January 2005


Change the attribution Thank you for your article, “Coping with grief at the holidays” (December 2004). It informs others on a subject that people are uncomfortable thinking about. But the writer failed to credit the correct group when she gave the list of “Dos & Don’ts” for people comforting someone who has lost a child. This was developed by members of the Northwest Suburban Chapter of the Compassionate Friends, rather than the national Oak Brook office.

The group is a national nonprofit, self-help support group offering friendship, understanding and hope to bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings. There are more than 600 chapters in the United States and 12 in the Chicago area. There is no religious affiliation and no membership dues. The groups assist families toward the positive resolution of grief and provide information to help others be supportive. The Northwest Suburban Chapter has two monthly meetings on the first Friday of the month: 8 p.m. at the Cancer Wellness Center, 215 Revere Dr., Northbrook. And the third Friday of the month: 8 p.m. at St. James Parish, 820 N. Arlington Heights Rd., Arlington Heights. It is not necessary to notify anyone. Just show up. For more information, call the national office (877) 969-0010, or visit www.thecompassionatefriends.org. ANGELO MILITELLO Chapter Leader Skokie

Joseph was misunderstood My husband and I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Chicago and picked up your magazine. I read Susy Schultz’s December 2004 column with some amusement, as I too am something of a perfectionist. However, saying Joseph had to be strong-armed by an angel before he believed Mary is not true. Joseph knew Mary would never have had relations with anyone. His reluctance was due to his feeling that he was unworthy of being the husband of the Mother of God. The angel let him know that this was what God wanted, so Joseph agreed. Also, Mary had no need of an epidural, because she had no pain. This was a miraculous birth, unlike that of ordinary women.

I enjoyed the articles in the magazine and will probably check in online from time to time. I think it’s great that so much information for parents is free. KAREN COYNE Saint Paul, MN

Toy safety is year-round I want to take this opportunity to remind parents to pay close attention to the toys that are purchased for their children. Be sure to read all safety warnings on the packaging.

Even if there are no warnings, beware that the toy may not be suitable for your child. Many assume that toys undergo government safety testing prior to being placed on stores shelves. This simply is not true. The government does not mandate toy testing. Parents must determine whether a toy has been. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task. I learned the hard way.

In July 2003, my 5-year-old son was nearly strangled by a toy I considered safe, the Yo-Yo Water Ball. It is a rubber ball filled with liquid attached to a long stretchy cord. Most often, you will find the toy in a clear plastic bag with out any warning label. This toy is still being sold, despite almost 400 reports of injury that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has received in the last two years. Children have been found unconscious and have sustained skull fractures and required surgery for permanent eye injuries from this toy.

I started a grass-roots campaign to get this yo-yo banned in the United States. I have the support of federal and state legislators around the country. And many retailers around the country who were made aware of the dangers of the toy—something the safety commission has not done well—have helped get major retailers to pull the toy. However, it is still available for sale at many retailers around the country. The toy is easily found in the discount dollar-type stores.

The Yo-Yo Water Ball was recently included in the “2004 Trouble in Toyland Report” released by the commission—the second year the toy has made the list. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, along with its state affiliates, urged the commission to ban this toy on Nov. 23. The Yo-Yo Water Ball was also included in the press releases for other advocacy groups such as W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm), Empire State Consumer Association and Kids in Danger. All warn that the toy is dangerous and should not be sold.

I urge all parents to be vigilant when buying toys for their children. I believe that the cost of preventing injury to our smallest consumers—our children—far exceeds the cost to the toy industry. Please visit www.dangersofwateryoyos.com to read testimonials from other parents whose children have been injured by the Yo-Yo Water Ball. Also, find more child safety information at www.kidsindanger.org. LISA LIPIN Skokie

Don’t give toddlers grapes In the Smart Love (December 2004) column, the Piepers responded to a question regarding teaching an 18-month-old. As an early childhood educator, I applaud their suggested method, since children at this age can learn everything they need to know through play. However, I was appalled at the suggestion that parent should teach math by asking how many grapes the child wants.

Grapes are a choking hazard and should not be eaten by an 18-month-old. Please remind parents that grapes can be deadly to toddlers. LISA BRODY Skokie

‘Polar Express’ is a keeper I wanted to let everyone know of my overall satisfaction with the movie “The Polar Express.” It was quite an entertaining film for ages 5 and over. The ghostly character may be a bit scary for the very young.

My children loved it, and its overall message brought back the spirit of Christmas. It had a wonderful sense of nostalgia. It brought me back to my childhood and made me appreciate the short time that my children are really young at heart. I would absolutely recommend this movie. I think it will be soon considered a holiday favorite, and once it comes out on DVD, could very well become like “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I could never tire of either movie.  LAURA LANGE Chicago

It’s your actions that count I applaud Dan Baron for shedding light on the problem of inequity in preschool education opportunities (“Teaching kids to be fair in a world that is anything but,” November 2004). Unfortunately, he skipped over what we parents, whether “haves” or “have nots,” can do to help.

We “haves” can send our children to integrated preschools with sliding scale fees, so that even as we educate our own children, we give a “leg up” to those with fewer opportunities. One such innovative, high quality program, Cornerstone Children’s Learning Center, 1111 N. Wells St. in Chicago—(312) 573-8900—reserves 50 percent of its openings for low-income families.

Sadly, such programs are too few and far between. If you don’t live near one, however, you can make a charitable contribution to help support one. Involving your children in the giving can teach a great lesson about our responsibility to help the less fortunate.

I grew up as a “have not.” My parents could not afford to send me or my siblings to preschool. They were busy trying to keep food on the table. But my high-school-graduate mom taught us to read and write before we went to kindergarten. Dad, while working as a gas station attendant, took a correspondence course to become a diesel mechanic and improve his income potential. We learned about math, science and problem-solving by cooking and sewing with Mom, helping Dad fix cars, and observing animal and plant life on farms and in our garden. (We were so proud when we ate the fruits of our labor!)

My parents were avid readers and learners who encouraged us by their examples. TV time was strictly limited. We went to the library every week and had reading time every night before bed. We learned responsibility, timeliness and respect for others by attending church, doing chores and returning our library books on time. Parents today often feel hard-pressed to provide just the necessities for their families, but sometimes “necessities” include the latest toys, video games, movie rentals, stereos, dinners out and so on.

I felt deprived growing up because my parents didn’t provide all those things to me. But because they provided such a strong foundation for learning, I was able to earn scholarships for college, settle into a rewarding career and move firmly into the “have” column. Now that I have so much, however, I wonder how well I will do in teaching my young son the humble, hard-working, self-sufficient values I learned as a “have not.” I don’t think there’s any preschool in the world that teaches that. ELIZABETH SARGIS Wheaton



Corrections In the November 2004 Book Shelf column, the publisher of Books to Grow With: A Guide to Using the Best Children’s Fiction for Everyday Issues and Tough Challenges by Cheryl Coon is incorrect. The publisher is Lutra Press, www.lutrapress.com.

In the December 2004 video column, the producer of the “Wind in the Willows” DVD is incorrect. The producer is A&E Home Video. Chicago Parent regrets the errors.

About letters Chicago Parent welcomes letters from its readers.  In order to publish a letter, we must have the name and phone number of the writer, and the name of the town in which he or she resides. Please send letters to:  • Susy Schultz, editor, Chicago Parent, 141 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302 • Or fax them to Susy at (708) 524-8360 • Or e-mail them to [email protected] We may edit letters for space or clarity. We will not divulge the addresses or phone numbers of letter-writers or forward messages to them.

Our Web site, what’s up with that? If you’ve visited www.chicagoparent.com lately, it looks a bit different. Our new Web goddess, Sandi Pedersen, formerly our calendar editor, is changing everything about our site—the look, the colors and the organization.

And we hope that, as this work evolves, it will be an easier-to-navigate site with information to help you better navigate the world of parenting.

Calendar When everything is up and running, you will be able to get a day-by-day listing of what’s going on in the six-county area by just clicking on a particular date on our home page calendar.

Also, if you have an event, you can enter it yourself—just click on “Add Event” on the tool bar on the left-hand side and the simple instructions will walk you through the process.

Everything else will be up and running by February. At that time, the calendar will be updated weekly. Until then, two clicks will get you to the full calendar. Click on “Calendars” and then on “Dec. Calendar.”

Archives Right now, all the articles for October, November and December are up on site. But, as of yet, no other issues are archived. So while we’ve gained a lot, we do seem to have lost the archives. This is something we hope to solve, but it may be at the cost of switching servers.

The key to this site is that it works well for you. So we need to know what you think. Can you find what you need? Is it usable? Searchable? What else would you like to see?

Please tell us. E-mail me at [email protected] or Sandi Pedersen at [email protected]

Magna-Tiles, the colorful magnetic geometric shapes that have been the hit of our toy test the last two years, are hard to find. But they’re worth the effort, according to the kids who tried the toy, from the first-graders through the college interns in our office.

The toy ($49.50 for a 32-piece set) is made by LaGrange-based Valtech. The company has had little success breaking into the major toy retailers, so it’s sold online (www.magnatiles.com), by calling (888) 465-8307 and at a few independent toy retailers, including Toys on Main, 5137 Main St., Downers Grove, (630) 493-1400; the DuPage Children’s Museum, 301 N. Washington St., Naperville, (630) 637-8285, and C. Foster Toys, 36 E. Hinsdale Ave., Hinsdale.

Want quality toys such as Magna-Tiles in more stores? Ask for them.

If retailers think we’re satisfied with the latest offerings from Disney, Hasbro and other mega-manufacturers, they won’t look harder for the quality toys our kids deserve.


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