmas Town productions of "Miracles," "Gloria!," "Deck the Halls," "O Tannenbaum," and "A Sesame Street Christmas," should be top-notch. Weather permitting, the park's rides, including Mach Tower and DaVinci's Cradle, will be operating. Delicious holiday-themed food and a dining experience with Santa there as well.  More information is at

7- Lake Compounce  Bristol CT Holiday Lights ?Holiday Lights Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through December 22. Includes North Pole Railway train ride, cookie decorating, storytelling, carolers, a selection of kiddie and family rides (weather permitting), Santa (naturally!), and lots of festive lights of course. More information is at

8- Dutch Wonderland?Dutch Winter Wonderland, Lancaster, Pa., 2012 through Dec 30 on select dates. Dutch Wonderland will also have several rides for the holidays. The Princess of Dutch Wonderland will be offering some Christmas stories. Santa will be on hand to see who's been naughty or nice. And the Dutch Winter Wonderland Royal Light Show will feature colorful lights synchronized to holiday music. More information is at

9- Kennywood?Holiday Lights West Mifflin PA(near Pittsburgh) 2012 dates: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, through Dec. 30, plus Dec. 26 and 27. For its second holiday celebration, the park will be hanging loads of twinkling lights, offering carolers, and opening some of its rides, weather permitting. Last year, the first year that Kennywood presented Holiday Lights, it is fantastic! For more information, visit

10- Six Flags over Texas ?Holiday in the Park, Arlington. Texas (near Dallas) Everything you need to get into the holiday spirit can be found at Six Flags Over Texas during Holiday in the Park. From more than a million twinkling lights, holiday shows, toasty campfires, delicious hot cocoa, and roller coasters, to the nearly 60 foot Holiday Tree of Trees, Santa Land and of course Santa Claus. Special moments and thrills await you at North Texas' largest holiday festival. More information is at

11- Sea World San Antonio?SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration San Antonio 2012 through Dec. 31 on select dates. See official site for details. Shamu Claus, as well as Santa Claus, will be on hand to greet guests. Special shows will include "Clyde & Seamore's Countdown To Christmas," featuring the park's sea lions, as well as "A Sesame Street Christmas." Candy Cane Forest will be decked out with over 100,000 lights.  More information is at

12- Sesame Place?A Very Furry Christmas Langhorne (near Philadelphia) 2012 on select days through Dec. 31. The event will include a parade, shows such as "Elmo's Christmas Wish," loads of decorated trees, and some of the park's rides (if the weather cooperates). More information is at

In his book, "America's Top Roller Coasters and Amusement Parks,"Trabucco teaches people how to overcome their fear of roller coasters and lists the best roller coasters and amusement parks around North America. He is currently on tour promoting his book and has appeared on hundreds of media outlets and National TV. All profits from the book are going to selected charities.

Free mobile app to keep family safe

AlertID, working with The National Crime Prevention Council (McGruff the Crime Dog), urges you to protect your children and family during this Holiday Season.  Whether attending holiday events, holiday shopping or traveling with family, AlertID provides a free app that helps protect your family.

My Family Wallet, which is one part of AlertID’s mobile app, provides parents with a secure, convenient way to store current information and photos of their children and other family members, including pets, directly on their smart phones.  In the event that a parent needs to report a missing child or family member, AlertID gives them the ability to send this critical information to law enforcement or other security officials in seconds with the push of a button.
My Family Wallet is easy to use and takes less than five minutes to input the necessary information (basic demographic and contact information) and a current photo of the child can either be taken with the phone or added from existing photos.  The information remains securely on your phone and can be sent quickly to authorities in case you ever become separated.

“The US Department of Justice has reported that nearly 800,000 children become missing each year. Most families will admit that they are not armed with the most current information about their child, and for every minute a child is missing, they are potentially another mile away from safety. AlertID is a free and simple way for parents to be proactive and have this information at their fingertips should they need to contact authorities,” said Keli Wilson, AlertID’s Founder.

AlertID also provides its members with alerts from state sex offender databases in 23 states, representing more than 224 million people, with more states being added each month.

In addition, AlertID’s mobile applications also allow you to send pictures and other information about potential crimes or threats directly to law enforcement quickly and easily.

“AlertID is an important resource and every parent should be prepared for an emergency”, said Stephanie Parker, Chairperson Nevada Amber Alert Committee.  “The app is free and easy to use, and we strongly recommend that every parent sign up for this service at”

To sign up for a free account, or for more information, visit

Monday, December 3, 2012

See the lights

No place like decorated homes for the holidays

By Vickie Jurkowski

       If parental warnings of “Don’t use the hair dryer while your brother’s running the microwave!” were a normal part of your childhood, you know all about the interior hazards of oodles of outdoor lights during the holidays.
       Two things may have happened since: You got enough of the lights and ensuing fiascos as a kid and now leave the extreme decorating to others; or you caught the family bug for the Christmas crazies and spend October and November lining the perimeter with soldiers and candy canes, dotting the rooftop, gutters and trees with lights, and filling the yard with a party of penguins, snowmen, elves, Santa, his sleigh and nine reindeer to rival the North Pole.
       Whether you fall into category A or B, looking at the lights and other holiday décor likely is an undeniable treat for you and your family year after year.
       Those who take on the task of keeping the tradition alive say LED lights have made their “fun hobby” more simple and economical. Technology enabling displays to be synchronized to music and showcased on YouTube has brought the tradition a long way, too.
       But for many, the classics are still keepers.
       Nostalgic plastic blow molds – those hollow snowmen, Santas, elves and penguins you see on folks’ front lawns – and handmade designs are popular as ever this holiday season.
       “I’d say I have one of everything,” said Rick Tarulis, whose home at 827 Morven Court in Naperville has been featured on HGTV and the Naperville Trolley Holiday Lights Tour since it started 17 years ago. “If I see a new Santa or elf or candy cane, I buy it.”
Original ideas shine at the Tarulis residence (top and above) in Naperville. Rick Tarulis designed the 17-foot steel snowman on side of house on a piece of notebook paper and had it fabricated at a welding shop. He sawed, drilled and painted pegboard and incorporated drop-ceiling light covers to make stockings and candy canes for the front of the house, located at 827 Morven Court.          (Photo courtesy Rick Tarulis)
       Plastic Santas, elves and candy canes are joined on his lawn by Mickey, Minnie and Snoopy.
“The nostalgic blow molds are still one of our most popular items,” said Rick Septoski, marketing manager for Tinley Park-based retailer American Sale, where the plastic figures range from $14 to $200.
An animatronic plastic blow-mold Santa in a handmade chimney has been the centerpiece of Bill Christoffel’s display for 25 years, from Des Plaines to his current residence at 1622 Clarence Ave. in Arlington Heights.
       “Santa comes out of the chimney whenever a car goes by and music comes on,” said Christoffel, who is also slowly converting some 6,000 lights to LEDs. He used his electrical engineering skills to create a chain-driven assembly and also hid a motion sensor and FM radio transmitter inside the chimney.
       The Pop-Up Santa action triggers a nearby blow-mold snowman to spin on its saucer sled. Tarulis, an attorney and grandfather, also incorporates homespun ingenuity into his holiday décor. He designed the 17-foot steel snowman on the side of his house on a piece of notebook paper and had it fabricated at a welding shop. He sawed, drilled and painted pegboard and incorporated drop ceiling light covers to make four-foot stockings and candy canes for the front of the house.
       LED lights have improved his 30-year decorating tradition.
       “About four years ago I maxed out all the power” and an electrician recommended a new meter, subpanels, etc.,” Tarulis said. “Instead I switched to all LED. They use one-tenth of the power and last forever. It’s very economical.”
       Modern also meets nostalgic and handmade at the Frohn residence in Bolingbrook.
The house itself is almost invisible amid 52,000 lights and 20 plastic soldiers outlining the corner property at 1443 W. Briarcliff Road.
       Jack Frohn, a letter carrier, and his wife Laura Frohn, a former letter carrier now in management, add plenty of homespun ideas to the store-bought décor. They designed their own flashing 14-inch snowflakes, which used to be sold at grocery and hardware stores, and 110 snowflakes are on display from the rooftop down.

 The Frohn residence at 1443 W. Briarcliff Road in Bolingbrook features 52,000 lights, 100 flashing snowflakes, 20 blow-mold soldiers, 30 ball ornaments made from Solo cups and filled with 100 lights, four large inflatables, a wooden sleigh and reindeer, candy cane tree, a train and an airplane. (Photo Courtesy of Jack Frohn)

       The couple modified a friend’s idea for ball ornaments made from Solo cups and filled with 100 lights, and gave him some snowflakes in exchange.
       “It’s quite a task” to make 30-plus ball ornaments, Jack Frohn said, “and each year our trees get bigger so we have to make more and add more lights.”
       Family members and friends also have contributed handmade décor. Hanging in trees and on the North Pole are elves created by the Frohns’ nephew, Garret Popek, who also made a video of the display ( His late father Bart Popek made a wooden sleigh and reindeer for the Frohns’ front lawn.
     Neighbor Peggy McMillan did the elves’ hair and clothed them thanks to Goodwill.
     The handmade décor has another way of bringing people together. Laura Frohn has a tradition of hiding small elves in the snowflakes for kids to find.
     The couple handed out 1,600 candy canes to onlookers last year. Santa even makes an appearance at the Frohn residence, with this year’s visit set for 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 8.
       “It’s … um … big,” Jack Frohn said about their holiday display, which Annette Wehrli of Naperville Trolley & Tours Ltd. ( calls “the largest of them all.”
       While it’s a given that the Frohn and Tarulis homes will be featured on the tours, Wehrli said residents call her to request being on the tour and don’t always make the cut, even with four trolleys operating every single night in December.

 Neighbor Peggy McMillan (from left), Laura Frohn and Frohn’s nephew Garret Popek ready the elves, which he created and McMillan dressed with clothes from Goodwill. Many residents incorporate décor into an annual tradition, from trimming the tree to touring the lights. Frohn has a tradition of hiding small elves in the snowflakes for kids to find. (Photo Courtesy of Jack Frohn)

       “More and more people are decorating and synchronizing displays to music and LED lights,” said Wehrli, also known as the Trolley Chick. “Now there are enough homes that we do a north tour and a south tour. Going around looking at lights brings friends and family together.”
       “We used to do it for them,” Jack Frohn said of decorating for the couple’s three children, who have grown up and moved away. “Now it’s a tradition for the trolleys and literally thousands of people who come by and we get to meet them. There’s a group of au pairs from all over the world who come and it’s amazing to see the shock on their faces as they take pictures and send them instantly to their (native) homes.”

What’s inside?
       For those of us content to just spruce up the inside of our homes, here are some of the hot items this season.
       At American Sale, big sellers include a revolving tree stand and the Carrington Color Changing Tree, which is pre-lit and can be set to clear lights, multi-color or both.
“It gives the customer flexibility year after year,” Septoski said.
       For indoors and out, LED battery-operated wreaths, garland and candles “are becoming popular because of the brightness of the LED, the low energy of LED, which makes the batteries last all season, and the flexibility to put them anywhere in your house or outside your house,” he said. “They also have convenient timers that can help them light only when you want them lit.”
Beyond the trees and LEDs, mirrors and floral mesh wrap are popular products at Michaels, the nation’s largest arts and crafts retailer.
       “Floral mesh wrap is a new product that has a huge impact on decorating,” said Michaels Creative Expert Jo Pearson. “It can easily transform a Christmas tree or a wreath and Michaels carries a wide variety of colors.
       “Mirrored items have also become very popular, which is a theme throughout our Crystal Elegance holiday line,” she said. “Michaels even has a mirrored glass molding in our custom framing department which is great for adding holiday sparkle to family photos or prints.”
Holiday Decorating: A Family Tradition
       Whether you have a family of two or 20, decorating the house for the holidays can be a family affair, year after year.
     Here are a few suggestions for starting your own traditions.

Take a tour! Gather the family for a tour of decorated homes to start a new tradition or inspire your own décor. Pack the minivan or leave the driving to a professional so you can focus on the sights.

       For starters, call your local village or city hall for possible tours. In Darien, for example, the city provides free bus tours of winning displays. Tours will be Dec. 20 and 26, with reservations on a first come, first serve basis. Call (630) 852-5000 for other details.
     Elsewhere, tours are by trolleys for hire. Naperville Trolley & Tours Ltd. offers public and private trolley tours; call (630) 420-2223 or visit For double-decker trolley tours of the lights in downtown Chicago, visit or call (773) 648-5000.

       Don’t feel like leaving the comfort of home? Take a virtual tour of homes throughout Illinois (counties including Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Iroquois, Kane, Kankakee, Lake, McHenry, Will and Winnebago) by visiting
      Climb a tree! Seriously, do kids even know how to climb a tree these days? Motivate the kids to take a break from technology and get outside by seeing who can create the most unusual lighting design amid the branches.
     Get crafty! Store-bought decor looks magical, but homemade stuff might mean so much more. Spend an afternoon creating holiday décor - and memories - with the kids. Make it up on your own, take a class, buy a project kit or watch a video or in-store demo.

       “Michaels has lots of free and low-cost holiday events throughout the month of December,” said Michaels Creative Expert Jo Pearson. Check for local schedules.
       “One holiday tradition that I love sharing with my family is making new ornaments every year and looking back on what the kids create each year,” she said. “Whether it’s using plastic ornaments to decorate with stickers or wooden ornaments that you can easily paint, has tons of different do-it-yourself ornament ideas.”
       Endless DIY projects can be jumpstarted with a quick Internet search.
Felt, ribbon and glue are all about that’s needed to make this Hanukkah banner:
For pointers on decorating a room for Karamu, the Kwanzaa feast, visit:
     Throw a party! Invite family, friends and neighbors to help decorate your tree and return the favor. Make it a daylong affair or progressive dinner. Gift one another with memorable ornaments. Make popcorn and show kids how to string it for garland.
     Pick a theme! If turning tree-trimming into a big party sounds daunting, keep it simple with your own immediate family and decorate the tree together. Get the kids involved by choosing a theme for the tree each year. Purple and silver this year? Why not?! Birds and big feathers next year? Sure!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Toy & Game Fair This Weekend at Navy Pier

Power Rangers work with Kapla blocks at last year's Chicago Toy & Game Fair.

By Vickie Jurkowski

Want to play a game? Or two? Or three? Or 150? Just get ready, set and go make a play date with toy and board game manufacturers and inventors when the Chicago Toy & Game Fair arrives at Navy Pier this Saturday, November 17, and Sunday, November 18.

The 10th annual fair will feature more than 150 games and toys. And they're not just sitting on a shelf. They're for playing.

“At every single booth you can walk in and play with what's in that booth and at most of them you can also purchase the toys and games," said Mary Couzin, founder of the fair and president of Lincolnwood-based Chicago Toy & Game Group.

Held in conjunction with the city's Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade to celebrate the start of the holiday shopping season, the Chicago Toy & Game Fair highlights what's hot this year, including Hasbro's new Furby, Pony Royale princess ponies by Razor, a Stars Wars version of Settlers of Catan and the new Skylanders. Don't forget to stop by Family Time Magazine's booth at the Fair for cool giveaways. 

Most fairs showcasing products right off the line are open to only industry insiders. The Chicago Toy & Game Fair is unique in that it is open to the public, encouraging not only holiday shoppers, but the next generation of game inventors.

Attractions of a giant scale will celebrate the fair's 10th birthday. Settlers of Catan, a multiplayer strategy game, will have a board game measuring 9 feet by 9 feet with playing pieces that are even bigger, Couzin said. Another giant attraction is a 4-foot version of the dachshund from the Doggie Doo game that makes farting noises and poops green slime.

Other participating manufacturers include Calico, Kunoichi, Spin Master, Upper Deck, Mayfair Games, Joyce Johnson Designs, Grasp Concepts, Kubit2Me, the Playmakers.

The fair, which is expected to draw 20,000 visitors, goes beyond toys and games. There will be stage entertainment by Radio Disney Party Patrol, a Young Inventor Challenge, Star Wars Breakfast and Yo-Yo, Top Trumps and Settlers of Catan tournaments.

The fair also will have opportunities for young inventors and educators. Teachers are invited to the Games in Education conference from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Participants will earn credit and walk away with free games for their classrooms.

“Probably our most fantastic event is the Young Inventor Challenge,” said Couzin, noting this year's challenge is at an all-time high of more than 200 participants from coast to coast.

Sponsored by PlaSmart, makers of the PlasmaCar, PlasmaBike and Perplexus maze game, the Young Inventor Challenge on Saturday is open to boys and girls ages 6 to 18 with an original toy or game to present to industry executives. Last year's winner in the senior division received a license for their invention, Couzin said.

“I hear from inventor relations experts that these kids present better than professional inventors because they get right to the point,” she said. “There's definitely an art to inventing games.”

Couzin, a former board game designer herself, initially held the Chicago Toy & Game Fair during Labor Day weekend. After three years, she decided to move it to the weekend of the Magnificent Mile parade and fireworks to tap into the start of the holiday shopping season.

“People want to know what’s hot for the holidays,” she said.

The Details:

When: Saturday, November 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, November 18
 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, in Festival Hall A

Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for children 3 to 13; free for educators,
librarians, scouts in uniform, military and media; free for grandparents
Sunday, November 18

Parking: $18 in Navy Pier East Parking Garage

Information: (847) 677-8277 or

Etc.: The nation's largest evening holiday celebration, the Magnificent Mile
Lights Festival Parade along Michigan Avenue and fireworks, will be Sunday, November 17;

Monday, November 5, 2012

Win Dance 2 Video Game for your Wii!

Dancing is probably one of the most fun ways to get exercise and this month as we recognize American Diabetes Month we want to encourage activity among children. Childhood obesity, according to medical experts, is one of the factors in children getting type 2 diabetes. Family Time Magazine wants to know what your family does to stay fit. Maybe you all ride bikes together or have some family exercise routine you do? Or, maybe you crank up the music and dance? Whatever it is, tell us about it. One winner will be selected at random at the end of the day on Monday, November 12, to win the Nickelodeon Dance 2 Wii video game! 
Good luck!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Holiday Toys and Games On Review

1- Build and Learn Geometry Kit
Company: Lakeshore
Players: 1 or more
Ages: 7 and older
Approximate Duration: Less than 1 hour.
Players’ comments: Math concepts can be pretty dry stuff for young students and keeping their interest is always a challenge. The Kit seemed a fun way for students to start to learn geometry, and maybe even start to like it. 

2- Cluck ‘N’ Chuck
Company: PATCH
Players: 2 to 4
Ages: 4 and older
Approximate duration: About 20 minutes
Players’ comments: Instructions were initially confusing, yet game was easy to understand once it got underway. The instructions directed players to “chuck” the chickens onto the coop, but the chickens easily fell off the coop. Still, it was fun to play. 

3- American Trivia Family Edition
Company: Outset Media Corp.
Players: 2 or more
Ages: 9 and older
Approximate duration: 1-1/2 hours
Players’ comments: Very educational for both children and adults. Up to date on current events about the United States. Instructions were easy to understand.

4- Professor Noggins Presidents of the United States
Company: Outset Media Corp.
Players: 2 to 8
Ages: 7 and older
Approximate duration: 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on number of players.
Players’ comments: Great learning game for both kids and adults. There were lots of interesting facts about presidents throughout history. 

 5- Professor Noggins Wildlife of North America
Company: Outset Media Corp.
Players: 2 to 8
Ages: 7 and older
Approximate duration: 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on number of players.
Players’ comments: Great way for both kids and adults to learn about wildlife and the environment. And, like the Presidents of the United States card game, it was fun to play.

 6- Word on the Street
Company: Out of the Box
Players: 2 to 10
Ages: 10 and older
Approximate duration: About 30 minutes.
Players’ comments: Awesome word game. Liked the timer because it prompted you to think fast. Word on the Street is a real brainteaser, and a great word game for those who are tired of Srabble and Words With Friends. 

7- Don’t Rock the Boat
Company: PATCH
Players: 2 to 4
Ages: 5 and older
Approximate Duration: Game can be over in less than a minute, depending on players’ ability to balance things.
Players’ comments: The game was fun and suspenseful in that you never knew when the boat was going to tip. It was a neat variation on games like Jenga. 

8- Hello Kitty Earbuds
Company: Sanrio
Players: 1
Ages: 13 and older
Comments: Sound quality is just as good as any other earphones on the market. They are compatible with all iPod/iPhone/iPad/MP3/MP4 players, as well as portable audio/video devices and game systems.

9- Tall-Stacker Mighty Monkey Playset
Company: Lauri
Players: 1 or more
Ages: 3 and older
Approximate Duration: 30 minutes
Players’ comments: Great game for imaginative play, and to help children improve both logical thinking and fine motor skills.

10- American Doll House Ice Cream Shoppe
Company: It’z Purple
Players: 1 or more
Ages: 3 and older
Approximate duration: As long as you want to play
Players’ comments: Great doll house for girls to use to store their 18-inch dolls and is available in three sizes – one room, two rooms, three rooms and four rooms. Easy to assemble.

Our Top 5 toys and games for 2012

By Rex Robinson
    What are children going to be most excited about finding under the tree this year? Will it be a remote controlled truck or boat? Maybe it’s the hottest new Nintendo system on the market? Children are not all the same when it comes to favorite toys and games. Thus picking the “Top 5” for 2012 is not an exact science by any means (Note: We will more than likely revisit this topic again next month with more top toys and games for this holiday season so stay tuned). Anyway, here’s our November top five gifts we think many children will have on their lists for Santa this year.  

   1- RC Hot Wheels Terrain Twister. Kids are sure to love the Remote Controlled Hot Wheels Terrain Twister. It’s like a remote controlled boat, truck and tank rolled into one. Mattel claims it to be “one of the most flexible, versatile and most popular RC vehicles of all time.” It features an auger-like drive system that allows it to “float over virtually any surface in its path.” Batteries are included. The suggested price is about $100.

     2- Nintendo Wii U GamePad. Set for release November 18, the new Wii U Gamepad is a controller with a touch screen that, according to Nintendo, “redefines how people interact with their games, their entertainment and one another.” The suggested retail price for the basic set is about $300, while the deluxe set is about $350. These devices are likely to be flying off the shelves.

     3- Lego Friends - Olivia’s House. Lego is not just for the boys anymore. The company this year launched the “Friends” collection for girls. Olivia is one of cadre of new girl characters created by toy maker. It’s about time… Boys aren’t the only ones who like to build things. The suggested retail price on Olivia’s House is about $70. This one is sure to be a hit with the young ladies of the house.

     4- Fijit Friends Yippits. Girls who loved Fijit Friends will love the innovative nurturing play of Fijit Friends Yippits. Go to any Google and type in top games for 2012 and you’re sure to find this one on nearly every website. These dancing pets perform tricks and feature three different modes of play – Dancing, Training and Game. They come with multiple songs and movable feet. Yippits utilizes Sonic Chirp technology, a special embedded audio coding that when detected triggers various programmed reactions.  The suggested retail price is about $38.

     5- WWE Brawlin’ Buddies. Go to any of these World Wrestling Entertainment events and you’re sure to find lots of fathers and young sons. Translation: This WWE stuff is huge with boys (and maybe some girls too?). Anyway, for 2012 Mattel has introduced the WWE Brawlin’ Buddies. According to the toymaker, “these 16-inch figures are soft enough to squeeze but bold enough to throw down.” Each figure features signature superstar phrases recorded by the WWE superstars themselves. The figures are designed for children 3 and the suggested retail price is about $30.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Marriage and Family Matters

Setting the stage for good holidays

By Lisa Pisha    
     Every year, immediately following Halloween, my office begins to bustle and  phones begin ringing with people who are looking to figure out how to get through the holiday season. This is the time of year that is the most exciting and stressful for so many people, and often upon talking through it, the stress and negative emotion associated with this time of year has been around for a very long time, even starting in childhood.
     The holidays are a sure thing - we’re sure they’ll come every year, and so the anticipation builds waiting for them to come around again, and again. It’s the same kind of stress, every year, over and over, until something changes.
     A recent article in Psychology Today about life lessons detailed the real truths about interacting in healthy relationships versus unhealthy ones. The article wasn’t about the holidays, but it solidified the importance on our health, of having positive relationships (which I think rings true at all times of the year), stating “the higher the quantity and quality of your relationships, the longer you live.”
     Well no pressure there. But, our relationships are one of the reasons I see stress being so profound around this time of year: they’re not satisfying in ways that give back to us, and most people have a hard time continuing to water seeds that just won’t grow.
     It’s not too early to begin envisioning the kind of holiday you want to have, the way you might want to handle certain relatives you don’t have to see too often or situations that are less than comfortable. This also includes learning to foster the relationship you have with others as a limited one, taking and giving what you can, when you can and learning to be satisfied with the relationship being “good enough.”
     This might mean having tough conversations with your spouse or other family members or looking inward to see what you might be able to do differently this season. No doubt there are so many things to think about when it comes to this time of year, and many more ways of thinking about them. Yet again, we come back to the relationships that have an impact on us and the choices we have in handling them.
     The holidays can feel the same as last year and the years before, or you can start looking into what you want to keep, and what you’re willing to let go of this year. Again, the holidays are a sure thing, and while that can put the pressure on, it can also have the advantage of taking the pressure off. If you try something and it doesn’t work out, they’ll be here the same time next year to do something differently.
     Start the season off by having an honest conversation with yourself about what it is that you’d hoped would’ve been different this year. Is it the driving all over the place? The gift-giving? Is it seeing Uncle Joe make an idiot of himself again in front of the kids? Can you withstand it without feeling the negative impact of stress and having that trickle down to the rest of your family members? Or is it just too much for you to bear this year? How about the pressure? Are the 10 family traditions that involve all of the long days away from home feeling like too much? The expectations you perceive that others place on you may have a part to play here, as do your own expectations. What do you feel people expect of you versus what are you willing to give/do/offer? Again, that honest conversation should break it down for you in terms of identifying where the problems lie, which will hopefully give you a path to travel down in terms of thinking about a new approach.
     Lastly, don’t forget the legitimate reason of “it’s just not comfortable for me.” There’s a reason it’s not comfortable, a reason you don’t want to relive it, and if you’re looking for a justifiable reason to change things, look no further. Harness the feeling you have and try to see it in all of it’s different dimensions to gain an understanding of it. By looking into yourself and your personality traits, you may just find that the change you’re looking for this season doesn’t have to be justified by anyone else but you. Before the holiday season begins to buzz too loudly, take some time now to imagine what yours will look like as you envision a happier, healthier way to spend these special times.

Lisa Pisha is a licensed marriage and family therapist who works with individuals, couples and families in Naperville.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Don't Miss the Special Needs Seminar November 17 at Moraine Valley Community College

By Rex Robinson

Expert speakers in two separate rooms and more than 35 vendors with tables displaying products and services will be at Family Time Magazine’s 3rd annual Autism & Special Needs Seminar Saturday, November 17 at Moraine Valley Community College, 9000 W. College Parkway, in Palos Hills. The seminar will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Building M on the campus.

Caroline O’Connell, Family Time Magazine’s publisher, founded the seminar in 2009 after seeing a need to provide more resources to families with loved ones with autism and other developmental disabilities.

“Anyone with a child or family member with autism or other developmental disabilities will want to make sure they attend this year’s seminar,” O’Connell said. “The speakers we have lined up for this year are all experts in their respective fields and will offer vital information for families. Many of the speakers have spoke at the national level.”

* CEU's, CPDUs and Early Intervention Training hours have been approved for the seminar.

** Purchasing tickets now can save you up to $15 off the regular door price admission of $25 with the coupon attached here:

Here are the experts scheduled to speak at the seminar:

Keynote Speakers: Dr. Valerie Nowinski  and Drina Madden, MA, CAS,
Pediatric Neuropsychology Diagnostic
and Treatment Center

“Beyond Genes and Advances in Brain Science”
The Brain can change and children can develop their potential

Dr. Valerie Nowinski (left) and Drina Madden
Times: 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Room 1

Dr. Valerie Nowinski and Drina Madden will discuss how with advances in brain science children with autism and related developmental disorders can develop to their full potential. Dr. Nowinski is the founder of the Pediatric Neuropsychology Diagnostic Center, Orland Park, Illinois. The Center houses three specialty programs: Brain Injury Program, Autism Spectrum Program, and Neurodevelopmental Disorders/Attention and Learning Disorders Program. These diagnostic and training programs incorporate an interdisciplinary team of pediatric specialists including neuroscientists, educators, speech language, movement, child development and learning specialists. Bridging neuroscience with education is a primary focus at the center.  

Drina Madden, MA, CAS, is a neurodevelopmental specialist who has multifaceted experience working with people of all ages who have dyslexia, autism spectrum disorders, verbal and nonverbal learning disabilities, and other brain/behavior difficulties. She is also certified to work in birth to 14-year-old programs, Montessori programs and special education programs. She is member of the Neuropsychology Diagnostic and Treatment Center’s valuation and treatment team. She also explains diagnoses and treatment plans to children, families and schools. She is a speaker and educational consultant for multiple local, national and international organizations.

“Insurance 101: What Families should know about
the Autism Insurance Mandate in Illinois and Surrounding States”
Speaker: Dr. Karen Fried, Little Leaves Behavioral Services

Dr. Karen Fried

Dr. Karen Fried will discuss how many employer-provided insurance plans now cover the treatment of autism, including ABA therapy. Dr. Fried will give practical information about autism insurance reform in Illinois and surrounding states. She will give pointers on determining whether you have coverage and on understanding and using your autism benefit. Dr. Fried, BCBA-KD, is the clinical director for Little Leaves Behavioral Services’ Chicago office. She is a licensed psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst who has worked with children with special needs for the past 20 years.

Times: 10 a.m. to 10:50 a.m. in Room 2

“Managing the How and Why of Difficult Behaviors”

Speakers: Lindsay Rice, MA, BCBA,
and Stephanie Beaulieu, MA, BCBA, both with the Center for Behavior Intervention and the Academy of Excellence and Learning

Lindsay Rice
Stephanie Beaulieu

Lindsay Rice has been working with children and adults diagnosed with autism and other neurological and developmental disabilities for more than 16 years. Stephanie Beaulieu has with individuals with autism and other neurological and developmental disabilities for more than 10 years. Ms. Rice is the President of the Center for Behavior Intervention, Inc., the owner of Dynamic Behavior Consulting and the Vice President of the Academy of Excellence in Mokena. Ms. Bealieu is the owner of SandyToes Behavior Consulting, in Chicago, the Vice President of the Center for Behavior Intervention, Inc., and the President of the Academy of Excellence 
in Mokena.

Times: 10 to 10:50 in Room 1

“Unlocking the Puzzle of Autism”
Speaker: Brendan McCormick, Good Shepherd Center

Brendan McCormick
Brendan McCormick’s session will focus on how individuals with Autism are unable to understand the intricacies of the people or world around them nor can they fully explain themselves to the rest of the world. Individuals without Autism also have difficulty understanding those that are in the Spectrum. This is why the symbol most commonly associated with Autism Spectrum disorders is the puzzle piece. This course serves as an introduction to Autism to assist parents, & educators to better understand the disorder to support families in promoting their childs optimal development and to facilitate the childs participation in family and community activities.
Times: 11:00 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. in Room 2

"The F.A.M.I.L.Y. Blueprint - Advice from a Father and Certified Financial Planner"

Speaker: Gregory Zibricky, CFP author and President

Provider Group Wealth Advisors
Gregory Zibricky

Greg Zibricky, will share anecdotes and insights he has learned from more than 19 years of fathering a son with autism and 27 years of experience in the financial services industry. The tone is fresh, fun and informative. Mr. Zibricky’s goals are to inspire action and promote positivity. He uses the word “F.A.M.I.L.Y.” to breakdown difficult financial planning concepts into easy to understand segments. Start to learn the techniques that will help you chart your child’s future with confidence. Mr. Zibricky is the author of “F.A.M.I.L.Y. Autism Guide Your Financial Blueprint for Autism.”

Times: 11 to 11:50 in Room 1

"Physical Therapy and Autism: What's the connection?"
Speaker: Amber Brim, PT, DPT, Unlimited Mobility Therapy

Amber Brim
Amber Brim, PT, DPT, owner of Unlimited Mobility Therapy, will discuss will discuss some of the motor challenges that kids with Autism typically have and treatment strategies that are utilized by physical therapist to address them. I will also include discussion regarding the connection between motor skills, social skills, and speech/language development.

Times: 12 p.m. to 12:50 p.m.

“Exercise Strategies for People with Autism”
Speaker: Suzanne M. Gray, Right Fit Sport Fitness Wellness

Suzanne M. Gray
Suzanne M. Gray, M.S. will discuss how exercise programs are one of the most underutilized yet effective treatments for youth and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Traditional Fitness programs, though fun and appropriate for typical populations, are not usually a good fit for this special population. Right Fit’s focus is therapeutic play-based functional movement, helping to facilitate neuro-development growth, improved body awareness, increased balance, sensory integration, mobility skills and most importantly having fun. Because one size does not fit all, the Raise the Bar fitness program provides each participant a pre and post assessment to identify movement dysfunctions, body composition and strength and sensory deficits impeding success.

Times: 1 p.m. to 1:50 p.m.

“Piecing the Puzzle Together”
An Autism Prevention and Recovery Program

Speaker: Dr. Ashly Ochsner, Maximized Living/Autism Whispers

Dr. Ashly Ochsner
Dr. Ochsner is a chiropractor for Maximized Living in Orland Park, and founder of the Autism Whispers Program. His program is designed for children on the Autism spectrum (autism, aspergers, PDD, sensory integrative disorder, ADD/ADHD) and offers effective action steps for parents to implement and care designed to address the tri-fold problems causing autistic symptoms.  Different from any other program designed for autistic symptoms, the AW Program incorporates and addresses the often missed neurological component of “recovering” from autism, according to Dr. Ochsner.  The often severe neurological damage can be treated and coupled with a researched optimal nutritional program and lab based detoxification program. The Autism Whisper Program is helping save and change lives across the U.S. It is not a cure but a recovery program.
Times: 1 to 1:50 p.m. in Room 1

"Instructional Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities"

Jennifer Conwell-Barnes

Speaker: Jennifer Conwell-Barnes, Brehm Preparatory School

Jennifer Conwell-Barnes is an instructional technologist with Brehm Preparatory School in Carbondale. She will discuss assistive technology for students with learning disabilities. Brehm’s mission is to empower students with complex learning disabilities and differences to recognize and optimize their potential throughout their lifetime.

Times: 2 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. in Room 1

* A representative from Pace Suburban Bus also will speak at the seminar. The Pace representative will speak from from 3 to 3:50 p.m. in Room 1 about transportation services provided for those with disabilities.

Reserve your tickets for the seminar today by calling 
(815) 806-8844.