It's often said that everyone is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day, and for my kids this is more than just a little bit true. Both of their paternal great-grandparents were farm folk from County Clare who immigrated over 90 years ago, fleeing their war-torn homeland. My husband grew up hearing the tales of how his Grandma Nora had gotten so involved with the Irish Republican Army that she had little choice but to board that boat in 1920 and set sail for New York - it was a matter of personal safety.
Arriving at Ellis Island at only 19, Nora would create a new life for herself and her soon-to-be born only child William, known to our kids as Grandad Billy. Billy grew up poor but tough in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. He rooted for the Dodgers, played street football and enlisted as a Marine in World War II.
Much to his Irish Mom's relief he returned safely, and thanks to the G.I. Bill of 1944, was able to attend the University of Oklahoma; he was anxious to leave the hardscrabble life of the Big Apple behind. Call it "luck of the Irish" or just plain hard work, he was able to make good on the promise of the "American Dream."
My family and I have celebrated this story at the annual Madison St. Patrick's Day Parade ever since its rebirth in 1998. We love watching local officials like Sheriff Dave Mahoney and Mayor Dave march along side of Irish dancers, Irish wolfhounds and fire trucks. And while I normally prefer my leprechauns animated in cereal commercials, Joe Herr, Madison's real life incarnation of this mythical creature, is a parade highlight.
This past Sunday's parade was the biggest and most delightful to date, with sunny weather and some Irish themed protest signs. You have to appreciate the Emerald Isle spunk of "The Bill is Blarney" and "Get the Snakes out of the Capitol" regardless of your politics.
But I don't just embrace St. Patrick's Day as a shout-out to my kids' Irish heritage or a reason to enjoy a parade. For me, "getting my Irish on" is a reminder that everyone comes from somewhere. We all have a family history, a lineage.
The soundtrack to my people's story is much more a Jazz Singer/Fiddler on the Roof mash-up than Danny Boy and Sinead O'Connor. But I think about my ancestors -- the Cohens, the Rosenthals, and the Ratners -- as I watch the numerous Murphy and O'Malley clans march proudly around the square. I see my own story, not to mention my own ridiculously curly hair, in the Irish Dancers as they high step on by. Whether the corned beef is Katz's or served with cabbage, it is still the salty meat of a proud heritage.
Yes, I guess for me St. Patrick's Day isn't just a chance to drink green beer and shout Erin Go Braugh. I see it as an annual opportunity to honor and cultivate my family tree--even if the garden in which it grows contains a whole lot more than shamrocks.comments powered by Disqus
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.
My 11th-grade and 8th-grade sons have heard "the chant" for years. You know which one I'm talking about -- the ESFY (U?) chant (I'm not sure what the parenting post rules are for writing two of the more forbidden four-letter words in the English language) that appears to have both Barry Alvarez and Chancellor Blank quite concerned.
There are many different criteria parents use when evaluating which pre-school programs will be right for their children. Some parents might be looking for an educational philosophy that stresses creativity and community. Others may desire an option that revolves around learning through play or is more academic in approach.
We spent hours poring over name books and checking for inappropriate initial combinations. We looked at meanings, variant spellings and popularity charts. And, as I am sure every parent does, we thought we'd hit the name jackpot with each of our kids. But there are always surprises.
A generation or two ago, the pediatrician was the guy (yes, they were mostly guys) who gave your kids shots and prescribed big bottles of antibiotics for every sniffle. Madison's Dipesh Navsaria is a different breed of pediatrician.
Gamehole Con will be the premier tabletop gaming convention in the region. And with Wisconsin being the birthplace of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the nation's leader in gaming stores per capita, it kind of makes sense that the convention's organizers want the Dairy State to be known for more than just cheese, beer and bratwurst.
This year I will also try to ease up some of my previous costume concerns. Sure, the world is rife with inappropriate dress up choices for our kids; there is no parent out there that is keen on his or her child dressing like a pint-sized prostitute, even for one night.
This past Saturday, I took my youngest to hear Caldecott award-winning author/illustrator Kevin Henkes read from his latest work, The Year of Billy Miller, a short novel for the early elementary grades.
I was greeted at the door by Tom Moen, who has served as executive director of what he likes to call "Madison's best kept secret", for the past 39 of the center's 47 years. Located in the middle of the subsidized Truax Park apartment complex, EMCC, with its vast array of offerings for kids, seniors and everyone in between, is unquestionably the heart of the neighborhood.
Madison's Kashmira Sheth has written four award-winning novels for middle grade and teen readers, and a popular chapter book for six- to nine-year-olds, but right now her picture books are what she's excited to talk about.
A few summers back, my daughter, maybe 8 or 9 at the time, decided to take part in our swimming pool's annual water ballet show. I'm not really sure what initially piqued her interest in the somewhat under-the-radar, very much under-the-water sport of synchronized swimming.
We rarely included a stop at the Central Library as part of our regular outing. For those of you who've been in Madison for a while, I'm sure you'd agree that the old building was pretty run down. Not to mention, dark, cavernous and depressing. Libraries, at their best, should be portals to discovery, right?
My eleven-year-old daughter spent most of last weekend alone in her room, door shut. It wasn't a temper tantrum or an overwhelming need for tween privacy that led to her self-induced isolation, though. Instead, I didn't see her (except for meals) for two days because she was, in her words, "going through her closet."
Yes, the 2004 classic comedy Mean Girls is an absolutely delightful movie. But it's definitely not the smartest mother/daughter viewing as your child is about to enter her inaugural year of middle school.
Despite celebrating 30 years in business this year, Knowledge Unlimited Inc. remains relatively unknown in the community. Those concerned with closing the achievement gap in Madison's schools, however, may want to take note. This award-winning educational-materials producer, based in Middleton, is unique in emphasizing multiculturalism throughout its lines of educational posters, DVDs and children's books.