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Wednesday, April 16, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 49.0° F  Mostly Cloudy and Windy
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ISTHMUS PARENTS

Mama Madison: My parenting top 10 of 2013
The key moments offered a few lessons as well as laughs


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The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists. So in keeping with tradition, in no particular order, I offer my Parenthood Top 10 of 2013.

1. The Driver's License: About a month ago, my oldest son got his license. To be honest, he hasn't used it all that much since, as we live within walking distance of his school, his two best friends and his work. But there is absolutely no question that having three drivers in the house feels like we've reached a major milestone.

It also feels like reaching a major milestone to have someone to share grocery shopping and carpool runs with, as well.

2. Finishing Elementary School: My youngest graduated from Randall Elementary this past June. I know she was ready to move on the second that the fifth grade "Movin' On" ceremony was over. But I still haven't come to total terms with how much I miss those younger years. We used to walk to school together every morning, sometimes holding hands. She now often refuses to acknowledge my presence, much less hold my anything, if we are anywhere out in public.

Growing up can be hard, especially on the parents.

3. Younger Son's Bar Mitzvah: I'll probably never know whether he felt a heightened sense of spirituality while chanting Torah in front of his extended family and religious community, but there is no question he felt accomplished. He was absolutely beaming his whole time on the Bimah. He found out that hard work and hours of preparation really do pay off -- a pretty valuable lesson regardless of faith tradition.

And for that, I will forever be grateful to my Tribe and its centuries-old rituals.

4. Oldest Son Getting a Job: Sometimes I interpret my kids' reluctance to empty the dishwasher and inability to take out the trash unprompted as signs that they may end up living out the rest of their days in my basement. But this past summer, my oldest got a job as a back waiter at a local restaurant. Six months later, he's still on the payroll. I am relieved that someone has found him employable.

And thrilled he really does know how to clear dishes. Just not his own.

5. Daughter Starting Sixth Grade: I was a middle school girl once myself. I know it can be hell. But I also know it can be a wonderful time of self-discovery in a very Are You There God, It's Me Margaret kind of way. For my daughter, it's been "so far, so good." And just like Margaret, I will plan to rely on some carefully crafted conversations with God to make sure it stays that way. Prayer is probably the most powerful weapon in the mom-of-middle-school-girl's arsenal.

Frankly, it might be all we have.

6. The Fall of Fantasy Football: Historically, my younger son had not been the least bit interested in sports. Not in playing them, not in watching them. He wasn't even particularly interested in going to Badger games -- we had to bribe him with a promise of nachos. But somehow this fall he was turned on to the world of fantasy football. And he's since become the most avid pro fan I know. Every Sunday is spent with his buddies, hunkered down in the basement, watching game after pro game. They eat chips, drink soda and discuss the merits of trading various and sundry quarterbacks and tight ends.

It's not the Fantasy Football itself that makes this list worthy. It's the idea that as much as we think we know our kids -- their strengths, weaknesses and interests -- it can all change on a dime. Especially if nachos are still involved.

7. First College Visit: There is nothing that will make you feel older, and more bittersweet, than touring your alma mater with your child. The campus looked and felt so different. And now, so does my first baby. He was every bit as tall as the tour guide and was able to ask the admissions officer intelligent questions about curriculum, advising and study abroad. This time next year applications (I hope) will be out the door.

And just nine short months after that, so will he.

8. Husband Finishing a 5K with our Daughter: In June, my husband ran the Girls on the Run 5k with our daughter. They proudly crossed the finish line together. It wasn't her first race. Nor will it likely be her last; through the program she's discovered the joy of running. But it was likely the final race she and my husband will do together for the foreseeable future. Shortly after the race his knee gave out and he's pretty much down to swimming and the rowing machine these days. It was definitely a reminder to both of us to do what we can with the kids while we are physically able.

They are not getting any younger. More importantly though, neither are we.

9. Son Cutting his own Hair: But just when I start to feel parenting is a never-ending series of "Sunrise, Sunset" moments, one of my kids will do something to remind me that no matter how chronologically old he or she may be getting, immaturity still reigns. Like last week, when my middle school son, frustrated that his hair was getting a little mullet-esque, took a pair of kitchen scissors out of the drawer, retreated to the upstairs bathroom and gave himself an awkward version of the haircut Demi Moore sported in Ghost. Fortunately, a trained professional was able to see him the next day. Now it's more like Demi Moore in GI Jane.

Yes, I thought that viral video of "the worst haircut ever" that circulated earlier this fall was adorable, but that girl was five. Not fourteen.

10. Surviving Vacation: The whole family went on vacation this summer and shared a single room the entire time. There were arguments aplenty on sleep arrangements, whose toothbrush was whose, and whether the History or Disney Channel would reign supreme on the hotel TV.

But we returned home a week later still talking to each other.

And if that's doesn't warrant a spot in the Top 10, I'm not sure what does.

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