Solomon had never been on a plane before, Eliana couldn’t remember that she had. Reuben had never flown with a child, I had never flown with two. At 4:45am one morning in September, we were on our way to change all that.
A 7am flight with two small children. That’s a lot of work. Just packing the bags kept us up till around midnight. Then the theory was that the kids would stay asleep as we transferred them from bed to carseat, and once the plane took off they’d be ready for naps. But these are the Schug babies — they love adventure. Both Eliana and Solomon were wide-eyed from the moment we brought them downstairs until several hours later as we drove down the freeway in Burbank on the way to our hotel. And even that nap was short-lived. One of the wonderful things about our kids, though, is they do amazingly well on very little sleep — they’re just so excited to experience new things.
We arrived in Burbank so early — about 9am — that we couldn’t yet check into our hotel. So we stopped to pick up some vacation supplies, then had some local Mexican food for lunch. Finally our hotel room was ready, just in time for me to change into work clothes and head to the office. This was a working vacation for me, after all. While I tried desperately to focus on donor analytics with just 4.5 hours of sleep, Reuben took the kids to visit an old high school friend who lived in Pasadena. That evening we enjoyed the company in their beautiful home and had the best barbecue I’ve ever tasted. Our super-babies had by that point been awake roughly 16 hours, and with very little fuss Eliana finally put her head down on the table and declared “I want to go to sleep!”
The next morning I headed to the office again, but cut the day short so we could all meet up at… DISNEYLAND! The agency I work with treated us to the whirlwind 4-hour visit to the happiest place on earth.
Four hours obviously isn’t enough time to take in all that Disneyland and California Adventure have to offer. But, thankfully, Eliana hadn’t even realized the place existed until about a week prior to our visit. I had to explain to her, “You know that castle at the beginning of your movies? Did you realize that’s a real place? It’s where all the princesses live!”
While she did wear her pink tutu to visit the park, she was not the hyper, squealing three-year-old you might expect. Instead, she was quietly observant — barely making eye contact with us as she looked all around soaking it in and trying to make sense of it all.
The good thing about having only four hours in Disneyland, was that we were only there for the kiddie rides. While my teammates waited about an hour to get on Splash Mountain, we whisked through the lines for Dumbo, the Teacups, the Chip-n-Dale roller coaster (twice), Toontown, the Little Mermaid, a new Cars ride, and more. But there was one grown-up ride we wanted to take a turn on — Pirates of the Caribbean.
When Reuben first suggested the ride I (admittedly) made the mistake of suggesting it might be too frightening for Eliana. She heard me, and insisted she did NOT want to go see the pirates. After much reassurances, I eventually persuaded her by giving her my sweatshirt and suggesting she could put it over her head if she was afraid (remember her visit to the T-rex?). So, she did just that for the first couple of minutes. But then, slowly, she lowered the sweatshirt and started looking around. Then she was intrigued. Afterward, if you asked her what her favorite ride was, she’d tell you it was Pirates of the Caribbean. Even now, she likes to wear the eye patch I promised to buy her at the dollar store, and she’ll sing “yo ho, yo ho a pirate’s life for me!”
On Friday I had one more day at work, which would have been kind of a drag except that I love my job and I have a great team. Oh, and this happened:
Right outside the conference room window we watched the Space Shuttle Endeavour take it’s final journey on a lap around Los Angeles. It gave us all chills.
Meanwhile, my family was enjoying the perks of our fancy (for us) hotel.
Eliana was her usual super-confident self in the pool. And Solomon is becoming a little fish too — not at all afraid floating on his back and finding endless entertainment flapping his arms in the water.
When my work was done I joined them in the pool and we ordered hotel pizza and enjoyed the California evening.
The next morning we packed up and headed to the beach! We transferred to a not-so-nice, but cheaper, hotel in Redondo Beach where we could be close to our friends Eric and Patty. Here is one lesson we learned on the way — when you’ve been driving the California freeways for an hour and your daughter in the backseat starts squirming and saying her tummy hurts, pull over immediately. We were about 2 minutes away from our friends’ house when Eliana puked all over herself and her carseat. I guess I’m just thankful it didn’t happen on the way back to the airport instead.
She greeted her new friends in nothing but underwear and we moved her quickly to the bathtub as Reuben hosed down the car and started the laundry. After that slight setback, the fun could continue…
We watched OSU beat UCLA while enjoying sandwiches and snacks with the McCullums. Skipping naps again, we took the kids to the beach to play while the dads surfed. Oh, to live in a place with warm beaches — it’s so wonderful!
After washing the sand off back at our hotel room (and realizing that the TV didn’t work, for which we complained and scored an upgrade to a much nicer room for the remainder of our stay!), we rejoined our friends for a salmon dinner.
Sunday was a day for more friends and more beaches! We met my dear friend Penney in Santa Monica and were introduced to her husband, Greg, for the first time. It was so wonderful to catch up with a friend and make a new one. After brunch we walked down the Santa Monica pier, where Eliana rode the carousel and met a generic-looking Mickey and Minnie Mouse (Who we had to pay to get a photo with. Hmm.). At the end of the pier we stopped for drinks (yay for vacation!), and then on the way back we skipped the carnival rides in favor of a visit to the small aquarium underneath the pier.
That evening we enjoyed the beach again, and were rewarded with a breathtaking sunset. Although, Eliana would tell you that her favorite part was discovering that Hermosa beach has a swing set on it! Both of our kids loved swinging on the beach. After shaking off the sand, we strolled along the boardwalk, where the music was loud and the visitors lively. Deciding that this was the easiest place to get dinner, we chose a restaurant with outdoor seating and were humored by the sight of our two babies in the midst of what was essentially a twenty-something bar scene. How times have changed.
Our last full day of vacation was set aside for a visit to Knott’s Berry Farm. We arrived shortly after the park opened, and found that we practically owned the place for the day. Eliana could walk up and climb aboard any kids ride that she wanted to try. Multiple times. With no wait. Reuben and I even took turns riding the roller coasters — skipping through the railings that normally organize the crowds, and requesting the front seat with no lines ahead of us.
Knott’s Berry Farm was a good choice for this phase in our lives. The rides definitely catered to either a very young child or teen/adult crowd. So there were plenty of things to keep Eliana entertained, and others that we thought were fun. If we had been there with, say, an 8-year old, it might have been a tougher sell.
The old-town theme of Knott’s Berry Farm is fun in and of itself, and we enjoyed exploring the different “shops” and watching a couple of theater shows. In the saloon show, Reuben was even called up on stage and used as a character in the sketch, much to our amusement.
We spent the entire day — from open to close — at Knott’s Berry Farm. Solomon snoozed for a little while in the stroller, but Eliana was living it up the whole time. Our favorite rides were those we could go on as a family, which we did about 3 times each — the log boat ride (above) that we took turns with Eliana on, and the coal mine train ride (whose guide with a horrible fake old-timer accent over an even more horrible PA system was impossible to understand and endlessly amusing for Reuben and me).
By the time we strapped the kids into their carseats for the ride back to the hotel, Eliana had reached her limit. We didn’t see her awake again until the next morning at about 8:30.
On Tuesday we packed up our bags (barely meeting the 50lb checked bag limit!), and began the journey back home, this time at a much more reasonable hour. We all thoroughly enjoyed our first big family vacation. Reuben and I think we have two of the best kids in the world — happy, curious, adaptable, and fun. For her part, Eliana regularly talks about “the next time we go to California.”