Everyone looks for a different sign that it's time to start planning for the December holidays. For some it might be that initial glimpse of candy canes and light-up snowmen in a store window. Or perhaps it's the first Salvation Army bell ringer asking for change upon leaving the mall.
But the way I know I need to start gearing up for list making is when the November American Girl catalog arrives in the mail. Ours came early last week, well before Thanksgiving, and my daughter has fallen asleep reading about Caroline Abbott, this year's historical character doll, every night since.
My 10 year old has never been one to desire "her two front teeth" or even a Furby or Zhu Zhu pet for the holidays. All she's ever wanted was an 18-inch, plastic doll representing a romanticized version of life in a bygone era. A few years back she received Josefina, a citizen of 1824 New Mexico, making her Mexican, I believe, as opposed to actually American. The following years brought Elizabeth the 1774 British loyalist (she might not like being called an “American Girl”, come to think of it, either), and Yiddish speaking Rebecca of pre-hip, Lower East Side fame. And this year, it's the blonde-haired, blue-eyed catalog cover girl Caroline -- a War of 1812 heroine-- that she's coveting.
My daughter will first go the academic route and promise me that if I buy her Caroline this holiday season she'll learn to distinguish "Old Ironsides" from the Titanic and will dutifully memorize all the stanzas to the Star Spangled Banner. Then, she'll proceed to read aloud every product description on pages 28 and 29, trying to reel me in based on each accessory's historical accuracy and attention to detail. Yes, Caroline's ice skates may be "true to her era" and her toy bed's mattress does seem to rest on ropes rather than springs. But, when my daughter points out the $300 parlor set featuring a framed mirror that can be flipped over booby-trap style to "reveal a nautical painting" on the other side, I have my doubts. Because while I really don't know much about standard decorating practices of the early nineteenth century, I kind of doubt reversible "art" -- as practical as it seems -- was commonplace.
My daughter is definitely catalog/on-line shopping-centric, especially around the holidays. Why shop in real stores (except the American Girl doll store, of course) she thinks, when your dream doll from the Nixon era is just a website click away? But I'm hoping to use this passion (obsession?) to fuel some interest in heading out to a real store or two this holiday season. And this weekend’s Downtown Madison Holiday Open House should be a great place to start. First, I'll remind her that many of the AG characters, like Kaya of the Nez Perce tribe, are (were?) pretty outdoorsy. So we should definitely check out Driftless Studio's awesome array of nature-themed gifts. We can follow that up by wandering over to craft Mecca Anthology and make a garland from assorted fancy papers and baker's twine, just like Caroline Abbott might have done herself during the Christmas of 1812. And we can continue from there to the kid activities at the Wisconsin Veteran's Museum in honor of Molly, the World War II era doll's, army doctor dad.
And perhaps the sighting of the free, red Holiday Trolley cruising up and down State Street can become a fresh annual sign that the holidays are upon us. Hopping on and off one to buy locally at downtown Madison's one-of-a kind shops and boutiques just may become a new mother/daughter tradition.
And at the very least, streetcars are charmingly reminiscent, I'll remind my daughter, of how historical dolls Marie-Grace and Cecile would have gotten around in 1853 New Orleans.comments powered by Disqus
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.
My 11th-grade and 8th-grade sons have heard "the chant" for years. You know which one I'm talking about -- the ESFY (U?) chant (I'm not sure what the parenting post rules are for writing two of the more forbidden four-letter words in the English language) that appears to have both Barry Alvarez and Chancellor Blank quite concerned.
There are many different criteria parents use when evaluating which pre-school programs will be right for their children. Some parents might be looking for an educational philosophy that stresses creativity and community. Others may desire an option that revolves around learning through play or is more academic in approach.
We spent hours poring over name books and checking for inappropriate initial combinations. We looked at meanings, variant spellings and popularity charts. And, as I am sure every parent does, we thought we'd hit the name jackpot with each of our kids. But there are always surprises.
A generation or two ago, the pediatrician was the guy (yes, they were mostly guys) who gave your kids shots and prescribed big bottles of antibiotics for every sniffle. Madison's Dipesh Navsaria is a different breed of pediatrician.
Gamehole Con will be the premier tabletop gaming convention in the region. And with Wisconsin being the birthplace of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the nation's leader in gaming stores per capita, it kind of makes sense that the convention's organizers want the Dairy State to be known for more than just cheese, beer and bratwurst.
This year I will also try to ease up some of my previous costume concerns. Sure, the world is rife with inappropriate dress up choices for our kids; there is no parent out there that is keen on his or her child dressing like a pint-sized prostitute, even for one night.
This past Saturday, I took my youngest to hear Caldecott award-winning author/illustrator Kevin Henkes read from his latest work, The Year of Billy Miller, a short novel for the early elementary grades.
I was greeted at the door by Tom Moen, who has served as executive director of what he likes to call "Madison's best kept secret", for the past 39 of the center's 47 years. Located in the middle of the subsidized Truax Park apartment complex, EMCC, with its vast array of offerings for kids, seniors and everyone in between, is unquestionably the heart of the neighborhood.
Madison's Kashmira Sheth has written four award-winning novels for middle grade and teen readers, and a popular chapter book for six- to nine-year-olds, but right now her picture books are what she's excited to talk about.
A few summers back, my daughter, maybe 8 or 9 at the time, decided to take part in our swimming pool's annual water ballet show. I'm not really sure what initially piqued her interest in the somewhat under-the-radar, very much under-the-water sport of synchronized swimming.
We rarely included a stop at the Central Library as part of our regular outing. For those of you who've been in Madison for a while, I'm sure you'd agree that the old building was pretty run down. Not to mention, dark, cavernous and depressing. Libraries, at their best, should be portals to discovery, right?
My eleven-year-old daughter spent most of last weekend alone in her room, door shut. It wasn't a temper tantrum or an overwhelming need for tween privacy that led to her self-induced isolation, though. Instead, I didn't see her (except for meals) for two days because she was, in her words, "going through her closet."
Yes, the 2004 classic comedy Mean Girls is an absolutely delightful movie. But it's definitely not the smartest mother/daughter viewing as your child is about to enter her inaugural year of middle school.
Despite celebrating 30 years in business this year, Knowledge Unlimited Inc. remains relatively unknown in the community. Those concerned with closing the achievement gap in Madison's schools, however, may want to take note. This award-winning educational-materials producer, based in Middleton, is unique in emphasizing multiculturalism throughout its lines of educational posters, DVDs and children's books.