In every family the pecking order for holidays is different. In many homes Christmas is the top of the heap. In others, Thanksgiving or even the Fourth of July are when treasured memories are made. But in our house we are all about the birthday - the one holiday you don't have to share with anyone, unless, of course, you're a twin. I've always felt a little sorry for multiples on this account.
The day starts with the birthday kid waking up extra-early and snuggling into our bed. Then my husband and I retell the story of the day they were born. While Dad's sanitized version always manages to leave out breaking water and labor pains, the intention is the same; we want them to know that on this date our lives changed, unquestionably for the better. From there we move on to a breakfast of birthday-child selected cereal - the one time all year that Cookie Crisp or Froot Loops stands a chance to make it on the table. Presents, cake and the playing of the Beatles' "Birthday" always rounds out a pretty awesome, relatively low-stress day.
If the celebration could begin and end here, our family would be set. But there is always a question looming, and it begins to loom several months before the actual date of birth - "What are we going to do for the party?" Morphing into a pint-sized equivalent of the White House social secretary, he or she will start the planning: when will it be, where will it be, who will be invited? Will we invite the whole class or just the girls or just some girls? The political ramifications of these decisions can be great.
Madison, fortunately, has lots of amazing places to stage a winning birthday party. Whether you have boys or girls, toddlers or tweens, a budding naturalist or an emerging artist, there is life beyond Chuck E. Cheese's.
Ultrazone Laser Tag
680 Grand Canyon Dr., 608-833-8880
The allure of Laser Tag is strong - even addictive. My boys, 13 and 11, are huge fans and have been for years. I don't know if it is the adrenaline rush, the camaraderie, or tag aliases like Medusa or Thunderman - Ultrazone is always a hit. At the arena, a "Game Master" will lead your child and seven guests through two heart-pounding games, with a much-needed break for pizza, cake and present opening in between. The cost is $192 plus tax, but two adults play for free. According to owner Bob Sheridan, the grownups "seem to like it every bit as much as the kids."
218 State St., 608-204-2644
If your tween daughter is even remotely artsy, there is no way an afternoon at Anthology's craft table could disappoint as a birthday destination. Just call the store a few days in advance to book table time, pick your craft, and voilà, a built-in party favor. According to owners Sachi and Laura Komai, the decoupage mirror frame ($15 per person) and button bracelet ($14 per person) projects are particularly popular with girls 8 and up. And while there isn't a spot on-site for cake or presents, there are lots of great options up and down State Street to satisfy any sweet tooth.
4009 Felland Rd. #102, 608-244-4386
While I normally ascribe to the less-is-more philosophy when it comes to invites, a place like Bounce U comes in handy when your kid just can't cull the guest list. Up to 20 of your child's closest friends can spend over an hour in a private bounce extravaganza and then retire to the party room for cake and presents. Trust me, if you have this many kids coming, you don't want them bouncing on your furniture; it's way better to leave the entertaining to the party pros included in the package. And if you want to avoid "inflation," plan to bounce Monday through Wednesday. It'll cost less than 10 bucks a guest.
Dane County Humane Society
5132 Voges Rd., 608-838-0143
If man's best friend is also one of your child's, the Dane County Humane Society is hard to beat as a party option. With behind-the-scenes tours of adoptable animals, opportunity for animal interaction, and a scavenger hunt (depending on which birthday package you choose, starting at $125), this venue gives new meaning to the phrase "party animal." But call early - birthday parties here are extremely popular. And consider yourself warned: Your guests may want to take home a kitten instead of a goody bag.
Aldo Leopold Nature Center
300 Femrite Dr., Monona, 608-221-0404
Since kids will always insist on using outside voices, why not just have the party outside? That's the idea at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, where a trained naturalist will lead your child and guests in a specially designed program. Whether your outdoorsman (or woman) chooses Feathered Friends, Frogs or Incredible Insects as the theme, it's a great environment for a party. Just remember, you'll need to bring the cake, perhaps mud pie, from home. Cost: a very reasonable $100.
Madison Children's Museum
100 N. Hamilton St., 608-256-6445
All the birthday packages include admission to the got to-see-it-to-believe it museum - cows hanging from the ceiling and all - as well as 90 minutes in a decorated celebration room. And say goodbye to the same old party junk food; chefs from the on-site Bean Sprouts café cater with clever, kid-friendly munchies and all-natural artisan cakes. With creative event options starting at $190 for members, I'd love to have my birthday here, no kids invited.comments powered by Disqus
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition. It was my husband who had originally signed up to chaperone the event, thinking that spending a few days with his 11-year-old daughter and her compatriots would serve as an excellent anthropological experience. But when an unexpected work obligation made it impossible for him to attend, it was me left holding the bag
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.
Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint.
If you're checking out summer camps for your child, there are many issues -- some obvious, some less so -- to keep in mind. Here's a list to keep handy when you contact camps and camp directors, looking for the perfect spot for your kids to have fun, relax, and learn this summer.
I know, in the grand scheme of things, that my kid issues, when it comes to dining out, absolutely pale in comparison to those of parents whose kids have special needs. Many kids, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, are disturbed by changes in their routine, or anxious around noisy places. They may not be able tolerate waiting for a table or standing in line. So unfortunately, many of these families just avoid eating out at restaurants altogether.
It's weird to admit this, especially in a city surrounded by as much outdoor beauty as Madison. But frankly, I'm just not that into nature. I'm more of an indoor kind of gal. Give me an afternoon at the Chazen or the Wisconsin Historical Museum over the Arboretum or Olbrich Gardens any day.
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.