It hasn't really felt much like spring lately, which is probably the reason I've been in complete denial that next week is spring break. And religious observances aside, my family has absolutely no plans to fill the no-school-for-six-days-in-a-row void. I'm cutting myself some slack on this one. It is pretty hard, after all, to find the time (not to mention money) to book airline tickets and hotel rooms in warm and exotic locales when all you've done for the month of March is alternate shoveling snow off sidewalks with bailing water out of a flooded basement.
Yes, Spring Break 2013 will definitely be a staycation for the Judge family. But this, my children, doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a painful week filled only with household chores and the opportunity to watch your parents do taxes.
Instead, I assure you, that while not quite Panama City Beach, Florida, the self-proclaimed "Spring Break Capital of the World," there are some definite good times to be had just a hop, skip and a jump away from our near-west Madison home.
First stop on our "It Doesn't Really Feel Like Spring"-Break tour will most likely be a trans-isthmus adventure to the east side. We haven't been to Olbrich Gardens for quite some time. If still cold, there is the inside dome. And if this cold snap lets up even a little, it should be a terrific time of year to check out Olbrich's 16 acres of outdoor display gardens including the gorgeous Thai Pavilion -- the only one in the continental United States.
I'm sure the kids will understand that if we can't actually be on the beaches of Phuket, this is a pretty close facsimile. Especially if I promise we'll go out for Pad Lad Nar at Bahn Thai afterwards.
And on another one of our days off we can give the north side a whirl, and grab a bite at Pat O'Malley's Jet Room, the family-friendly restaurant located in the Wisconsin Aviation building at the Dane County Regional Airport. Because even if my kids and I aren't leaving on a jet plane, we can attempt to live vicariously through the sight of the fortunate travelers milling about us, proudly flaunting their carry-on bags filled with sunscreen.
Maybe at the end of the week we can head south on Park Street and pop in to Family Fun Night: Juegos, Adivinanzas y Trabalenguas (Games, Riddle and Wordplay) on March 29 at the Madison Public Library's Goodman South Madison Branch. Because both my older kids are taking Spanish in school this year, and this bilingual event might help me to find out if their vocabularies have expanded beyond the ability to count to "diez" and order effectively at a Tex-Mex restaurant.
It likely won't measure up to an actual trip to Cancun, I am sure. But at least we won't have to worry about the hassle of passports.
And if we are feeling really adventurous, maybe I'll muster up the courage for a road trip. But given that I don't love driving and my oldest hasn't been behind the wheel since the week he got his learner's permit, we'll probably be better off picking somewhere close. Fortunately, the excellent site Road Trips for Families has many great travel ideas within a reasonable drive from Dane County. And if we really want to get our Lewis and Clark on, we can dare to cross the border into Iowa -- I've heard some pretty awesome things about the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque.
Because in the end, it's not just the destination, but also the journey, that makes family vacations so special, right?
Even when the journey is very, very short.
And taking place with snow tires still on the car.comments powered by Disqus
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My daughter, who turned twelve just this past week, is not legally "of age" when it comes to social media. But I guess, in many respects, especially in those that involve screens, I am a permissive pushover. I've allowed her join some networks.
What adults love about camping -- sleeping under the stars, getting away from it all, the sounds of nature -- can be scary for children. It's dark in a tent. Nothing is familiar. Of course, camping with kids is more work for adults, too. Stay cool, live in the moment. Forget about that lost fork. Making s'mores, spotting wildlife, that's what kids will remember.
I have just returned from a whirlwind, five-day, four-city college tour with my son. You know those "101 Things to Know Before Visiting Disney World" guidebooks that experienced theme park travelers have written to help the uninitiated? I think I am now officially seasoned enough in information sessions and campus tours to give some serious thought to penning a similar "insiders guide" for the junior-year parent.
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.