I'm really not sure how college players keep their cool during the NCAA basketball tournament. Screaming fans are everywhere, the referee whistles seem constant and they've got the added pressure of single elimination. Yet time after time, one of those kids hits a buzzer beating, game-winning three point shot. And although I have no horses left in the race this tournament, I still find my blood pressure rising profusely in every close match-up -- the game is just that intense.
But the rest of my family bleeds blue and gold this time of year, and they were totally thrilled by the early round performance of homegrown hoops star Vander Blue, Marquette's junior guard and graduate of Madison Memorial, Class of 2010. His last second layup to best Davidson in the opener was an absolute heart stopper. And his second round three-pointer with 1:25 remaining was key to ensuring the nail biter against Butler finally went Marquette's way.
But Blue wasn't the only product of the Madison Metropolitan School System to exhibit remarkable grace under pressure this past week. Just hours before the Golden Eagles clinched their berth in the Sweet Sixteen, Aisha Khan, a thirteen year old seventh grader from Spring Harbor Middle School was fully engaged in her own special kind of March Madness.
From the stage of the Edgewood College auditorium, Khan asked Brad Williams, the veteran "pronouncer" for the Badger State Spelling Bee, for the definition, language of origin and part of speech for 17 difficult words. She then successfully spelled "synusia," the word missed by her next closest competitor, followed by the equally remote "temerarious," to beat out 47 other middle schoolers for this year's state spelling title.
Now you don't need to be particularly tall, muscular, or even the least bit physically coordinated to be an elite speller. But there is no question that you need nerves of steel coupled with the will to train like champion athlete. Snigdha Nandipati, last year's winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee , held annually in Washington, D.C, studied six to 10 hours a day on weekdays and 10-12 hours on weekends to give herself a shot at the national spelling crown. She worked with over 30,000 flash cards and spent time researching word history and etymology rather than simply attempting to memorize as many words as she could.
This year, Wisconsin champ Aisha Khan will also find herself at the Big Dance --the Scripps -- come late May. And while they probably won't host any Bracketology pre event shows, ESPN will televise the Bee, highlighting the incredibly tense nature of competitive spelling and elevating it to sports stature, at least for the day.
The favorite, many say, for this year's competition is Arvind Mahankali of Queens, NY who will be appearing at nationals for the fourth consecutive year.
But I will plan to watch, nonetheless, wearing a borrowed Spring Harbor sweatshirt.
Because we all know Cinderella stories do happen. And they don't always have to involve alley oops, jump shots or fast breaks.
Sometimes all it takes is the ability to spell terms that rarely appear in spell check, like "guetapens" -- the winning word for last year's nationals--correctly.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.