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August 2011 Archives

Celeb Scoop: Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice go "back-to-school"
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Even if you're not a student anymore, the end of August will always be "back-to-school" time -- just ask any grown-up or, in our case, a few Nickelodeon stars!

fashionshow.JPGLast year, IML was invited to attend a cool Back-To-School fashion show and concert at Macy's Herald Square in New York City. The event was hosted by "Victorious" star Victoria Justice and featured performances by up-and-coming singer/songwriter Josh Golden, teen pop artist Charice, and...oh...these four guys who call themselves "Big Time Rush." It was a fun way for all the kids, tweens, and teens there to really celebrate going back to school and how exciting it can be, instead of just feeling bummed out about it.

We also got the chance to talk to Victoria and the BTR boys -- James, Carlos, Kendall, and Logan -- about their own memories of going back to school. Check out our short video interviews:

Back to school -- bring it on!

Get A Grip, Get Organized!
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messycloset.jpgWe love this time of year because it forces us to make some changes. For instance, our horribly messy IML bookcase. Gotta get it cleaned up so we can actually find the books we want to review for our blog! We'll get so much more work done that way. You may already be feeling like this about your locker, your backpack, your desk, and other areas where you keep important things. But life moves pretty fast, and sometimes it's hard to know how to set things up in a system that fits your needs and style.

We asked mom, blogger, and organizing expert Colleen Padilla for some tips for stowing stuff in your backpack, calendar, locker, desk at home, and closet. Here's her great advice, which will hopefully help you get this school year off to a great start!

Your Backpack
1. Compartments, compartments, compartments.
Go for a backpack with more than one compartment so you can easily have a general area for books, binders, and folders along with another area to easily put in tasks that must be completed. This way, when you come home, you'll know that compartment contains that evening's "To Do's." Homework assignments, permission forms that need to be signed, etc. Once the tasks are completed, you can return everything to this compartment so it's easy to find the next day when it's time to turn it in.
2. Create the best Folder or Binder system that works for you
    •    Do you want to organize 2 large binders by Morning Classes and Afternoon Classes?
    •    Or would it be easier for you to create individual binders for each subject area with accompanying folders specific to each class?
Your Calendar/Planner
Lists lists lists. I'm a fan of the To Do List. Write it down. Even if you think you will certainly remember it. That saying your grandma told you about, "A short pencil is better than a long memory," couldn't be more true. You can never write too many things down when it comes to helping you remember what to do. Especially if you're hoping to rely on a nosy parent who likes to peek at your assignment book to remind you about potential due dates!
What to look for in an Assignment Book?  Buy a specific planning calendar that allows a page per day to write all your daily To Do details, but also gives you a monthly and weekly view so you can plot out and visualize what you schedule looks like long term too.
Your Locker
Clean it out once a week. You won't regret it. Don't let stuff pile up in there like old sweaty gym socks. Not only will your locker stink if you don't clean it out, but you'll be far more likely to be unable to find that important homework assignment someday when it randomly falls out of your backpack into a pile of scary clothes or old leftover lunches. 

Your Desk at Home
Create an inbox system to organize those important assignments, study guides, and more. Find out what works for you -- do you want bins for each subject or would you prefer to organize according to what must be completed on a regular basis throughout the school semester, such as General Homework, Test Review material, Creative Writing Assignments, Daily Math Homework?
But the most important thing about the desk is having a set work area that is for you to use regularly and at the same time each day. Make it a daily routine to sit down at your desk at the same time every evening or late afternoon after school. Whether it is for 30 minutes when you have hardly any homework, or for 4 hours on those tough days when you have more homework than you want to think about. This will force you to keep a routine to sit down daily in a quite place and get mentally organized. It will be far harder to forget to do your homework if you always sit down to do it in the same place every day!
Invest in a bulletin board too that you can place near your desk. They are great ways to organize and you can tack up important to do lists if you go for the Cork Board style board or if you go for a Dry Erase Style Board you can use that for your Weekly and Daily To Do's to keep your important assignments fresh on your mind while your in your bedroom so you don't forget priority tasks.

Your Closet
Bin it up! I'm a huge fan of the bin system for closets. Pretty up your closet with shoe organizers and baskets lined with funky bright materials where you can easily store your favorite work out clothes, jeans, and tee shirts that your wear weekly. You don't have to spend a fortune on a closet organizing system when you can stock up on affordable and fun baskets, bins, and storage containers at off-price stores like T.J .Maxx or Marshalls. I always find if I keep it looking pretty, I'm more apt to fold my clothes at the end of the day and hang things up. An organized closet and bedroom will help you stay organized and feel organized even when the rest of your mind is running in a million directions thinking about soccer practice, the latest gossip at the lunch table, worrying about a pop quiz in Spanish class and the math test your have tomorrow.

Living with Challenges: Anna-Marie's Story
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Recently, we posted an interview with IML'er Danielle, who told us what it was like to live with chronic illness. The response from you guys was huge, and we'd like to continue to tell the stories of tweens who have to face life with, or have overcome, some kind of physical or emotional challenge.

If you would like to be a Guest IML Blogger on this subject, email us at and share a little about your story.

Our first Guest IML Blogger is Anna-Marie!

Anna-Marie's Story
Anna-Marie.jpgWhen I was a baby, I was born prematurely, weighing 1 pound, 15 oz. I was supposed to be born in June, but I was born in March, instead. Because of my premature birth, I had to stay at the hospital for approximately 4 and 1/2 months after I was born.

When I was born, my lungs hadn't even developed, so as a result, I had to be connected to a respirator while my tiny lungs finished developing. I was diagnosed with retinopathy at prematurity, and I had to get laser eye surgery at 2 and 1/2 months. Along with that, I had to get needles in my foot to draw blood.

When I finally came home from the hospital, I was still really tiny, and every cold or flu sent me back to the hospital, where I spent approximately 2 weeks. However, I was a very happy (and cute) baby. I liked the Teletubbies, Elmo, Barney, Dora, and Strawberry Shortcake, but I didn't like needles, or anything coming near my feet. My mom had to trim my toenails and fingernails when I was sleeping!

DSC_0345.JPGNow, I'm doing really good. I'm going into grade 7 this year, and I'm going into my 5th year of piano (I think it's my 5th year. I'm not sure). There are some things that will always remain in my life from being born early. Because of the laser eye surgery, I don't have any peripheral vision (meaning that I can't see out of the sides), so I was often a target for getting hit with balls in gym class (which sometimes caused really big injuries that I won't forget about). The song that has a really special meaning to me is "Who I Am" by the Jonas Brothers. I think that this song describes my life, because in the music video, there are people who have gone through challenges in their lives.

The Upside of Long Distance Friendships

iStock_000001309497XSmall.jpgIt's officially late August -- a bittersweet time of year. Not just because summer's ending and school's beginning soon, but if you're saying goodbye to a friend, it's an extra bummer. Maybe your longtime BFF is moving or attending a different school in the fall; maybe you met some cool new people at sleepaway camp or a summer program, but you live far away from one another. The bad news is, you and your compadre may never have that day-to-day, in-person relationship again (even if you text or email constantly). The good news is, you can still have a strong long distance connection that might bring unexpected bonuses...if you're willing to help make it work. 

Friends in faraway places: How cool is it to have friends in different cities, or maybe even countries? You can learn first-hand, through your friend, how things are different where she or he lives. Arrange for you and your friend to exchange postcards of local sights (or digital versions!) or souvenirs from the area. And just imagine the vacation possibilities...New York City during spring break, San Diego in the summer, maybe even an outing to the Grand Canyon over Thanksgiving! In other words, staying in touch with long distance friends can literally open up your world. 

Improve your friendship: Sometimes having close friendships in close spaces can create tensions of their own. If you've ever shown up to school wearing the same outfit as your best bud, you know what we mean. Oh, the humiliation! And have you and your BFF ever found yourselves crushing on the same person? Yikes! But when your friend is hundreds of miles away, these problems go poof. Long distance friendships can provide a separation that lets both of you live your own lives without getting into too many sticky situations. Plus, getting advice from a faraway friend means advice from someone who might be able to look at a problem with fresh, objective eyes.

Understand that your friendship will change: All friendships change over time, whether it's with someone down the block or across the country. It may feel painful that your BFF isn't around anymore for sleepovers or your closest camp buddy isn't getting your jokes anymore. It might hurt even more when you see her or him making new close friends. Try not to think of your long-distance friendship as "better" or "worse" than the way it was. It's just different, period.

For more advice, check out our tips for Saying Goodbye or what to do When It's A Friend who's leaving.

Meet teen sailor (and author!) Alex Ellison
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alex.jpgIf you don't think it's possible for you and your family to live peacefully together in your home, imagine if you had to live peacefully together on a boat...for five years!

When Alex Ellison was 8, he set off with his parents and his sister, Lara, for a one-year trip on their sailboat. One year became five years, spent on the Caribbean island of Nevis and other remote locations. Alex and his family shared adventures as well as challenges -- everything from tropical navigation to dangerous waters to tropical storms.

Alex, who is now 16, kept a daily journal through all of it and has turned that into a memoir entitled "A Star to Sail Her By: A Five-Year Odyssey of Coming of Age at Sea." We asked Alex to tell us a little more about what it was like to spend his tween years traveling on a sailboat and what it's like to look back on this amazing experience.

startosailherby.gifIML: Do you remember what your original reaction and thoughts were, when your parents first informed you that you'd all be going on a sailing journey together? What were you excited about? What were you sad to leave behind?

Alex: I was originally quite surprised, but I really was thrilled; it sounded like a grand adventure. I had sailed before, and I couldn't wait to do so much of it and to see new countries. The prospect of the trip consumed me, so the only thing I was afraid of leaving behind was friends and family; but some of them would visit and at the time, I thought it would only be a year anyway.

IML: How did a one-year trip end up being a five-year trip?

Alex: After about eight months of being at sea, it was almost time for my family to start returning to the U.S., but we all agreed that what we had found was too good to give up after just a year; we wanted to make it our lifestyle.

IML: Most families would implode if they have to spend that much time together in close quarters. How did you keep from driving one another crazy?

Alex: As a family, we had always been fairly close, but living in such a small space was definitely a challenge at first. My sister and I very quickly learned how our own space -- no matter how small -- was very valuable, and if you wanted that respected you had to be respectful. Eventually, we grew more comfortable and we scarcely had any issues.

IML: Did you have certain jobs or responsibilities on the boat?

Alex: Absolutely! When I started the trip I was only eight, but I still helped trim the sails, cook, and I was often on watch: looking out for lobster pots and other obstructions in the water. Five years later, I had learned a lot, and when we had to make several day passages, I took a night shift: sailing the boat by myself from 3 am to 6 am as my family slept below. It was a tremendous responsibility.

alex2.jpgIML: What was the scariest thing that happened during those five years? How did it change you?

Alex: The scariest thing that happened to me was getting sick from swimming in contaminated water. I was swimming in a freshwater stream on an island, but the water was infected from nearby livestock and some of the water got in a cut I had on my foot. The disease nearly killed me, and I had to be flown back to the U.S. for two months of hospitalization. The disease infected my brain, so I had to relearn how to walk and for a few weeks I could not do even basic arithmetic at the age of 10. I eventually regained those skills. Afterwards though, I realized that I was incredibly lucky to have such gifts we take for granted like walking and thinking.

IML: Wow, that must have been intense. We're glad you came through that. So on the flip side, what was the funniest thing that happened?

Alex: One time we were sailing through a storm, and it got so bad that we decided to seek shelter in a nearby harbor called Walliabou. It was foggy as we went in, so we couldn't even see the harbor, but we knew where we were going. As we sailed in, we passed a rock arch with some nooses hanging from it, and as we came in towards the dock, we saw an ancient-looking town. It was entirely deserted, and all the buildings were made of giant blocks of stone and had hay roofs. When we walked ashore we passed the blacksmith's shop and the cooperage.  It was like we'd sailed into the past. We finally found someone living there and we asked them what was up with the town. She smiled and explained, "Oh, they just finished filming Pirates of the Caribbean here, this was Port Royal, and they left the set up!"

IML: That is awesome! Okay, so who was the most memorable person you met during your travels?

Alex: Of all the incredible people I met during my travels, the most memorable was Joseph the fisherman. Just after my ninth birthday, my family sailed to the tiny island of Mayreau in the Grenadines. In that region, it was very common for sailors to be approached by local vendors in boats selling bread they had cooked or fish they had caught. Unlike all the others who had large, homemade speed boats, Joseph rowed around the island in a small, colorful dinghy. After selling my parents some fish one night, he invited me to come fishing with him the following day. So the following day I departed with Joseph as the sun rose in his small craft. We made our way out of the harbor and down the side of the island to a deep offshore reef. For the whole morning we pitched about in his small boat, tossing lines from our hand reels over the side. The bottom of the boat slowly filled with a rainbow of reef fish. I caught a nurse shark, but we had to let that one go since it would have filled the bottom of the boat. As we fished we talked, and I learned some interesting things about Joseph; he had no intention of marrying before the age of 50 because he wanted to avoid the whimsical nature of women until he was mature and experienced enough to handle it. He had plenty of other such advice for me. Joseph remains so memorable to me because of how he exposed me to Caribbean culture and gave me access to such a unique experience at a pretty young age.

IML: How did keeping a journal help you understand what you were experiencing?

Alex: At the time, writing in the journals was a relaxing pastime. I enjoyed writing everything about the day down. A few years later though, when I went to write my book, they were very helpful in recollecting feelings at the time and when I could use them to look at the big picture in detail, they gave me a sense of how I changed and learned over time.

To learn more about Alex and his book, visit We loved all the photos from his adventures!

Shop Smart & Find Your Own Style
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Thumbnail image for shopping.jpgShopping for back-to-school, or not-so-fun? Sure, it can be exciting and fill you with fresh possibilities, and a great new addition to your wardrobe might boost your outlook and self-confidence. But then there's the downside. Times are tight; is there room in your family's budget for that pair of killer new jeans that you don't really need? What if you buy stuff that ends up being out-of-style before Halloween? What if you fill your closet with clothing that's hot and trendy, but just isn't you?

IML asked fashion expert and mom Audrey McClelland of for some advice on how to shop smart and find your own style this fall.

IML: You always hear people talking about "back-to-school trends." But we've always wondered...where do trends come from? Where do they start? 
I feel there are 2 things bringing forth some trend-inspiration right now. First, trends are really being inspired by young Hollywood starlets. We see them on TV and in movies, in magazines and online. Young ladies and men want to wear what these young stars are wearing. Second, we're seeing a lot of trends geared for women and men in their 20's and 30's becoming adapted for younger people.
IML: A lot of tweens and teens are looking to create their own style. For instance, they don't want to conform to a trend, but they also don't want to look totally out of place. What's your advice for people like that? What are some tips for creating your personal look?
Style is all about feeling comfortable in what you have on. If you don't want to conform to certain trends and they want to create their own looks, I suggest:

1. Find some colors that you truly like on yourself. Infuse these colors into your wardrobe. Once you have a color you feel confident and fashionable in, you'll find it very easy to work with styles and trends that are "in" at the moment.

2. Accessorize!  I love accessories because of this very reason -- you can create your own personal look. For young ladies -- necklaces, scarves, bracelets, rings, hair accessories and hats. For young men -- hats, ties and scarves.
3. Layering is a great way to create your own look. Start with pieces that you love -- tanks and tees and then build on them. Do you like button-downs? Cardigans? Vests? Sweater wraps?  Add items that you feel comfortable in and feel good in.
4. Know what works for you. Styles and trends that are "in" don't work for everyone. It's so important for you to really know what works for your body. This can impact your personal style immensely because you're only wearing pieces that you know actually work for YOU.
IML: If you want to buy clothes that look current, but aren't necessarily part of a trend and will last a little longer fashion-wise, what should you be looking for?
Audrey: Oh, I love this question!
For young ladies:
1. Dark Denim
2. White Button-Down
3. Black Sweater Wrap or Cardigan
4. Hoodie (any color)
5. Accessory item -- scarf, statement necklace, etc.
For young men:
1. Denim
2. Graphic Tee
3. Hoodie
4. Athletic Wear
5. Polo Shirt
IML: Do you have any advice for back-to-school shopping on a budget?
Audrey: My advice would be to shop at off-price retailers like TJMaxx and Marshalls. Parents and tweens will be able to stretch their dollar further because the prices are so affordable. My advice once in the stores is to stock up on items that will last throughout the year -- denim, hoodies, sweaters, and tees. These are clothing items that can be built on, which is very important when you're shopping on a budget.
IML: Many tweens write in to our site about purchases they end up regretting. How can young people avoid that trap?
Audrey: Tweens can avoid purchasing items they regret by truly knowing the answer to what they need, what they want and what they will wear. This is the 3 part question that isn't easy to always answer, but when you can answer it truthfully, you won't regret purchases. Trends are not created equal. What works for you, will not work for everyone. It's so important to be able to know that what's going into your closet are actually items you will be wearing -- with a smile!

IML: Thanks, Audrey! That's great advice!

You're welcome!

Chime on in, IML'ers. Have you ever been bullied because of your clothes? Did you ever buy something and think, I'm sorry I bought that?


Celeb Scoop: Dan Benson
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Dan Online Smile Pic.jpgWhen a popular TV show ends, it's always interesting to see what the cast members do next. Now that "The Wizards of Waverly Place" has finished its final season, we were glad to have a chance to talk to Dan Benson, better known as "cool nerd" Zeke Beakerman.

Dan can be seen in the upcoming DVD and Blu-ray release "Hanna's Gold," starring Luke Perry (coming August 16), and has big plans for his future!

IML: How's your summer going?

Dan: Fantastic! I've been running and riding my bike and surfing and doing all the fun things I didn't have time to do when I was working full steam. "Wizards" is officially done and I'm going on to new adventures and projects.

IML: Can you tell us a little about "Hanna's Gold"?

Box Art.jpgDan: I play a character named Luke who is a ranch hand, and I meet these two young girls who are at the ranch to spend time with their father, who I work for. After a while they get into some trouble when they find some maps that might lead to buried treasure. The girls go on this crazy adventure in the mountains to find the gold and we run into some robbers who are after the gold as well. It's a really fun adventure and there's some romance in there too.

IML: Have you ever been in a situation like that yourself...Where you were forced to be somewhere and you didn't want to be, then ended up having a cool time of it in the end?

Dan: Definitely. My parents always forced me to out and have new adventures. I love going outdoors so they made me go to summer camp. I didn't want to go at first but I ended up having the most fun. You never know what's going to happen, you have to go out there and explore and challenge yourself.

IML: Zeke, your character on "Wizards," became such a fixture on the show. Do you feel sad to say goodbye to him?

Dan: A little bit. It was such an adventure. My character started off as "friend #1" with one line, and that grew to two lines and then a few episodes later, four or five lines...then by the end of three years I got to know the cast really well. They were all so welcoming and I felt like I was really part of the family.

IML: Did you help make Zeke...Zeke?

Dan: I did have a part in creating him. I would take a line like "Zeke dances" and it was fun to think about what kind of dancing, what ridiculous style it would be -- they left it up to me to fill in the blanks. There was a lot of stuff I made up on the spot and the writers would let me do that, and that's when the best moments would come out. Physical comics like Jim Carrey and Chris Farley really inspire me and you can probably see that.

IML: Do you have a favorite backstage memory from the show?

Dan: When Zeke found out about magic, it really opened the door for my character and changed things. For that moment, they just let me freak out as much as I possibly could, being in the character. There was 20 or 30 minutes of takes of Zeke reacting in different crazy ways, and it was all just hysterical. It was a non-stop laughing party!

IML: So, we love to ask this because most IML'ers are in middle school: What were you like back then?

Dan: I was a dork...Oh, man, was I a dork! I loved science and I loved learning, and I was really good with people, very social. Everyone liked me but I wasn't the cool popular kid...I would act strange and out there. Most kids try to hide who they are in middle school because of the social pressures, being afraid of getting made fun of. So it's tough to stay true to who you are and that was the hardest part. You have to get rid of the idea that "cool kids don't care about anything". Caring about school and your friends and family -- it is cool to do that stuff! You just have to explore what you like to do and not be afraid of being made fun of for it. When I became an actor when I was 15 years old, it really helped me shape my personality and find what I truly enjoyed, which was performing. Once I found that I felt a whole lot better.

IML: We heard that you were also a competitive gymnast...

Dan: For nine years! In Missouri, before I got into the whole world of acting. I was tumbling and doing back flips off the couch and my mom would yell at me to she threw me in a gymnasium and I got on a competitive team. I was the 1994 Missouri vault champion! It was a skill that helped me develop all the skills I needed later on in other was great as a foundation. It also really helped me in my physical comedy later on. You never know where these skills will come into play later in your life.

IML: How does the world of competitive gymnastics compare to the acting world?

Dan: It's very similar. The main similarity is that you're competing against yourself. You're challenging yourself every day to be your best and do the best job that you possibly can. Yes, there are other people out there but they're also competing against themselves. When you go out on auditions, you can't pay attention to the other people focus on just your performance. If you prepare, you'll go out there and do your best and do exactly what you're trained to do. Gymnastics really helped me understand that whole world. It's really tough as an actor to hear no all the time, and you have to keep up your confidence and know that you are good. And that applies to pretty much anything. If you decide that you're gonna do something...guess what? You're gonna do it.

IML: That is great advice! So what's the next thing you're focused on doing?

Dan: I've been taking classes at The Groundlings improv comedy workshop and working my way up through their ranks. It's been an incredible experience and I think will really take me to the next stage in my career. I plan to be in this business for the rest of my life!

IML: Good luck with everything, Dan!

Dan: Thank you!

What it's like to be a tween living with illness
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girl_with_inhaler.jpgOne of the things we've noticed IML'ers talking about from time to time is the topic of living with an illness or medical condition.  Life is hard enough when you're a tween, but when you also have to deal with medication, missing school, procedures, doctors, hospitals, and general feeling-crumminess...UGH! Whether it's something like allergies or asthma, to more serious stuff like diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease, to situations that require surgery or actually threaten one's life, illness can really change things for a young person and everyone around them.

Maybe you know someone -- a friend, a neighbor, a classmate -- who has some kind of ongoing medical issue and would like to understand what they're going through, but are afraid to ask questions. We were curious too, so we invited one IML'er, Danielle, age 13, to share a bit about her experiences.

IML: How old were you when you first became ill?

Danielle: I was born with congenital heart defects, which means the defects in my heart have been there since before I was even born. I was also born with a rare condition called Heterotaxy Syndrome. The chances of getting it are four in a million! Because of Heterotaxy Syndrome, I don't have a spleen, so I get sick easily.

IML: What was the scariest thing about your treatment? How have you learned to deal with the various procedures and other headaches that are part of it?

Danielle: I think the scariest thing about treatments is how much it will hurt or how long it will take to recover, or if I'm going to be in the hospital. I guess the best way to deal with the treatments, shots, blood draws, doctors appointments and other stuff is to just be brave about them, and they'll be over soon.

IML: Have you ever had to stay in the hospital for a long time?

Danielle: I have had to stay in the hospital quite a bit before. When you're in the hospital time moves a lot slower. And there is only so much TV you can watch before you're bored. So I normally colored (when I was younger) or I was usually at a children's hospital so I would go to the playroom and do arts and crafts and play with the toys in there. But luckily I haven't been in the hospital in almost three years!

IML: Do you take medication?

Danielle: I do take medication, twice a day. The most challenging part about it is just trying to remember to take it! When I don't take it, it could mean more blood draws (more than just the regular once a month) or another stay in the hospital (if I miss too much).

IML: Is there anything you have to miss out on because of your illness?

Danielle: Because of my medication (and pacemaker) I can't play sports, ride a bike, or even play a game of frisbee. I love vegetables, but I can only eat green veggies three times a week because it will mess with my medicine.

IML: What about friends -- have you had trouble making and keeping close friends? How do they handle your illness and treatments?

Danielle: I don't have trouble making friends or keeping them close, but I don't really talk about it with them.

IML: Do you feel like you've been able to have a normal life despite living with illness?

Danielle: For the most part, yes, I do feel like I have a normal life. I can't go out and play soccer with my friends or I haven't been able to go to camp with them, but I have slumber parties on the weekends. I'm in my school's yearbook class, I do Builder's Club and all sorts of other things.

What about you? Do you have a similar experience to share on our new Living With An Illness You Said It page? You can also talk about how you can help When A Friend Is Ill.