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
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.