Mama Madison: The greatest fans of road repair

Kids find construction fascinating

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. Heck, the street repairs being done in my neighborhood alone are enough to make a person want to give up her car keys forever. I've learned the hard way, more than once, that when a sign says "Closed to Thru Traffic" what it really means is "Turn Back If You Want To Emerge With Your Undercarriage Intact."

But a video making the rounds last week reminded me that seasonal roadwork does have its ardent fans.

The 38-second clip of her two-year-old son going gaga over the mess on Highway 151 bought back a flood of memories from when my eldest was the same age. It was the summer of '99 and he in a stroller, and me on some very sore feet, would canvass the neighborhood in search of a sewer line being torn up or a major excavation project going on. Once we found one, I'd lay down a blanket on the sidewalk and break out the goldfish crackers and sippy cup; we were in for the duration.

Pretty much every construction worker in the neighborhood that summer knew us, not necessarily by name, but more as the slightly strange woman and her truck-crazy kid who stalked their every work site. We would follow their projects from location to location, oohing, ahhing and oogling every time they got the rigs up and running. In essence, we were heavy machinery groupies; there's nothing we wouldn't have done for a chance to just brush up against the side of anything sporting the name Caterpillar.

My son's love of construction vehicles ran so deep, it may have even bordered on fetish. Because after we got home from an afternoon of truck stalking, he'd whip out his impressive collection of vehicle books and videos. Picture books like Richard Scarry's Car and Trucks and Things that Go and Peter Sis' Trucks, Trucks, Trucks were always popular picks at night before bed. But truth be told, he probably liked the non-fiction even better. I think it was one of those Dorling Kindersley (DK) reference books with glossy photographic depictions of diggers and cherry pickers that he slept with under his pillow.

I guess I always assumed my kid would grow up to be an engineer or to go into one of the skilled trades. He was just so captivated by each and every truck and its specialty purpose. Cranes he knew were for lifting heavy objects up high and a bulldozer's responsibility was to push dirt around. Loaders were there to scoop. An excavator's job was to dig. Backhoes could do both.

It was an early lesson in the concept of division of labor. Come to think of it, maybe he'll end up an economist.

So next time I find myself getting frustrated by the construction chaos around the Capitol, I'll take a deep breath, channel my inner two year old and just re-imagine the detour as a different take on "Live on King Street."

This downtown summer outdoor concert series, though, isn't featuring rock bands. Instead it stars folks in fluorescent yellow vests making beautiful music (at least to some very small people) with the mammoth construction vehicles they maneuver and the jackhammers they wield.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Three cheers for reading at the Wisconsin Book Festival

Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.

Mama Madison: What's in a name?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.

Mama Madison: Eugster's is more than just a visit to the farm

At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.

Help for home-schoolers at the Madison Mentor Center

Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"

Mama Madison: Yummy Sprout is a wonderful resource

After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?

Mama Madison: Tips and tricks for baby air travel

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.

Mama Madison: Apple-picking time

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.

Mama Madison: Baby feeding recommendations

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?

Heartland Farm Sanctuary helps animals that help kids

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.

Mama Madison: Back-to-school confidences

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.

Mama Madison: Does back-to-school really mean a whole new wardrobe?

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?"

Mama Madison: Next generation of bloggers

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.

Mama Madison: Returning to the workforce

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.

Triathlons raise money to teach kids healthy habits

"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.

Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

"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."

Vital work is being done at the Lussier Community Education Center, from community-building to STEM skills

"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."

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

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."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

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.

Mama Madison: Young love

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.

Mama Madison: What a mother fears most

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.