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 was my husband who had originally signed up to chaperone the event, thinking that spending a few days with his 11-year-old daughter and her compatriots would serve as an excellent anthropological experience.
But when an unexpected work obligation made it impossible for him to attend, it was me left holding the bag. Or should I say bags, quite literally? I think it might have been possible to hike the full length of the Appalachian Trail with fewer supplies than these kids evidently needed to spend three days and two nights at a well-equipped church retreat center in Green Lake, Wisconsin.
Now, those who know me know I am a reasonably involved (perhaps over-involved) mother. I try to get to as many PTO meetings as possible, have never missed a music recital and I always come through with the juice boxes and pretzels when a group snack is called for. But historically I have drawn the line at chaperoning. Especially the overnight chaperoning of a gaggle of kids on the verge of adolescence.
What would I do if I found a group of seventh-graders in a coat closet playing "Spin the Bottle," or worse yet, "quarters" with something other than flat Sprite? How would I handle it if one of my daughter's sixth-grade classmates got her period for the first time on my watch? I've been to enough sleepaway camps, watched enough ABC Family and certainly read enough Judy Blume books in my day to know what kinds of things can happen when you take a busload of tweens an hour-and-a-half from home and plop them down in an environment with an adult-to-kid ratio that favors the latter.
But as is true with so many experiences I initially dread (like whitewater rafting or getting my eyebrows waxed), the good most certainly outweighed the bad. The kids were actually extremely well behaved and quite delightful. And there are few pleasures in motherhood that can top the chance to put on pajamas, gorge on Goldfish crackers and get all the sixth grade gossip while indulging in a late-night gabfest with your daughter and her roommates.
And no one in her suite, or any of the kids' rooms as far as I know, made inappropriate use of a closet.
The highlight of my FPS experience may have had very little to do with any of the kids, though. No, I honestly think the part of my adventure I'll remember the best was getting to spend time with the other adults, both parents and educators, who were brave enough to chaperone. There was the mom I got to know from Appleton, who as it turns out, lived just a few blocks from me, post-college, in Chicago. I'm guessing she and I passed each other dozens of times walking to the train many moons ago, but it took moving to the Badger State and having Future Problem Solving middle-schoolers for us to actually meet.
And while we didn't have nearly enough time to just hang out, it was fun knowing my dear friend and neighbor who was at the competition coaching another school was sleeping just a few doors down the hall of our lodge. I shared delightful carb-heavy, mess hall-style meals with some extremely interesting, and very funny, parents.
Oh, and did I mention my husband had signed himself, and thus me by default, up for a roommate? His, of course, would have been a guy. Mine though was a fellow Hamilton Middle School mom. Her child was in a different grade from either of mine, so we'd never even seen each other before, much less had a chance to bond. But we giggled, traded child-raising war stories and discussed hair product before falling asleep. It was kind of like being 11 and in summer camp all over again.
Yes, I may have chaperoned against my will and better judgement. But wills can be misguided and judgement impaired. I don't doubt for a second that another Future Problem Solving chaperone experience will be in my future.
Hopefully my new mom-friend will want to be my "roomie" again. And I can bring the Goldfish crackers. I am, after all, very experienced at buying snacks.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.