I am what you might call an inside person. I'd rather hang curtains than plant window boxes. I'd much sooner take a city than a beach vacation. I've been camping once - enough said. But there is one very clear exception to this rule for me, and it took moving to Wisconsin for me to discover it. Ice-skating is better outside. Cliché as it may sound, if you've never taken a spin (or even a tumble as I am far more apt to do) across a frozen lake as the sun is setting you haven't experienced the ultimate haiku moment. It is perhaps the only thing that, year after year, keeps me looking forward to winter.
Growing up a child of the mid-Atlantic region, skating was never a big part of my life, indoors or out. My suburb housed one public indoor rink, which I went to once, for a birthday party, in second grade. I was terrible. Wobbly ankles, miss-tied skates, and terrible boredom and bruises from going around clockwise -- then counterclockwise (the dreaded "reverse skate") -- to the sounds of the Captain and Tennille. The closest I ever got to ice-skating again was a very poor attempt at a Dorothy Hamill haircut in fourth grade. (Note: the "Hammill" doesn't work for curly-haired girls if you aren't willing to blow dry--or in my case, even brush). No skating in junior high or high school. No skating in college. No skating first dates like Rocky and Adrian. I would have been more willing to lace up boxing gloves than to attempt lacing skates again.
But the move to Wisconsin has changed my view of ice in some very profound ways. First, my oldest son got involved in hockey. While initially against my will and better judgment, it didn't take long for me to learn to appreciate the game's fast pace and what amazing skill "putting the biscuit in the basket" requires. But joining the West Madison Polar Caps club didn't actually get me on the ice, only behind the concession stand. No, it took a group of dedicated ice-o-phile neighbors and the constant urging of my skate-happy kids to get me back on the blades.
A few years back, when the temps dipped below freezing, a small fraternity of committed (or should be committed -- they do it at 3 AM) "hosers" froze the softball diamond at our beloved Hillington Green park for the first time in years, creating the most Norman Rockwell-esque patch of ice even Scott Hamilton could imagine. The rest of my family couldn't wait to get on. But while I appreciated the rink as a thing of visual beauty, I planned to remain a conscientious objector to actual skating. It just wasn't my sport, especially outside, where all my friends and neighbors could see me. But my kids were persistent that I participate and eventually melted my resolve. So one evening in early December, we all headed out to the rink. As the sun began to set I tentatively laced up my new heavily padded "comfort" skates -- a marked improvement over figure skates for those who don't actually skate figures. And, wonder of wonders, I stood up, and with one of my children helping me balance on each side; I made a very slow circle around the ice. Not only did I not fall (too dramatically), but with their help, was able to experience some pretty wonderful things. I glided under starlight and made swizzles and snowplows -- skating-style. I now finally understood the reason why so many folks in this community are so passionate about their outdoor rinks.
But the most amazing thing I discovered was the beauty of letting my kids help me. It was a genuine role reversal -- a different kind of "reverse skate". I didn't embarrass them, as I do more often than I'd like to admit to. I didn't even really embarrass myself. Instead they encouraged me, were proud of me -- in some ways parented me.
They taught me the benefits of getting outside-- of both the house and my comfort zone. What kinds of things have your kids taught you? Have you had any "reverse skate" moments brought on by the urging of your children?comments powered by Disqus
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.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.