Geocaching good for all I saw your article on geocaching (May, 2004). As an avid geocacher (more than 200 caches found), I know this fascinating hobby can benefit seniors as well as families.

My wife's 77-year-old uncle was introduced to geocaching about a year ago. He now has more than 190 finds and has placed about 10 caches. When we started geochaching, he could barely walk 300 feet without stopping to rest. Talking while walking was not possible. Today, we are up and down hills and trails all day long. His doctor marvels at his cardiovascular improvement. In addition to his physical improvement, the hobby has taught him computer, Internet, mapping and other technical skills.

You cannot imagine the delight and reward I receive each week when we spend a day geocaching. Most consider geocaching a family activity involving children. Clearly, this is one hobby that can be shared with the young and those who wish to stay young. Thanks for such a wonderful article! THOMAS W. NICHOLAS, Arlington Heights

FCC actions not a result of Janet The Chicago Parent article about TV turnoff week (April, 2004) mentioned the Federal Communications Commission's indecency crackdown in the wake of the Super Bowl halftime show. What happened at the Super Bowl certainly encouraged the FCC to act, but it should be noted that the FCC is also acting in the face of a considerable outcry in the past year over its controversial media ownership policies.

Parents should be concerned about these policies because they would allow fewer companies to own even more TV stations, radio stations, newspapers and Internet service providers. With such concentrated ownership comes the likelihood of big media less responsive to parental concerns and fraught with ever-increasing indecency and commercialism. In fact, FCC policies helped spur the growth of Viacom, the owner of CBS, which aired the Super Bowl.

The ownership policies are currently frozen under a court-ordered suspension, but they face lawsuits, legislation and national protests. The FCC, with egg on its face, has begun a series of national hearings on localism in media (the Midwest hearing is May 26, in Rapid City, S.D.). Chicago Parent readers should be aware of these policies and stay involved, and can do so at www.mediareform.net or www.chicagomediaaction.org. MITCHELL SZCZEPANCZYK, President, Chicago Media Action, Chicago

Instructors set the tone I am writing in response to Susy Schultz's column (March, 2004). I found it to be very honest and inspiring. It reminded me that one of the most important roles of a teacher is to ensure parents are encouraged to create a healthy, friendly and open-hearted environment for learning.

One of my goals as the coordinator of the children's violin program at the Old Town School of Folk Music is to encourage students of very different levels and ages to perform together, rather than exclusively as soloists. A typical Saturday morning rehearsal involves all 62 children playing in tandem on stage. When you see the incredible reaction of cheering and applause by parents, grandparents and friends, you realize how much impact the group environment can have.

Having said this, I acknowledge learning the violin is challenging. Only through strong interactions between students, parents and teacher do the children find the motivation to learn. These interactions must be nurtured by the constant reminders by the teacher to encourage friendship, companionship, cordiality, partnership and trust. These characteristics are essential for the success of a young student's group.

In your column, you indicate how frustrating and hurtful it can be when another mother makes a negative comment towards your young son. I work hard to create an environment that avoids such behavior. Reading your article reminds me that these efforts are a very important ingredient for the success of the program.

As a mother of two toddlers, I wouldn't have answered too differently had I been in a situation similar to yours. I guess as a mother, I also have some work to do. TERESA MASCARENHAS, Chicago

Parents should set kids' dress As a mother of a 10-year-old daughter, I was appalled after reading about the sexualization of girls' clothing (March, 2004). I cannot imagine my daughter wearing thongs or belly shirts or makeup. What happened to girls not rushing to look like adults? Why aren't the parents saying “no" to allowing their daughters to dress and look older?

Obviously, girls are taking their cue from superstars like Hilary Duff (who wears too-sexy clothes and too much makeup), Britney Spears (who isn't innocent anymore) and Christina Aguilera (who never was a genie in a bottle). They need discipline. We, as parents, need to set ground rules on clothing, friends, television and movies.

Sure, the children will be upset, but isn't an unhappy child better than one who experiments with the wrong things next week? LORINDA OERTEL, Warrenville

Free to be diaper-free I applaud you for providing information to parents regarding Infant Elimination Communication. I am one of the parents who discovered that diapers are not necessary 100 percent of the time.

I first heard about Elimination Communication from a friend (you can see her story and access EC links at www.freewebs.com/freetoec) when my daughter was 6 months old. When my daughter became mobile it became very clear that she did not like having her diaper changed. She had always been very fussy about even a slightly wet diaper, so she was quite unhappy at each wetting, and so was I. That's when I realized that if we could just have fewer diaper changes each day it would be worth it. My daughter began using the potty when she was 9 months old. We both enjoyed our potty sessions much more than diaper changes.

The basic toileting ideas outlined in the Complete Child video are neither new nor exclusive. Many resources are available, many of them at no cost. In addition to www.freewebs.com/freetoec, there is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/eliminationcommunication, http://groups.yahoo.com/ group/NaturalInfantHygiene and http://groups. yahoo.com/group/IPTLateStarters. One excellent book available at the Chicago Public Library is Infant Potty Training by Laurie Boucke. Your readers can also check out her Web site at www.timl.com/ipt. Another wonderful book is Diaper Free! by Ingrid Bauer available through www.natural-wisdom.com.

Nothing quite compares with being able to sit down with a parent who already practices EC to ask questions and see the method in practice. Diaperfreebaby, www.diaperfreebaby.org, is a new not-for-profit designed to help parents learn how to practice Elimination Communication by providing information and local meetings with a mentor.

My daughter is now 14 months old. She still wears diapers when we go out and sometimes at home. At night she is reliably dry and wears cloth training pants. At home, we make an effort to use the potty instead of diapers. Away from home, we now bring a little potty (or toilet seat reducer) along and, if she indicates a need, I take her to a bathroom, often before she has a need to use her diaper.

I buy diapers only once every few months instead of twice a month. I hope that we will be diaperfree by the time she is 2 years old. But if I didn't save a dime and she didn't achieve potty independence one day earlier, I would still practice EC because I feel that this is the most respectful approach to dealing with my baby's eliminations. CAREN PITA, Rochester, N.Y.

Right to choose is confusing I was very disappointed in the title of your article, “The right to choose," (March, 2004) which discussed contraceptive options. Although the title was followed with a small clarification, I believe that women and men in the United States have (unfortunately) learned to associate the phrase “right to choose" with the right to choose to abort an unborn baby.

I find many of Chicago Parent's articles informative and thought provoking and hoped that this article would provide good, factual, information to women who are attempting to prevent conception. I was saddened to find your description of Plan B as misleading to women. You started by saying, “not to be confused with the abortion pill," but then went on to correctly describe that Plan B pills can “thin the lining of the uterine wall so a fertilized egg cannot implant." Preventing a fertilized egg from continuing to grow is clearly an abortion; therefore Plan B is actually very similar to RU-486, in that it can cause an abortion.

Women will never truly be empowered until they receive factual information that is not misleading. VALERIE MORENO-TUCKER, Woodridge

Origins of homeschooling I picked up a copy of the April, 2004 Chicago Parent at the Museum of Science and Industry and really enjoyed reading it. However, a line in the homeschooling article concerned me a little. It says, “In the late 1970s, many households turned to homeschooling because of ‘the general move away from a biblical world view,'" and an employee of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association is quoted.

The homeschooling movement grew out of the school reform movement of the 1960s and was only later embraced by those with perhaps exclusively religious motivations. There is some concern among some homeschoolers about the financial and political motivations of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association and not all homeschoolers would accept this group as any kind of authority.

I was glad to see that Dorothy Werner was quoted in the article. She is a reputable source of information on homeschooling, having started out in the school reform movement in the 60s along with John Holt, Pat Montgomery and others. It would be interesting to read an interview with her on homeschooling, school reform or alternative education. She has a wealth of information and experience to share. Thank you for considering this suggestion, and thanks once again for your work on Chicago Parent. JODENE LE DENMAT, Racine, Wis.

Vaccinations still important As the father of three children, I can certainly understand parents' consternation at having yet another vaccination added to our immunization schedule. Though the number of injections has increased, the amount of individual proteins that modern immunizations contain has dropped significantly from the shots our pediatricians gave to us. For example, before modern vaccine purification techniques, the pertussis (whopping cough, the “P" part of the DPT vaccine) vaccine contained about 3,000 individual proteins; today it has less than five.

The payoff for our children, of course, is that there are far fewer of those red, painful arms-medically innocent but nonetheless undesirable. Additionally, our kids are protected against many more diseases than we were during our childhood. More severe vaccine reactions can still occur, but these are exceedingly rare; the chance of an unvaccinated child contracting these dangerous illnesses is far greater than any potential problems from the shots themselves.

Your child's doctor remains the most reliable source of information on any medical topic. Alternatively, parents can visit the American Academy of Pediatrics Web site at www.aap.org for the most current information regarding children's health. EDDIE PONT, Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics

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.

Please tell us... Reader poll With school out and the weather finally feeling like summer, July brings at least the occasional trip to the beach. Before loading the kids into the car, what do you always pack into your beach bag? Tell us about those must-have items that make the outing fun and safe. Deadline: June 7.

August is the biggest travel month of the summer. What's the most ambitious trip you've taken with your kids? What advice would you offer to other parents planning a major family vacation? Deadline: July 12.

If we run your response, we'll enter you in a drawing for a family membership to the Chicago Children's Museum. We'll print your first name, the town in which you live and the names and ages of your kids; please provide us with your full address and phone number for verification purposes only.

Send all submissions to: Sandi Pedersen, Chicago Parent, 141 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302. E-mail: [email protected]; fax: (708) 524-8360.

Gallery July means picnics. Do you like lunching on the lawn or grilling at the beach? Send us pictures of your kids enjoying the spread. Or show us how they helped you make it all happen. Deadline: June 7.

August is a hot month for travel. Send us pictures of your kids on vacation. Whether you got there by train, plane or automobile. Or show us what happened once you got there-whether you and your children traveled to London or the local library. Deadline: July 12.

We will keep all photos and may use them in future issues. By sending in your child's photo, you give us permission to run it now or in the future and post it on our Web site. Send prints to: The Gallery c/o Chicago Parent, 141 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302. Send digital photos to: [email protected]

Please include the first names of everyone in the picture, children's ages, the town in which you live and a phone number for verification.


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