Shortly after the birth of my oldest, a dear friend whom I hadn't seen since I was in maternity clothes (truth be told, I was still in maternity clothes) suggested we go out for lunch -- just she, baby and me. She didn't suggest McDonald's, or a place with a kid's menu (not that it mattered, he didn't have teeth yet, anyway), but instead convinced me I needed to venture out to a downtown hotspot "- the kind of place where deals were discussed and the women all had manicures. And I, desperate for adult interaction and a meal that wasn't consumed while simultaneously changing a diaper, agreed. Sure, my baby fussed most of the day when he and I were home alone. But perhaps the din of a crowded restaurant was all he needed to relax peacefully in his car seat while I enjoyed a couple of tuna rolls and girl talk.
I quickly learned a nice restaurant was not an infant spa. Instead of quietly dozing as I had foolishly hoped he would, my newborn cried the whole time. Not just a whimper, but full-on newborn shrieks that could only be appeased by my attempting, relatively unsuccessfully, to breast-feed in my booth. Things got a bit better when I took over my lunch date's seat; nursing is much easier in an armchair. But needless to say it wasn't the dining experience I was looking for. Or the experience my friend was looking for.
And perhaps most importantly, it wasn't the experience the rest of the lunchtime crowd at the restaurant was looking for either.
Now, I am normally an advocate of child inclusiveness. I am cool with kids screaming on airplanes, in religious services, and even in the library (more about this next week). But I have to say, I think there are certain kinds of restaurants where babies, and even youngish kids, even relatively well-behaved youngish kids, are a distraction. Many adults are in that fine or fine-ish dining establishment to have a quiet, contemplative food experience. And watching a six-year-old pick at her salmon isn't one of them.
Now, I'm not saying that parents should never take their kids out to eat. There is a time, and more importantly a place, for everything. But wouldn't it be nice if sit-down dining establishments had guidelines for kid appropriateness? You know, like a movie rating system for restaurants. Nostrano or Harvest could be an R. No one under 17 admitted unless they, not their parents, could explain the difference between braising, sautéing and searing. Then the PGs might be places like Graze or Lombardino's. Light enough in attitude to handle kids, assuming they stay in their seats, are willing to try new foods and don't need to color on tablecloths to complete their culinary experience.
The Gs are almost too numerous to name in the area, with Ella's Deli the undisputed queen. But I'd like to give a special call out to Sofra Bistro in Middleton, a place that once handled my party of 18, including six sticky-fingered pre-schoolers, with far more grace than the situation required. As far as X-rated goes, I'm thankfully at a bit at a loss. Unless, of course, you want to count Hooters.
So while I don't really want to go down as the Tipper Gore of the restaurant industry, what I'd really love to see is parents exercising good discretion when deciding where they might take their kids. And with Restaurant Week starting this weekend in Madison, it's a certainly a good time to try someplace new. But I'd advise thinking Bluephies -- the kid's menu rocks despite its "Vodkatorium" status -- as opposed to Steenbock's On Orchard . Not because I think the foie gras the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery-based restaurant is offering will be anything less than delicious. But because I'd rather not be sitting across from your seven-year-old when you try explaining to her she's eating fatted duck liver.comments powered by Disqus
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
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.