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
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.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
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.