Today I had a lot of fun watching my parents try to take pictures of me with our Christmas tree. They were hoping that I would stand in front of the tree as long as they needed to take pictures. Their hopes were crushed. Immediately after being startegically placed in front of the tree, I would start wandering around to mess with their pictures. To make things even more amusing, we had a party to go to and we were pressed by time.
The party was very similar to other parties we have been to. We played with whatever toys were available, trying to disregard the attention we were getting from the grown-ups. I went again through the pains of eating food, instead of being allowed to happily chew on the toys. Christmas parties are awesome for us (the kids), not only because we play with our friends, but we also get a bunch of gifts.
This evening we had dinner at a restaurant (whose name is something like “The Dacs’ Inn”) and tried out some authentic Romanian food. Their menu was so thick that I spent hours flipping through it. Ok, I exaggerated a little bit here, but their menu was like a book and I flipped through it until they brought the food out. Here are some pictures of people and people with their food:
One thing I learned at the restaurant was how to shrug my shoulders. People were pretty amused by my new talent, so I kept shrugging my shoulder to their delight. These adults are so easy to entertain!
My daddy wanted to show mommy his home town, so he called up Horia (one of his old friends), who gave us a tour of the city. We started by feeding pigeons and ended by feeding ducks. Those were the most important, the rest were all kind of buildings and statues that you can see in the following pictures.
Ok, where shall we start? Right after I woke up (and ate, of course), daddy put together the walker I got for my birthday. As one can notice in the pictures below, a symbiotic relationship seems to evolve here.
Then my aunt Roslyn came to see us before we take off to Romania. It was very nice of her to bring me a birthday gift. The pictures below show me playing with my new Whirl ‘n Tumble Elephant.
Now let’s finally get to the title of this post. Who wouldn’t be happy to get so many cool toys to play with? I know I am. And I even say it. Well, I just respond “hap” every time mommy or daddy ask me whether I am happy. This is my first word ever!
Before I get to the sand story, I have to mention that we started the day in Griffith Park, where we saw the train and the ponies. We drove all the way up to the observatory, but we could not find parking close enough and walking that long was out of the question. So we settled for the next best thing: on our way back we stopped to take some pictures with some beautiful flowers. Then we drove all the way to Venice Beach to meet our friend Becca.
While we were waiting to get seated for lunch at the Three Square Cafe & Bakery, I had the chance to get very close to a little dog for the first time in my life. I wanted to pet it, but I was reluctant at the same time. The little dog was as friendly and curious as me, but I ended up not touching it at all.
Now I can get to the sand story. Imagine that we walked all the way to the Venice Beach, where my parents decided that it would be fun to walk in the sand. I had never put my feet in the sand before, and I swear that my feet felt really weird when they were touching the sand. For a while I didn’t even want to hear about standing up in the sand. Mommy thought that her sun glasses might distract me, but the thought of standing in the sand was still freaking me out. Daddy tried to throw me up in the air a few times before he would land me on sand, but it took him a while to convince me that it was not as bad as I thought.
Eventually I got used to the feeling of my feet touching the sand. I started walking very courageously in the sand with Becca, mommy and daddy in supporting roles. I even walked all the way to the water, where the waves scared me a little. My parents were happy with overcoming one phobia (the sand) per day, so they didn’t push it.
Before getting back to the hotel, Becca took us to the Venice Canals, where my parents enjoyed the views while I slept like a baby. Of course I was tired – I didn’t have my regular naps during the day.
Standing comes so easy now that I train a lot for it. For example, during the day I hang onto furniture or people and I get myself in a standing position. I get the best exercise when I refuse to sleep and keep standing up in my crib. My parents keep picking me up and laying me on my back – sometimes it feels like they are playing with me. But I get back on my feet in no time and I can go like this forever (ok, not forever, but once I kept mommy busy for an hour).
So, it should not come as a surprise that I get on my feet when I wake up in the morning. The first two pictures below show how my parents found me this morning. The blankets that cover the rails play two important roles: (1) they protect me in case I lose my balance and fall and (2) they protect the rails from my teeth (check out the third picture to see how I chew them).
After I ate and played a little, everybody got in the car to go to Walla-Walla (this is a city about one hour away from Richland). I slept pretty well in the car and I got up only after we got there. Besides the fact that we got there for the Sweet Onion Festival, we went to a bakery, a couple of pastry shops, a kitchen supply store, and a restaurant. Even though my parents’ friends are quite old, they are cool because they pay a lot of attention to me. We left right at the time when a thunderstorm was moving into Walla-Walla.
Can you guess where I took my nap today? In the car on our way to Seattle! We drove all the way there to meet two of my parents friends who live in Washington DC and happened to visit the West Coast: Sarah and Sepehr. We had lunch with them at an Italian restaurant (Cafe Bengodi) in the Pioneer Square, then we walked around the city. We ended up at the docks along the Alaskan Way, where we saw many birds who expect you to feed but not touch them. My parents with their friends ate something called ice-cream, while I only had some milk. Anyway, I didn’t mind because guess what? I didn’t have to take my second nap of the day and I got to spend more time awake in the city and in the car! Now that’s what I call an Independence Day!
Looking for a car in the airport parking lot is never fun. And definitely wasn’t fun in the morning of the last day on Maui. But a little time and patience paid off and – in no time – we were on our way to the Haleakala summit. It was pretty clear from the very beginning that we were not extremely lucky: the peak was surrounded by clouds, which didn’t seem to be in rush to go anywhere else. We kept going anyway, hoping that it would somehow clear up for at least a few minutes. It was getting colder and colder as we were gaining altitude. The wind also started blowing with relentless anger – unfortunately the clouds were seemingly stuck to the mountain. However, the panoramas were breathtaking.
Entering the clouds facilitated encounters with the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen (at this point I realized why there are rainbows drawn on the registration plates of Hawaii cars). Cold rain came after the rainbows, punishing us for our light clothing. At the visitor Center they confirmed what we already knew: the the weather was unpredictable, but some luck could clear the clouds when least expected. The visibility at the summit was extremely poor, we could barely see the meteorological station once. Since the sudden emergence of a hole in the milky fog was too improbable, we simply turned around and headed back down. Fog… rain… rainbows… panoramas.
Iao Valley (which was an alternative destination) was also under a thick layer of clouds. Because we had enough bad weather for one day, we decided to go to a beach and lay down in the sun. Makena Beach State Park was featured in a travel book of ours and proved to be an excellent choice. Waves were powerful enough to knock anybody off their feet and they did a pretty good job with us. Nobody can accuse us of not swimming while in Hawaii.
In the evening the Haleakala summit and Iao Valley were still surrounded and covered by clouds. Hopefully Maui weather will be friendlier next time… Before the night show (featuring a magician), we started to meticulously scan the ship to make sure we see its every detail. The show ran twice and we saw the first half before dinner, the other half after dinner. This was all because our friends (Lita, Kathleen, and Daren) didn’t have much choice when they reserved a table for all of us at Grand Pacific Restaurant. The food (it was lobster night) was good and making fun of their silly decor was very entertaining.
The news came a few weeks ago that I would have an excellent opportunity to see Horia after more than two years – he was about to come to Seattle to attend a conference organized by Microsoft and stay a couple of days longer. We have a relatively long history dating back in 1991, when he was my programming instructor in college. He became my boss for a while when I was hired at the Research Center for Analytical Instrumentation and we ended up as very close friends. Looking back, I couldn’t help but think about Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t blink”:
Just like that you’re six years old and you take a nap and you wake up and you’re twenty-five and your high school sweetheart becomes your wife
You just might miss your babies growing like mine did turning into moms and dads
Next thing you know your “better half” of fifty years is there in bed and you’re praying God takes you instead
Trust me friend a hundred years goes faster than you think
So don’t blink
Lida couldn’t wait to meet Horia – she pushed the gas so hard that the police stopped her for speeding. After we picked him up at his hotel, we had lunch at Caspian Grill. I forgot (again) that he was vegetarian and persian restaurants don’t accommodate such specimens very easily.
After lunch we went to Snoqualmie Falls, which is apparently taller than Niagara (less water going over though). We took the trail through the woods down to its base – the mosses on the trees reminded me of our trip to Olyimpic National Park. As most of the other visitors, we didn’t stop at the observation deck, despite the sign warning about possible danger when getting close to the waterfall. The water was rushing down, more noticeable than the time that was flowing along.