Over the past couple of years, I've found that this blogging thing definitely has its advantages. Pre-Mama Madison, for example, my command of standard written English was questionable at best, especially for someone who claims to have majored in the language. But while I still regularly fall victim to the dreaded comma splice and may never master the difference between affect and effect, there is little question these weekly posts have forced me to rekindle my long overdue relationship with The Elements of Style.
Another wonderfully unexpected side effect (not affect, thank you) of writing regularly about my kids is that it forces me to pay much closer attention to some of the littler details of parenting. Someone very smart once said, "Write what you know." And it didn't take me very long to figure out that I was all too often the mom who didn't "know" what position her son usually played in the outfield. Or even whom my daughter sat next to each day at lunchtime. A weekly deadline for telling their stories has made me much more attune with the subtle ins and outs of their lives.
But perhaps the very best part of this blogging gig has been the chance to discover my voice. Not so much my speaking voice--that is something I use often and perhaps a bit too loudly. But forcing myself to write those same thoughts down, and then post them in a public space, has helped me to realize just how therapeutic, for both the writer and perhaps, too, for the audience, the sharing of stories can be.
My world view though, while 100% mine, is admittedly limited. And there are many other far more important voices in our community that need to be heard. Wise voices. Original voices. Young voices.
No, adults aren't the only ones with stories worth sharing. There is a lot, too, we can learn from listening to Madison's children, including the ones who have had the experience of homelessness.
In May of this past year, Jani Koester, a veteran educator for the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Transition Education Program, spearheaded a daylong workshop where nearly 20 homeless MMSD students got to the opportunity to tell their stories--raw, real and honest--through several media forms including writing, art, and personal interviewing. Koester's hope, and that of her partners in Madison's creative community, is that by giving these kids the space to express themselves, some of the stigma associated with homelessness can be broken down.
This coming Wednesday, July 11 from 5 to 8 p.m., the organizers of the Who We Are: Voices in Our Community effort are collaborating with the Madison Children’s Museum to celebrate the workshop participants' projects at the museum’s free "Twilight Art Night." Some of these brave kids plan to attend the exhibition, and to share their experiences in person. I have little doubt this show will stand out as a unique chance for the community to view one of the biggest social justice issues of our time, homelessness, through the eyes of the young people who are living it.
At the end of May this past school year, the district counted 1,100 homeless children among their students--a number that has been steadily growing over the years. Next Wednesday won't give us the chance to hear from all of them. But I am sure these representative few will have a lot to say.
This project has been the chance for these kids to write what they know. And it's important that we listen.comments powered by Disqus
I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.
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 Melissa Wardy of Janesville 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.