Ga Duniya

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Category Archives: USA

From Burbank to the Berry Farm

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.”

A Weekend Away in Yachats

A quick review, in the interest of keeping this blog alive!

A few weeks ago, my family took a little weekend trip over to Yachats, on the Oregon coast. This was our new baby’s first trip to the beach, and we chose Yachats because it’s close by Florence where Reuben’s grandparents live.

Realizing that two adults and two little kids is a lot to ask anyone to take in, we opted to rent a house instead. Other family members had rented rooms at the Silver Surf Motel, and we learned that they also had cabins to rent so it worked out perfectly.

All of the hotel rooms have an amazing view of the ocean, as well as a pretty substantial kitchen. That alone makes the hotel a great bargain. In addition, there is a pool and hot tub, and free DVDs to check out from the front desk.

The staff were really accommodating. We’d arrived a bit before check-in time, so we had to wait about 30 minutes for our room. When they brought us the keys, they also brought along a bottle of sparkling cider, to apologize for the wait.

The cabins are old, but very well-maintained. They lack an ocean view, unfortunately, but they do have a full kitchen, with cooking utensils, and two bedrooms. Our biggest disappointment was being situated right by the highway, although there wasn’t much traffic on the coastal road once night fell.

Overall, I was happy with our stay at Silver Surf. We were able to have a private space for our family to enjoy time together, while being right next to the beach. Our daughter loved playing in the swimming pool, and we enjoyed having enough room to watch movies at night while the kids were asleep in their rooms.

 

Winning and Honesty in Las Vegas

When Reuben told me about the text message he’d received, I didn’t want to play along.

It was from our friend John, who’d heard we were in Las Vegas and asked Reuben to put $20 down on black 36. Cheapskate that I am, I figured it was $20 we’d be throwing away, and then we’d probably opt to avoid the awkwardness of asking our friend for a reimbursement.

But then we had a good laugh. Having never played roulette before, Reuben stopped by a table to see how it would work, and discovered that #36 was actually red. So he texted John back with the report. John was not deterred.

Then, we figured, what the hell.

That night we walked down the Strip to check out the new Cosmopolitan hotel and casino and CityCenter, which had opened since the last time we visited Las Vegas. And, while it’s not at all relevant to the story at hand, I will say that I was absolutely awe-struck by the amazing chandeliers that graced the interior of the Cosmopolitan.

Continuing on, we were welcomed into the Aria by a statue of Buddha. I think we were supposed to rub his belly for luck. Not believing in such superstitions, I opted to pose with my bronzed twin instead.

And a strange twist to our luck was about to occur.

As we made our way through the casino, I spotted an empty roulette table and recalled our task. “Should we get this over with?” I asked Reuben. “Sure!” he agreed. So, very skeptically, we handed over a 20 and watched as the chips were placed on red 36 and the little white ball raced around the wheel.

It was beginning to slow down by the time I spotted the 36, and I still believed there was no way it would hit. But, just as that thought passed through my mind, another replaced it — maybe it would be a winner! And the ball bounced, and it bounced again — all around the 36. I threw my head back, “OH!” I thought, “we were so close!” But it wasn’t over yet. And when the ball finally settled on a spot, it chose the same number that John had chosen — red 36.

Now, as I already mentioned, we’d never played roulette before and I didn’t know the rules. I thought we’d doubled John’s money. But no — the dealer handed us chips worth SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS.

What?!?!?!?! I was astounded. Even the dealer couldn’t believe our luck, and insisted that our baby be named Roulette. “Roulette Schug.” Hmmm… maybe not such a good name for a boy.

Once the initial excitement subsided, a moral dilemma began to creep upon me. Did we have to tell John exactly how much he’d won? Did we have to tell him he’d won at all? It was prompted by the tiniest seed of jealousy. Why hadn’t we thought to add any money to the bet? Shouldn’t we get part of the winnings? After all, none of it could have happened without us.

But, of course, that wasn’t true. Without John’s prompting, we never would have put money down on red 36. And I never would have had a battle raging inside me — happiness for the sudden prosperity of dear friends versus a subtly boiling jealousy that I didn’t have the same amount of luck with my own bets.

In the end, honesty had to win out. There was really no question. At least not for us.

Reuben called John with the news, and he was just as shocked as we were. After all, there was no significance to the number 36 — he’d just had a random idea. A very lucky random idea.

For the rest of our trip, Reuben guarded John’s $700 in his wallet. And even though we didn’t return home from Vegas any richer in our own bank accounts, at least we know we didn’t lose our honesty.

 

Our Summer Camping Win

Reasons why Honeyman State Park is an awesome place to camp.

#1. Because sunrise through the trees is pretty spectacular.

#2. Because our camping spot came with a built-in fort!

#3. Because there’s no shortage of sticks and pinecones to add to the toasty campfire.

#4. Because I haven’t seen sand dunes like this since I lived next door to the Sahara. (Although, the sand there wasn’t exactly surrounded by lush forest.)

#5. Because it was perfectly sunny and warm on our full day there. (Okay, I know that’s not actually a feature of the park, but it sure made me have a good feeling about it! I think my family agreed.)

And finally, #6. Because the lake is clean and lovely.

 

 

New Orleans Double Vision: Part 3 — Uncle Lionel

On the day that I sat alone, eating my muffaletta, a band was playing in the open-air restaurant. I enjoyed the background music as I watched people on the street in front of me, but I didn’t really gaze at the band much until he appeared.

Uncle Lionel.

I didn’t realize his fame and legend at the time. All I knew was that out of nowhere a skinny old man appeared, dressed rather spiffy in his cream suit and wide-brimmed hat. He was holding a cane, which also doubled as trombone — the sound coming from his own vocal chords as he slid the “instrument” back and forth in front of his mouth. He sang and entertained, looking as comfortable on that stage as anyone I’d seen, all the while appearing as if a strong wind could blow him over.

That was sweet, I thought.

Then came open mic night at La Maison. Musicians had been rotating on and off the stage all evening, taking turns leading the make-shift band, waiting for their opportunity to find a space on the crowded platform. As the emcee announced a new addition to the medley, he suddenly stopped mid-sentence. “Sorry folks, but there’s a change of plans. A legend just walked in the door.” And up came Uncle Lionel, wearing the same dapper dress including the dark shades.

There was an air of awe and respect among the other musicians, while Uncle Lionel sang and commanded the stage as if it were his own home. Which it practically was. We later learned he’s been performing in New Orleans since World War 2. I was glad that Reuben had a chance to see the man I’d told him about, and I was excited to learn that I’d been in the presence of an icon.

But my encounters with Uncle Lionel didn’t stop at two. On our last full day in the city, I was walking through a courtyard near the French Market looking for a place to sit and enjoy my sweet tea. Just before I passed by two old men sitting on a park bench, one of them called out asking what I was drinking. “Sweet tea,” I replied. It was then that I noticed Uncle Lionel was old man #2, just sitting enjoying the air, unmistakably recognizable. “What’s that?” his friend asked me again. “Sweet tea,” I repeated with a smile. “Pee pee?” he retorted, and I wasn’t sure if he was mocking or teasing me. But I didn’t care. I may be a tourist, but I know Uncle Lionel when I see him.

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