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
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.