I apologize in advance if this post is a little less than well thought through. I'm exhausted from this past weekend, when, for the first time in almost three years, my entire extended family descended on the near west side of Madison -- in order to celebrate my younger son's Bar Mitzvah.
It was a wonderfully chaotic weekend. With a strong emphasis on the chaotic.
My mother, daughter and dog slept on the pull out couch in the living room, my sister-in-law in my daughter's room. My sister's house, just a mile away from mine, was overrun with more variations on a blow up mattress than are showcased in the latest issue of the Sky Mall catalogue. And I'm pretty sure a different constellation of nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles slept on a different one of those mattresses each and every night.
My dad and his wife, who value their privacy and the desire not to have to maneuver around a Lego obstacle course first thing in the morning, wisely rented a hotel room within walking distance from both my sister's and my home, While no one besides them slept in their little suite, it offered ample opportunity for daytime entertainment in the form of a full line-up of cable TV channels and a Keurig coffee maker. I am both thankful, and a little amazed, at how long both Nickelodeon reruns and the ability to make pod after pod of hot chocolate (in less than two minutes, no less) can keep two pre-kindergarteners, my nephews, entertained.
Some of my relatives drove to town. The parade of gray minivans parked out front of the house last Saturday afternoon closely resembled the used car lot at a Honda dealership. Other family members flew in; I have driven back and forth to the Dane County airport no less than 10 times in the past four days. I have sliced over six-dozen bagels and brewed at least 15 pots of coffee.
We played round after round of Quiddler, Uno and Go Fish. And acted out, three times, at the insistence of my five-year-old nephew, what felt like the entire plotline of some Star Wars movie I've never seen. I was always cast as General Grievous (a "very bad guy" my nephew tells me) and had to master some serious, and physically demanding, light-saber moves.
Next time I'm going to insist I'm Princess Leia.
My family laughed a lot, as we always do, and cried even more. Emotions can run dangerously high when you get all my "people" together. My brother, the only male sibling, is usually given a pass, but it just wouldn't be a Ratner family event without at least one major, as my husband likes to call it, "sister storm."
But the storm always blows over, and the next sets of tears are the very happiest kind -- the ones reserved for the people who matter most in the world.
Yes, this past weekend was a wonderfully chaotic. But come to think of it, no matter how exhausted I am, the heavy emphasis should definitely be on the wonderfully.comments powered by Disqus
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
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.