We always get some water in the basement this time of year, but it's usually pretty manageable with a couple of bath towels and a fan. The spring of 2013 has been something else though, and I've spent far more time than I care to think about wrangling the sump pump and wet mops in a valiant effort to stay ahead of the flooding.
I'm half-seriously considering whether it might make sense to literally throw in the towel (they're all soaking wet anyway) and draft an application to whichever city agency would allow me to declare my lower level an indoor swimming pool.
But there is always a bright (even if there is no dry) side to even the most mildewed basement. And this year it was the chance for self-discovery while wading through all the crap that has accumulated down there over the years.
I guess I've always thought of myself as ruthlessly non-sentimental. I have worn it as a badge of pride that I don't feel compelled to frame each report card, file away greeting cards or download and print every family photo. The endless Certificates of Participation (my gosh, they participate in a lot) go straight up to a kid's room or into the recycling. And because of my ability to separate the Rembrandts from the rubbish when it comes to my kids' artwork, the front of my refrigerator is chronically controlled.
But, as I was going through the damp stuff in my basement, the lyrics of Barbara Streisand's "The Way We Were" kept playing over and over again in my head, especially that line about the "misty water-colored memories." And not just because of the water damage, but because, as it turns out, even the most passionate non-hoarder can have a nostalgia Achilles heel.
And as it turns out mine is costumes.
There, soaked on the basement floor lay the adorable orange beret replete with green stem that all three of my kids wore as Jacques-O-Lanterns on their first Halloweens. There was enough pink and lavender tulle to outfit tutus for the entire Bolshoi Ballet should they ever make a stop at the Overture Center. And dozens of black witches capes, devil's pitchforks and "Star Wars" masks. There were store bought "groovy hippie" costumes and homemade lion's manes and tails fashioned from faux fur. I even found the "Wolverine" claws my middle son wore to his three-year-old dress-up (or I should probably say dress-down) birthday party; I think he wore the plastic claws and little else that day.
And even though "let's pretend" is no longer a game my kids play regularly, I had trouble even thinking about throwing any of them out, no matter how tattered or water-stained they were. Some parents record the passage of time in carefully curated photographs or pencil marks denoting height increases on the basement wall. My time capsule, I guess, is the costume box.
The fake plastic fruit, a Playskool pirate ship, and what might very well be the world's largest collection of Rescue Heroes, those adorable first-responder dolls with inexplicably large feet, are now dried off, packed up and ready to be donated. Perhaps I'll figure out a way to get them to the Kids to Kids garage sale that will take place early next month at Elver Park.
But the dress-up stuff remains. "Memories," I guess, don't just "light the corners of my mind." At least for the time being, they will continue to live, albeit a little damp, in the corners of my basement.comments powered by Disqus
If I were going to pen a similar piece on my family's early sleep history, I might call it, "Confessions of a Much More Highly Reluctant Co-Sleeper." I never planned to sleep with my children as infants; I really didn't think of myself as the family bed type
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.
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.