Cutting Back Can Bring Things Together

Plenty of chat about the economy this holiday season and it starts on a somber note. People recognize they can not spend as much as in past years and initially it seems like a bad thing. Then they remark on how reducing the Christmas list had to be done and kinda makes sense anyway.

Sometimes this leads on to seeing the value in the gifts, the feast and the tree more because it was more dear to obtain. Others see that the holidays really are not just a consumer driven carnival after all (thank you Charlie Brown, Linus and all). Ultimately they see the season in a new way. New is good, different is useful and we didn't really need another talking snow globe any way.

Challenging the status quo and moving beyond the business as usual thinking can result in holiday surprises. Special foods taste better, shiny bows look brighter, snowflakes shimmer and our families sit a lot closer together when the heat is turned down. That is a cozy answer to a Christmas with more spending limits but no limits on family, love and time to share our hearts.

Educators Come Together for Education

We here at Answers In Motion have the opportunity to show Thumball at conferences and converse with the attendees. This was a stimulating month with our participation in the New Jersey Education Association convention in Atlantic City and then the American Speech and Hearing Association in Chicago.

Thumball created a stir because it provided teachers and therapists an instant lesson plan. Educators need things they can use quickly and easily and with a definite target goal in mind. The educators we met were appreciative of the goals and objectives provided on the web site for each Thumball. With 18 designs people had difficult decisions to make. Did they want to go with the Literacy Builders, the Emotional Intelligence route, vocabulary or social interaction Thumballls. Those having very specific subjects to cover went with Numbers and My ABCs which can be customized using the free activity sheets at

I have nothing but respect and admiration for the dedication of our teachers, therapists and administrators. If there were one improvement I would like to see, it would be to remember we are all EDUCATORS first and our secondary titles like 6th grade Math, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, learning consultant while important should never overshadow our primary responsibility to guide a child to learn and instill the desire to always want to learn more.

Educators have become increasingly fearful about covering curriculum, focusing exclusively on IEP goals and constantly moving from subject to subject with out the time to transition meaningfully. They feel unsure if they can go global and teach all things within the context of a greater concept. Comments from supervisors like "Why were you reading him a story? I thought you were "speech". You have to do more speech activities."are disheartening to hear. If reading and discussing a book is not a speech activity then I spent a good portion of my 22 years as an SLP doing the wrong things.

Enough of my soapbox, I really just wanted to emphasize the wonderful time we had at both of these important events. Educators became educated on a huge array of subjects and by their attendace at NJEA and ASHA showed to students we all never stop learning. I am proud Thumball contributes in a meaningful way to improved focus, motivation and perhaps to a lifelong love of learning.

A Journey Starts With Just One Step

History making days are happening in so many wonderful and startling ways. First and foremost we have a new President-Elect and his name is Barack. He is married with 2 daughters and inconsequentially is a black man. That was tongue in cheek of course, this is a remarkable turn in our humanity's evolution. Even I just two years ago said something like...our country isn't ready for a black president and not a women either.

Although it thrilled me to consider Hillary or Barack as a true candidate. The campaign run by Obama and his dedicated staff was dignified and diligently focused. Barack exuded a presidential air early on and I marveled as it grew. I watched people like me and unlike me open up to a Democrat with new ideas. I watched news, read papers and felt truly involved in the direction of our country.

On Tuesday night I gasped, stared, jumped for joy and then cried at the wonder of this winner. I saw the world and my family come together and I felt deeply touched watching Barack like a mother watching her child mature and take on responsibilities and learn and succeed.

We are on a new road headed in a new direction, led by the most unexpected yet most prepared of leaders to improve circumstances so we can all live life well and participate more fully in our communities. Early congratulations to President Obama and his beautiful family and our country as a whole.

Our custom made Obama Thumballs were not accepted at the Obama headquarters due to security issues. It is disappointing that Barack did not get to see and feel these one of a kind Thumballs but no worries. Those who did see them loved them and helped to remind them why they were voting for him. We are so glad we did both, made the Obama Ball and voted for him. Hope you did too but if not you are welcome on board with love.

Slide Show

I learned something new! after a very frustrating few days I found out where to insert the HTML code so I could include a Slide Show of Thumball™ images. I think it adds value to my blog and gives readers a good overview of the Thumball™ product line.

Learning this new world of codes and posts and images is wonderful when it is not infuriating and turning me into a whiner. Fear not novices, I encourage all to consider blogging and surfing the fascinating worlds out here in Internet land. You will be surprised and you might just surprise yourself. Refresh the Page then Enjoy The Show!

Start 'em Young; Restart 'em Old

Our earliest Thumball designs included the classroom "basics". My ABCs, numbers, shapes and animals have come to be called "Early Learners". From the youngest ages a child can push, watch, touch, roll or hold a ball. The next stage is interacting with the ball receptively.

Without requiring any verbal response just ask the player to show, find or touch specific letters, numbers, shapes or animals. Maybe just show them 2 or 3 panels and have them point to the one you name. Go ahead and give them the answer at first. You are laying great ground work for future language skills to build from.

Now expand the concept and try: "Find the letter that starts your name."
"Touch the number that comes after 2."
"Find the shapes that have corners."
"Point to the animals that have tails."
You will see the pride emerge as they find what they are looking for.

Perhaps we misnamed this collection of balls, they are for all learners esp. those with learning challenges regardless of age. The biggest surprise of all has been seeing how older adults love playing with these Thumballs.

Interaction with the Thumball and the information on them helps those with Alzheimer's stay stimulated and assists in stroke recovery or for those with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Roll one across the table and see what gets started at the senior center.

So revisit the Early Learners and play a word game, practice math drills, find the shapes in the room and describe your favorite animal in detail. Young and old can come together in play with some brain building thrown in for fun.

Test The Waters of Virtues & Values

One of our latest designs has people diving in to think about themselves and others in new ways. Virtues & Values Thumball™ is a unique experiment in self reflection and personal growth.

Initially counselors were the most excited about a Thumball covered in personal attributes. It is a non threatening way to encourage players to honestly evaluate whether they possess specific characteristics. Are you mature? Insightful? Organized? If yes, tell us how it serves you. If no, tell us if it is a problem.

Now teachers of every age, employee trainers, rehab facilitators, older adults and Boy/ Girl Scouts are appreciating the valuable lessons Virtues & Values Thumball™ provides. Each panel has 3 words beginning with the same letter and can be used to discuss yourself, another or a famous celebrity or leader.

I caught Thumball and found these 3 words under my thumb: S = Spiritual – Strong – Sweet. I am sincere in my spirituality and live it daily, I am not always as strong as I want to be physically or emotionally but darn I am sweet to others through compliments and care. I look for strength in others to inspire my goal of being a strong women, partner and parent.

Let's face it Brittany Spears was not exactly Responsible this past year and Wall Street giants were not Visionary, ultimately leading us into this financial challenge. If all goes well however Brittany will rise to the occasion and become Balanced and Dignified. The committee for repair of the economy showed they are Industrious working through the past weekend and we hope will be Victorious.

Virtues and Values Thumball™ shows us how to turn challenges into triumphs. It reminds us that we all have strengths and weaknesses regardless of age, education, geography or race. Take the plunge and explore yourself as the Empowered Person you know yourself to be and make a splash.

What Makes You Feel Free?

This question fascinates me. While many of us can discuss what makes us "happy" or can say what things we want, not many can identify what makes them feel free. Society's definition of success puts drastic limits on freedom or delays it until well into your sixties and seventies.

Our life here at Answers In Motion is very rich these days even though debt is high and Thumball sales come only in cycles. Starting your own company is not for the faint of heart but we chose it for a reason. We have realized all we ever wanted was freedom.

We set our own hours, make our own agendas, only sometimes have to answer to others and work very hard for 12 hours a day and yet we are free.

While managing accounts, creating and marketing new products, stretching advertising dollars I can listen to the music of my choice, break into a Grateful Dead dance groove or brew my own iced tea. I wear sarongs, bandanas, slippers and feel comfortable in my own skin and I feel free.

I am not motivated by obtaining more possessions instead I get to pet my dogs, call a friend or facebook the kids. I rub my husband's neck, the man who taught me well about opportunities, freedom and other wonderful things and then I get back to work.

We toss Answer Mania Thumball in the air and ask "Will freedom be our way of life?" and under my thumb the answer is revealed, "IT'S IN THE STARS".
What does being free mean to you?

Thumball Goes To College

Thumball is making waves on campuses and with co-eds. At first they arrive on the scene and get casually investigated. Then they are used for juggling or extreme catch.

Eventually however the players read and think about what's on them and begin to play with interest. Then the fun starts and everyone is clamoring for more Thumball.

Icebreaker, Who Are You? and Meet & Greet Thumball are perfect for orientation and social events to get students interacting and feeling less awkward.

Emotion Mania and Move Your Body Thumball get grabbed up by drama departments and PE classes. Act out feelings, exaggerate movements and learn about body language. You couldn't refrain from laughing if you wanted to.

Category Mania Thumball can get competitive and surprises everyone by how challenging it can be to name things in categories quickly and accurately. Name as many flowers or birds or noisy things as you can and just try not to stammer.

Virtues and Values Thumball really inspires personal thought and reflection. Three attributes are revealed under your thumb and you decide if you have them, if you observe them in others or if you would like to have them. This activity changes with age and is appreciated by families, counselors and coworkers.

Catch Peace Thumball inspires students to learn more about world geography, languages and cultures. Find on the map the countries that speak Malay or Persian. Enjoy trying to pronounce the word peace in them too.

We are pleased to see Thumball's reach expand and whether they are used for learning and communicating or juggling and radical acts of catch it brings people together. That is our ultimate goal to come together and recognize our similarities and differences without the need for judgement.

Can a ball do that? We say "Yes". Now we just need to get the warring factions on our planet to play catch and maybe they will come together too.

A Thumball in the Hand is Worth 2 in the Bush

The new Thumball™ designs are in our hands and they look gorgeous. Okay a ball is rarely called gorgeous but these really are. The colors are more vibrant, the texture is sleek and smooth, the printing is perfect! Oh and did I mention the new packaging? It is also bright, colorful and sleek. Our mascot Shnoogie is on the new package and he is there as a quiet yet powerful advocate for peace, love and understanding.

It was a long wait but we are so pleased with the end result. All the designs are going to be popular and meaningful and fun. Our initial response shows a big demand for Move Your Body. Used to get our bodies in motion it is fun and beneficial for all ages. Use Move You Body Thumball™ to act out movements like in charades or do reps and it becomes a fitness exercise. Players act out the verbs and then build on their language skills by combining them with adverbs. So now we are not just walking we are doing it slowly or quickly or crazily.
Learning in action.

We hope this new collection will spread our scope and reach more audiences. Now there are 18 designs with more sets and kits in the works. Check out the website for more details. Get ready to meet and greet, move your body, talk virtues and values, tell the tale and discuss parts of a story. We hope you will find Thumball gorgeous and worthwhile whether in your hand, on your desk or in the classroom and if there are two in the bush by all means go get them.

New Thumballs Designs Have Hit US and UK Shores

We have been anticipating the arrival of our five new Thumball designs and finally they are here. Well almost here. When products are shipped overseas they arrive but you can't have them just yet. There are Procedures. Customs has taken a liking to Thumball and they like to inspect each and every shipment just for the fun of it. This delays things and costs money but hey what doesn't cost time and money?

In England Thumball is doing a bit better and our shipment is arriving at our International warehouse as we speak (so we hope). Imagine! We are doing business internationally and that is exciting. We will do our best to get those Thumballs into the hands of the British masses as soon as possible.

Any day now Move Your Body, Meet & Greet, Virtues & Values, Parts of a Story and Tell The Tale will be in our hands. We will play, laugh, discuss, move, think and share the experience with each other. Looking forward to that gives me more patience and less stress.

An email broadcast will go out the day our shipment reaches New Jersey. Share the fun.

Our Business is A Ball

Where did this company, Answers In Motion start anyway and why are people calling me an entrepreneur (I hate words that rhyme with manure)? I don't want to forget why I do all this. Business has been very business-y (not fun) and I need to go back to that day when a small stuffed ball and a sharpie got together and created what would later be know as
Category Mania Thumball. I love the photo we have of the hand made original, the first prototype and finally the finished product.

Students love games and when they get to play them in the classroom they really feel they are getting one over on us. This keeps them focused and actively participating and that is why a game can teach more in less time if presented with limits and a zero tolerance policy for out of control behavior.

So when I was working as a speech therapist with multiply handicapped second graders I needed to keep their interest. Once I allowed them to at first pass a ball to each other, then to roll it and finally to toss it I had their attention.

Now they were asking me, "Hey what are these words doing on the ball" Now they were told to keep tossing until I said STOP and that player should life their thumb off the ball and read the word found there. It was a category term and now they were challenged to name examples of "Vehicles or Fruit or Occupations".

So there you have it the origins of what is now a real business offering 18 Thumball designs. The most remarkable thing about a game of Thumball is how intently the players focus on each other which increases the amount they are learning.

Other learning games I had tried were effective but the players only learned on their own turn and then tuned out. Not so with Thumball all my students were actively learning for the entire length of the class from the ball, their teacher and their classmates.

So Category Mania Thumball will forever be my favorite because that is where it started. It lends itself to every age and ability. A younger person might only name 1 or 2 items in a category. The older more capable might name 5 or 6. Then add a challenge by tossing the Letter Mania Thumball and getting a "D" and then Category Mania and get "Furniture" and now they must name an answer beginning with that letter. (I like dinette or davenport but there is always dresser). This skill called word retrieval is essential to language development.

If a category ever seems "too hard" for the age group use it as an opportunity to discuss it and research it. Some say "My 6 year old students don't know any European countries." and I say then let's teach some. Even our youngest are aware of countries like England or Italy and so we can locate a world map and show them the rest.

Every time our family plays we come up with an answer we had never thought of or a new way to play. Sometimes we name an item and have the player find the category word it belongs to on the Thumball within 25 seconds. Sounds silly but we like silly and as a mom I like anything that gets my family laughing. As a speech therapist I like anything new and interesting that expands vocabulary, improves communication, stimulates active learning and enriches problem solving skills.

So name a toy that begins with "T" that people learn with and never get tired of playing. Hmmmm......your guess is as good as mine.

An Entrepreneur? Give Thanks for the Terror

Blogs are wonderful but like most wonderful things it takes focus and discipline. I posted less in August than expected but I am on a quest of self forgiveness so this gave me a chance to express it.

As we wait for our first shipment of Thumballs made under the stricter European standards (CE), for half the shipment to go to the UK establishing us as a worldwide company and for the new designs our customers asked for I take a moment to reflect. The past 4 years since the pivotal dream, literally a dream that urged me on to manufacture our product I am amazed. Defining ourselves as entrepreneurs has been exhilarating, enlightening and terrorizing. Gregg and I have taken a bigger risk than we ever thought possible.

With my husband's tenacity and business sense we have created something that was not there before and that is stunning. There are more reasons not to do this than to do this unless you want some real excitement. Now my goal to make Thumball™ a household word like Frisbee™ or Magic 8 ball™ or Duncan Yo-Yo™.

I believe Thumball™ is truly beneficial and powerful in a surprising way. One toss of an Icebreaker or Who Are you Thumball and you can be communicating with someone you may never have spoken to in your life. One toss and the playing field is evened whether for students having autism, learning disabilities, ADHD or for diverse employees brought together for trainings. They may have all seen each other and even nodded politely but actually engaging in verbal interaction probably not.

So it is time to give thanks for those that believed in our dream. Family members and friends willing to work on our project and attend the trade shows with us and watch our dogs when we went on the road, thank you.

We have businesses to thank for their orders and support including;
Trainer's Warehouse, S & S Worldwide, Nasco, Self-esteem shop, Marco Products, Courage To Change, Self Help Warehouse and recently added to The Speech Bin catalog.

Of course our independent toy store retailers gave us an early start as well and we are grateful for them. There are so many others and we appreciate all of you. Thanks to our customers who ordered through the website or sent a PO from a school or business.

I don't always know where a blog post will take me as I write it. This foray led to thankfulness and that is a great place to go on any day for any reason. Giving thanks gives back every time. I am thankful for this journey the good, the bad and the terrorizing.


I am at the point of preparation for a week long camping trip that I start to wonder what we are doing this for. It feels as if we are bringing everything we own so I wonder why not set up the backyard tent.

I will post upon return to share details. I already know that a day or two in clean air and a float down a river will make me forget all about the prep. Let's face it that is why we keep camping.

I confess I love it. The campfire is so nostalgic and we talk as a family and with our friends like never before. Even the rainy days stuck in the tent are amusing with cards, backgammon, 20 questions and our all time favorite Thumball.

Category Mania is chosen frequently as we all get better at naming words faster and thinking of more interesting answers. Instead of chair, couch, table for kinds of furniture we answer second hand, Chippendale, French provincial.

We have created a new product to compliment the Letter Mania Thumball. A camping scene printed on write-on, wipe off paper. This kind accepts any ink, crayon or marker, even Sharpies and it will wipe off. We will be doing a test run of the let's Go Camping: 4 of A Kind game on this trip.

I am imagining the early morning sounds of the birds and then the people getting up in all forms of disarray. I can smell the coffee and it never tastes better than out in the woods sitting at a picnic table. Next the aroma of fresh pancakes and bacon and happy campers ready to sit and eat.

With 2 children in college these family trips are changing and becoming less frequent. I think I will keep packing and keep praising our life so blessed. If my husband and the kids wants to take the TV I will agree because after all this is vacation and while they watch the Olympics I will watch them and smile. All the bother will be worth it in the end.

The Magic of Disney is the Employees

A Trade show in Disney World is an interesting event. When exhibiting our Thumball™ line of products we spent 2 full days and more in the exhibit hall early morning till evening and by the end have only enough energy to eat then sleep. Therefore taking the kids did not make sense. However walking around the Disney resorts without them made even less sense.

Ahhh, the Polynesian a dream of mine from the age of 12. My mother balked at people that would "spend that kind of money for a place to sleep" but I gazed at it from the Monorail ride in 1973 and thought it must be wonderful over there.

So here I am 35 years later staying at this iconic monument and at first I could not adjust, here I was missing the children, feeling surreal as my childhood wish surprisingly came true. But adjust I did and oh my the food was flavorful, the air was balmy, the pool a perfect lagoon with palms and plants and flowers. The trade show turned out well for many reasons. The most important of which was the Disney employees or cast members as they are called.

I can be cynical and corny things annoy me so I was being the wise guy using the expression "Feel the Magic" with disdain. But suddenly it really was magic as everywhere we were greeted with courtesy, offered assistance, provided good food in good time. At the exhibit hall in the Contemporary Hotel we had kind people helping us make copies, mail packages, choose restaurants and give us goodies.

I guess it is a job requirement for "cast members" to ask each guest, so where are you from? but it works each time to get a smooth, unpressured conversation going. Seriously every single person we intereacted with really did exceed our expectations and that we are told is Disney's ultimate goal. That really is where the magic lives being treated well and therefore treating others as well or bettter. I guess Walt really understood The Golden Rule.

Guess what ? We never even visited any of the theme parks. We enjoyed the amenities of the hotels both The Polynesian and Port Orleans- Riverside. There we were greeted with the same hospitatity but even sweeter, southern style. We swam, biked, drove boats, ferried, ate and smiled at every turn where we werre made to feel special and important.

So Thumball was a hit and I grew a bit as a person who still believes in magic.
Thanks Walt for dreaming that big.

New directions: Thumball as Tool for Prescription Drug Education

Answers In Motion the parent company of Thumball has a major opportunity to continue it's goal of energizing education and improving communication.

The big pharmaceutical companies, PhRMA have taken a stand on the giving of gifts both large and small to health care professional. Drug company sales reps are discouraged from promoting their brands of medications with gifts of appreciation (Can you say conflict of interest?).

The voluntary policy states that the companies discourage provision of promotional gifts like pens, mugs etc and dinners out. In a press release issued July 28, 2008 Answers In Motion was featured as the next best place for medication education with their latest project, Medicine Thumball.

These unique balls are teaching tools which when left behind in offices and given to patients do much more than remind people of a brand, they educate on the features, benefits and side effects of that medication. It doesn't hurt that it is a ball to toss and catch and enjoy as well.

See the complete press release at the link below:

This step is long overdue and PhRMA should be commended for prioritizing the quality of health education over potential profits from orders based on gifts and tokens (Can you say bribes?).

Medicine Thumball will become the model of attention getting products that teach and serve in a fun way with the emphasis consistently in the right place: helping physicians and patients make safe informed decisions about health.

Give Peace A Chance

We are a nation at war and it still surprises me at times but most things about war surprise me and shock me. I am always amazed at the casualty numbers and how we separate our American losses from the countries we are fighting. The number of civilian losses in Iraq are staggering yet we scarcely blink an eye because it is not "our" people. Well there in lies much of the problem.

I believe in the interdependence of all things. In early science classes we were all taught about ecosystems and that organisms working in harmony as a community result in growth and life. We seem to forget it applies not just to plants and other animals. We are part of it too and it includes the people we count as separate from us based on imaginary boundary lines.

We came to create a ball of hope, The Catch Peace Thumball is covered with the word Peace in different languages just like our world is covered with different nations and tongues. We use it to discuss the many languages that exist and find on a map where they are spoken. It is fun to highlight the different way words sound and trying to pronounce words "foreign" to us.

We use Catch Peace Thumball to honor the belief that to focus on our similarities not only our differences will help cultures understand each other and lead to communication and respect. It is a small step perhaps but to share the concept of oneness to children from a young age can't be a bad thing.

The war being fought is not American vs. Iraqi. The majority of Iraqis are people like us raising families, working hard, living simply and wanting peace. Toss it around, practice saying peace. it just may give peace a chance... of growing.

Numbers Thumball Not Just for Preschool Anymore

Numbers Thumball has 12 large colorful panels each covered with the number word and numeral on them from one to ten. At first glance observers might dismiss it as a Preschool only product. But Numbers Thumball has grown wings and has become the most versatile Thumball of all.

Now available for download at is a Numbers Template worksheet. In each box on the page is each number and lines. The user can personalize the page by filling in questions, spelling words, math problems, vocabulary, drawings and exercise. Once you have chosen the material you want to cover, start the game with a toss and randomly stop the action to locate the number under your thumb.

The possibilities are endless and can be adapted to counseling, speech, occupational or physical therapy, getting to know you events, study sheets and education of every kind. We know families that fill in 10 dinner choices and each day plays a healthy round of catch with Numbers Thumball to find out what's for dinner.

Players get motivated and are eager to keep playing until all ten numbers are caught. An amazing way to keep everyone on track, having fun and learning every step of the way.

Adults 55 plus Enjoy Icebreaker Thumball

Have fun while visiting parents, grandparents friends or family in the hospital or nursing homes with Icebreaker Thumball.
Ice Breaker Thumball is a soft stuffed ball, 6-inch in diameter. Every age and ability level can participate. 1 to 100 can play. Throw it, Catch it, and respond to the panel under your thumb!

Players interact in a group setting while developing ease of verbal expression, improved social awareness and meaningful communicative interactions.

1. Participate in a turn taking game, circulating Thumball by passing, rolling, tossing with increasing ease and accuracy.
2. Answer questions related to personal preferences & experiences to practice staying on topic.
3. Ask other players questions about their likes/ dislikes and life experiences to stimulate opportunities for friendships based on shared interests.
4. Recall answers given by other players to enhance short-term memory skills.
5. Ask family, friends, staff, peers to participate in favorite things survey and keep data.
6. Create charts & graphs to present findings in front of a group for public speaking practice.
Our response from active adult communities, senior care centers and acute, rehab and long term care facilities has been overwhelmingly positive:
“Thumball has brought our social time alive. Everyone gets a chance to play and it keeps our members interest. Memories are relived in a great way."
Meredith, Activities Co-coordinator
“We have introduced Thumball into our physical, occupational and speech therapy groups with wonderful results. Each resident finds it easier to accomplish tasks with this fun game during our exercise, cooking and conversation-time activities.”
Lynn, Rehabilitation Supervisor
Try Thumball on your next visit and get everybody, young and old, fast and slow interacting, relating, thinking and creating with Thumball.

Atlanta, School Counselors and Sunsets

Just returned from ASCA, the American School Counselors Association's National Conference in Atlanta. Wonderful weather, blue, blue skies, warm temps, low humidity and fantastic accommodations. Negotiating Atlanta was a breeze and southern helpfulness and hospitality were everywhere. Thumball was a welcome addition to the event's exhibition floor where we received praise and thanks for expanding the product options available for guidance and career counselors.

Sounds pretty awesome, almost pollyanna but I could find things to complain about if encouraged yet what would be the point. I realized that at previous trade show events I became very concerned that the costs of participating would be greater than the return. I would lose myself in making calculations worried we could not possibly sell enough Thumballs to even break even with travel, exhibit, shipping and equipment costs, let alone the time away from our other responsibilities. But this is not the true point of attending a trade show.

I inhaled deeply, looked at my wonderful husband who can see the bright side of every possible situation and stopped my silliness. It is the poverty mentality my parents taught me so well, that " balance the books" thinking as the only measure of success, a philosophy that serves no one really but the books.

The ASCA attendees were excited, motivated and increasingly creative with their thinking when discovering our creation, Thumball. The top three sellers were the Icebreaker, Who Are You? and Emotion Mania which all promote social relationships, connection with our feelings and healthy ways to express them. These dedicated counselors are assisting students in need or at times of crisis and our product is helping. It's hard to place only a monetary value on that kind of work.

The counselors that had already used Thumballs visited our booth to say "My students love these; Thumballs work really well to motivate my withdrawn students; I use them at home as much as school because they are so much fun." Gratifying to hear for sure, but still our business needs to make money to survive. Then I thought, wow, there are over 350 Thumballs out there in America now doing their job and selling themselves and we can rest assured that money is in escrow for our future needs.

It is like our visit to Atlanta when I thought we should be rushing off to the Georgia Aquarium, The World of Coke and the Underground in order to get the maximum return on our trip I had to stop and take a breath. Turns out it was the night we never left our hotel which was best of all. From our 24th floor room we witnessed the Atlanta skyline transform from blues to yellow to pinks and orange in a dazzling array of shapes and images that went on for hours.

We could scarcely catch our breath at the beauty of this city and the wonder of earth's cycles . I remembered that all things are possible and we get chances every day to make a profit and sell merchandise but the sky that evening will never look exactly that way again and there is no price on a perfect golden sunset shared with the one you love, like Visa reminds us that my dear friends is priceless.

List Your Virtues and Values

If put on the spot what virtues would you say you admire and/or possess? What values guide you through life? This was harder to do than I expected. There are so many directions to go. Initially my mind went to serious virtues ( discipline, strength, humility) until I realized that sense of humor is very important to me.

Virtues can be fun like creativity, friendliness, enthusiasm. I think I have those and I am proud of that. They don't always help me "get things done" in the traditional ways so I have shied away from owning them as my own. I've decided to get over that. I encourage all of us to truly embrace who we are with each characteristic honored not judged as good or bad.

Values are trickier. Again there is a tendency to get overly serious. But values are the guidance system for how we live. Love is my primary value and I send my loving thoughts out to all I know and the world at large. Truth is indispensible but truth within ourselves as well as speaking truth to others.

Our latest and greatest Thumball design was created with this exercise in mind. It challenges you to consider the three words on each panel and determine which ones you have, would like to have or that you see in another person. It creates stimulating dialog, surprising interactions and true moments of self reflection. Yet it is accomplished through a game of catch with a playful attitude. I think that is what makes it work so well. It can be enjoyed at home, in school, during rehab or at work.

An attribute I continue to develop is my ability to laugh at myself and resist the seriousness I lean toward. I don't know when exactly that happened but I know from this moment on I will go for the lighter side of life and bless this world and myself with an attitude of love and acceptance. That is a value, a virtue and a victory for me. Wanna play?

Grads Get Together; Parents Start to Let Go

Life is a buzz as every town everywhere across the USA gears up for Graduation ceremonies and ways to celebrate it afterwards. These young men and women are all at different stages of emotion, with those thrilled to be OUT and those quite comfortable with this next step in life and those that are looking around thinking how did I get here, is high school really over?

I have seen all of them and seen many parties from the over the top extravaganza to the simple family gathering to acknowledge their accomplishments and to cheer them on to college, travel, relationships and this experience called life.

As a parent I just never thought this rite of passage would have such a strong effect on me. I expected to be ready for it, anticipating some reduction in stress and the number of things on the to do list. But alas, life has different plans as it so often does. It is a new feeling, a pull on the heartstrings and a longing for those toddler days of cute and cuddly.

We are blessed with one in college, one graduating today and one with 10 years to go to her high school end. Each one is so unique, so dear to us and tucked in the pockets of our hearts and throughout the expanse of our thoughts.

Thumball will be played at our party and allow us to focus on our current and future focus which fills our hearts and minds. Nothing compares though to the fullness of knowing you have had a hand in raising a fine person in this complex world which is worth celebrating every moment of everyday. Congratulations to all of us!

Move Your Body Is Fun For All

Another of our latest designs is the Teal and Yellow Thumball titled MOVE YOUR BODY. A spontaneous game erupted with our family on Father's Day and it was a blast seeing everyone from our 8 year old daughter to our 77 year old father acting out movements and interacting with enthusiasm and humor.

This Thumball has suggestions such as "Flap your wings and soar; March proudly and salute; Lift your knees to your elbows." So you respond to the direction under your thumb in your choice of ways:
  1. Perform it one or more times for the physical activity. Multiple sets of each action really is an excellent all over workout.
  2. Act it out and let others guess what you are doing, like Charades.
  3. Give direction to another player. Add difficulty by using the Simon Sez format. They must remember to hear "Simon Sez" before they do that action.
  4. Discuss an experience they had such as "Cast your pole and reel in a fish" will prompt great fish stories.
The goals worked on with Move Your Body Thumball are numerous:
  • Physical exercise, body language, vocabulary development, listening skills and oral expression.
  • Players can perform the actions while seated, standing or move around in a gym or outside.
  • A great icebreaker when a meeting goes long and everyone needs a release and a laugh.
Even people not overly physically active, enjoy using Move Your Body Thumball to get the creaks out and get the blood flowing. This Thumball will not fail to impress, excite and bring friends and families together in a new, interactive way. The physical benefits are inherent and the cross generational experience is priceless. Move Your Body Thumball will become available September 15, 2008.

Radio Land at Startup Nation

Very fun and exciting day at Thumball Central today. We were invited to speak on Startup Nation's radio show. Startup Nation is an online community of entrepreneurs and it is free and jam packed with useful information.

Three years ago at our inception, Thumball was a concept, the first name was Catch32 Ball because each ball has 32 panels of information. One of the first places I found online having credible resources for inventors was Startup Nation.

The site gave steps to follow when licensing and patenting a new idea. It had us really understand why we wanted to start our own business in more than just financial terms. They suggest a Life Plan and that is what we try to maintain. It is not the cash that is the attraction, it is the freedom for us that the money can allow.

So today we spoke with Rich, Troy and Melanie about Thumball, where we have been, where we are and where we are going. They loved our product and shared the vision of Thumball's multiple uses. Publicity is essential they advised and they believe Thumball has all the elements of an interesting and news worthy story (we agree).

Recommendations included: Call news outlets directly; videotape people playing Thumball and post on Youtube; stress the opportunity to the press you are giving them to produce an inspiring and interesting piece about inventions, entrepreneurship, incredible progress and our Thumball dream coming true.

Timely issues such as Autism, Alzheimer's, Rehab and family fun activities all relate to Thumball and the meaningful ways it contributes to these topics. When learning and play go hand in hand, you have a sure winner and when it can be used by everyone Thumball can't miss. That being said, PR is essential no mater how great the idea so Oprah get ready we are coming to see you.

Expected to air June 27, 2008. Check for details at

Friday the 13th

The 13th and a Friday have been considered a bad pair, an omen of danger. These are just thoughts of course and the more people that think them and the more they believe in them the more it becomes a truth. Next thing you know we are all looking for the superstition to hold true and we find a way to see the something bad or gone wrong or down right awful about the current Friday the 13th.
Imagine if that combo meant the best day ever, the most superb experience, the best luck and you were told it was true and you knew it was coming and bam! You get several compliments, you make every green light, you win a raffle, you find money, get a promotion, get engaged, find your dream house. Imagine that.
Well that is my lesson from today, the day of supposed bad luck, imagine anything and that is what you will get, so go for it. See all you would like to see, really see it, feel it, know it and it will all be there looking back at you, no matter what the day or what the date.
So...I'm looking at a beach in Fiji, 3 blissful children, Thumball sales X 10,000, successful businesses, hefty bank books, cheerful friends/family, and me with a healthy body and a creative mind going to concerts with my handsome happy husband holding my hand.

Meet and Greet Icebreaker Business Style

I am jumping the gun as I am prone to do. My excitement for our latest Thumball design just gets the better of me and I get all giddy and spill the beans.

Our most popular Thumball used by the most age groups in the most settings has been the Icebreaker design. Great at the high school/college clubs, orientations and parties to put players at ease, increase meaningful communication and generate fun.

Our Human Resource customers use it to start meetings and play again half way through to keep everyone perked up during a long presentation. HR leaders tell us again and again how Thumball play improves the feeling in the room and keeps employees more alert and responsive.

The Icebreaker travels to senior centers, nursing centers and long term care centers to stimulate older brains, create interesting conversation and recreate memories from long ago.
Often rolled across the table, instead of tossed about, recreation therapists report more participation from members during group activities.

Drum roll please, "Introducing the next great Icebreaker: Meet and Greet!" Interesting questions to ask others or answer for yourself. Increase the fun by predicting another players answer.
Many questions relate to personal preferences or experiences. Others panels relate more to the workplace and ways to work efficiently. It is easy to adapt to every kind of business, educational settings, clubs, organizations and even home parties.

The 6 inch size makes it easy to catch and toss. There is something about a ball that makes everyone smile and feel a little more playful. A round of catch is simple fun, are you ready to play?
Meet and Greet Thumball will be available in August 2008. We will provide a list of stores and catalogs which carry Thumball products on our blog.

Read to Your Womb

Reading to your child while still in the womb is either encouraged or scoffed at. I believe it is a worthy practice from a speech therapist's point of view and a mother's experience. The cadence of a voice reading has it's own unique rise and fall.Hearing the rhythm and rhyme in a story lays critical ground work for later language development.. The rate of reading is slower and more measured than the typical speed of speech and consequently received in an important way.

Changes in volume can be both subtle and significant depending on the story. Emotion comes through whether relating a cheerful story or a sleepy bedtime tale. Now the new life curled inside may seem to know little of these things and yet can recognize these changes in pitch, tone, speed and volume. There are studies out there (which I should be referencing but it is late and I am tired) that can confirm changes in the fetal respiratory, muscular and circulatory systems when being read to.

I really observed the effect when my own daughter was born as she readily stopped, looked and listened in a very natural way when a story began from the earliest moments after her birth. Her language skills advanced extremely quickly being my little speech and language experiment and I felt proud of her early accomplishments as she beat milestone after milestone.

Other studies show precocious youngsters usually even out in these talents with their peers by second or third grade and this followed suit with my daughter. I never intended to get caught up in what appeared to be a gifted learner but at times I found myself imagining the full scholarship award ceremony and our first visit to an Ivy League school.

So in retrospect I believe reading to my womb had a positive impact on my daughter's language development and continues to this day with her true love of reading and learning. It is a great way to lay a foundation for learning and should be a pleasurable experience for its own sake. Stay in the moment as much as possible and know that too much emphasis on future plans can steal golden moments right in front of you.

To those that see reading to a fetus as a laughable concept I say try it and you may be amazed what a wonderful way it can be to unwind. Reading a children's story in a slow, soft way, the duties of the day float away and there you are with a cat in a hat or three little pigs. Better still create daily reading habits before the birth and you are sure to keep this nighttime ritual for many treasured years. Both you and your child will have sweeter dreams to share together and piles of stories to plan for the future.

It's Like Christmas! New Thumball Samples Arrived

As we travel the country exhibiting Thumball we are pleased when our customers share their own ideas for what would make a great Thumball. Literacy skills are essential to every student's development. Teachers, speech pathologists, English as A Second Language instructors and educational experts everywhere encouraged us to create a fun meaningful way to expand reading comprehension and written expression. We are proud to unveil our latest designs.

Parts Of A Story Thumball:
  • Teaches key elements of stories including plot, setting, characters, conflict etc.
  • Improves verbal expression and organization of thoughts.
  • A Book Report on a ball increases motivation and participation.
  • Stimulates discussions, comparisons/contrasts and fact vs. opinion
Tell The Tale Thumball:
  • The perfect companion to the Parts of A Story Thumball.
  • Retell familiar fairy tales, fables and modern classics.
  • Develops sequencing skills, brain mapping techniques, and verbal/non-verbal expression.
  • Use for dramatic play, improvisation and cooperative team building.
Have a catch and then respond to the panel under your thumb. It is fun and challenging to recall the particulars of a story. The bright shiny colors add extra appeal. Parts of a Story Thumball facilitates verbal explanations of story elements and when combined as written prompts offers the ideal literacy building activity.

Every age group can enjoy these language building exercises. Tell The Tale Thumball promotes the oral tradition of storytelling. Some of the fables have us scratching our heads at first but then they come back to us and we can even recall the morale of the story. It is especially useful for children to listen to adults tell and describe the stories as it provides a model for them to emulate.

New additions to our Thumball family of products is a cause for great celebration for us. I am wearing my Santa hat and everything. Observing the simple yet powerful way children and adults become engaged in learning is a true reward for our hard work. This is a smart way to play in every sense and will build a base for a lifetime of reading for business and pleasure. What favorite children's story can you recall?

Fish Gotta Swim, Kids Gotta Move

Parents, It's hot out there so the kids will be indoors more and they need activity, lots of it. Post-its have become a terrific teaching tool to me. In a matter of minutes I can jot down the names of our family, pets and friends, one on each post-it. Then I place them through out the house.
Now the kids get to hunt for the names. Older kids can carry a clip board and when they find a name they put it on the paper and write down where they found it. They must find all the names (throw in a few funny ones, Sponge Bob etc) and where they found them specifically (in the kitchen,on the counter under the microwave) before they can come back.

I tell them how many name post-its are out there. They can work as a team or take turns. The one with the most names found now gets to conduct the next hunt. They can choose to write letters, words, sentences or draw pictures and place them around the "approved rooms". The other kids get to hunt. They will be active mentally and physically and will come up with their own creative ideas in the process.
A fun twist is to pick 10 compound words (football, airport, snowman etc.) and write each word separately on a post-it. Once they find all 20 notes then they must sort them and make 10 words.

If you have younger children learning to read you can place 10 post-its all with the same word and it will help them build sight word vocabulary. Go to
for lists of these important words.

The value I get from a pack of post-its is fantastic but I attest that the 3M post-it people are not giving me a kick back.
Kids love to hunt, search, explore and discover even if it's small slips of sticky paper in the house. Language skills grow and hearing "I'm bored" fades away. Enjoy some lemonade and a day inside until the cool evening air lifts the heavy heat and the kids can hunt for lightening bugs instead.

Blogs, dreams and New Ideas

I awoke groggy and a bit grumpy this morning and needed time to remember to count my blessings. I was feeling overwhelmed negotiating my new interest in the world of blogging. Well the big world of blogging got nicer, friendlier and more accessible today.

Jeremiah McNichols of shared thoughts and recommendations useful to a new blogger such as myself. He was kind enough to answer my questions about the multitude of purposes a blog can serve and better still is reviewing our creation Thumball.

From the start, my intention was not to create a self serving blog concerned only with marketing our invention (even if it is the greatest thing since sliced bread). Jeremiah helped me recognize I wanted to create a place to describe the many ways Thumball can be played in order to serve every age and all ability levels whether in school, at home or in the office.

I am recognizing it is my expertise as a speech therapist that I want to share. Thumball was born during my work with students diagnosed with autism, communication impairments, learning disabilities, ADHD and emotional disturbance. I watched as their attention and motivation increased with the introduction of a ball and they began to get along with each other in positive ways.

So I literally had a dream in Dec of 2004 that told me "You must market this concept." So my husband and I listened to my dream's command and took the leap into the world of entrepreneurship and manufacturing. We have been living this dream for 3 and a half years now and I have learned more than I can believe possible.

Techniques flow from me on ways to facilitate communication and build learning skills and foster relationships that I forget not everybody can generate as easily.
This blog hopes to contribute to improved connections between brothers and sisters, teachers and students, employers and employees by playing with a purpose.

I look forward to sharing our experiences from the road at trade shows. I plan to continue my development of seminars that provide usable ideas which encourage and empower people. Expanding my technology skills while patiently learning how to offer a stimulating blog is a new goal.

We never stop learning and that gets me up in the morning and when I interact with an intelligent kind person like Jeremiah I sleep better at night.

Amusing Way To Describe Thumball, we love it!
Check out this site if you are in need of cool kid stuff and clever gift ideas. From funny to practical, new parents will assuredly find useful information, trendy products you may have missed and a place to enjoy parenting even more.
Thumball, our invention which educates and stimulates from birth to old as the hills was charmingly referred to as a soccer ball on acid (fun) but we have lots of other designs too, less acid more conversation and coffee.

The Shvoong: Business based on a ball. A Thumball that is.

The Shvoong: Business based on a ball. A Thumball that is.

Yoko Ono Has Our Balls!

Gwen Owens, a reporter for Comcast Channel 8 is one of those terrific, thoughtful, kind and intelligent people. A person we were lucky enough to meet because of Thumball. Gwen came to my elementary school in September 2007 to do a story on Thumball as an effective new learning tool which allows typically developing students to participate with non typically developing students in a fun way.Developing social skills is a natural consequence of a game of catch. The questions on Thumball take it to the next step and students are verbally expressing themselves to each other.

Our reporter Gwen, she was friendly and approachable and our conversation led to the peace tower which Yoko Ono was dedicating to her late husband John Lennon the following month in Iceland.

We recalled that anchor Larry Kane one of the first reporters to travel with the Beatles in the 1960s also worked at CN8 so we took a chance and asked Gwen if she knew him and if he might have contact information for Yoko Ono. Well she did and he did so we did the only natural next step and sent her the Catch Peace Thumball. It has the word peace in different languages and Yoko loved it. She decided to order 48 Thumballs to give as Christmas gifts in her continuing commitment to peace.

We were thrilled with our first (of we anticipate many) celebrity endorsements. Now my husband can proudly report "Yoko Ono loves my balls." I apologize if that is crude but ball jokes are inherent in our business. Gosh we love the Beatles and we miss John dearly. Thanks Yoko for everything. Peace.

Alzheimer's is bringing me down

My mother has it and so do some of yours. Alzheimer's disease is a tireless thief. It steals memories, family connections and energy. Visits to my mom at her specialized living center can be so drab I leave with my head hanging low and end up with my face in a pint of Ben and Jerrys.

But to my own surprise it is my own invention that has brightened our days. Using Thumball even the ones originally intended for 'early learners" have given Mom and I a place to focus. Asking her to name the animal, shape or letter under her thumb can be fun. Just when I think she has lost all her skills she comes alive and says "Oh that's a cat, we had a cat named Snowball but he ran away." She needs prompts and cues but she is doing something and we are sharing a memory and learning together.

I tell her my own stories, show her how the shape of things is all around her and name words which begin with b or m or p. Mom likes it and so do I. I leave now with more hope and look at her with a comforting Thumball in her hand and think, today I can drive past the market because I don't really need the ice cream I just needed my mom.

At a Loss for Words? Thumball can provide some.

A friend of a friend is Uncle to a youngster diagnosed with Autism. "At times it can be difficult to know what to do. He doesn't communicate verbally and I am at a loss for words when I am with him." Uncle reports. He took a chance on Thumball™ and bought the Animals design and the Emotion Mania Thumball™. His nephew readily received them and began turning it all around and looking at each panel.

Now there was a place to start so Uncle said "Can you show me a dog, the mouse, an animal that flies or has a tail? To his sweet surprise his nephew could do all of those things, smiles began to show and the fun continued for hours.

The Emotion Mania Thumball™ gave Uncle the chance to be silly and act out facial expressions and body language which mesmerized his nephew and soon he was trying to make faces too (a challenging concept for some) and this lasted through the day.

A simple ball engineered to stimulate communication had done it's job. The creativity that flowed on came from Uncle and nephew and a meaningful way to play and interact. Ready to play? It's your turn!

Thumball At Work? What is it Good For?

Thumball is ideal for trainings, meetings and teaching. Employee inservices become more interesting with the introduction of ball play. Audience participation increases. An alert brain retains more information. Co-workers from different departments that may have never met are now talking together. The Icebreaker Thumball is perfect for sharing preferences and experiences in a casual yet stimulating way.
Workshops turn into word play with My ABC's Thumball. Throw it, catch it and respond to the letter under your thumb with a word relating to the topic that begins with that letter. Challenges our brains and creates a lively interactive learning experience. Human Resource directors praise Thumball as the easiest most useful tool ever.