Just a few weeks back, the New York Times ran a story that posed, what seemed to me, a pretty innocuous question: Could the modern minivan ever be recast as cool ? Yet, in the course of two days, the article received over 200 strongly worded comments on-line. Sure, I totally understand why public breast-feeding, "Tiger mothering" and attachment parenting might be controversial in some circles. But driving a minivan? Is this really a major philosophical divide among parents?
My brief personal journey to van ownership commenced in the spring of 2002. Up until that time my family had grown quite attached to the used Subaru wagon we had purchased the very week we moved to Wisconsin, some four years earlier. The car was sporty, outdoorsy and serious of purpose - some of the qualities I admired most in my new Madison neighbors. And, to be honest, so many of them drove the exact same dark green model I was pretty sure Legacy ownership must have been written into the Regent Neighborhood Association by-laws.
But in my 38th week of pregnancy with child number three, it dawned on my husband and I that perhaps we should check if a third car seat could be strapped safely across the back. Always up for a challenge, he got to work and with the grace and ferocity of an Australian crocodile hunter managed to wrestle the trio into the back seat. Sure, it took a full 30 minutes, but he had won"until we tried to close the doors. It wasn't going to happen. Yet another watershed moment in parenting had been reached; we were going minivan. And we were going to have to go quickly"I was starting to have Braxton Hicks contractions.
The next morning we headed over to the car dealership where, for the first time in my life, I squeezed behind the driver's seat of a minivan. It felt great for many practical, rational reasons: lots of room, automatic sliding doors, and a five star crash test rating. But it also felt good emotionally. I was ready to embrace everything van ownership might say about my "personal brand." I was about to be a mom of three.
I was safe and responsible and not ashamed to admit I wanted room in the back for diapers, wipes and a double stroller. I wasn't worried about losing my last shred of "cool"; just a bit worried about losing the car in the parking lot of Target. My gosh, there are a lot of silver Odysseys out there. Three weeks later, driving comfortably home from the hospital with all three strapped in, two in plush captain's chairs, I knew it was the start of a beautiful relationship.
But alas, the van went down like the Titanic in the winter of 2008. She fell victim to the iceberg that had amassed in the apron of our driveway. Lazy shoveling is not without consequence. We didn't replace her with another van but instead a Honda Pilot. After all, we were done with strollers and down to just one car seat. The kids were getting older and could easily get in and out of the car by themselves. It was time to embark on a new kind of Odyssey. And perhaps time to give sporty another chance.
Do you think your ride says something important about you as a parent? Care to join in the authoring of the minivan manifesto?comments powered by Disqus
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.
My passion for the talent show clearly runs deep, but I'm more than just a fangirl. This year marked my second as one of the "Ziegfelds" of the Follies, Hamilton's annual showcase for singers, musicians, dancers and other varied forms of entertainment. Trust me, when you are part of the spectacle's "producing/directing" team you get a new-found appreciation for how hard the kids worked to get up on stage.
My daughter, who turned twelve just this past week, is not legally "of age" when it comes to social media. But I guess, in many respects, especially in those that involve screens, I am a permissive pushover. I've allowed her join some networks.
What adults love about camping -- sleeping under the stars, getting away from it all, the sounds of nature -- can be scary for children. It's dark in a tent. Nothing is familiar. Of course, camping with kids is more work for adults, too. Stay cool, live in the moment. Forget about that lost fork. Making s'mores, spotting wildlife, that's what kids will remember.
I have just returned from a whirlwind, five-day, four-city college tour with my son. You know those "101 Things to Know Before Visiting Disney World" guidebooks that experienced theme park travelers have written to help the uninitiated? I think I am now officially seasoned enough in information sessions and campus tours to give some serious thought to penning a similar "insiders guide" for the junior-year parent.
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 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.