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: 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.

Operation Fresh Start's Youth Conservation Corps helps kids, and kids help parks

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.

Mama Madison: Summer stress solved by yoga

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.

Mama Madison: The greatest fans of road repair

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.

Mama Madison: The alarm sounds

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.

Mama Madison: My summer book list

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.

Make Music Madison gives young artists a chance to perform

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.

Mama Madison: Watching talent grow

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.

Mama Madison: Writing time at Olbrich

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.

Mama Madison: When UW-Madison's semester is over, the kids want out too

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.

Mama Madison: Another amazing talent show

My passion for the talent show clearly runs deep, but I'm more than just a fangirl. This year marked my second as one of the "Ziegfelds" of the Follies, Hamilton's annual showcase for singers, musicians, dancers and other varied forms of entertainment. Trust me, when you are part of the spectacle's "producing/directing" team you get a new-found appreciation for how hard the kids worked to get up on stage.


Emails from Isthmus Parents feature event highlights, story links, site updates, and occasional special offers from trusted sources. Name and email address are required. Thanks!