Massive Madison Snowball Melee

Sounds like it was an eventful day yesterday at my alma mater, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

I was a student there the last time they canceled classes:

"According to [UW Spokesperson] Lucas, the last time a large portion of the day’s classes were canceled due to snow was Dec. 3, 1990, when then-chancellor Donna Shalala made the decision to halt classes at 10:30 a.m. Lucas said on that day 17 inches of snow fell over a period of 12 to 13 hours. He added that is the closest the UW had ever come to a full day closure in several decades, until now, adding that full closures are “extremely, extremely rare.” 

Read the full story here: Snow forces UW to cancel 1st ever full day of classes

But a day without classes wasn't enough.  No, a snowball fight on Bascom Hill "was initiated by three UW freshmen who created a Facebook event page late Monday night looking to blow off steam before finals.

To their surprise, memories of battle royales from last year and the snowballing power of Facebook quickly pushed the number of confirmed attendees into the thousands."

Read that full story here: Snow fight set for today.

Battle For Bascom Preview from The Badger Herald on Vimeo.

Snowball fight on Bascom Hill from The Badger Herald on Vimeo.

Check out other videos on YouTube and GoogleVideo.

If we were there, my husband would have been in the thick of it, no doubt.  In shorts.

7 Family Things for which I am Thankful

As mentioned in this post, this week I'm writing about Things for which I am Thankful*. Today's installment of thankful thoughts centers around things related to family.

  1. I am thankful to be married to the perfect man (for me).  He may not be perfect (who is??), but he's perfect for me.  We have a similar sense of humor, similar values & priorities, and similar tastes in entertainment and home decor.  All of the above have helped us stay strong for nearly 17 married years now - that and the fact that we've only tried to wallpaper together once.  That's a guaranteed marriage-buster right there - heed my words, newlyweds!

  2. I am thankful for my great kids.  Everyone says they have great kids, but I can say it with pride and confidence.  I'm not saying they don't give us a single moment's trouble, but our moments are pretty rare, and mild.  They are continuing blessings in my life - we enjoy our time together as a family.

  3. I am grateful for the many things we do together as a family - the four of us gather most nights for dinner, whether around the dinner table, or while enjoying one of "our" shows.  I cherish the times we watch shows or movies together, and am grateful we can usually decide what to watch together fairly quickly.

  4. I am thankful my parents and brother live here in Kansas City - it makes holidays much easier to coordinate, and and family get-togethers more frequent.  Not to mention, they're just generally nice to have around.

  5. I am thankful my in-laws also live here in town, and that I get along with them beautifully.  We generally see them several times a month, and I just can't imagine what those times would be like if we weren't so fond of each other.

  6. I am thankful my parents and in-laws are so involved in my children's lives.  They frequently attend school functions, and often take my kids to various appointments when we're at work.  The convenience factor is high and welcome, but I also appreciate the time that gives them with the kids.  I grew up with my grandparents three and four hours away, and saw them only for holidays and birthdays.  My kids know their grandparents as people, and that is a blessing for everyone involved.

  7. I am grateful my grandmother is still with us, and living here in Kansas City too.  She turned 90 this year, and can still be counted on for a quippy comment and some good stories.  She is a blessing at nearly every family gathering.

What are your family blessings?  It's time to count them!

* While grammatically correct, I realize this series title doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.  I'm open to suggestions. :)

6 Mom Things for which I am Thankful

As mentioned in this post, this week I'm writing about Things for which I am Thankful*. Today's installment of thankful thoughts centers around things related to motherhood.

As a mother, I am obviously thankful for my kids - I have a teen son and a pre-teen daughter.  They're just good kids - fun, funny, smart, outgoing, polite, helpful, caring, friendly... basically what you'd expect from the best kids on the planet.  I hear heart-wrenching parenting stories from friends and co-workers, and know I've got it pretty good with my kids. 

For this post, I thought I would list things that have helped me be a better mother, and have helped make life a bit easier.

  1. I'm grateful for all the classes I took in early childhood education in high school and college.  Understanding the different stages of child development and discipline techniques made all the difference when the kids were young.  (Of course, once they passed age 6, I was just as in the dark as every other parent, but those first six years of false confidence were great!)

  2. Also when the kids were young, I was newly connected to the Internet via AOL, and spent a lot of time in the Moms Online forum.  As a new transplant to St Louis at the time, I didn't have many friends in my new home, so it was so helpful to have a place to go when I had questions or needed to vent.  Now message boards and chats are much more prevalent and accessible, but just as useful for parents 'displaced' from local support networks.

  3. I was active in a Moms & Tots Activity club when the kids were in preschool - it was a local group of mothers that met several times a month to do fun things together, like play areas, pumpkin patches, apple picking, hayrides, and other family-friendly activities.  I was grateful at the time for the availability of an organized group that sought out and coordinated all these activities, and am grateful now to still be in contact with friends I made in the group.  Our kids are now preteens/teens, so our time together is much more Girls-Night-Out oriented, which works well for me.

  4. I'm thankful I got to stay at home with my kids when they were young, so we had the time and opportunity to go on said fun outings.  I'm so grateful that I was there for so many of their young moments of discovery and adventure, like blowing bubbles and shaving cream in the bathtub and countless visits to what my son called "castle park". I did work on and off as a administrative assistant temp to help out with finances, but stayed home for most of the first three years with both of them.  I like to think knowing I was there and available for them made a difference in the relationship we have today.

  5. I'm thankful my mother and mother-in-law live close by, and that I have a good relationship with both of them.  It's rare that a week goes by that I don't call one of them with one question or another, whether cooking, sewing, cleaning, or health-related.  Moms rock for knowing little things about life like that.  They are such a blessing of an informational resource (and just, well, you know, being a blessing as a part of our family and all that).

  6. Over the course of my "career" as a mother, I've read a lot to improve my efficiency and efficacy as a parent and homemaker (ok, I lie - there were days I desperately sought out anything that would help me get through the day - you know the kind of day I'm talking about...) Some books that helped me were What to Expect When You're Expecting, What to Expect the First Year, Sidetracked Home Executives, The Happiness File (out of print), Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, and Confessions of a Happily Organized Family.  I also enjoyed subscriptions to Family Fun and Parents magazines, and made sure to always have a copy of local-centric Mother & Child Reunion handy.

See the rest of my gratitude series here.

* While grammatically correct, I realize this series title doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.  I'm open to suggestions. :)

8 Kansas City Things for which I am Thankful

As mentioned in this post, this week I'm writing about Things for which I am Thankful*. Today's installment of thankful thoughts centers around things related to my hometown, Kansas City.

  1. Kansas City BBQ - My personal favorite is Hayward's at 119th & Antioch, though I have been known to partake of Zarda's, Gate's, and Jackstack. I love that BBQ is so readily available all over the city, all with slightly different flavors, yet all still very Kansas City.

  2. The people - people are, for the most part, just generally nice here.  I've lived in several other cities, all in the Midwest, and visited other parts of the country, but like the people here best.

  3. The Social Media scene - Kansas City boasts a savvy community active in social media. We have our own chapter of the Social Media Club, and hosted a Chicks Who Click conference earlier this year. Various locally-based ad/marketing agencies specialize in social media tools, and are creating exciting, innovative projects (see VML and Sullivan Higdon & Sink, among others). You can check out some of these movers and shakers on my Twitter/Kansas City list.

  4. I-435 can get you just about anywhere - while I realize this isn't exactly true, it's generally true for me. I spend hours each week on I-435 during my 23-minute commute, but am grateful I don't have to take back roads to get into the "city" (which are actually suburbs).I can get just about anywhere I need to in about 20 minutes.

  5. The Crafty scene - while we have seen a painful decline in scrapbooking stores in KC, other crafty retailers seem to be doing well, and offer interesting, inspirational projects and classes. I particularly like Harper's Fabrics in downtown Overland Park, and Urban Arts + Crafts in North KC. And The Studio on the Plaza offers great knitting classes in a cozy, welcoming atmosphere. And don't think scrapbooking is entirely off the map here - The Scrapbook Page in Shawnee is top-notch, offering an impressive class schedule and customer service which makes them stand out from the 'box' stores. I am also grateful I have two unique groups of women to do crafty things with. My group of scrapbooking friends has been meeting quasi-monthly for nearly 10 years now, and comprises my closest friends. Discussion topics 'round the cropping table are wide and varied, providing a sounding board I don't have anywhere else. I'm a relative newcomer to my knitting group (I think it's been a year), but I've come to count on our meetings for knitty-yarny goodness and inspiration.

  6. Fall - While it's not Door County, Wisconsin, or the Ozarks, Fall is pretty here.  The leaves change color beautifully, and the snap in the air is quite tolerable.  Just chilly enough to make you put on something comfy and cozy that you probably wanted to put on anyway.

  7. Education - while some school districts in the metro area aren't what you might call 'stellar', mine is. We've been very pleased with the education our children have received/are receiving, and the encouragement they've received from multiple teachers. I've been really impressed with the Gifted/Advanced Studies and Debate programs specifically, and look forward to future experiences with the Band program. I also like that Kansas City offers a variety of options for post-secondary education. There are multiple community colleges, as well as public and private universities, and regents centers for other universities. UMKC hosts a "Communiversity" that offers community education classes, led by members of the community. Kansas City is a city that appears to value learning, and I like being a part of that.

  8. My family is here - My husband and I both grew up here, and both sets of parents still live in the area. My kids have grown up with their grandparents as an intimate part of their lives. Our parents are built-in babysitters and unconditional cheerleaders, and we are indeed blessed to have them so close at hand. I realize not everyone has that luxury, and I am grateful for it.
* While grammatically correct, I realize this series title doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.  I'm open to suggestions. :)

Blogging for Scrapbookers: Scrapbook Someday

Prompt #12 of Shimelle's Blogging for Scrapbookers class suggests we create a new blog post category called something like "I will scrapbook this".  Because I like alliteration, I came up with (and created) a category for "Scrapbook Someday".  As in, "someday I will find/make the time to scrapbook, and when that day comes, I will scrapbook about this topic".

I had actually recently started a list for just this purpose - with real pen and paper, no less.  But I do like Shimelle's idea of blogging the list and/or individual topics, too.

Creating a list of layout topics really helps me be more productive at crops - not only is there less thinking involved at layout-creation time, but I can also track my way through an album-project, and make sure I don't leave anything out.  Plus I also like the satisfaction of crossing out or checking off (depending on my mood on any given day).

Shimelle's prompt actually encouraged using individual blog posts as a sort of 'placeholder' for the elements of an actual scrapbook page, when one doesn't have the time to actually scrap.  But I thought I'd use this post as a sort of 'brain dump' of pages and projects that are on my mind, and that I'd like to Scrapbook Someday.  As time goes along, I may create posts for individual projects (see my previous post, Cultural Education for Kids, for example), but the list idea is working for me today.

To Scrapbook Someday

  1. continue with pages in my son's Boy Scout/Eagle album:
    • Uniform Inspection 2002
    • Cub Scout Den 2003
    • Pinewood Derby 2003
    • Raingutter Regatta 2003
    • Pinewood Derby 2004
    • Troop picture 2005
    • Bartle 2005
    • Bartle 2006
    • Bartle 2007
    • Bartle 2008
    • Philmont 2008 (token layout, to mark its place in his scouting 'historical timeline')
    • Bartle 2009
    • Eagle Ceremony 2010 (fingers crossed!)
  2. Philmont 'speed-scrap' pocket page album
  3. Philmont digi photobook
  4. Vegas trip 2008 (or was it 2007?  obviously the memories are fading already!)
  5. Digi-scrapped Memory game for my niece
  6. Colorado vacation photobook
  7. school art project "portfolio" photobook
  8. "A Love So True" grandparents tribute album
  9. "Introducing the Classics"/Cultural Literacy album
  10. First Day of School album
  11. Charity crochet/knitting projects layout
  12. Star Trek movie premiere, opening night May 2009
  13. Mother-Daughter pedicures
  14. High School Debate layout(s) - I'd love for this to be a full album, showing the chronology like the Boy Scout album, but don't think that many pictures will find their way to me.
  15. "Fell" - pictures showing all the autumn leaves on the ground in our back yard

That should keep me busy for a while!  :)

Do you have any scrapbooking/memory-preservation goals or plans? Feel free to link to a similar list on your own blog in the comments!

Cultural Literacy for Kids: Introducing the Classics

As parents of a teen and preteen, my husband and I take our roles as educators seriously.  We know they will be introduced to "the classics" in school, such as "Where the Red Fern Grows", "To Kill a Mockingbird" and who could forget the classic film, "Your Changing Body" (insert pre-teen shudder).

While school attends to expanding their minds, we have taken on the awesome responsibility for making sure they are properly educated in the science of cultural literacy.  Wikipedia defines cultural literacy this way:

Cultural literacy is the ability to converse fluently in the idioms, allusions and informal content which creates and constitutes a dominant culture. From being familiar with street signs to knowing historical references to understanding the most recent slang, literacy demands interaction with the culture and  reflection of it. Knowledge of a canonical set of literature is not sufficient in and of itself when engaging with others in a society, as life is interwoven with art, expression, history and experience. Cultural literacy requires familiarity with a broad range of trivia and implies the use of that trivia in the creation of a communal language and collective knowledge. Cultural literacy stresses the knowledge of those pieces of information which content creators will assume the audience already possesses.
We first started noticing the need for this literacy a few years ago, when we would be watching a TV show or movie, which would reference (or spoof) another TV show or movie, and our kids would ask, "What does that mean?"  And we would have to explain the original source, and why it was funny in this instance.

But we eventually realized it was better for them to understand the reference for themselves, from the original source. So we have made a point to include regular viewings of "classic" material, amongst our rentals of current movies and such.

To create our list of Must-See's, we dug back into our own childhoods & teenhoods, to remember movies, TV shows, and books not only that made an impact on us personally, but also those that are frequently referenced (and spoofed) in modern entertainment.  We have also expanded our list of must-experience's to include Musicals, Music, and Food.  Another, perhaps unorthodox, way to come up with titles of cultural reference is to watch "Family Guy", or many Pixar movies - both frequently spoof/pay homage/refer to classic entertainment of their own childhoods.  Being a family of geeks, we also make sure they are fully versed in things Trek/Star Wars/Sci-Fi/Fantasy, so they can appreciate What Every Good Geek Should Know.  We have our educational priorities.

Our efforts are paying off - we watched "Monsters vs Aliens" recently, and one scene included references to the movies "ET" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", and our kids got both references.  My husband and I smiled smugly, and were quite pleased with ourselves.

We have really enjoyed this time with our kids.  It allows us to share pieces of our personal histories with them in a fun, entertaining way, as well as helping them to become literate people who can understand cultural references in context.  We notice them laughing along with us at jokes their friends often don't catch.  And we've enjoyed hauling out favorite movies and old TV shows, and viewing them again through
their eyes.  We can take the time to explain to them why something was funny or appropriate at that time in history (think the historical backdrop of M*A*S*H, or Doc Brown's stunned response to hearing that Ronald Regan was president, in "Back to the Future").

Of course, I'm considering how to scrapbook this process.  There are enough items in each category that I think I may do a small album for each (or at least add them to my never-ending crafting to-do list).  I could do a Cultural Literacy album for each: Books, Movies, Music, Musicals, TV Shows, and Food.  I've already started an Excel spreadsheet to track our progress, and as a brainstorming repository.  I'll share it here:

Download Culteduc.xls

Please note: Once you check out my list of Cultural Literacy education 'modules', you will probably notice we are a little heavy in the Movie category.  Like by way-a-lot.  You might perhaps think poorly of our educational process in, say, the Book category.  But don't worry too much about us - we are a heavy book-reading family.  My kids used to think going to the library was a treat.  (Now it's more about Borders, but I figure the content is essentially the same, and the end result is still reading).  We make plenty of suggestions about books we think our kids should try, but they have pretty specific tastes, and always seem to have a book (or two, or four) beside their beds.  We read to them all throughout their formative childhood years, but now they read primarily on their own, rather than as a family activity.  Still, for documentation/scrapbooking purposes, I need to dig back in my memory banks for more of the "classics" we did guide them toward when they were younger.

So what say you?  Do you make any special efforts to further your child(ren)'s cultural education?  What "classics" would you consider "required" for a complete education?