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Neighbors of North Aurora

The family that plays together, stays together

05/03/2014 03:23PM ● By Tim

The Barton family from North Aurora (Michael, Eleanor, and Tricia) enjoy photography as a family hobby.

By Shirley Mott

These days it seems like many families feel like ships passing in the night in a fast-paced sea of sports, tutors, jobs, social events, music lessons and dozens of other activities. When everyone is home, they are not connecting as much because they are connected – to their smart phones, computers, iPads and many will admit – at the same time.

So how do families in North Aurora find time to play together – and stay together? Although many families say that dinnertime is when they catch up with each other, statistics say differently. According to, family dinners have decreased by 33% over the past 20 years. Likewise, family vacations have decreased by 28% during this time span. Not every family can afford to go on a fancy vacation, but spending quality time together is still essential. It is interesting to note that although many parents assume their teens don’t want to spend time with them, in reality, many teens feel their parents don’t have enough time to devote to them. Boys and Girls Club,, conducted an online survey of 1,250 adults and teens with the assistance of Opinion Research Corporation. While nearly a quarter of the teen respondents said their parents don’t seem to have enough time to spend with them, the majority of the parents surveyed did not report having struggles with finding enough time to spend with the kids. This disconnect may be the result of parents underestimating the amount of time their kids want and need from adults. Extrapolating the results from this survey, the Boys and Girls Club says that up to 67% of America’s teens say they actually want to spend more time with their parents.


Having fun in North Aurora

While North Aurora families look to neighboring towns as a source of activities, they look to their hometown first. As is often the case, children’s activities dictate where many spend at least a portion of their time together. This may mean attending North Aurora Baseball Association games, or watching a school concert. Top suggestions of activities for all ages include the North Aurora Community Parade and After Party, Rhythm on the Riverfront concerts and North Aurora Days. The Fox Valley Park District also scores high for family activities and events, especially North Aurora’s Red Oak Nature Center and the recently upgraded Lippold Park to the north. Some say Messenger Library is their go-to place for activities, classes and of course, books and media. Whether you are a long-time resident or a North Aurora newbie, check out what these North Aurora families have found to do – you may gain a new inspiration for your family’s fun.

 Meet a nature-loving family of five

Hammad Aziz and wife Amina Saeed, along with their three children Hamza, 13, Adam, 9, and Aneesa, 7, are totally invested in North Aurora. The family moved to North Aurora from Lombard as a compromise when Hammad worked in a dentistry office in Rochelle. When promises of becoming a dental partner didn’t work out, he looked to start his own dentistry practice, which he did. Seven years ago, North Aurora Smiles became the first tenant in a commercial strip mall on Oak St., west of Randall Rd. Amina also has a law practice in Lisle, concentrating on estate planning. This family definitely plays together. Outdoor activities and enjoying nature are important to them. Riding bikes and visiting the nature areas of Red Oak Nature Center, Lippold Park and traversing the trail in the west side Tanner Trails subdivision are favorites with the kids and parents alike. It was only fitting that Neighbors of North Aurora talked with them at Red Oak Nature Center. Daughter Aneesa says that one of her favorite times of the year is when an abundance of little frogs seemingly takes over the Tanner Trails pathways. She explains that “dodging the hopping frogs” is a fun challenge. Girl Scout Troop 1380 out of Fearn Elementary is also a top choice for her, and it works out well that Mom is a co-leader. Besides being a Brownie, Aneesa practices her dance moves as a ballet student at Moves Dance Studio, 14 E. State St. She’ll perform at the studio’s end of the year performance recital, Dreams Do Come True, at the Paramount Theatre, Aurora. The public can also purchase tickets to the June 12 show. Contact Moves Dance Studio at 630-264-6300 for more information. The boys enjoy the “national pastime” by playing baseball. Until this year, both played for North Aurora Baseball Association (NABA), on teams sponsored by North Aurora Smiles. This year, Adam joins a new 9U team with the Fox Valley Freedom Travel Baseball Association, an affiliate partner with the Fox Valley Park District. Hamza will play in the Pony league of NABA. Tennis and gymnastics are also a focus for the boys, especially Adam. Hamza attends the 4-H Club that naturalist Margaret Gazdacka leads on Friday afternoons at Red Oak Nature Center. As participants in Girl Scouts and NABA, the children walk in the North Aurora Community Parade, something they look forward to each year. Organized by the North Aurora Mother’s Club, it will take place on June 1. This popular, candy-throwing event steps off at 3pm at the Clocktower Plaza, on the southeast corner of Randall Rd. and Oak St. The route heads east on Oak St., and will eventually end at Riverfront Park where North Aurora River Alliance District (NOARDA) hosts an after parade party. Amina, a Mother’s Club member, explains that the parade has grown tremendously over the past few years as the group sought more participants. “It used to be a baseball parade,” explained Amina. “We decided there are other groups we could showcase, so why not open it up to others? “Now, West Aurora High School band marches. We have local businesses such as the horses and riders from Huntoon Stables participating,” she continued. “And, the Library always has an entertaining entry.” Spending quality family time at home shares top billing with the myriad of children’s activities. Board games are a family favorite, and currently a 1,000-piece picture puzzle of cupcakes is under construction. A family goal is to visit all the National Parks. The most recent park visited as an entire family was Point Reyes National Seashore, which is on the Pacific coast. This summer, Washington’s Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks are on their radar.

 Meet a photo centric family of three

Fittingly, Neighbors of North Aurora talked with the Michael Barton family in Batavia, at the studio space of Michael Barton Art. Although photography and videography occupy a lot of their together time, it isn’t the only activity this North Aurora family shares. It happens to be a rather unique one, however. Michael Barton is a professional photographer and artist who teaches classes nationally, as well as locally. His wife Tricia (Patricia) works in Kaneland School District 302 as the elementary Learning Resource Center director. Eleanor is a third-grader at Immanuel Lutheran School in Batavia. Born into a family with a father as a professional photographer and a mother who grew up spending years in a darkroom with her father, it may have been inevitable that Eleanor learn photography. At age 8, she is already an experienced photography model and is now working with Michael on shooting, developing and printing film. “I've been a model many times, but I like taking photos better,” says Eleanor. During the interview, Eleanor shared what she’s learning using her pink Holga camera. According to Michael, the plastic camera manufactured in China is “really terrible, but it has a cult-like following.” “The exposures are never quite on, the focus is never quite on, so it forces the pros to concentrate on composition,” he explained. “For a child, they are fun to shoot. Because the camera is limited in what it can do, it is easier to learn the controls. “And, they come in pink.” Eleanor and Michael take photo trips together. Besides local parks, a favorite destination is to take the train to downtown Chicago. During a recent trip, Eleanor says they worked on taking pictures of lines and shapes. Michael says they worked on her technique: holding the camera level, breathing properly, not jerking the shutter and keeping both eyes open when taking the picture. In the darkroom, things get a little more serious. “We’ve only messed up in the darkroom once,” said Eleanor. “I dropped the ‘thing’ that holds the film.” Unfortunately, the canister held film of Michael’s photo-shoot at the Grand Canyon. Not all was lost however; he also shot photos with a digital camera. This summer, Tricia plans to get in on the action – stopmotion video action. Eleanor told Neighbors of her idea about a stop-motion video of a horse jumping that she wants to pursue. Tricia says she’ll work with her on that project. Something else that Michael and Eleanor are plotting together is a summer camp for kids. According to Michael, the goal is to use a Holga camera and learn to load film, shoot pictures, develop the film, print the pictures and take home a finished product. This idea is still a work in progress… Think again if you believe that all this family does is photography. When summer rolls around, so will their bicycles. They bike or walk to Messenger Library, or now that Eleanor is old enough, they take the eastside Fox River Trail to Batavia. Their preferred destination is the Batavia Creamery. Playing board games and attending Bugfest at Red Oak Nature Center is also on their list of favorite activities. The “magnificent seven” With a family of seven pulling in every direction, you might say it is magnificent that a family finds any time to play together. Living in Pine Creek Subdivision on the east side of North Aurora, the Schadt family is another frequent visitor to nearby Red Oak Nature Center and Lippold Park. Dustin and Jill Schadt are the parents of Aiden, 13, Isabelle, 12, Faith, 10, Monica, 6 and Joshua, 3. The children are home-schooled and the family is a member of CRECHE (Children Receiving Education in a Catholic Home Environment). This Fox Valley area group was founded in 1999 to help support the efforts of parents as primary educators. Jill is constantly on the lookout for things to do in the area as a family. Without a mainstream school community, this family is finding opportunities to bond with each other and with other North Aurora families through activities such as baseball, softball and 4-H, as well as music, dance and art classes. Aiden plays on the Fox Valley Freedom Travel Baseball Association, and loves to fish. His favorite spot might surprise – it is Wingfoot Park, 1250 Wingfoot Dr. (catch and release only). They participate in other local events and locations that haven’t been mentioned previously. This includes WellRED, 736 Butterfield Rd., a store opened last fall. “It is a real treasure,” raved Jill. “It is quaint, carries new and used books, and offers a plethora of classes.” Along with art and music classes, there are craft classes for children and adults as well as gaming events. Additionally, there are Fair Trade items for sale, along with consigned local artisan products. Jill also highly recommends both the parade and after party. “We watch. The kids love to see their friends in the parade, and then meet up with them at the after party. “The duck race is very exciting, we like to see if our duck wins,” she continued. “The kids like to see the firefighters out there waiting for the ducks.” Another event on their to-do list this summer is the Rhythm on the Riverfront concerts. “We had a great time last year,” she explained. “The kids can run around and play while we enjoy the music.” And, when Mom and Dad want to get away? “We like to hit balls at Valley Green Golf Course, and then grab something to eat,” said Jill. “It’s our date night.”