Each and every March the first harbinger of summer, a nondescript legal sized white envelope, arrives in my mailbox. It's the community pool registration forms. With as gray and dismal as Madison's spring can be, you'd think I'd be a little more excited for any sign that warmer weather might be on the way. But instead their delivery brings on a mild panic. You see, for me, those forms are the unavoidable signal that it's time to tackle summer scheduling for the kids - one of my least enjoyable activities of the year.
Summer's never been my favorite season; I hate mosquitoes, never-ending applications of sunscreen and any weather that causes my hair to frizz more than usual. But ever since having kids, my summer concerns have only gotten more pronounced. I can no longer enjoy Alice Cooper's classic, "School's out for summer, School's out forever" as the ode to freedom (and blowing things up, unfortunately) it was intended to be. Instead I hear only a dire maternal warning from the theatrical rocker: That the dog days between mid-June and late August will feel like an eternity. And if you work from home, as I've done for the past few years, summer can be a logistical nightmare. Without the relief that only careful scheduling can bring, every day may end up feeling like an unintended parody of "Take Your Child to Work Day."
And so it begins each spring--the plotting, the planning and the balancing. Trying to figure out just enough - but not too much - for each of the kids to do to stay busy and stay out of my hair. I spend hours researching; pouring over MSCR , YMCA and other like-acronymed catalogs. I get every detail mapped out on calendars, double-checking that I haven't overestimated my ability to drive from drama at the Shorewood Community Center to learn-to-row Brittingham Boat House in the 10 minutes I have allotted.
While I'm normally not much of a fan of governmental deregulation, I've always secretly wished the legislature would consider lifting the minimum driving age for summer only"it would be really nice if my oldest could help just a little with the chauffeuring.
Next is perhaps the part I dread most-- the frantic-form-fill-out. I have no idea what may have triggered this phobia, but I verge on hyperventilation while writing out my address, multiple phone numbers and insurance group IDs over and over. It doesn't matter if it's horse camp, zoo school or swim lessons, everyone needs to know my child's relation to his emergency contact. And I could personally guarantee success in many of the state senate recalls if only there was only a way to apply my countless signatures on medical release forms to the efforts.
To add insult to injury, I will inevitably make some sort of clerical sign-up error with potentially dire consequences. One year I pressed the wrong button on-line and had my then six-year-old daughter signed up for a full-length production of Rent as opposed to the pint-sized production of Alice and Wonderland I intended. The next year, I mistakenly signed my son up for the all-girl session of soccer camp. If he'd just been a few years older, he might have had the best summer of his life.
But as I lick the stamp and place it on the last registration envelope I get a little bittersweet. I do all of this work to get them out of the house for a few hours each day when, in just a few short years, they'll be out of the house all the time. I promise myself to remember this feeling during the first summer thunderstorm when I have a big project due and we are all trapped in the house.
How do you handle keeping your kids busy during their time off school? Do you do full-day, or even sleepaway camps? Or do you have a more laissez faire attitude toward the lazy days of summer?comments powered by Disqus
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.
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.