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
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.
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.