View of Vilas

Many Madisonians have visited the Henry Vilas Zoo since it’s opening in 1911.


I went as a kid and a few times this past summer and just this weekend, Meghan, Cash and I spend some there.  This shot was taken there.


The Vilas zoo is a Madison staple, especially for local families and tourists alike.  There are some nice exhibits with a wide variety of animals, a new polar bear exhibit and beautiful grounds nestled beside Lake Wingra, an expansive green lawn with play areas and the picturesque homes and streets of the Vilas neighborhood.

Even more impressive than the surroundings is the story of how the park and zoo came to be.

William Freeman Vilas was an accomplished, respected man. He has a building, a county and a neighborhood named after him for starters. Vilas was a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate who went on to lead, as a lieutenant colonel his regiment in battle in the Civil War.

Following the Union victory, Vilas got his law degree and became a Law Professor at the UW.

Vilas was then elected as a Wisconsin state assemblyman until he was appointed the Postmaster General and then Secretary of Interior of the United States by then President Grover Cleveland. Vilas was renowned nationally as a good speaker and writer, valued by the president and the Democratic party. From 1891 until 1897, Wisconsin elected him to the United States’ Senate.

William married Anna Fox from Fitchburg and they went on to have four children making their residence on Wisconsin Ave (near the Edgewater Hotel) with views of Lake Mendota.

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Sadly, their son, Henry, died at a young age from complications related to diabetes.

A few years later, the couple decided to donate 63 acres of valuable land to the city of Madison under the conditions “for the uses and purposes of a public park and pleasure ground.” The donation came with a mandate–that the park and zoo forever be admission-free.

A 28 acre portion of the land would be used for a zoo-the Henry Vilas Zoo-named in honor of their deceased son.

Today, the grounds are enjoyed by 3/4 of a million visitors per year–for free. Many of whom don’t know the past generosity that allows its existence. I didn’t know it until recently but for any of us who use the park and zoo for any times of recreation should learn about, empathize with and appreciate this Madison family’s legacy.

Though the Vilas’ worked with Presidents and other highly elected officials across the world, their donation to the city of Madison was a gift intended to be enjoyed by its citizens, regardless of their position in life. Citizens they would never meet and, like us, many who didn’t even know them or about them but benefit from their gift. I hope to change that a bit.

I don’t work for nor am I affiliated in any way with the Henry Vilas Zoo but I support it now more than ever and enjoy it and am impressed by its existence.  I encourage you to throw in a few bucks next time you visit and/or become a member and/or donate online if you’d like. It’s good to pause for a good cause every once in a while.

Vilas View

On a typical summer day,

Wingra’s wind gently greets the green grass

where families picnic

and children jump, twirl, crawl and play,

one could imagine a young Henry Vilas 

amongst them, enjoying the fray.   

Maybe William and Anna and see him too.

Their vision is why all are here today.


Friend worthy

“You are your baby’s first friend.”  I read this statement in an article yesterday. Cash is reaching the “socialization” stage of his life and Meghan and I have a huge role to play.


I don’t want to get in the dangerous, slippery slope of being my child’s friend as he goes through life because I need to be his Dad. I do want a respectful, fun, significant relationship but there should never be a question, if I’ve done it right, that I’m the boss and have the final word. I used the saying as a teacher and coach when a student would chide me to change the task I’d assigned, “I don’t negotiate.” The ideals I’d like to establish to my kids, “Firm, Fair, Fun…but Friend?

I’ll struggle with that balance of friendship and parenting for the rest of my life I suppose but in the meantime, I do have to look into what we want to teach Cash about friendship? Yikes. I hadn’t considered that as much as I considered when he’d learn music or what sports I’d like him to play (definitely a team sport and I hope football but I won’t force it…just suggest it in a friendly way).


I can share my experience. When I evaluate my friends, and you know who you are because you pretty much the only ones who read this outside my family, the attribute I value most is trustworthiness.

Sure, I like humor, I like intelligence, I like availability and an adventurous spirit but when the friendship rubber hits life’s road, I want someone I can trust along with me and I’ll let Cash know I how I feel about that.  What’s great about trustworthiness is that it can’t be faked. Humor can. Intelligence can. For awhile. But trustworthiness is revealed only through time, tribulations and trials.

I take pride in having long-term friendships. Because I know to have and maintain friendships, you have to be a friend.

Among the best men for my wedding, the only I had not known more than 13 years was my then-13 year old brother. The rest of them were twenty or more and best man, Tommy, I knew my entire life. Yes, he is a cousin but that’s okay, you can be friends AND relatives.

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In my seventeen years in Los Angeles, one of the most transient cities in the world, almost all of my friends include guys I met within the first few years there.

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Cash has a lot of boys and potential friends in his age group. In fact, according to Meghan’s Mommy and Me crew, there is about 6 boys to every girl…which could lead to some dating issues in the future if that is true outside of this particular group.  I think only Alaska has that bad of odds for men to women ratio.

I purposely left out girls as friends because that’s an issue even I can’t sort out after all these years, “Can men and women really be friends?” Until I do, if ever, I’m going to focus on Cash developing friendships with other males.  I will encourage him to have girls who are friends but if he doesn’t have more guys who are friends than girls, something is off. Same with girls who have more guy friends than girls. And I know both but this is where I land, you should get along with your own sex as much if not more, than the other sex.

Before any politically correct bandwagoners lecture me that it’s perfectly fine for a guy to have more girl friends than guy friends and vice versa…we respectfully disagree because that just hasn’t played out to be true in my experiences. You gotta find out how to get along with both and I hope Cash has a lot of male and female friends.


My family and friends have different opinions than I do about a bunch of things-who should be president, where to get the best burger, who should start at quarterback for Badgers-but ultimately, if you’re friends, you should be able to trust that no matter your opinion, your friends are your friends no matter what.

Cash may agree with me or develop a different opinion. That’s fine, I’ll show him both sides to an argument but give him my opinion and encourage him to have one as well, even if it’s against mine.  I’ll be me and he’ll be he.

You really need to be free to be who you are around friends and trust that they will like you anyway.  Your trust is an important thing to give…and if one can show they are worthy of that, they can be your friend.


Sleep like a baby?

Like all parents with infants, sleep is a major issue. Ours and our baby’s–when, where and how often.

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With all that in mind, Meghan and I have been sleep training our son, Cash.

Sleep training? Sounds like the kind of training we’d all love to sign up for!  Certainly seems to require less effort than basic training and cross training.

The concept of sleep training seemed silly to me. What training is necessary to sleep?  If you are tired, you sleep. If you are not tired, you don’t sleep.

Simple, right? Not exactly.

There are a handful of standard sleep training methods for infants, with off-shoots and modifications on each one. Here are some methods: Ferber, Gradual Parent Removal, Scheduled Awakenings, Tear-free and “Cry it Out.” The last one is the precursor to the “walk it off” mentality when the kid falls and cries.

We opted for Ferberizing. This method directs you to put your baby to bed while he is still awake but tired and ready to sleep. Then you leave the room. We did and yes, Cash cried and yes, I had to hold Meghan back from turning around and picking him up–she asked me to in case you think I’m unnecessarily strong-arming my wife.  I had to do this for only five minutes, then she was allowed to go in and sooth him but not pick him up or cuddle, just a one minute check-in so that he was assured we were still in the house and didn’t run off to some tropical isle without him.

This photo might help you understand how hard it is for Meghan to see her son seeking her comfort and how much harder it was for me to let her, let him cry.


(Warning: Do not try this in your crib…the manual says the crib will hold only “up to fifty pounds”…so this was the one and only time Meghan did this. FYI-It is still intact. If I had gotten in like this…Cash and I would played our first game of “Pick-up Sticks!”)


We left the room and again, he cried but this time we waited ten minutes and then soothed and left and waited 15 minutes and repeated.

After a little over an hour, and a little over a glass of wine for Momma, Cash crashed out. He woke up a few times that night, we took turns soothing and then morning hit and he was happy and normal as usual. No signs of trauma from the jingle jangle of the night.

On the second night, he was crashed within 45 minutes and the third night by 3o minutes. He woke up one time, fussed for a couple minutes and went back to sleep.

Our lives felt changed. Meghan slept a chunk of six uninterrupted hours for the first time since mid-pregnancy and Cash was as happy as ever.


A little over a month of this and we can say it really worked. Sure, there are more restless nights than others but Cash likes his crib and will even lay in there wide awake without fussing. And he naps quite regularly during the day as well…with a little help from his feline pillow.


I share this sleep story only to inform that the Ferber method worked for us. A quick side note when my wife mentioned this method my mind went to the iconic Gerber baby foods and made me wonder if we’d be feeding Cash fruit sauces out of little glass jars while he lay in his crib but apparently there is no relation to Gerber baby foods. Good thing…that could have gotten messy.

Each household, child and Momma cry threshold is different so this Ferber method may not be for everyone. As the saying goes, “Whatever gets you through the night.”

You can go blind reading all the theories for and against by mommy bloggers, pediatricians and family members who share all sorts of their theories, all genuine and valid but even more so shows how you are the only one who can decide what is best.

Made me appreciate how fascinating and ubiquitous sleep is in our lives. It applies to every. human. being. everyone regardless of race, age, nationality, orientation, gender identities.

In my own sleep journey-and by ‘journey’ I mean metaphorically not actual journeying as in sleep walking-which is a whole separate, fascinating/dangerous aspect of sleep.

I discovered about 10 or so years ago that I needed about 6 1/2 hours of sleep a night to feel fine and functional. The last few years I’ve dropped a half hour and reduced it to six hours needed/wanted.

I’m comforted by this sleep infographic courtesy of Turns out, my six hour sleep pattern puts me in the company of Benjamin Franklin, Sigmund Freud, Richard Branson, and the President of the United States.


It is purported that Leonardo Da Vinci slept six hours a day also…just not a in a row.  Instead, he took 2o minute naps every four hours, a practice known as the Uberman polyphasic sleep cycle. Not sure if he has anything to do with the Uber car but I would not like my driver nodding off so often!


Speaking of not nodding off often, Thomas Edison averaged three hours of a sleep a night, regarding sleep as “a waste of time.”

No surprise then, that Edison invented light.

On the other side of the bed, Albert Einstein reportedly required ten hours of sleep per day. But I don’t buy it. Does this look like someone who gets a lot of sleep?


If most historical inventors, leaders of country and business alike, sleep less, why is the common advocation to get eight hours of sleep for adults? Is “The Man” trying to keep us down…on our down mattresses?

They say in sleep is when his brain grows but also in sleep (at rest) is when your muscles grow. Sleep is, indeed, a powerful, impactful, time-consuming growth opportunity in all of our lives.

Like all concerned parents, we want to pass along the gift of good sleep habits to Cash. Maybe what he learns from this sleep process will lead him to be rich and famous like those individuals mentioned above? Maybe he’ll invent a new sleep method when he gets older and discover the ideal sleep patterns for all of humanity!


Hey, a guy can dream! But, he has to sleep first.