Going out to eat with my family has not always been the perfectly pleasant experience I wished it to be, especially when the kids were little. I remember the time my four-year-old son tried to single-handedly remove a tablecloth, magician-style, from the table of the Italian restaurant. My son though was no David Copperfield. And it would have taken a lot more than a more than a little "magic" to remove the marinara sauce that ended up all over the blouse of the (fortunately) very forgiving woman sitting next to us.
My oldest, up until about age eight, was known to make a full meal of the jelly packets and creamers that graced the tables of diners like Mickey's Dairy Bar and Monty's Blue Plate.
And of course there was the time when my three-year-old asked, "Mommy, what am I eating?" as she took a Henry the VIII-sized bite out of what she'd been served at a kid-friendly restaurant. "It's so good." When I answered that it was a chicken leg, she felt the need to loudly clarify that it was, in fact, the actual leg of a former chicken. She then proceeded to cry so hard we hard we had to leave. She's been toying with vegetarianism ever since.
Things have definitely gotten easier in the restaurant-dining department since the kids have gotten older, but we still have our issues. My daughter, the fair weather vegetarian, would eat only at restaurants that start with the letter "N", end with "S" and have "OODLE" in the middle, if she had her druthers. And the oldest, an aspiring foodie who has fortunately left his condiment-eating days behind, is usually angling to dine at one of Madison's James Beard nominated spots. I always tell him the answer could be yes. As long as he's paying.
But I know, in the grand scheme of things, that my kid issues, when it comes to dining out, absolutely pale in comparison to those of parents whose kids have special needs. Many kids, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, are disturbed by changes in their routine, or anxious around noisy places. They may not be able tolerate waiting for a table or standing in line. So unfortunately, many of these families just avoid eating out at restaurants altogether.
That's why it's so wonderful that this coming Monday, March 31 from 4:30-7:30 p.m., the Culver's at 2102 West Beltline Highway will once again be hosting Community Inclusion Family Dining.
This dinnertime opportunity was born of the idea that families with special-need kids need opportunities to bring their children to eat in sensory-friendly restaurant environments. Just as importantly, the event also gives the fuller Madison-area populace the chance to learn more about the benefits of community inclusion. And perhaps best of all, a portion of the proceeds of the evening will be donated to Gio's Garden, the Middleton-based respite center that provides a place for kids with special needs to work on therapeutic goals while their families get an opportunity for a much-needed break.
Yes, the idea that my family could enjoy a meal out in support of families that desperately need and deserve one sounds like a pretty great way to spend an evening.
And my daughter promises not order the chicken.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.