Last week I took my nine-year-old daughter to Twilight Wednesday, the Madison Children's Museum's free admission event on the first hump day of each month. Talk about happening. It was like a dry Mardi Gras or Vegas for kids under eight; wild, zany, everyone having a good time. I'm pretty sure some of the little ones running around were whispering "What happens at the Children's Museum stays at the Children's Museum," to each other.
But we weren't just there for a run on the human hamster wheel (much more exhausting than it looks) or a dalliance in the Shadow Room. My daughter and I had specifically come to check out Madison-area artist Kelly Parks Snider's launch of her new picture book, Zilly: A Modern-Day Fable . And we weren't disappointed. Because the book, while more likely targeted to kids younger than my fourth grade daughter, made good on its subtitle promise. It contained a valuable lesson for a 21st century girl on the brink of turning 10.
Zilly, the heroine of the story, is a free-spirited, quirky flyer. I'll be honest, I never really figured out what, exactly, a flyer was, but this didn't seem to bother any of the younger kids in the room. Her best friend is a tutu-wearing goat named Mingle who loves Zilly just the way she is. But when other flyers tease her for being different, Zilly succumbs to peer (flyer?) pressure and signs up for flying lessons for flyers who want to fit it. Unfortunately, no goats are allowed. Along the way, Zilly learns quite a bit about the power of staying true to herself….and to her real friends.
The gorgeous picture book is filled to the brim with whimsical, brightly colored illustrations; they impressively embrace the "fine" part of fine art. But it was the message of Zilly that really resonated with me as the mother of a daughter. An outgrowth of Project Girl -- the award-winning initiative that combines art and media literacy into a unique educational experience for children -- the book shines a direct light on the effect of media messages in our society.
There is no question the media is powerful in sculpting young girls ideas of what they should look like and how they should act. What young girl wouldn't think the latest Barbie she saw advertised on Saturday morning TV could change her life? And what tween could resist the urge to download Bridgit Mendler's new single from iTunes. It is after all, what the artist asked her to do on break during a Good Luck, Charlie marathon. The media's influence is hard to escape. And, to be honest, I'm not even sure my daughter wants to.
But last week, while at the book launch, she got to spend a few minutes thinking about Zilly's words, "I like being me, and I'm exactly the way I am supposed to be."
And I think she feels this way right now.
But maybe we'll keep a copy of Zilly by her bedside in the years to come. Because I want her to remember the lessons of the fable if and when she confronts her own gaggle of "mean girl" flyers in middle school.
And it never hurts to have a little reminder to be nice to the goats in your life.comments powered by Disqus
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.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.