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 think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders " 10 boys and six girls " enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. 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.
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.