I am writing this post from a back row seat on the Van Galder bus (surprisingly swank, internet and all) as I return from my 25th college reunion in Chicago. And yes, I am very glad I went. It felt surprisingly terrific to be back on campus after all these years and check out everything that was different-a fancy new library, a state-of-the-art arts facility, and a gym equipped to train an athlete in just about any Olympic sport.
I also loved being able to revisit the familiar, like having a beer (okay, a couple) in the just-off campus bar where I spent an embarrassing number of hours playing quarters my junior and senior year. And I enjoyed savoring a mocha in the same coffee shop where I'd spent perhaps even more hours drinking regular coffee (I'm not sure mochas had been invented yet) while attempting to negate the effects of "losing" (maybe it was winning?) the drinking game.
But there is no question, the highlight of the reunion this past weekend was attending the official Class of '88 party and catching up with folks -- many close friends, others merely acquaintances and a handful, I'm pretty sure, I'd never before seen in my life--for even just a brief hug. We reminisced about "sleeping out" on the quads in order to be first in line to sign up for classes; these were the days long before on-line registration. We recalled elaborate pranks pulled our freshman year that involved mayonnaise and under garments (don't ask). Most of us could still recall the music we danced to (Frankie Goes to Hollywood, anyone?) on sticky floors at fraternity houses that should have been condemned at the time and are, remarkably enough, still standing.
And while chatting it up with my classmates it struck me why everyone makes such a big deal about the 25th reunion.
Most of us in that room, now in our late 40s, weren't just our same old selves but a little grayer and in need of reading glasses. We were also parents. And is true of so many parents pushing 50, we have kids that are just beginning the journey of choosing a college.
My oldest is sixteen, and assuming all goes according to plan with finals this week, will be a junior in high school next fall. He's entering the year of ACT vs. SAT or both. He needs to start thinking about big schools vs. small schools and urban vs. self-contained campuses. He needs to consider whether he wants to be able to easily come home for an occasional weekend (for hopefully more than just laundry) or whether this is his big chance to explore another part of the country.
As a parent, guiding your child through this process can be absolutely crazy-making. And I've made a promise I will try not to get too wrapped up in the applying-to-college hoopla. There are lots of great choices out there, I remind myself. Don't make this into something bigger than it needs to be.
But this weekend was a reminder that this decision really matters. And not just from an intellectual development or career potential standpoint.
Because while standing there with some of my dearest friends in the world, many that I met the very first week of my freshman year, I realized that in two short years my son will likely be moving onto a dorm floor and meeting the people he will still be laughing, crying and dancing with over 25 years later.
So I guess it's time to jump in to the zaniness. Discussions of college tours, prep classes and "Reach", "Match" and "Safety" schools" are sure to come.
But if I get too caught up, please, in the immortal words of Frankie (the one of "Goes to Hollywood" fame), remind me to, at least occasionally, "Relax."
Or maybe take me out for a game of quarters.comments powered by Disqus
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?
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.