They say everyone's a critic. And part of me thinks that this is true. But when I went to watch my middle school son's talent show this past week, I didn't find a whole lot to criticize. In fact, I was more than impressed with what I saw.
It wasn't so much the acts themselves that blew me away artistically. I had really wanted a Susan Boyle-junior moment. You know, for a slightly round, frizzy haired, anti-Miley Cyrus-type to take the stage and dazzle us with a big Broadway showstopper or an Aretha Franklin anthem.
And I can't exactly say that happened. But what did occur in that hour (and I must tip my hat to the executive producer moms who bought the show in under 65 minutes"they should totally be offered jobs by the Oscar folks) was pretty entertaining nonetheless.
There was a lovely classical guitar solo, some straight out of "Electric Bugaloo" break dancing, and a passionate interpretive dance solo. We also got to go a bit old school and enjoy a young lady singing and playing the piano to "Can't Help Falling in Love." Things got even older school with a gorgeous vocal rendition of "Scarborough Fair" that sounded way more original traditional British ballad than Simon and Garfunkel. And to make me feel personally "oldest school," one talented young lady sang "I'll Stand By You" and credited Carrie Underwood. For me, that song will always be Chrissie Hynde's.
But as to be expected at a middle school revue, Top 40 acts ruled the show. We heard two sixth-grade girls pining about unrequited love in Bruno Mars' "Grenade." The audience also heard a shy young man channel "American Idol" tenth-season contestant Chris Medina with "What are Words." And in case any of you are concerned, queen of the airwaves Adele was not underrepresented. We were treated to no fewer than three covers of her material that night, including a duet on "Set Fire to the Rain" which featured an interpretive dance number with an umbrella. I was a little disappointed there were no flames.
Even the subtle, and at times unintended, humor of the three Ryan Seacrest wannabee MCs was worth the price (free) of admission.
But of course, I was there mostly to see my own kid, a sixth-grader who will now be able to recount a successful parody of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" with six buddies as a treasured memory of his middle school years. Sure, a few steps were out of sync, but the seven of them proved the "Some Like It Hot" (or "Tootsie"?) principle infallible, once again. Boys dressed up like girls will always be funny.
I guess I'm not surprised all these kids we're willing to get up on stage; "American Idol" has been on TV since they were old enough to watch. But I don't think any of them were in it for a chance at a record contract. Some, I think, got up there to exercise a genuine artistic passion. Others were looking to "Make 'Em Laugh," both with them and at them. Most just thought it would be fun to be the center of attention for a minute or two; the emotional rewards of rapt audience can be pretty awesome when you're 12.
But the greatest talent I saw that evening was the talent for kindness. It didn't matter whether the act was worthy of going to Hollywood or not; everyone was polite and attentive during all the acts. "Supportive" is an understatement; every one of the 15 performances received thunderous applause.
So regardless if any of these kids is stardom-bound or not, they've had their moment. And as their proud (and slightly embarrassed parents), we've had ours.comments powered by Disqus
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.
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.