My mom called late last week fishing around for present ideas for my kids this coming Hanukkah. The phone call kind of took me by surprise. Those "Eight Crazy Nights" unfortunately come a little early this year, sneaking up in November, one of the few months in the Judge household that doesn't traditionally require gift giving. And since the first day of Hanukkah 5774 (2013 in the secular calendar) falls on Thanksgiving (the two holidays won't coincide again for the next 70,000 years), I've been a little bit preoccupied with non-gift-giving ideas on how to best honor this once-in-a-lifetime event. Like brainstorming Thanksgivukkah decoration options beyond the Menurkey and gelt-filled cornucopia. And figuring out how to master the art of stuffing latkes. But no, I hadn't thought for a second about presents.
Truth be told, buying for my 11-year-old daughter has always been pretty easy. She tends to like whatever is hot during a particular gift-giving season. This year she's angling for the ubiquitous Rainbow Loom, the immensely popular craft kit that helps young crafters make bracelets out of rubber bands. This should actually make Hanukkah gift-giving pretty easy -- yellow rubber bands night one, blue rubber bands night two, etc.
Buying for my teenage sons, though, is a bit more challenging. When they were little, I used to love stalking retail establishments in search of the perfect Thomas the Tank engine train or Tonka Truck cherry picker. Holiday gift shopping was fun and festive. But these days, I'm pretty sure the only items on their wish lists are foul smelling Axe body spray gift sets and things with the letter "i" in front of them.
What they want? Yes. But not what I'm eager -- either from an olfactory or financial standpoint -- to buy them.
This is precisely the reason I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive called "Shop for Good" this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.
The United Way has made it extremely easy to participate in the drive, especially if you plan to visit the always-awesome Downtown Madison Holiday Open House on Friday, Nov. 29 or Saturday, Nov. 30. From 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on those days, three volunteer-staffed drop-off locations -- Dream Bank, 1 N. Pinckney St.; the Overture Center lobby, 201 State St.; and the Downtown Visitor Center, 452 State St.-- will be eagerly accepting donations of new, unwrapped, teen-friendly gifts. Think fun scarves, hats, mittens and winter coats (adult sizes medium or larger). Or adult-sized hoodies, t-shirts or jerseys. Rumor has it funky room decor, especially lava lamps, are big hits, as are body sprays (yeah, I know), make-up sets and nail polish. And of course, what teen gift list would be complete without tech items like new digital cameras, headphones, prepaid cell phones, and video games? Gift cards and gift certificates (perhaps even one for downtown Madison) are great ideas, as well.
For me, participating should be no problem at all. As my mom reminded me, I've got to get shopping soon anyway. So I'll definitely plan on picking up some extra Axe. And who knows, maybe one of these Thanksgivukkah hoodies, too.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.