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
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.
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.