Category: family

New Orleans for Families

I headed down to New Orleans last week for ALA Annual, and I took my family with me on the trip. I’d never been to the city before (never been to anywhere in the South other than Florida, really. Well, Texas, but that’s got a feel all its own.) Ahead of time, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I spoke to a lot of friends who had been, and they had mixed things to say about it, ranging from their favorite city ever to a place they were glad they’d only spent a day or two in.

We had eight days slated, and three kids (ages 14, 10, and 5) who had to be entertained. I would have been less worried, but the hotel I booked didn’t have a pool. My kids all love swimming, so if there’d been a pool, I would have known there always would have been something they’d enjoy to do, even if they swam for 8 days straight.

I’m back now, and I’m pleased to say we had a grand time. There were loads of great family activities to do, and my kids all enjoyed the trip, as did Denisa and I. Here’s a rundown of some of the highlights:

  • Plantation tour. We rented a car for two of the days, heading out of the city to Oak Alley Plantation, where we toured the grounds, the house, and the slaves’ quarters. I’d heard better things about Whitney Plantation, but I’d also heard it was a really heavy tour focused on the slave experience. I wasn’t really up for putting my 5 year old daughter through that, hence Oak Alley. It was beautiful and somber, and I thought it was a great mix and just what I had been looking for.
  • Swamp tour. I’ve never been to a real swamp. We got on a 2 hour boat ride that took us into the Honey Island Swamp, right on the border of Mississippi. Gators, turtles, raccoons, boars, and awesome vegetation. Let’s just say I’m very glad I’ve never met an alligator in the wild, while I’m in the water. They look like snakes as they slither up to their prey. Snakes with big mouths and teeth and claws and they’re huge. Yikes. Though really, the scariest part for me was when we went to a dead end and we had a pack of raccoons come right up to the boat for food. I’ve seen raccoons at work and read all about just how rabid they can get, and the whole time I was wondering what I’d do if one of them jumped in the boat.
  • The National World War II Museum. Ranked the number 2 museum in the world on Trip Advisor. I’m not sure of that ranking. I think it’s overselling it a fair bit, but it really was a great museum. Tons of displays and information all about the war. We all enjoyed it, though my 5 year old got a bit bored.
  • The Zoo, Aquarium, and Insectarium. Two of the days I was at my conference, Denisa took the kids to the Audobon properties. There was a water park at the zoo that everyone loved, and the insectarium had a butterfly garden my girls thought was awesome. A great way to spend a few hot days in the southern climate.
  • French Quarter. After we figured out which street was Bourbon Street (naturally the first street we picked to walk down), the French Quarter was lovely. Tons of great shops and restaurants, live music, people watching, churches, and more. I loved the architecture. It was so different from anywhere else I’ve been.
  • Jazz. Denisa and I left the kids at the hotel one evening and headed to Preservation Hall, where you pay $20 a person for a 45 minute concert they have four or five times a night. Live jazz. Incredibly talented musicians in a teeny tiny room that looks like it might fall apart any moment. We loved it.
  • Food. Beignets, po’ boys, muffalettas, jambalaya, gelato, eclairs, croissants, and more. I gained 6 pounds. (Sigh.) Need I say more?
  • Alabama and Mississippi. As long as we were all the way down there, I figured we might as well knock a few more states off my To Visit list. We went to the USS Alabama in Mobile, which was a hit with the whole fam. (And made me appreciate even more what sailors went through in WWII. I have no idea how anyone can navigate that maze. We went on a submarine, as well. I could barely fit through the doors. After that, we headed to Gulf Port, Mississippi to go to the beach. It was rainy off and on, so we didn’t do more than wade, but it was a fun time.
  • Museum of Art. We’ve spoiled our kids, perhaps, by starting them out with Parisian art galleries, but they still had a good time at this one. I was at the conference, so I can’t say much more than that.

The conference itself was also a great experience for me. I went to a ton of fantastic panels and came home with new ideas for the library. Always a plus.

Anyway. If you’re thinking about heading to New Orleans and you’re not sure if your family would have a good time, don’t worry about it. We took public transportation to most places, and it was a fairly easy to navigate city. I will say it wasn’t particular kid-friendly after about 8 o’clock. Lots of public drinking, smoking, and even some nudity on the streets, so I was glad Nickelodeon was playing Double Dare each night. (My kids loved that.) It’s definitely a city where many of the visitors go to get plastered. Not really my scene. But there’s a wealth of things to see beyond that. I was really glad we had the chance to go.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A New Franklin Fiddler

Since we moved to the area, we’ve seen the Franklin County Fiddlers perform multiple times. They’re a high school group of mainly string players, and it’s one of the highlights of the school music program. Yes, I’ve always been more partial to wind instruments, being a bassoon and saxophone player back in the day, but I also have come to believe you  play to your school’s strengths. The Fiddlers have a great amount of support in the community and the school, they have a wonderful director, and they just do a lot of good.

(It reminds me of my days back in Dixie Band at Council Rock High School. We would go around and play at local festivals and senior citizen centers, and we had a lot of fun doing it. A great group. Relaxed and a lot of fun. Sadly, I have no video of it on hand. Maybe I have some on DVD at home? I should check sometime.)

In any case, we’ve gone to a lot of their concerts over the years, and Tomas has always wanted to join the group once he made it to high school. The tryouts were Monday afternoon, and after some suspense, we found out he made the group.

It’ll be a definite time commitment. Rehearsals are every Monday for two hours, and there are around 30 concerts over the course of the school year. They’ll be taking a trip in April, most likely. But Tomas is excited, and we’re excited for him. He’s even decided to start taking private lessons. (Something DC has been doing since the beginning of the year, give or take. It’s really helped her, and I think he can see that.)

In any case, hearty congratulations to him. It should be a fun start to freshman year.

Here’s a video of the Fiddlers from a few years ago, to give you an idea what he’ll be playing.

The Last Talent Show

When Denisa and I first moved to Maine, we enrolled Tomas in preschool up at the high school. They do a class for high school students where they get to observe preschoolers, which sounds more clinical than it is. In practice, it’s a chance for preschoolers to go to the high school twice a week and have fun playing and learning. At the end of the year, there’s always a presentation or talent show of some sort. When Tomas was going, they had all the kids sing Old MacDonald, and each kid could choose what animal they wanted to be. (Tomas went with “frog” both years.)

Today, I went to my sixth production of that end of the year celebration, this time the last time for MC. Definitely mixed emotions, as I thought back over all the other visits we’d done there. This time through was a talent show, with all the kids dancing, jumping, or singing in one form or another. MC turned out to be quite the ham, dancing her little heart out without a care in the world what anyone else might think of her. She knew she was awesome, so why worry about anything else?

That said, pretty much all the kids on the stage didn’t seem bothered by performing for an audience at all. I wonder at what age we learn to be self conscious. Probably somewhere in middle school, would be my guess . . .

Anyway. It was a nice moment, and I was happy I could duck away from work long enough to be there for it. Each of my kids has approached that talent show differently. Tomas threw himself into his role, really taking on the “frog” mentality. DC was much more reserved and careful with what she was doing. Precise. MC was just a bundle of energy from start to finish. She’s definitely very fun loving. I don’t think Denisa and I did anything too different with each child. They just grow that way.

Fun times.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Tomas is Fourteen

It’s official. Tomas is fourteen years old today. He’s also a regular reader of this blog, so I have to be much more careful what I say and how I say it. (Always remember who your audience is, especially when it might include your son’s peers.)

It’s always interesting to see how his changes have morphed over the years. These days he’s all about Rubik’s Cube. He’s got multiple models of the classic three by three, he has a two by two, a four by four, a pyramid, and some even more complicated models. He’ll happily sit there timing himself to see how good he’s getting. I believe right now he can regularly solve a normal model in under 30 seconds.

When he’s not practicing his cube skillz, he’s playing Fortnite, a game that’s basically Hunger Games. You and 99 other people are placed on an island. You have to hunt for weapons and then go around taking out the competition one by one. Last person standing wins. That’s a big favorite of his.

He hasn’t been doing as many videos these days, as Minecraft has begun to gather virtual dust. But that happens. School has taken up more and more of his time, as has chores around the house.

But he remains his bright, inquisitive self. Always up to learn something new just for the sake of knowing it. Here’s hoping he has a good birthday. Up on the agenda for the evening is homemade pizza, followed by a black and white checkered cake. Something tells me a Rubiks cube or two might lie in his future after that . . .

Happy birthday, Tomas!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Happy Birthday to MC!

I don’t think it’s possible for someone to be more excited than a girl turning 5 on her birthday. MC has been looking forward to this day for months. With each family birthday, she’d proudly announce that hers was one step closer. And here we are at last.

One of the reasons time seems to go by so quickly, I think, is that it gets chopped up into small little pieces. When you’re younger, there are fewer pieces. You’ve got major holidays and your birthday. That’s about the extent of what you really care about. As you get older, additional noteworthy days get tacked on. The start of school. Vacation days. The end of school. Anniversaries. Birthdays of your children. Bit by bit, the year gets carved ever smaller, until it always seems like some important milestone is just around the corner.

So MC’s right at peak “special day” experience. Old enough to really know what to expect, but young enough that a single day can just be the epitome of awesome.

What is she doing on her birthday? Well, the kids all have the week off, so she’s hanging out at home. Denisa and I are both working, so Tomas is holding down the fort. Hopefully they’re just having non-stop fun at home. My guess would be she’s watching Netflix and playing games on her Kindle Fire. Her favorite shows right now include Little Einsteins, My Little Pony, and (when forced to by her parents, because we’d like her to get something quasi-educational in) Sesame Street. She’ll play pretty much any game she can, with a varying degree of ability.

She’s a lot of fun to have in the family, fond of doing goofy things just for fun. She likes to play games with the family and watch movies with everyone. She still loves taking naps (for the most part), and I’m very envious of her ability to get so much sleep in. She’s also *extremely* particular about her routine. MC wants everything done just the right way. She prefers Denisa put her to bed, but in a pinch I’m allowed to do it. When I do, it’s always the same. She wants her blankets on in a certain order, her stuffed animals arranged just so, and then a story. The story always must start the same way:

“Once upon a time, there lived a little bear, who lived in a _______” She fills in the blank, and then I have to come up with some sort of a story around that location. It’s ranged from everything to a cave to a pillow to a cloud to the inside of Mr. Snuffleuppagus’s snout to the inside of an eyeball (last night). Some stories are better than others.

MC’s request for dinner is home made mac and cheese, and I made her a chocolate cake last night that Denisa’s going to decorate with fruit when she gets home today. It should be quite the time.

Now that we’re five years in with her as part of our family, it’s hard to remember a time when she wasn’t. Happy birthday, MC!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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