If you celebrate Christmas, whether in a secular or religious way, and even if you don't, it's hard to deny there's a lot of beauty to appreciate in the season. I kind of wish malls decorated their interiors all year long; boughs of holly certainly go a long way in warming up the dull, windowless interior of West Towne.
And I'll never cease to be impressed by the yuletide creativity of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Nothing says Happy Holidays quite as brightly as the lit-up Packer and Badger helmets at Fantasy in Lights in Olin Park. I enjoy hearing carols playing in the dentist's office and seeing trees tied precariously to the tops of cars on their way to prominent living room displays. But, perhaps because I am a mother, my favorite sensory display of the season has always been the nativity scene.
Because feel as you may about the dueling creches at the State Capitol, they always remind me that the Christmas story is essentially a birth story. And everyone loves a good birth story.
I have three of my own and they are all different. The first took place in a busy downtown Chicago hospital and was aided by modern medication. While my birth plan had been somewhat non-specific on the whole drug thing, the nurse on duty that night told me the closest thing they got to natural childbirth at Northwestern Hospital was a mom without a pedicure. The pushing was long and hard, but the prize well worth it"healthy son number one.
The second was my first Madison birth. I remember being extremely impressed by the plush birthing suite at Meriter, as well as with the attentive nurses who tried (unsuccessfully) to convince me I didn't need an epidural. I felt a bit bad letting them down, but enjoyed the controlled, calm delivery. Calm, that is, until my second son appeared with the cord wrapped three times around his neck. He's been good for surprises ever since.
My final delivery was more closely akin to a short story than a novel. I went to the hospital bright and early on a Monday a.m., evidently fully dilated. Within 20 minutes I had a little girl. I still prize my daughter's efficiency, even though I felt a little gypped there wasn't time during labor for the lower back massage the midwives had promised.
My stories, quite abbreviated here, all took place at hospitals. There were no mangers, no sheep, and no angels, unless of course you count the resident who administered the epidurals. And while I would have loved to have three, or even more, wise men come bearing gifts, I settled for just one, my husband, bearing a milk shake instead of myrrh, the only thing I craved, except snuggling my baby, in the hours immediately following delivery.
But a seeing a nativity scene will always make me smile. Because whether made of painted tin, or whittled wood, or even brightly colored plastic with a removable camel saddle like the Playmobil version, they all celebrate something beautiful"the welcoming of a child.
And even when the night leading up to the birth isn't silent, these stories are holy to someone. And always worthy of being told.comments powered by Disqus
This post will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage. 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. There is no question I completely enjoyed my break from the kids. But my biggest discovery this past weekend was that it was the kids, perhaps, who needed a break even more.
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.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.
My 11th-grade and 8th-grade sons have heard "the chant" for years. You know which one I'm talking about -- the ESFY (U?) chant (I'm not sure what the parenting post rules are for writing two of the more forbidden four-letter words in the English language) that appears to have both Barry Alvarez and Chancellor Blank quite concerned.
There are many different criteria parents use when evaluating which pre-school programs will be right for their children. Some parents might be looking for an educational philosophy that stresses creativity and community. Others may desire an option that revolves around learning through play or is more academic in approach.
We spent hours poring over name books and checking for inappropriate initial combinations. We looked at meanings, variant spellings and popularity charts. And, as I am sure every parent does, we thought we'd hit the name jackpot with each of our kids. But there are always surprises.
A generation or two ago, the pediatrician was the guy (yes, they were mostly guys) who gave your kids shots and prescribed big bottles of antibiotics for every sniffle. Madison's Dipesh Navsaria is a different breed of pediatrician.
Gamehole Con will be the premier tabletop gaming convention in the region. And with Wisconsin being the birthplace of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the nation's leader in gaming stores per capita, it kind of makes sense that the convention's organizers want the Dairy State to be known for more than just cheese, beer and bratwurst.
This year I will also try to ease up some of my previous costume concerns. Sure, the world is rife with inappropriate dress up choices for our kids; there is no parent out there that is keen on his or her child dressing like a pint-sized prostitute, even for one night.
This past Saturday, I took my youngest to hear Caldecott award-winning author/illustrator Kevin Henkes read from his latest work, The Year of Billy Miller, a short novel for the early elementary grades.
I was greeted at the door by Tom Moen, who has served as executive director of what he likes to call "Madison's best kept secret", for the past 39 of the center's 47 years. Located in the middle of the subsidized Truax Park apartment complex, EMCC, with its vast array of offerings for kids, seniors and everyone in between, is unquestionably the heart of the neighborhood.
Madison's Kashmira Sheth has written four award-winning novels for middle grade and teen readers, and a popular chapter book for six- to nine-year-olds, but right now her picture books are what she's excited to talk about.
A few summers back, my daughter, maybe 8 or 9 at the time, decided to take part in our swimming pool's annual water ballet show. I'm not really sure what initially piqued her interest in the somewhat under-the-radar, very much under-the-water sport of synchronized swimming.
We rarely included a stop at the Central Library as part of our regular outing. For those of you who've been in Madison for a while, I'm sure you'd agree that the old building was pretty run down. Not to mention, dark, cavernous and depressing. Libraries, at their best, should be portals to discovery, right?
My eleven-year-old daughter spent most of last weekend alone in her room, door shut. It wasn't a temper tantrum or an overwhelming need for tween privacy that led to her self-induced isolation, though. Instead, I didn't see her (except for meals) for two days because she was, in her words, "going through her closet."
Yes, the 2004 classic comedy Mean Girls is an absolutely delightful movie. But it's definitely not the smartest mother/daughter viewing as your child is about to enter her inaugural year of middle school.
Despite celebrating 30 years in business this year, Knowledge Unlimited Inc. remains relatively unknown in the community. Those concerned with closing the achievement gap in Madison's schools, however, may want to take note. This award-winning educational-materials producer, based in Middleton, is unique in emphasizing multiculturalism throughout its lines of educational posters, DVDs and children's books.