I'm a trusting soul at heart when it comes to the media. I'm the woman that reads the cover of the National Enquirer in the grocery line and wants to believe, each and every week, that Jennifer Aniston is finally pregnant with her long-desired child. Or that Britney Spears may have actually found true love at last. But of course, I know in my heart of hearts, that what I am reading isn't actually "news" but more likely a little hopefully harmless piece of fiction created to entertain folks like me as we place our carrots on the checkout conveyor belt.
Sometimes, I succumb and bring one of the gossip rags home -- it's hard to resist a good bathroom-length article on Duchess Kate Middleton's pregnancy woes. But if one of my kids gets a hold of the weekly and asks if the latest on Justin Bieber's alleged drug use is true, I anounce this kind of "media" must be taken with a grain of salt. Sure, there might be a tidbit of actual fact here and there, but for the most part every one who reads this stuff knows it's a bunch of half-truths and, at times, no truth at all. I point out to them that the star being showcased is never actually interviewed in the article, but instead the "reporter" relies on "trusted sources" and unnamed "close friends." Things are different, I tell them, when it comes to more respected forms of journalism.
But with this past week's Lance Armstrong doping confession and Manti Te'O fake girl friend controversy, I am feeling the need to tell my kids the skepticism I have encouraged them to employ when leafing through Tiger Beat should also be extended to the mainstream media, as well. Especially, it seems, when it comes to sports stars.
My kids aren't big biking enthusiasts, but it pained me nonetheless to tell them that all those stories they read in Sports Illustrated for Kids about Armstrong -- one of the biggest sports legends of our time -- were a pack of lies. And my oldest, a huge college football fan, couldn't help feel anything but blindsided when he discovered the touching stories he heard on ESPN about Te'O's "girlfriend's" recovery from a serious car accident only to discover she had leukemia, were nothing but an elaborate not-exactly-in April Fool's joke.
SI for Kids and ESPN, while hardly bastions of hard-hitting investigative journalism, aren't exactly US Weekly, either. But I guess I need to consider warning my kids not to believe blindly what they see or hear, regardless of sources. I should probably advise them to keep their guard up at all times, and to remind them that if a story sounds too good to be true, whether it be a dope-free seven Tour de France wins or a college football star's "Love Story"-esque romance, it probably is.
But the Pollyanna in me will probably continue to encourage them to keep on believing that genuine inspirational stories, while perhaps rare, can still happen. It seems a lot less fun to parent in a world where I need to advise my kids to cast doubt on everything. I don't want them to start to question if 2012's "Sports Illustrated Sports Kid of the Year" Cayden Long, is actually in a wheel chair. Or if Kerri Strug was faking her sprained ankle when she painfully stuck that landing back in 1996. Or if the Russians might have actually thrown the "Miracle on Ice" game in that hockey movie they love so much.
I want them to still feel that it's ok to get caught up in the emotion of a great story, even if you risk ending up disappointed.
And I'm still holding out hope that maybe this time, Jennifer Aniston, really truly might be pregnant with twins.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.