My son is still humming songs from last spring's production of The Lion King at Overture Hall. I am, too, along with repeating the funny lines and sniffling whenever I think about the emotional climax.
Can any family-friendly shows for the fall season match The Lion King for sheer entertainment value? Let's survey some of the contenders and keep our fingers crossed.
Kids in the Rotunda
Overture Center, Sept. 25-Nov. 27
The Overture Center's free program offers a reliable answer to that nagging Saturday morning question: What can we do with the kids today? For the fall season, a bunch of cool local bands retool their acts for young ears: the bluesy Cash Box Kings (Oct. 2), karaoke-rockers the Gomers (Oct. 23) and the percussion-heavy Handphibians (Nov. 13). Other crowd-pleasers include the Wild Rumpus World Circus (Oct. 9), Wayne the Wizard's Halloween Show (Oct. 30) and Daniel Barash's shadow puppetry (Nov. 27).
Children's Theater of Madison, Overture Center Playhouse, Oct. 16-24
CTM targets the youngest theatergoers with this adaptation of Margaret Wise Brown's immortal children's book. Lots of kids fall asleep when you read them the story, but I don't think that will be a problem during this production, featuring lively music, puppets and dancing. You'll leave with new respect for the drowsy bunny hero.
Richie's House of Jazz
Monona Terrace, Oct. 27
Nowadays, there aren't many chances for kids to get bitten by the jazz bug, and that's a shame. But wait! Monona Terrace's free, family-oriented concert features bebop saxophonist extraordinaire Richie Cole and the vocal quintet Five by Design. If your child digs this show, you'll know you have a budding hipster on your hands.
Strega Nona: The Musical
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, Nov. 21
This touring musical is a pop-up book come to life for kids 4 to 9. Based on Tomie de Paola's Strega Nona stories, it's about a good witch who solves workaday problems in her small Italian town. The coup de thétre: a magical pot that spews pasta all over the stage.
The Yum Yum Room
University Theatre, Nov. 12, 13, 14 & 20
The University Theatre's production isn't appropriate for kids under 15, but it will appeal to lovelorn high school students (in other words, all high school students). Australian playwright Stephen House tells the story of a small-town boy whose life turns around during his first romance. This is the play's U.S. debut.
Overture Center's Overture Hall, Nov. 27 & 28
This riot of movement and music is created by the folks behind the movie Drumline, about a Harlem street drummer who joins a college marching band. Overture doesn't list the touring musical version as a kids' event, but I suspect certain older kids will indeed thrill to the big beats and blasting brass. The several dozen performers come from marching bands at historically black colleges, and they transform the stage into the world's funkiest football field.
Middleton Holiday Pops
Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Nov. 27-28, Madison Marriott West
Madison Symphony Orchestra, Dec. 3-5, Overture Hall
These holiday shows by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and Madison Symphony Orchestra offer kids easy entrée into the world of classical music. The Middleton High School Concert Choir and soprano Amanda Huddleston join the WCO for such sonic treats as "Concert Suite from The Polar Express" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The MSO's Christmas Spectacular features Metropolitan Opera soprano Angela Brown, the Madison Youth Choirs, Madison Symphony Chorus and Mount Zion Gospel Choir in a can't-miss program of holiday favorites. Don't be surprised if your child asks for a violin for Christmas.
Dance Wisconsin, Dec. 3-5, Wisconsin Union Theater
Madison Ballet, Dec. 18-26, Overture Hall
Madison Ballet mounts a lavish version of The Nutcracker, with choreography by artistic director W. Earle Smith and score by Tchaikovsky. Dance Wisconsin's delightful adaptation features artistic director JoJean Retrum's choreography and original music. I took two middle school boys to the Dance Wisconsin production last year, expecting complaints. But they enjoyed it - a true Christmas miracle.
A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play
Madison Theatre Guild, Dec. 4-18, Bartell Theatre
Madison Theatre Guild takes over Scrooge duties from Children's Theater of Madison this year. The troupe presents a radio version, heavy on evocative sounds. Rattle those chains, Mr. Marley.
A Wonderful Life
Children's Theater of Madison, Overture Center's Capitol Theater, Dec. 10-23
Children's Theater of Madison had perfected A Christmas Carol over the years, but I guess there's such a thing as too much perfection. For its 2010 holiday production, CTM opts for a change of pace: a musical based on It's a Wonderful Life, that American-style Christmas Carol about a man granted a supernatural second chance. An angel gets his wings - that ought to end 2010 on a positive note.
Like many parents, I look at the wide world around my kids and do my best to prepare them for life. We talk about working hard, being kind and responsible, Internet safety, stranger danger, and the (gulp) birds and the bees. But what about a topic such as race?
If you're like me, looking around your house in the weeks before Christmas will probably have you convinced that the last thing your kids need to find underneath the tree is a pile of new toys.
I spend a lot of time talking to my kids about how lucky we are to have what we have. Though our house is tiny and our van is unequipped with automatic doors, we have all we could ever need, and a lot of what we want.
On the evening of Nov. 6, a throng of people gathered at Monona Terrace. They were there to attend an impressive anniversary shindig, but the real buzz of excitement centered on the event's guest of honor.
You may call them "play dates," but I like the term "mom dates," especially since my kids are still too young to really care that there's another small person to squabble over toys with.
If there is an excuse for not working out and eating healthy, I have used it: I don't have time. I'm too tired. I'll start tomorrow. I'm no good at this, I give up. I don't know where to start. Yes, I have used all of these and more.
At almost a year old, my kids are in the blissful stage of life where they'll eat nearly anything that I put in front of them (at least as long as it doesn't require much in the way of molar action).
My family recently went through something that we have not experienced in over eight years. We have become a household that no longer harbors a crib or a changing table.
"There really is no wrong way to do it." That's how Madeline, age 13, describes creating artwork. She and her classmates at Prairie View Middle School in Sun Prairie are honing their artistic skills by participating in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's Art on Tour program.
I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.
I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Melissa Wardy of Janesville got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
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.