A little while back, a very literate friend of mine paid me a backhanded compliment that was perhaps meant to be high praise. "Sari," she said, "I think you are one of the only people I like who doesn't do much reading."
And she was right. Not just about me being likeable (I hope), but about my seeming inability to finish a book these days, as well. Things were different when I was growing up; I completed the entire canons of Judy Blume (okay, not Forever) and Sydney Taylor several times before I was 12. I went on to major in English in college.
But 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. Instead I caught up on back issues of US Weekly -- my current attention span is taxed by anything more challenging than the Kardashian wedding.
I don't know how Becky Holmes, of A Book a Week does it. I'm still working on a book a season.
My husband, on the other hand, has at least fifteen books going at once. If I stacked his current Piketty, poetry and Pulitzer Prize winners on top of each other, they might reach to the ceiling. And my oldest child takes after him. Just last month the kid asked for the works of Aristotle and Plato, among other ancient political philosophers, for his seventeenth birthday. He has his nose buried in a book just about all the time.
But my two younger children seem to have inherited my reading reticence. I can sometimes get my 14-year-old son to crack open an issue or two of Sports Illustrated right around Fantasy Football time, but besides school requirements, that's often all his reading for the year. And while my 12-year-old daughter shares my obsession with Judy Blume, she's pretty cautious about anything else. She claims it's out of fear that nothing can live up to Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. But I think it's really out of fear that books may infringe on her ability to incessantly post to Instagram.
The end of school is looming, though, and I know that if I don't do something summer slide -- the atrophy that can happen by letting a brain lie dormant from mid June through August -- is something I need to be concerned about. That's why I'm planning to get the kids involved in the Madison Public Library's Summer Reading Clubs that begin on June 2. Hopefully the clubs, which award prizes for finishing books, will give both of them, as well as me (there's an adult club, too) the necessary literary push we'll need this summer.
And to kick-off our newfound bibliophilia, we should plan to spend part of this coming Father's Day at Beyond the Page, a joint effort of the Dane County Library Service and Madison Community Foundation to create a permanent endowment that will support humanities programming in all 28 public libraries in Dane County -- forever.
And summer reading club registrations will also be available, of course.
So I guess I can catch up on the whole George Clooney getting married thing later. But for now, I hereby pledging my to finish I am Malala before I hit the dance floor of the Capital Brewery. Because I can't think of a better way to say "Happy Father's Day" than to honor my husband's good example when it comes to summer (and all-season) reading.comments powered by Disqus
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.
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.