Every year, the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year's offers families the opportunity to establish and enjoy their holiday viewing traditions. For us, the apex has always been Christmas Eve when, for a long as I can remember, the entire clan has snuggled up on the couch to watch Chuck Jones' 1966 animated masterpiece Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (I can't stand the 2000 remake with Jim Carrey as the "Mean One").
Yes, the 26-minute TV special is as old as I am. Yet I still tear up every time at the end when the reformed green, furry guy carves the Who's roast beast.
But many of the other pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
And if I ever reference the fact that they might shoot their eye out with a Red Ryder BB Gun, they look at me quizzically. Ralphie and the rest of 1983's A Christmas Story is a not in their repertoire of holiday viewing.
Our generational divide was even more stark this past week when watching holiday commercials. One of those new tongue-in-cheek ads for Honda came on featuring kitschy, power balladeer Michael Bolton. My 11-year-old daughter asked if he was Bon Jovi, the only singer she'd ever heard of that could have possibly been that old. Or that blonde.
The next day, the point was hammered home even further when my sister forwarded me an email, composed by my niece, also 11, who was hoping to switch her subject for a school assignment.
I am writing you in the hopes that you will consider my request to switch my biography to Jim Henson.
You might remember that I started with Whitney Houston. But when I came home and told my mom, she hoped I would pick someone who lived a more inspirational life. I agreed, gave it some thought and decided to get a book on Steven Spielberg. Halfway through, it dawned on me that nothing was mentioned about the Muppets! So I consulted the index and looked under "M" and found no Muppets! Since it was very confusing to me, I checked with my mom, and asked if she knew who the Muppet creator was. And sure enough she said, "Jim Henson."
I've read the complete book on Steven Spielberg, and I have written down some questions. But he isn't really that interesting. Besides I barely know any of the movies he made other than "ET" and "Jaws".If you would allow me to switch, I can promise you that I will read an entire biography on Henson.
The holidays came early for my niece, the teacher said yes.
But my sister and I still marveled that as children reared on Sesame Street, The Goonies and Raiders of the Lost Ark, we had clearly dropped the ball when introducing our kids to some of the modern classics.
So I guess it's about time we add the Muppet "Christmas Carol" to our list of compulsory holiday viewing; Kermit sure makes an adorable Bob Cratchit. And I'll make sure all the kids pay close attention to the credits -- the film is dedicated to the memory of Jim Henson, who died two years before its release.
Somehow this seems preferable to requiring everyone to watch Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular on Thanksgiving night.
And I definitely think we are due for a Spielberg marathon over winter break. Because while not technically holiday fare, there is no question ET's desperation to "phone home" is about as "in the spirit" as you can get.
And Jurassic Park? Well, the raptors aren't exactly reindeer. But an awful lot of those dinosaurs really do look quite a bit like Mr. Carrey's live-action Grinch.comments powered by Disqus
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.
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.