Mama Madison: A Madison bucket list for the pint-sized

Start now, before they turn into teenagers

Next Tuesday and Wednesday (July 17 and 18), many of Madison's littlest graffiti artists will converge on Vilas Park to give a Little Old Lady's dwelling an extreme, and colorful, home makeover.

There is little question that the Shoe Slide , which gets a fresh coat of paint each summer courtesy of the Art Cart, the free, traveling art program co-sponsored by MSCR and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, is among my favorite works of public art in the city. Not that Camp Randall's "Nails' Tales" really gives it much competition.

Yet, I always get a bit wistful watching the annual play structure/footwear transformation. When my kids were younger we spent hours at the Vilas playground; sliding down the shoe was always a highlight. I still remember when my oldest -- he was probably no more than five at the time -- asked me if he'd ever get the chance to help out with the painting. And I said sure, I'd look into it. I told him we'd try to do it some day.

But as always I got busy, distracted, or just plain lazy, and some day never came. And now, at age 15, my son is probably too old to take part in the project. And this got me thinking, wouldn't it be great if some sort of catalogue of all the youthful experiences every Madison-area kid should have was handed out to new parents at area birthing centers along with the formula samples (do they still do that?) and cord care info? You know, a kind of bucket list of "What to Do Before Your Kid Hits 13."

Here are a few things I'd start with, in no particular order. Most of these are obvious -- kind of like painting the Shoe Slide. But they are the kinds of things that might just slip through your fingers if you aren't careful.

Riding the Merry-Go-Round at Ella's Deli. According to Ella's website there are only 75 original carousels in the country, and one of them is at this East Washington institution. Just think about it, where else in the world can a kid eat matzo ball soup, an ice cream sundae and take a ride on a painted pony all in the span of an hour?

A run on the "Hamster Wheel" at the Madison Children's Museum. Yes, it's kind of ridiculous. But it's also ridiculously fun. Who knew imitating a rodent could offer such pleasure for kids and adults alike?

Attend a Kevin Henkes Reading. A couple of times each year Madison's beloved Caldecott-winner gives a public reading somewhere in town. Yes, his mice are a miracle all on their own. But for a child to get the chance to hear straight from the author/illustrator's mouth how Lilly, Wemberley and Penny came to be is an absolutely priceless experience.

Go To a Ken Lonnquist Show. I was never much one for kids' music when my guys were little. No Raffi, no Barney, no Wiggles. But Lonnquist is a singer-songwriter of a different color. His stuff is original, thoughtful and mostly hysterical. Yes, my kids are older now, but they still regularly call me "Hurricane Mom," inspired by one of his classics.

First Ice Cream Cone at the Memorial Union. It was here, on a warm summer's day, that I first discovered my mild mannered second son was not so mild mannered after all. For a toddler, he was an excellent sharer -- especially when it came to toys. But not, as it turns out, for Blue Moon ice cream cones. He would not give me a single bite. And I didn't blame him.

Ride the Drive A kid can ride in the street without getting yelled at. Enough said.

Mac and Cheese Pizza at Ian's. Kids can ingest their two favorite foods in one slice, in one meal. Enough said, again.

No, this list is by no means exhaustive. I'd love if you left your own "must do" suggestions in the comments.

And in the meantime, I'll get started on a list for teens and tweens.

Any chance the university would consider letting my son and his friends paint "Nails' Tales"? I kind of owe it to him.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Three cheers for reading at the Wisconsin Book Festival

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.

Mama Madison: What's in a name?

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.

Mama Madison: Eugster's is more than just a visit to the farm

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.

Help for home-schoolers at the Madison Mentor Center

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?"

Mama Madison: Yummy Sprout is a wonderful resource

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?

Mama Madison: Tips and tricks for baby air travel

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.

Mama Madison: Apple-picking time

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.

Mama Madison: Baby feeding recommendations

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?

Heartland Farm Sanctuary helps animals that help kids

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.

Mama Madison: Back-to-school confidences

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.

Mama Madison: Does back-to-school really mean a whole new wardrobe?

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?"

Mama Madison: Next generation of bloggers

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.

Mama Madison: Returning to the workforce

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.

Triathlons raise money to teach kids healthy habits

"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.

Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

"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."

Vital work is being done at the Lussier Community Education Center, from community-building to STEM skills

"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."

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

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."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

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.

Mama Madison: Young love

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.

Mama Madison: What a mother fears most

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.