Mama Madison: A busy back-to school

A return to the super-schedule

I guess you can call me the "Mom Who Cried Potluck." Just three short months ago, this blog waxed poetic on how ridiculously crazy the end of the school year was. It seemed impossible to me at the time that any month would dare to be busier than June.

But failing memory is just one more unpleasant by-product of advancing age; I had completely forgotten how nutty September, in all its back-to-school glory, can be. I just pray that I am asked to bring the paper products to this week's "All School Welcome Picnic"; I don't think I have another pasta salad in me.

Over the next week or so, I will have the privilege of attending no fewer than four different back-to-school nights. To be honest, I am not sure how this happened. I only have three children and I'm pretty sure each attends only one school. And fall sports and afterschool activities are back with a vengeance. My electronic calendar now looks like a Rubik's Cube with its constantly shifting matrix of color-coded calendars, one for each family member. And much like when wrestling with the annoying 3-D puzzle, I don't dare shift any activity off Wednesday, the day currently wreaking havoc on my carpool schedule, out of fear of what that one change will mean for the other six days of the week.

While I'm not much one to romanticize the past, this flurry of activity makes me a little nostalgic for the time when my kids were much younger and our lives seemed simpler. I vividly remember, not so many years ago, when I was dying for a reason to get out of the house instead of dying for a night when we could all just stay home. Some of my fondest parenting memories are of fall, when my toddler son and I would head up every afternoon to the fields behind the Natatorium to watch the UW Marching Band practice. We could while away the "witching hour"-- the dreaded stretch from naptime until dinner-- listening to the strains of "On Wisconsin" and "Roll Out the Barrel."

Neighborhood construction was another welcome "what to do when you have nothing to do" time-passer. My oldest son, passionate about heavy machinery from the day he was born, could distinguish a front loader from a backhoe long before he could walk. I think he may have said cherry picker before he said Mama. Man, would he have loved to attend Madison's inaugural "Big Rig Gig" , a showcase of city construction equipment big, loud and dirty, at the Goodman Pool parking lot. If I could force myself to find the time, maybe he and I can bring my three-year-old nephew down this Saturday and relive the days of when "Here Comes a Dump Truck" was the preferred tape in the VCR. I wonder if my son can even remember that time, long before Netflix streaming, when we actually owned a VCR.

I'm writing this post at 6 a.m. Saturday. My son is up as well. We were both awakened by the sounds of the UW Marching band's crack-of-dawn practice before their first Saturday morning game. It is a gentle, if not ungodly early, reminder of that time not so long ago when he and I made plans vs. felt so planned out. And it isn't like we don't need to be up anyway. We have a soccer game at eight. It's on the calendar, in yellow.

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