My husband and I moved to Madison in early 1998. We had just had our first child the previous spring and were looking for a change from downtown Chicago living. We had no real prerequisites for where we might want to migrate. Hawaii and Alaska felt a little far, but the contiguous 48 states were all in the running.
Step one, logically, would have been to do a little research on where to relocate. And "little" ended up being the operative word. Because a few weeks after we made the decision, I spotted the cover of an old Money Magazine buried between Parents and Fit Pregnancy in the pediatrician's office. Madison, Wisconsin was, evidently, the best place to live in the country. And, being easily influenced by the popular media, the decision was made. We were heading northwest -- a new kind of pioneer -- bypassing the suburbs of the Windy City intent on laying down roots in the capital of America's Dairyland.
We've never looked back for even a second. For my family, Madison has lived up to the #1 ranking, and then some. We love living a life lifted directly from a Norman Rockwell painting. I adore that our neighborhood has an open door policy for playdates, a volunteer-flooded community ice rink, and the sweetest holiday parades this side of Mayberry. Two out of three of my kids can walk to school within minutes. And I accompany the younger one mostly to get the dog out for a walk; she certainly doesn't need an escort for safety reasons.
But sometimes I forget that it's not all Saturday Evening Post covers for everyone in town. Yes, we have a great children's museum, a beautiful, free zoo, and fabulous bike paths. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, a dark underbelly is uncovered. Like the horrible child abuse story that came to light earlier this month. Impossible, I thought, that what happened to this 15-year-old girl happened less than a 20 minute drive from my home. This is Madison, I wanted to scream, and this stuff isn't allowed to happen here. And yet it does.
And it saddens me to know there are hundreds of homeless kids in the Madison public schools. When you are living in a shelter or out of your car you probably don't care what ranking Madison received in the latest "Top Places to Live" du jour.
This is also the week Dan Nerad is launching the first of ten community conversations to get feedback on the proposed district plan for eliminating the achievement gap in the Madison Public Schools. Yes, my kids are being served in spades by our schools and teachers; I am continually awed by some of the transformative experiences they've had in the classroom. But based on what I've seen and heard, not every family in the district feels they can say the same.
So I will participate in the Superintendent's conversations; an excellent public school system for everyone is absolutely vital to the health of my adopted city. And I'll remember that abuse, neglect, violence and poverty do happen here --and that we can do better.
Because right now I think there might just be two Madisons. And I want everyone to feel we are one, as well as #1.comments powered by Disqus
I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Verona resident Melissa Wardy got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
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.