Days 5 – Beignets, Sunshine, Lovin’ Louisiana Holiday!

We awoke and assessed the kids’ well being. Both were hungry. Check. Both drank water. Check. No one barfed. All clear to try an outing!

Back to City Park with everything open and then to the French Quarter record store:

It was over 80 degrees and sunny and no bugs. First stop at City Park was Storybook Park for some shade and toddler fun. Good place to get in a cooler spot and let your little ones explore. 

You can see the amusement park wasn’t open yet but it was so early in the season and unusually hot so we were glad for the Storybook part anyhow.

Then Mama and Daddy needed some coffee and beignets! We’d been wanting to get a taste, and this 24 hour Morning Call cafe on the other side of the park had freezee coffee and beignets for us. Every table had shaker cans of powdered sugar for hot beignets.

Daddy opted hot coffee and some alligator sausage. We ate inside but an outdoor patio connected to the large open door building.

Our waiter, clad in a clean white uniform and paper hat brought souvenir hats for the kids.

Then it was mini golf time! An immaculately kept mini-golf boasted two possible playing courses. It wasn’t crowded, and the others that arrived after us took the other course realizing we would take a little time with a toddler.

The heat was getting to them, but Peanut could finally do something more her age and Pumpkin could swing a club around-everyone was happy.

Hubs had hauled us around, navigated a new city,played mini golf, fended off tantrums, cleaned up puke, and even went swimming with us. He deserved something he wanted to do.

We loaded back to the car after a slow stroll across the park. We drove into the French Quarter where we finally got to see some of the colorful architecture. We parked at a pay lot and walked a block to the record store.

Yes-vinyl, CDs, old, new, local, infamous. Pumpkin and Peanut seemed to enjoy the air conditioning, but then decided it would be a good idea to chase each other though the record store aisles. We waited in the entryway off the street and outside the store. That was all the kids could take. Once back in the car, Pumpkin fell asleep immediately. It was 5:00 pm so we headed to the hotel and I ordered a pizzas as we cruised down I-10 so it would be ready to pick up and take to the hotel suite.  It was a great end to the time in Louisiana.

Tomorrow we see if we last the train home…

Day 4- Louisiana Trip: Getting the Kid Fear 

Remember how I said vacation is all logistics with kids? And how I mentioned that the trip can be different regardless of your painstaking plans? Well, here’s an example of such:

It’s 83 degrees, not buggy as it is March, and just a lovely day in New Orleans. We drive over to City Park, deciding that it would be more enjoyable for the kids than a NPS unit like Jean Lafitte. Besides, it’s a Monday, and the NPS has chosen to not have the visitor center open that day at that part of the park.
City Park is quite lovely: lake, walks, mini golf, amusent park, storybook park, and botanical garden. We had looked this up before leaving home and it looked like a nice small scale stop.
 We could enjoy what Pumpkin referred to as “Pineapple Trees”  because they looked like pineapples, and the garden had sweet pea and honeysuckle blooming. I sat on one of many porch swings and took in the heat and quiet. And so, naturally, enter The Tantrum.
Sometimes little ones are bored doing nothing, which is why we try to teach the kids the glory of each moment and day, especially when it is simply BEING and not doing anything. And it was warm, probably hot to them, again, me enjoying actually sweating a little after an absurdly cold winter. And the storybook park was closed on Monday. Oops. We missed that in the plans.
After a loud scream on the park bench in his toddler frustration at the day, at his parents telling him to stay close, at the heat, and at not being in control, Pumpkin finally relaxed and agreed to go to the jungle gym and play a bit. My stomach was in knots as I digested the tantrum and my own parenting frustration. Pumpkin and Peanut played with two little boys whose dad mentioned they were also visiting from out of state. Then we went to find refreshments.

At PJs Coffee we got something to enjoy and sat on the veranda just taking in the day. It’s nice to plan for no plans. Back at the hotel we all went for a swim then sleepily made our way to The Big Easy Diner for dinner across the street. Then back in for the night, full and sleepy animals.

The kids climbed into bed and we were reading books when Pumpkin  coughed then threw up. Then completely barfed into his lap his entire belly contents. This poor kid. Trying to cover my worry and figure out why he pukes so often, Hubs and I scrambled to clean it up and get fresh linens from the front desk.

He slept fine, though his sister was wary of sharing a bed and slept on the edge of the King. 

He perhaps felt like this all day and thus was so upset earlier. Who knows-I always try to figure things out but kids aren’t really like that; they aren’t predictable and each one is different with different emotional, mental, and physical states. Grateful that all was calm again, we slipped into slumber with the relaxation that we didn’t need to do anything in the morning and had another day until the train ride home.

Day 3 New Orleans Riverwalk


Pumpkin managed to hold down his toast so we washed up and loaded up to visit the Audobon Aquarium of the Americas
along the Mississippi River:IMG_0125


From Slidell, we took I-10 back into town and paid to park right next to the Riverwalk.
The Aquarium. Was. AWESOME! I mean, the kids loved it, it’s fairly self-guided, there’s beautiful wildlife all around in the aquariums, and the dimness of the halls bring the brilliance of the sea life to you. The walkway under the tank allows you to feel like you are swimming with the stingrays. The Amazon rainforest walk has wayside information at kid height, and I watched my daughter eagerly read over the 2-3 sentence signs.
There is a food court so we could mitigate any cranky late lunch blues.
Pumpkin started to lose patience around the albino alligator and jellyfish tanks, but we landed at the shark tank with little scene. Final stop was the gift shop for a souvenir because let’s face it, we weren’t sure if Pumpkin would get sick again or if we’d see more than this. You simply don’t know with little fickle ones!
We sunned ourselves on the Riverwalk, watching the barges go by and enjoying the 70 degree temps and sunshine. Hubs led us toward the outlet shops where he was following a trumpet and clarinet playing on the pedestrian walk to the plaza de espana. Peanut dropped a bill in their jar, and the older trumpet player stopped, bowed forward and said “thank ya, darlin'” then resumed a lovely “Amazing Grace” with the young gal on clarinet.
At the plaza we grabbed snowballs and sat around the fountain, listening to a jazz band. IMG_0135IMG_0138
We had no plans. We just enjoyed, then grooved on back to the car to get to the hotel.
After a warm swim, we found ourselves at NOLA Southern Grill.
Everyone tried locally caught alligator IMG_0144and homemade kettle chips. I had a po’ boy and Hubs had crawfish and rice in a bread bowl.
Peanut did dessert shots to top off her good behavior and for keeping it together even though her brother was feeling out of sorts.
IMG_0149We waddled back to the car, stuffed and ready to call it a night.This was a nice day and felt like a luxurious break from the tedius demands of school/work/house chores.
I am so grateful to have had the chance to go to Louisiana and by train, and with these wonderful people!

A Good Goodwill Day


After staying up much too late and then putting in 4 hours of work, I was rather cranky on my sunny Saturday morning. I kept drinking coffee but then seemed to just get more irritable, faster. Time to enjoy the treasure of today. 

After lunch and kid outside play, we loaded the pack into the car to go to the Goodwill. I found some better fitting clothes and the kids got a brand new puzzle and a game. And Hubs found me an $0.88 hardback, like new, Billy Collins poetry book, Ballistics. It made my day! If you haven’t read his stuff, or listened to a reading by him, you are missing out on one of best poets of today. Google him, check out a YouTube clip, see him on a TED talk and enjoy!

Day 2 Louisiana Train Trip…getting More Lampoon-y

Remember how I said everyone loved the train? They did, but there was some tossing of cookies when we landed in the hotel. Thank goodness it was in the hotel and not on a confined train. But there were no signs of it when we de-trained in NOLA at Union Station. Nor any signs as we walked to the car rental office.

Car rental in New Orleans near the depot is Enterprise. It’s about a block away but we are country puppies roaming the city, and might have been better served with a pick up from them. Additionally, instead of hauling your car seats with you on the train, you could rent your car from the airport Enterprise with car seats and then arrange for a pickup. It’s a detail for me to remember next time.
We drove a half hour on I-10 east over the Pontchartrain Causeway to Slidell, which is a nice suburb with plenty of amenities, and away from the downtown area. The new Wyndham is really nice: it has an indoor heated pool and breakfast. This is really great with our kids. I personally am not a fan of getting all dressed and bustling about in the morning when I could, instead, wear my yoga pants and hoodie down to the breakfast area and take it up to the room to guzzle my coffee.
We reserved a suite with a king bed, sofa bed, table and chairs, spacious bathroom, and a microwave, fridge, and kitchenette sink for 1/3 the price of a downtown New Orleans hotel. And there is a guest laundry, which was great not only because of sickness but because I limited everyone’s luggage to what they could carry.

Pumpkin had worn motion sickness wristbands, which I definitely recommend for anyone unsure of travel nausea. (Little tidbit: And they are eligible flexible spending account items). We were all still riding the train after walking to the car rental office and riding to the hotel. And once all movement stopped, we continued to feel that rocking sensation.  Poor Pumpkin lost it all over the place. We cleaned it all up and got extra linens from a very sympathetic front desk clerk, and settled in.
So on Day 2 Hubs hit the grocer for some supplies: fresh produce and some food for the next day, grabbed us take out, and we ate in quiet exhaustion in the suite. We all fell asleep, in a very comfortable room, with no plans in sight but to get some much needed motionless sleep.

Our Clark Griswold-esque Train Trip to Louisiana

Waiting for Train 59 to arrive.
Waiting for Train 59 to arrive.

Just like in the Steve Goodman song states, we are riding on the City of New Orleans. It’s been a fun slice of spring break for the family to experience travel and history via the underrated phenomenon of train travel.

Anyone who travels with children understands the logistics involved in planning a trip. From time of day to car seat rental to carry on luggage (because you have to carry their packs, too, when they are little) to managing tantrums should they arise. without a doubt, it’s a project. Just planning it is. Then the trip begins.

This spring break we decided to drive a few hours to Kankakee, IL and catch the train there. It’s been 12 years since I took a train trip, but I remember the chaos of a big city train station and chose to forego dragging kids through Chicago’s in order to transfer trains. Besides, Kankakee is in the song and is fun to say.

We cut it close, time wise. I had the app on my phone and the train was on time, though we were slowly getting there with several stops. After stern direction in the car to the kids to do as we say and hold a hand, and a quick strategy on who was getting which kid and which bags, we were on the platform at 9:15 pm just minutes before Train 59 came rolling in from Chicago.

A few minutes to spare on the Kankakee platform.
A few minutes to spare on the Kankakee platform.

The Conductor leaned out hollering, “Sleeper- car here!” And we walked to the end of the platform to board. Pumpkin climbed aboard with Hubs, then up the narrow steps to the second floor whispering excitedly, “It’s a secret passageway!” We sat in our roomettes across from each other.The kids put on some motion sickness wristbands (just in case) and took in the creepy foggy night outside the window before laying down to sleep.

Looking out the window - excited to be aboard.
Looking out the window – excited to be aboard.

Day 1:  success. I recommend sleeper tickets on Amtrak, 1 backpack per person with tablets, chargers, books, cards, toiletries. We brought one small suitcase for everyone’s clothes.

Let your kids explore the bathroom, and laugh about how it’s different and you need to hang on! This will hopefully prevent an upset kid on the toilet when the train is rocking to and fro.

So far the kids find the train like nothing else they’ve experienced: a car, plane, hotel, restaurant, all wrapped into one! We are riding on the City of New Orleans.