Poet T.S. Eliot had no children. And I doubt he'd ever experienced a Wisconsin winter, either, when he proclaimed April to be the cruelest month. Because as every mom and dad in the upper Midwest knows, each and every one of February's 28 days can feel like an eternity when, due to cruddy weather, you are stuck in the house with young kids.
Fortunately, though, the Madison area has a number of terrific indoor venues that can keep February from feeling like a parenting wasteland. Some are so much fun, in fact, that you might even start wishing leap year came around a little more often.
Golfing through history
In many ways, Vitense Golfland's indoor "Madison Landmark" course is as much a mini-local history lesson as it is a mini-golf destination. That's because each of its 18 holes pays delightful and interactive homage to an iconic capital city building, business or place of interest.
Where else around town can a kid get the chance to send a brightly colored golf ball straight through the rotunda of a Wisconsin State Capitol reproduction? Or attempt a hole-in-one while standing alongside a replica of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile?
And with Vitense's $22 all-day wristband, your child can enjoy not just the mini-golf, but a trip to the heated driving range, tokens for the arcade and access to the remote-control boats, as well.
Vitense Golfland's Madison Landmark Course
501 Schroeder Rd., 608-271-1411, vitense.com
There is no mirrored ball or white leisure suit requirement, but you and the kids are guaranteed to catch "Saturday Day Fever" at the Great Dane-Hilldale this month. On Feb. 2 and 16, the brewpub's pool hall lounge will be transformed once again into a thoroughly non-decadent version of Studio 54.
The kids will enjoy snacks, and parents a much-needed beer, as beloved Madison DJ Nick Nice spins family-friendly dance tunes from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. And at just $5 per person ($20 max for the whole family), this popular Great Dane tradition offers parents a really great reason for "Stayin' Alive" this winter.
Don't worry if you can't make either of the February dates. You'll get one more chance at the final Kid Disco of the season on March 2.
Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co.-Hilldale 357 Price Place, 608-661-9400, hilldale.greatdanepub.com
Finding age-appropriate activities for the very littlest ones can be quite a challenge. But Happy Bambino, the east-side retail store and resource center that specializes in "bellies, babies and breastfeeding," offers more than just the latest products for newborns and their caregivers.
It is also the Madison-area go-to place for joining up with an existing, organized parent/child playgroup. From the Cuddlebugs group for newborns to six-month-olds, to the Nightcrawlers (6- to 12-month-olds), right up through the Fireflies option for two- to three-year-olds, the store offers a warm and sanity-saving place to get out of the house with like-minded folk and their offspring this winter. Trust me - your bambino won't be the only one leaving the store happy.
4116 Monona Dr., 608-513-0789, happybambino.com
Six thousand square feet of tuckered out
In this age of helicopter parenting, "less is more" can be an excellent childrearing philosophy. But in the dreary doldrums of February, when you really need to tire the rugrats out, "more is more" might be just the ticket. And while the name conjures up images of a stodgy prep school, it's the fun that's poured on thick at the Legacy Academy, Fitchburg's absolutely enormous indoor activity center.
During their daily open gym, your future legacy (preschoolers up through preteens are welcome) can enjoy 6,000 square feet of playground, including Rainbow Treehouse play sets, a jumping pit and a Super Strike bowling alley. And don't forget the tricycles, hula-hoops and jump ropes galore. Did I mention the swinging ropes, swing sets, hoppity balls and gymnastics equipment? Your kid is sure to leave elated - and absolutely exhausted. All for $5 a kid. That's a way better deal than prep school.
Legacy Academy Activity Center
2881 Commerce Park Dr., Suite G, Fitchburg 608-270-9977, legacyacademy.com
If you thought you needed to drive to the Dells to enjoy some aquatic fun this winter, look no further than Crawdaddy Cove, Mad Town's only indoor waterpark. The Louisiana Bayou-themed attraction, targeted to the younger set, boasts the very impressive looking S.S. Crawdaddy shrimp boat at pool center, as well as a 55-foot open-body waterslide, five smaller slides, shooting fountains, basketball hoops and a kiddie pool. For the adults, who will definitely need a little spa therapy after a few trips down the waterslide, there is an oversized whirlpool/hot tub.
Crawdaddy Cove is located in the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites on Madison's far west side, and the use of the waterpark is free if you book a room. Birthday party packages are also available.
Crawdaddy Cove Water Park
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, 1109 Fourier Dr. 608-826-0500, wiscohotels.com
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.
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.