Running a 5K with a bunch of 8-, 9- and 10-year-old girls last spring, Toni Herkert had to remember that kids run differently from grownups.
"They start out fast, leaving some adults in the dust," recalls Herkert, board president of the new Dane County chapter of Girls on the Run. "Suddenly they get tired, and start walking. Then their energy comes back and, whoo! They're off again." Tired or not, each girl crossed the finish line with "a big, proud smile," says Herkert, who chaperoned the group through the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure last spring as part of Girls on the Run's pilot session in Madison.
Exuberant bursts, outsize determination, lots of pride -- sound like any girl you know? Parents who'd like to push the "save" button on their elementary school daughters' positive outlook will find fervent support through Girls on the Run Dane County. The after-school recreation program aims to preserve the healthy sense of self that bubbles over in so many younger girls, but often seems to ebb as puberty approaches. Backed by research that says exercise is a powerful antidote to the ills of adolescence, Girls on the Run starts third- through fifth-grade girls on a track to emotional and physical health by focusing on that most basic of human movements: putting one foot in front of the other.
"If you can catch girls before fifth grade and give them the proper tools, their chances of staying healthy and saying no to risky behaviors are much higher," says GOTR's national founder Molly Barker, in Madison last month to train volunteer coaches for the 12-week sessions now under way at Shorewood Hills Community Center, Hoyt School, and MAC Sports Center in Verona.
"There's lots of skipping, hopping, giggling, and examining of bugs on the side of the track," says Barker. Though having particpants complete a 5K run is one of the program's goals, the girls aren't hectored through their paces. The emphasis is on feeling happy and working as a team. Each of the twice-weekly "lessons" addresses a girl-relevant issue -- the down-side of gossip, for example -- and includes warm-up games, a chance to share thoughts, a group cheer, and running. Or walking or skipping. The idea is simply to move forward, though many girls surprise themselves by running at least part of the time.
By asking girls to focus on what their bodies can do, not what they look like, Girls on the Run addresses physical strength as well as overall well-being. One lesson requires the girls to run alone, without talking. For 15 minutes, they sample that meditative space craved by so many adult runners.
Coaches don't have to be runners, though many are, including Erin Falligant, who believes GOTR gives girls the tools to enjoy the sport and keep at it. But that's not the only reason she volunteered.
"During coaches' training, we were asked to remember who we were at age 9," she says. "Tapping into that happy, confident little girl is a way to reward myself, as well as help these girls stay younger, longer."comments powered by Disqus
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.