Saturday, August 20, 2011

So Long Sweet Summer...

Although we travel a lot, and our kids have grown up sleeping in hotels and taking lots of road trips, most of them are either to visit family or quick "on the way somewhere" stops for other purposes. We rarely take a real "family vacation", so we decided that it would be a great idea to spend a fun and relaxing final weekend of summer together, one "last hurrah" before the craziness that is autumn begins. We chose Madison as our destination because it's close-by, it's got lots of fun, free (or cheap) things to do, it's a beautiful destination with the lakes and scenery, and (as I'm sure I've mentioned before) it's our very favorite city to visit!

We decided from the outset that in order to make it a fun trip for everyone, we really needed to think of the kids first. We booked a hotel suite with a separate room so that bed time could be easily observed, we made sure not to schedule things back to back to back, we planned around nap time, we allowed more time for everything than we expected it to take, and we made all of our activities and restaurants of the boisterous and fun variety. (In the past, this has sometimes our downfall in planning, as we cart the kids across the country for hours in the car, only to schlep them from used book store to record shop to quiet dimly lit restaurant to ethnic grocery to Target and etc. through nap time and past bed time, and wonder why they're not cooperating.) They say "there's no such thing as fun for the whole family", but I think that last weekend we proved 'em wrong! Here's a look at our picto-trip.

We loaded up the car and took off after work Friday. Two pack-n-plays, one double jogger, two fans, assorted blankets and stuffed animals, a beach bag, a suitcase, a cooler, a diaper bag a bag of car toys, two cameras and a laptop later, and we were off. There was a time that a backpack in the hatch of the Hyundai would do us...! Sigh. This is our new life.

We stopped at Noodles and Co. for dinner, because no trip to a city housing this chain can be made without stopping there. Neil went Asian, with the Indonesian peanut saute, I chose my Mediterranean go-to, penne rosa, and Iain stuck with good ol' American mac and cheese.
Afterward, it was off to Trader Joe's for all the essentials: good chocolate, cheap wine and beer, and exotic coffee. Each of the boys got a "special treat", Liam's was pureed pears, and Iain got "Yoreos". Iain loved pushing around his little cart...Joe, you're a genius. Why don't all grocery stores do that? Fun. For the whole family! (And yes, we are the parents who let their child wear a Hawkeye shirt in Badger country...! Idiots.)

From there, it was off to our hotel. As you can see, we were not the only guests. Although we never did run into Oscar Meyer, Iain was a big fan of his wienermobile.

After we checked in and got settled, we took our first of many trips to the pool. The water was nice and warm and the hot tub was nice and hot, so it was pleasant all-round. Does it mean your kids like their baths too hot when they don't even bat an eyelash at stepping into a hot tub? Iain was a "big brave boy" and jumped of the edge, was tossed in the air and swam with Daddy to his heart's content. Liam relaxed in the hot tub and floated in the pool with Mommy, keeping an eye on Big Brother the entire time. A friendly fellow traveler volunteered to take a family photo for us after seeing our many unsuccessful attempts at a self-portrait. Shoulda warned her that trying to get two kids looking at the camera at once is a lost cause. After their aqua calisthenics, the boys went peacefully to sleep and it was time for Mommy and Daddy to relax with the Food Network and our Trader Joe's wares. All in all, a great first night!

In the morning, we woke up to pouring rain, so we nixed our plans for the farmer's market and went back to sleep. By about 10am it had cleared up, so we headed downstairs to breakfast and then it was off to the Henry Vilas Zoo for our (seemingly) quarterly visit. It's so much fun to see the new things Iain does, likes and notices every time we go, and this time Liam also enjoyed looking and pointing at everything (at least until he fell asleep!). Iain wanted to walk instead of riding in the stroller, so he got pretty tuckered out by the end. He had a blast showing George the monkeys, posing in all of the face-in-hole animals and enjoying all of the crazy creatures. We found out later that there is a new baby lion cub, but all the lions were hiding out when we were there, so we didn't get to see it. Iain said that this time his favorite animal to see was the giraffe. After a quick lunch stop for some pizza it was back to the hotel for a loooong afternoon nap for everybody.

Unbeknownst to us, it poured again as we napped, and we awakened to a world washed clean! We headed out for dinner to Ella's Deli, a new place for us, but a landmark for Madison. It's a kosher deli and ice-cream parlor, complete with mechanical toys and collections galore, a carousel and more stuff packed into one little restaurant than you can shake a stick at.

If you've never experienced the mechanized wonder and dizzying delight that is Ella's, you need to! It's kind of creepy, (think...clowns...) but also pretty amazing...! Iain literally could not keep his eyes off everything. They have quite an (overwhelmingly) extensive menu, but in the end, we decided to stick with deli standards, as that's what they're famous for. I went for the pastrami Reuben on rye, and it was amazing. Neil had a Philly cheese-steak hoagie, and Iain went for his new favorite...a hotdog. ( least it was kosher!) Liam stuck with the menus.After dinner, it was time for a carousel ride. Iain was quite hesitant, (as evidenced from the grimaces in the first few photos) until he saw his little brother enjoying himself, (he particularly liked chewing on the (kosher?) reins!) and then he relaxed and had a blast. The boys whooped it up and laughed back and forth from horse to horse, and had the time of their lives together. It was a nice glimpse of the fun they are going to have as Liam continues to grow up. The guy workin' the booth was getting bored, I suspect, so he let us go around several times.

Our evening followed much the same format as the one previous, with fun in the pool, baths and bed, although instead of the Food Network (because we'd had more than our fill of Guy Fieri!) Neil and I tortured ourselves by watching Hoarders. Yikes...if there's anything that makes me want to get rid of all my's a show like that! Everyone slept in again, and after breakfast we packed up, took one last swim in the pool and checked out. After a (more difficult than expected) search for some pool and sand toys, our destination for the day was the Goodman pool. With a big sand play area, lots of kiddie features, nice deck chairs and a huge shallow section, it seemed the perfect destination for two little boys, and it really was. We were shocked at how few people were there, and the weather was perfect. We played for hours, and the boys would have stayed even longer I think!

We emerged from our time at the pool sun-kissed and tired, and decided it might be in our best interests for two little boys to take naps before we did anything else. We took a long walk along Lake Monona, ending at the Monona Terrace, Frank Loyd Wright's huge edifice. The boys both napped for about an hour, and then we tried to decide what to do for dinner. In the was back to Ella's. We even had the same waitress...! How embarrassing. Neil branched out and got the Midwestern roast-beef, and Iain had pasta, but after much debate, I had to go with the pastrami Reuben again. While we waited for our food, we took a final ride on the carousel, and the boys loved it just as much as the first time. We decided we'd better not leave without samping the ice cream and Neil even tried the famous pound-cake sundae. We let Iain get his own dish of ice cream, and he was pretty proud of himself.
We drove home in a beautiful sunset, and everyone agreed it was the perfect end to summer. By their nature, photos and blogging really only show the highlights of a trip, and never the nitty-gritty low-points. The photos don't show the meltdown from a cranky, over-tired toddler at the pizza place, resulting in a trip to the car and a conversation about rudeness and an apology to the pizza girl. They don't show (thankfully!) the fact that our newly-introduced-to-fruit baby had no fewer than fifteen poopy diapers in one weekend! They don't show the fact the the very Type B wife was frustrated with her very Type A husband for not sticking to the itinerary (what?!), resulting in a small tiff on the way to the pool. (The walk was supposed to go before the pool trip, dangit!) But this time at least, there are hardly any of those not-so-stellar, unrecorded moments to remember! I'm so grateful for the time we got to spend, and I'm hoping that the fun we had together will give us the boost we need for the busy months to come. And a good time was had by all!

1 comment:

  1. you are a great blogger. :) I enjoyed all the pictures!

    so glad you had such a fun getaway with your sweet little family.