Friday, March 21, 2014

Thawin' in Nawlins

The good news about weather like this is that it drives doting grandparents south from Minnesota to our neck of the woods to thaw...

which allows me to sleep in scandalously late every morning, among other blessings.  We so enjoyed and appreciated our visit from Kyle's parents last month.

We kicked it off with a surprise Valentine's day dinner, since they arrived around dinner time on the 14th.  We set the table with our finest correll and ate gourmet homemade over candlelight, with our paper napkins on our laps and everything.  It was lovely, and they were delighted by the gesture, which is really what made it count.

Kyle's parents are so good about going with the kids wherever their hearts and imaginations carry them.  Erik had planned a birthday party for his favorite stuffie, Hua-mei, and on Grandpa's invitation Erik had written an assignment to bring chocolate-dipped pretzel "bamboo stalks."  Grandpa ran to the store for pretzels rods and delivered.

Oklahoma had very recently bid farewell to winter weather so we were all ecstatic to enjoy the great outdoors for the first time in months.  At a local park the kids quickly engaged in their own, highly predictable activities: Ellie immediately made a new friend to play with, 

Charlie found a large stick,

Erik staked out a quiet corner and sketched something of inspiration,

and Millie ceased to wandered further than a pace away from me.  Grandma's goody bag had nothing to do with it, I'm sure.

And another reason I love Ron and Judy is because they consented to being dragged an additional 12 hours south to New Orleans.  Needless to say, this trip would've been impossible without them.  As it was, despite an isolated incident of road trip barf, lots of traffic jams, and the usual crowdiness and crankiness, I found it to be the most relaxing and enjoyable road trip with kids in my memory.  I highly recommend the 3:4 adult to child ratio for traveling.

Kyle's parents followed the Mississippi all the way from its origin in Minnesota to its end at the Louisiana delta.  

We stayed with our fabulous friends, the Tersigni's, who've lived there for years but are moving in a few months.  This was our last chance to experience Mardi Gras with them and we had to take them up on it!  Plus, Thomas loves outer space and plain lettuce almost as much as Erik and Henry has a stick collection so you know our kids are soulmates.

We were a little concerned about swamp walking through the bayou after hearing reports of rogue gators, but then we couldn't even find any gators which seemed to be much worse.

We did find this incredible tree which now constitutes my dream back yard.  The roots grew this way because Native Americans buried mounds of shells under the tree and somehow the roots grew around them.  There were still shells lying in the dirt all around the tree meaning this was the perfect site for digging, climbing, and hiding out-- will this specific tree please live in my yard forever?!

P.S. We did find a gator or two, as it turned out!  The first one was a baby and other was on the opposite bank so it really wasn't intimidating at all, which was a little disappointing, but also relieving. 

Mardi Gras means lots and lots of beads (but no even partial nudity, not to worry)!  Even two weeks before the actual holiday, parades were running strong all day and night over the weekend.  After one and a half parades, we had our fill of cheap stuffed animals and plastic necklaces, and yet there was an undeniable competitive thrill involved with procuring unwanted trinkets from double decker floats.  So much so that we plan to recreate that thrill for our friends by forcing them to line our street while we drive back and forth chucking at them all that unwanted loot we fought for at the parades.  I mean it. 

I kind of love cemeteries (I think it's a Goodwin girl thing), so Cities of the Dead were on my itinerary without debate.  I wish we'd had time to stroll through a little longer, especially with the sunset back drop and the warm, quiet air.  This was at the end of a long day, though, and I thought an enormous, above-ground cemetery after dark might not be the best place to lose my children. 
Another great thing about Kyle's parents is how often they buy us ice cream. (I think they were just super excited to be warm enough to enjoy a cold treat.) We enjoyed some funky flavors here at the Creole Creamery.  Poor Kyle missed out on all of this New Orleans fun, which really is a shame considering he's the lover of jazz music and creole cuisine, but it looks like I at least called him periodically to let him know what a great time we were having.  All in all, a fabulous trip.

I think I am realizing something about traveling.  I've always known I love it, and also recognize that I romanticize it.  Some people say getting there is half the fun.  For me, perhaps half the fun occurs afterward, not beforehand.  I really, really enjoy my trips in retrospect.  Just like a good thrift store run, reliving the fun and adventure of traveling sometimes can be just as enjoyable, or even more so, than the actual experiences.  There's no stress, hunger, exhaustion, sudden changes of plans, or any of the other struggles of traveling when you're warm and cozy in your own home recalling the trip.  It's all roses.  If our plans go awry on the trip, that only fuels better stories to tell afterward.  With this expectation, there's much less pressure to have an incredible travel experience.  Whatever bliss evades me at the time is only yet to come.


Mandy said...

This looks like SO much fun. The live music scene sucks me in more than any other picture....I just love live music anywhere and I hear New Orleans is one of the best places for all of that. :) {culture, culture, culture} I am amazed by the map at the end of your blog. Holy smokes!!! Adding you to my blog list now. :) ANnnnddd, your kids are so adorable.

Thi said...

You went to Nola & didn't stop Baton Rouge to say hi to us. I'm glad you had a good time with Mardi Gras. It's quite a tradition & there's no place like Nola. A unique culture indeed.