A Christmas (kind of) vacation

For Christmas, my brother got me two great gifts. The first was that he would plan a weekend for Sara and I, including a hotel room and entertainment. The second, and more important gift, was that he would watch the kids during that time.

This was elaborate planning. There were reservations and tickets and printed maps. In fact, there were too many things to do and we ended up missing out on some of them! I guess we’ll just have to do it again sometime.

First we went to the farmer’s market. The Madison farmer’s market is not for the faint of heart. It’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 BILLION times bigger than our farmer’s market. We got scones at their favorite scone place, and bought some honey, flowers, and pickled garlic scapes. Ollie would have prefered to stay at the pickle place all day long eating samples. He mowed through everything in turn, including some habanero pickles. Some lady tried one next, figuring if some little kid was fine with them, what did she have to fear? Unfortunately, her face caught on fire and burned off. Never mess with Ollie when it comes to spicy things.

Next we had a tour of the capitol, which is sort of old hat for my brother. Still we got up on the roof walk, peeked in the senate chamber, and walked around in the rotunda.

By the time the kids were getting pretty hungry (forgetting, naturally, that we had already eaten breakfast AND scones), so we went out to brunch. We ate at Graze, and I must say, it was quite awesome. This was definitely the best meal we had in Madison (more on that later).

Next up we went out to the Sassy Cow Creamery for a tour. They were having some kind of family day, which included ice cream taste tests, games, tours, and did I mention taste tests? Nathan got a little…turned around on the way there (how else to describe the fact that it took us 50 minutes to get there and only 15 to get home?), but it all came out okay.

Better than okay, in fact, because we saw the craziest thing ever.

We were standing in the main barn watching cows eat and pretending like it didn’t smell like we were actually standing inside a cow’s butt, when the tour guide casually mentioned one of the cows was giving birth. Sure enough, one of the cows was just lying on its side, heaving and pushing. They didn’t have it in a separate area or anything; even the other cows weren’t bothering to give it any extra room.

“Whelp,” said the tour guide, “looks like I better give ‘er a tug.”

He casually walks over and grabs some kind of crazy chain thing, reaches inside the cow, attaches the chains to the baby’s legs and PULLS OUT A BABY COW. Simple as that. “I guess we’re all honorary Wisconsinites now,” said Sara.


After that, it was time to split up. Nathan and Amanda took the kids to Cave of the Mounds, and Sara and I went to check into our hotel. We were supposed to go kayaking next, but we couldn’t make it. We had early dinner reservations in order to make the comedy show later, so we only had an hour or so before dinner. Therefore we decided to just walk around and do some shopping. However, we also realized that there was NO WAY we could eat dinner at 6. Between breakfast, scones, lunch, and ice cream, we just didn’t have any room left over. So we had to cancel our reservations. It looked like a lovely restaurant, but we stopped for a coffee instead.

Finally, we ended the night with an improv show at Monkey Business. The room was small and hot, but the improv was actually pretty good. I don’t attend many improv shows, but I have been to a few, and the games they played were different than I have seen before. We ended up getting some pizza, and it was pretty good too (ham, blue cheese and walnuts!).

The next morning we met back up with the kids and Nate and Amanda made us pancakes (beet pancakes no less! That’s a first for me.) On a whim, on the way home we stopped off at my Grandma’s house and took her out to lunch, since we clearly hadn’t eaten enough in the past few days. My Uncle from Madison had the same idea, so we all ended up going together (ironic that we spent the weekend in Madison, but didn’t run into him until we left!)

All in all a very nice weekend, and a Christmas present I would recommend to anyone who has kids. Believe me, a night without the kids is always a very, very good bet for a present, even without the hotel room! Heck, even an HOUR without the kids…

The wordiest “I’m not talking to you” response I’ve ever gotten

Evie was mad about something, I don’t remember what. Sara asked her if her roses had opened up. She was handed this note in response:

wordy response“Open roses? I can’t tell you with my words, because I have told myself I will not talk to you. But yes!”

Just imagine how much she has to say when she CAN talk to you!


Quote Monday

Ollie: “What’s Pooh’s real name?”
Me: “Uh…”
Ollie: “I mean, what’s his name when he’s not just Pooh?”
Me: “…Winnie the Pooh?”
Ollie: “Yeeeees!”

::3 women  walk past us::
Ollie: “They’re genetic counselors!”
Me: “Why are they genetic counselors?”
Ollie: “Because they have curly hair.”

Thank god your hair doesn’t actually determine your profession, because I don’t have any.

Sara: “Did you feel the ground shake when that car went by?”
Ollie: “Does the ground shake when OUR car goes by?”

When all 4 cylinders are firing, you’re experiencing 1.5 liters of raw power, baby.

A10 gets an A+

In addition to watching some movies, I also mentioned going out to eat while the kids were gone. In particular, we finally (finally, FINALLY) made it to A10.

We have been meaning to go to A10 for a long time. I remember peeking in the windows when they were still building the place. We were excited! And yet, it’s been open for almost a year, and we’d never actually made it.

Now, I’m a guy who’s willing to drive for food, and A10 is the kind of place that I would drive to. The menu is unique and interesting, and the food was great. The location is great, and the place exudes cool. The bar is one of those places where you want to order martinis or an Old Fashioned and wait for Dean Martin to stroll in. Even the bathroom was cool.

We had the country bacon pizza to start, and Sara followed that up with the A10 burger. I went with the green tomato sandwich, on the waiter’s recommendation. It was good. I would have prefered a few more green tomatoes (the sandwich should rightfully be called “the pork belly sandwich which happens to have some green tomatoes”), but it was tasty and filling.

But here’s where it gets cooler still.

Apparently there was some kind of computer glitch that caused a bit of a wait. It took about 40 minutes for our food to come out. It was definitely a long time, and I looked at my watch more than once, but we were there without kids and it wasn’t an unenjoyable time. The waiter apologized profusely to us and another table, but we really weren’t that put out. Perhaps we would have been, but again, no kids, and nowhere to be. After we had finished eating, the manager stopped by and casually mentioned that it was unacceptable that we had to wait for so long, and the food was on the house.

Looks like someone just earned themselves a blog post.

It was completely unexpected and I almost had to ask to hear it again, I was so surprised. We would have been happy with just taking a couple of bucks off, hell, we were happy as-is. The apology was sufficient. But that’s what a good restaurant does. They make you WANT to come back, and to tell all your friends about the place, and to order drinks that would fit in on the set of Mad Men until you think a dead guy from the Rat Pack is talking to you.

Take a minute to compare that to our experience at Founding Farmers. It’s as close to a photo-negative as you can get.

A10, man. Tell your friends. Get some of those northsiders to drive down to OUR neighborhood for a change. I’m sorry it took us so long to try it.

The Desolation of Shane Halbach

One of the movies we watched while the kids were gone was the Desolation of Smaug. It would have been hard to be more disappointed with a movie.

I don’t know if I would say The Hobbit is my favorite book of all time, but it’s certainly the book that I’ve read the most times. I still remember the summer afternoon when, desperately digging through my mom’s old books for something interesting to read, I pulled out her old copy of The Hobbit. Finding that book simultaneously sparked a love affair with fantasy fiction that I’m still experiencing today, and changed my worldview (“Mom used to read good books??).

This was as opposed to the Lord of the Rings books, which I would never count among my favorite books. The Lord of the Rings were too long, too flowery, and just…too long. I read them, multiple times, and they were alright. The Hobbit on the other hand was short, funny, full of action and adventure, and clearly intended for a much younger audience (since it is, yanno, a children’s book and all). The Hobbit is easier to chew then the full Lord of the Rings trillogy, and to me, that was its major strength.

On the other hand, I really loved the Lord of the Rings movies. I had been waiting my entire life for someone to make a legitimately awesome fantasy movie (well, waiting ever since I had read The Hobbit). I own them all on DVD. I love them. You can imagine how excited I was when it was announced that Peter Jackson was going to make a movie of the Hobbit!

And then it became 3 movies. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I didn’t dislike the first Hobbit movie. It was enjoyable. I didn’t like the changes they introduced, but it was alright. This second installment, however, was not alright. Not alright at all.

As I said, the brevity of the book was its greatest asset. This movie is so full of unnecessarily drawn out fight scenes and added content, it would make George Lucas blush. You could remove entire hours (yes, plural) from the film and not affect the storyline whatsoever. And why not? The movies at this point have deviated so widely and thoroughly from the source material, I have to wonder why the writers even started from an existing story in the first place?

In case you are not familiar with the book, I would like to point out a few things (spoilers ahead). This is a kids’ book. There are no beheadings (I think there were at least 4 or 5 in the movie). There are no orcs trying to assassinate the dwarves. No fighting from river barrels. There is no love triangle between elves and dwarves. The dwarves do not fight Smaug. I repeat, they DO NOT FIGHT THE DRAGON. So that whole, inexplicably complicated and confusing 45 minute scene at the end? Totally made up. All this retconning to make the movie fit into the Lord of the Rings movie? Bogus.

There are two problems with making changes to the original story:

  1. You’re sort of implying you know how to tell a better story than J.R.R. Tolkien. Stop it. He didn’t need all these extra villians and wizards and love interests. There’s a reason this book is a classic, and a reason you wanted to make a movie out of it.
  2. The more you change, the more you have to change. Let me give you an example: you want to make the barrel scene more exciting, so you add orcs to fight. It’s not realistic that so many orcs would fail to hurt the dwarves in any way, so you have Kili get shot with an arrow. Well, you know that you’ve added a big fight scene with the dragon, and surely Kili can’t fight with an arrow wound (and what the heck, let’s make it a poison arrow!), plus you need to set up a love scene with this new elf  you added into the mix, so I guess Kili’s not going to be able to go to the mountain with everybody else. But wait a minute, now we’ve got the dwarves splitting up! So that means we’re going to have to change… It just goes on and on, and the more you change, the farther you get from the text.

I want to speak to Peter Jackson for a minute.

Peter. I love you man. Not the now you, the you from before you made LOTR. The guy who made Dead Alive, a movie that was as seminal to my development as The Hobbit was. Dead Alive is possibly the greatest zombie movie of all time, and I don’t say that lightly. Back then you were just a guy who liked Tolkien, who wanted to make the movie because you were a fan, and only a fan could do it right, man. What happened to that guy? What happened to doing it right?

As a Hobbit fan, and as a Peter Jackson fan, I am your target audience. It doesn’t *get* any more target audience than me. If I am bored out of my skull by your movie, you are not. doing. it. right.

The Hobbit is not Lord of the Rings.

You’ve lost me on this one, buddy. Next time, do the right thing. Maybe we can still be friends.

A Disappointed Fan
Whose Childhood You Just Crapped On For Profit

No Kids: Addendum

The kids were pretty emotional tonight when they got back. After we got Ollie into bed, he started sobbing as hard as I’ve ever heard him sob. “I don’t need help with anything!” he called out from his bedroom. I think the poor boy was just emotionally overwhelmed.

He’s such a sweetheart!

No kids, no kids, la la la la laaaa la

At the beginning of the summer, we were trying to figure out how in the world we were going to cover childcare. We asked a lot of family members if they could help with the various days, but it just worked out such that all of our volunteer-covered dates were in August.

This was both good and bad. The bad part was that by the time August rolled around, I *really, really* needed a break. I have been, shall we say, not doing my best parenting lately. I mean EXTREMELY not my best parenting lately. It probably would have been nice to sprinkle a few breaks in there somewhere.

On the other hand, everything is coming together at once, and we are getting a nice, long, wonderful, relaxing time without the kids. Aside from last Wednesday, the kids were gone for NINE days.

Oooh, I can’t tell you how nice it has been. Sara and I almost never do anything without the kids. We only very occasionally get a babysitter, and even then it’s usually at night when the kids are in bed anyway. It has been a very magical time.

While they’ve been gone, we’ve played Agricola, rented a bunch of movies, woke up when we felt like it (which JUST HAPPENED to be at 6:30), knitted, gone out to eat, cleaned, and canned. A LOT:

no kids canning

Pictured: spicy tomato jam, corn salsa, pickled beans, and corn stock

We ate whatever we felt like, and had ice cream with espresso on top. Ice cream with espresso on top!

We have also been cleaning like crazy people, mostly doing all the things we never get around to. We thoroughly cleaned the kids’ bedrooms, putting away all the clothes that don’t fit them, throwing out all the broken toys, putting away things they don’t play with anymore. It might not seem very relaxing to do all these things, but I assure you it is good for my soul.

Besides, without the kids here, there’s so much more time in the day! You can do a bunch of cleaning and STILL have time to relax!

Sara and I even went for a run together. I assure you that has never happened before (and most likely never will again!). Sara basically tried to kill me. She made me run a 5k and my legs were sore for days afterwards. That’s certainly the first time I’ve run more than 2 miles IN MY LIFE.

It has been so wonderful to have a break (and more on the way as we wind down the summer). I haven’t felt this close to Sara since we were dating.

In other words, does anybody want to husband-sit? I think she’s probably getting pretty sick of me.


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