I was a bit surprised when my oldest son announced he was going to see the midnight showing of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows--Part 2, on opening night, no less. It was a female friend's 14th birthday, and trust me, if you ever want to get a 14 year-old boy to do anything, just have a 14 year-old girl ask him.
Never before had my son expressed even an iota of interest in seeing The Deathly Hallows"Part 1, or the Prisoner of Azkaban or any of the other films in the immensely popular series. He had never read a single one of the books. It seemed the wizard world just didn't do it for him.
I'd always kind of hoped he'd eventually jump on the Harry Potter bandwagon. It seemed to be the pop-cultural thing to do. Like Judy Blume books and Sherwood Schwartz (RIP) sitcoms have been for me, they could provide a shared experience and immediate connection to all other kids born in same generation. Hogwarts could be something for him to talk about with his new college roommate on that first awkward day.
But he always preferred non-fiction to tales of magic and Muggles. Why read about Albus Dumbledore when you could read about Abraham Lincoln or Ulysses S. Grant--bearded men who actually lived? Why study up on the rules of Quidditch when a Golden Snitch was so much more elusive than a real-life baseball.
But at least he read. A lot. Son number two? Not so much.
I've been struggling this summer to get him to crack a book at all. Sometimes he'll humor me by reading inappropriate song lyrics on-line. Occasionally I can get him to get to tackle the back of cereal boxes. He is starting to know quite a bit about the benefits of oat bran, and that's not all bad.
But an actual book, you know, with pages, seemed out of the question. I was kind of afraid he might forget how.
"Mom, you can't forget how to read," he'd remind me. "It's just like riding a bike, but not as fun."
I had my work cut out for me.
I set timers set to 30 minutes, but he never seemed to get beyond page one. We encouraged him to enter the Madison Public Library reading challenge that, upon completion of 10 books, entered you in a drawing to shadow Paul Soglin for the day. It was a no-go: I think the Mayor is still on my son's naughty list for threatening to pull the plug on "Ride the Drive." We even dinked around with our own reward system, promising a trip to Babcock Hall for completing a non-fiction work. And a malt at Michael's for fiction. There is very little he won't do for a frozen dairy treat.
Except, as it turns out, read.
I felt like we'd tried every trick in the book.
But we'd never tried the book about magic.
My husband and I had somehow assumed that since Son #1 hadn't really sparked to Harry Potter, that Son #2 wouldn't either--as if taste in reading material was somehow hereditary and we had both passed on a recessive Rowling gene.
But when his brother was out seeing the Potter movie, we read the first chapter of book one of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone out loud to him. And he was hooked. The 309-page book is now almost finished and we have the second installment waiting for immediate inhalation upon its completion.
I don't care if it is black magic or some other illegal substance that J.K. Rowling sprinkles on those books. "The Boy Who Lived" has turned my son into "The Boy Who Read." I'll happily sell my soul to "he-who-must-not-be-named" if we can just keep this up through the school year.
We still have a while before he's made it through the whole Potter series. But I need suggestions for the follow-up. What titles have you relied on for keeping your kids reading this summer?comments powered by Disqus
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
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.