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
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.
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?"
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.
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.
"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.
"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.