Every year, the better half and I travel to a different state to celebrate our anniversary. We’ve been all over the country and to Europe in the last 16 years – our stories and photos are many. When we hit the magical “four” with children, we decided to keep it a little closer to home and find places we could drive in a day before getting stabby in the van.
Trust me, it happens.
When our fifth joined the mix, that one-day rule proved to be a wise decision. So far, we’ve hit Arkansas and New Mexico. Last year, pneumonia x4, chicken pox and a staph infection hit our house and we cancelled our vacation. To make up for lost time, we decided to enjoy both Louisiana and Florida this summer.
Buckle up as we relive a few miles, share some photos and remember some great stories.
We left bright and early for our drive to New Orleans. For the most part, the kids did relatively well. We played a little car Bingo, the alphabet game, watched a movie and took a few potty breaks. When we hit the state line in Beaumont, we broke out the picnic lunch and enjoyed the fresh/muggy air and a break from the van. At some point I need to do a HDYDI on roadside picnics, but I’m going to share my biggest lesson here. We thought of everything – except the tablecloth. Have you seen how disgusting those table tops are at rest stops? A family down the way had a vinyl table cloth and Scott and I both looked at one another and mouthed, “Brilliant.” We made do with a few beach towels, but we made sure to have one for the way home.
Exhausted, we made it to Louisiana, just before the thunderstorms hit. We were blessed to stay with Archbishop Aymond of NOLA. His staff was so gracious and kind and made us feel like family. Scott worked for then-Bishop Aymond for seven years here in Austin before Abp. Aymond was reassigned to New Orleans. He was the one who hired Scott for the job here in Austin, so we share a special connection. We treasure his friendship and are grateful for his generosity. The kids were especially enamored with his dog, Maggie. At first, she was like, “Yea, there’s kids in the house! People to play with and run around!” And then she realized we were staying and retreated to another part of the house. In Maggie’s defense, she did warm up to us, it just took a little coaxing.
As we were wrapping up dinner that evening, Scott glanced down at the table and saw this:
Oh sweet Jesus. Kids, put down your silverware and don’t scratch a thing. Last I checked the table was still standing when we left.
We spent the next day and a half exploring New Orleans and all it had to offer. On day one, we enjoyed the Audobon Zoo and Aquarium – outstanding. It was hotter than the blazes and you could practically see the humidity, but that didn’t keep us from enjoying the day.
I’ll let the photos do most of the talking. A few quick things, we practiced some smart parenting and packed our lunch and got there right when they opened. We learned that the earlier you go, the more animals you get to see. The kids were able to feed the otters with the zoo staff (that was very cool), see the elephants just before they retreated to shade, play in some water and watch the primates enjoy a snack. Opposable thumbs down, that was the highlight of the day for the kids. There were three gorillas, and one clearly ruled the roost. As the staff threw out oranges, celery stalks and eggplant, they would lazily catch the food, peel it and eat it all while looking at us thinking, “You people are a bunch of suckers.” But, it was totally fascinating, mostly because you could see so many human-like mannerisms. It was a great way to end our time at the zoo.
After the zoo, we were wiped out from the sun and craving some A/C. We headed to the aquarium and Luke took his afternoon nap on my shoulder. Even though my back was killing me, I loved it. There is something pretty awesome about having a sleeping child on your chest.
The kids tore up the aquarium and saw everything – twice. They petted sting rays, found Dorie and Nemo, stood in awe at the shark tank and played some trivia games as part of the exhibits. They even spent some time in the hurricane simulator. It was a glass “closet” that slowly, but effectively, simulated wind speeds of 70mph of a hurricane. Well worth the $2 to see their faces. There are considerably less photos of the kids in the aquarium, mainly because the photographer was acting as a pillow for Luke 🙂 But, this is my absolute favorite one!
After a jam-packed day, we (read: I) realized we forgot to pack the camera battery. A quick GPS Google search saved the day and then we headed slightly north to Metairie to see some friends for dinner. The Calkins family just moved to NOLA from Austin and it was great to see them. Luke talked about seeing his buddy, Liam for a week straight. They played “Cars” all night and had a blast. Beth and Kevin, thank you for the wonderful meal and the fellowship. It was a blessing to spend part of our vacation with you!
And, that is a wrap on day one. Tomorrow I share the stranger’s comment that left me speechless (I got a day ahead of myself), Luke’s big news, how we *almost* set off the alarm at Jackson Square and the location of the best sweet tea I’ve ever tasted.