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Newsflash:

Elizabeth Wells

The sky is full of stories waiting to be discovered. For centuries, people have seen these same points of light in the night sky. Stories borne out of the many constellations that eyes around the world have spent hours gazing up at, have been passed on from generation to generation. We can see these same images and share these same stories today. All you need is a clear night, a little patience, and some imagination. A family in Los Angeles suggests adding the perfect background music. "Starwatching," by The Happy Crowd provides lyrics that are right on target: "What a beautiful sight.

Harry Potter--nothing's hotter. If you're reading these books by J. K. Rowlings aloud to your children, you know about Harry's adventures at the Hogwarts School, World Quidditch matches, and all the magic in the stoires. Bring some of the magic into your own home with a Harry Potter party--a perfect way to bring the books to life. A Potter Party is great for birthdays or other special occasions. A Connecticut family also thought it was the perfect way to spend time during a very rainy day. Peggy L. of upstate New York said, "Our Harry Potter Party fit into a surprise early birthday party for Ryan (11), which made it easier for me (Mom).

If you're looking for fun that receives perfect 10s from the judges, hold your own backyard Olympics. The scale will be smaller than the Summer 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, scheduled for September 15 through October 1, but the excitement will be epic. This family activity is based on the original festival atmosphere. When Olympians are asked to take an oath before competing, the emphasis is on sportsmanship and doing one's personal best. In Backyard Olympics, this is also true, but fun takes the front seat! The most important thing is not to win, but to take part. Games Each game has a different individual or team format.

Yes, that's the sound of the school bell again, but don't despair--you and your family can still build in a fun variation of the family vacation on the weekend or their next day off. Mini-vacations offer the same spirit-renewing benefits as their longer counterparts. The LaClairs of upstate New York said that one-day trips are a good match because "they fit into our time schedule and budget." And there are plenty of fun things to do right in your own backyard. The trick often is in finding them and getting everyone behind the idea. Give each family member the task of suggesting his or her favorite place to eat and something he or she would like to do.

The crack of the bat says it all--baseball and softball seasons are in full swing. And who doesn't dream of hitting the winning run in the bottom of the ninth? With the stands full of tense parents and a win-at-any-cost coach on the sidelines, kids can let the fear of making a mistake keep them from developing skills and enjoying the game. But for kids to have a chance to learn the essence of team play, good sportsmanship, and a love of the game, an informal all-family pick-up game might be just the right ticket. When one of our charter families from New York State reported having so much fun at a pick-up game, we decided to take their idea and go with it.

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