I don't think I ever got a hit or caught a single fly ball in my short-lived third grade softball career. I was usually the child asked to silently mouth the words "watermelon, watermelon" while the rest of music class was cheerfully belting out "Muskrat Love", "Rhinestone Cowboy" or some other '70s easy listening classic at our grade school concerts. And I never tried out for any of the all-school talent shows or productions. I was a little self-conscious that my wedge haircut more closely resembled Harpo Marx than my intended Dorothy Hamel; I felt far more comfortable volunteering for the type of theater work that took place back stage as opposed to on it.
But every kid, even those with limited blow-drying skills, deserves her moment to shine, and mine came in the form of fourth grade literary acclaim. That was the year my original 14-page book of poetry, "Give Me Liberty," was selected by the media specialist (we were no longer allowed to call her a librarian) to represent our elementary school at the 1976 bicentennial Maryland Young Authors Conference. I can still remember standing on stage at the state capitol proudly reading my Lexington and Concord themed haiku (yes, a Japanese format for a poem commemorating the "shot heard round the world") aloud for the panel of distinguished judges (senior media specialists, I'm sure) from other area schools.
If there was a national competition for patriotic poets, I certainly didn't advance to it that day. But, I'll never forget feeling like an absolute winner, even if only for seventeen syllables.
My thirteen-year-old son got to feel a similar high this past week when he took to the stage for the Hamilton Follies, his middle school's annual vaudeville style review. And no, he didn't do anything quite as highbrow as read verse. Instead, he and six of his buddies took the "Follies" part of the event quite literally and donned lipstick, eyeliner and pink hair dye in order to dance a surprisingly well choreographed number to the 1997 Spice Girls classic, "Wannabe."
They did both Ziegfeld and Victoria Beckham (who more than a couple of the boys strongly resembled) proud.
Were the lyrics mildly, or perhaps even majorly, inappropriate for seventh grade? Sure. But for the 2:52 duration of the song, those boys were heroes (heroines?), impressing their audience, classmates and parents alike, not just with their enviable energy, but with their sheer bravery, as well. It's not every teenage boy who's willing to get the attention he seeks by sporting mascara and rouged cheeks in front of teachers and peers.
And it was while watching my son strut his stuff that I realized it doesn't really matter if the subject matter of the performance is motivated by a love of history or histrionics. Or if the adulation received lasts only as long as the time it takes to recite three lines or dance to the radio edit of a pop song.
All kids, I think, whether frizzy or pink haired, just "wannabe", and sometimes need to be, noticed.
And it's our job as adults to find them the suitable "stage" to be on, and not behind.comments powered by Disqus
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.
Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint.
If you're checking out summer camps for your child, there are many issues -- some obvious, some less so -- to keep in mind. Here's a list to keep handy when you contact camps and camp directors, looking for the perfect spot for your kids to have fun, relax, and learn this summer.
I know, in the grand scheme of things, that my kid issues, when it comes to dining out, absolutely pale in comparison to those of parents whose kids have special needs. Many kids, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, are disturbed by changes in their routine, or anxious around noisy places. They may not be able tolerate waiting for a table or standing in line. So unfortunately, many of these families just avoid eating out at restaurants altogether.