Mama Madison: A time for family

The inevitable chaos is worth it

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

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Coping with toddlers in a Wisconsin winter

I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.

Mama Madison: Melissa Wardy pushes positive messages

I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Melissa Wardy of Janesville got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.

Mama Madison: Three cheers for reading at the Wisconsin Book Festival

Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.

Mama Madison: What's in a name?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.

Mama Madison: Eugster's is more than just a visit to the farm

At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.

Help for home-schoolers at the Madison Mentor Center

Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"

Mama Madison: Yummy Sprout is a wonderful resource

After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?

Mama Madison: Tips and tricks for baby air travel

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.

Mama Madison: Apple-picking time

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.

Mama Madison: Baby feeding recommendations

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?

Heartland Farm Sanctuary helps animals that help kids

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.

Mama Madison: Back-to-school confidences

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.

Mama Madison: Does back-to-school really mean a whole new wardrobe?

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?"

Mama Madison: Next generation of bloggers

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.

Mama Madison: Returning to the workforce

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.

Triathlons raise money to teach kids healthy habits

"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.

Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

"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."

Vital work is being done at the Lussier Community Education Center, from community-building to STEM skills

"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."

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

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."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

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.