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A Mini Vacation to New Orleans *Cue Music*

Last month my hubby had a few days of vacation
so we started searching around for a cure to our wanderlust.
After lots of deal hunting,
we settled on a two day trip to New Orleans
with a stop into Atlanta on the way home.

I was so ready for an adventure.
Goodbye Arizona heat,
Goodbye responsibility.
Hello family and discovery time.

We packed up,
put Svea in her Ergo,
and headed out for our little trip,
which just so happened to be on Lance's birthday.

Now this wasn't Svea's first flight, 
or her second flight.
In fact, 
this trip put Svea in double digits for plane rides. 
She is pretty much a pro at plane riding at this point.
A walk up the aisle in her ergo, 
usually puts her right to sleep for the duration of the flight. 

When we arrived in New Orleans, 
we headed to our hotel and settled in for the night. 
When we take a vacation just to relax, 
we like to order local cuisine in on the first night and just do nothing.
So that night we tried a local pizza place, 
got into our jamies,
 played peekaboo with Svea in the huge fluffy hotel bed, 
and watched The Lego Movie. 
Just so nice...

The next day was officially Lance's birthday, 
so we woke him up with breakfast in bed, presents, and Svea wearing a beard. 
Yes literally. 

Lance had seen those beard beanies on the internet somewhere 
and had mentioned several times how funny and awesome they were, 
so I put one on Svea for his birthday and it was the greatest. 

She really knows how to pull off facial hair. 

After breakfast, we got ready for the day 
and Svea discovered a giant mirror in the room. 
I found her kissing herself in the mirror 
and then peeking at me in it and laughing at herself. 

We explored our hotel a little before heading out
and discovered that it had a beautiful garden area. 
Basically all of New Orleans has plants growing everywhere
and it is stunning. 

Because I have a serious obsession with aquariums and sea life, 
 we hopped on the trolley to go to the aquarium.

I don't know why I loved the fact that the trolleys were really old 
and classic colors, 
but it made my heart happy. 

Once we arrived at the aquarium, 
we walked in expecting it to be a moderately sized place with some fish displays. 
Instead we found it to be just a massive location with 
so many different animals that we practically spent the whole day there!

In one room they had a stingray pool where you could pet and feed stingrays. 
I thought that they would probably freak Svea out, 
but, as usual, 
she proved that she is not afraid of anything. 
She reached in and touched them as they splashed around hoping for some food. 
Meanwhile the room filled up with her squeals of laughter 
which rang in my heart as the sounds of my daughter discovering something
new that she loved. 

In another room they had an exhibit with a leucistic alligator, 
which is much more rare even than albino alligators
and is one of about 12 in the entire American alligator population of over 5 million. 

I remembered seeing one in an aquarium back East somewhere as a child
and a woman told me that when you look into the blue eyes of 
the leucistic alligator, 
you are blessed with luck for the rest of your life. 
I thought it was so neat to show Svea something that I was fascinated by
as a little girl. 

In another part of the aquarium there was a large tank that stretched across three rooms
and was filled with sharks, 
rays, sea turtles, fish, and even eels. 

As we walked up, 
a massive sea turtle was making its way around the perimeter of the tank. 
We watched it circle around the entire tank a few times, 
seemingly intent on swimming as far as it could. 
As my arms grew tired, 
I set Svea on the carpet in front of the glass 
and suddenly the sea turtle stopped its circling.
He swam back to the glass where Svea was sitting 
and hovered there, 
swimming back and forth between about five feet, 
but never leaving Svea. 
He watched her intently 
and she placed her hands on the glass and chatted with him.
Other people walked all around trying to get his attention, 
but he stayed right there next to Svea.
I thought my heart would burst. 
It reminded me what a miracle she is. 
She is so tiny, 
but already filled with so much love for the people and creatures around her. 

We checked out other neat exhibits with 
upside-down jellyfish, 
tiny fluorescent colored frogs, 
sea otters eating their lunches, 
color-changing cuttlefish, 
and many other amazing animals! 

After we finished at the aquarium, 
we headed over to Cafe Du Monde for some of their famous beignets
that we'd heard so much about. 

Svea was definitely a fan. 
In case there wasn't enough powdered sugar on those delicious beignets, 
there was also a powdered sugar shaker on every table for you to add more. 
We were all in heaven!

After a quick nurse session in Jackson Square to fill baby girl's belly, 
we went over a place called Cafe Maspero
and had some delicious red beans and rice 
with spicy sausage. 
It was scrumptious!
I live for eating good food, in beautiful places, with my favorite people.

Finally tired and full, 
we walked back to the trolleys and admired the scenery on the way. 

By the time we made it back, 
everyone was ready for an early bedtime
and a good night's sleep. 

The next morning we woke up refreshed and ready to head out again. 
That day we headed for the Civil War Museum
to get a little look into the history there. 
This time I remembered my camera, 
and not just my phone.

Inside the museum were all kinds of antiques from the soldiers and commanding officers 
of the Confederacy in the Civil War. 
It intrigued me to see so many things that reminded me that these soldiers
were really just people like me.
Most of them were dirt poor farmers with no reason to fight other than to protect their families.
One display cases was filled with old tintypes of children -
memories that their fathers carried into battle as they gave their lives 
to protect what they loved most. 

I came to a display case about Jefferson Davis and his family
and as I read about them, 
I felt a lump rise in my throat.
Think what you will about the politics of the Civil War 
and the political leaders involved,
but I stood there and read about Jefferson Davis' wife, Varina,
and I felt for them.

I read about how they lost 
three of their six children before they reached the age of 10, 
one at 21, 
one at 34, 
and only one daughter lived to her fifties.
I saw this photo of Varina nuzzled into her daughter's cheek, 
and I could almost feel my own daughter's soft cheek against my face.

There was more than politics involved in this war.
There were soft little cheeks of little babies, 
and weary feet of dying young boys,
and breaking hearts of mothers involved.
There were real people behind it all.
God loved every single one of them.

General Robert E Lee, 
who was known to be a kind, gracious, and god-fearing man, 
understood this all too well when he said, 
"What a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face or this beautiful world!... My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men."

Of all of those soldiers who died, 
I lovingly remember my ancestors who fought in the Confederacy.
They had no slaves,
no plantations, 
 and there were no radical politics involved.
They had children, wives, and homes to protect.
They had dreams to guard,
 voices to be heard,
and a God to serve.

I hope I can adequately teach my daughter about their sacrifices to protect what they loved, 
just as my family members who fought in World War II, 
the Korean War, 
and the Vietnam War
fought to serve their country and protect their families. 
There is more in mens' hearts than there is in the political decisions of a war.
My daughter must know of the great men she comes from 
and the love they had for their families.

After we finished looking around the museum,
we headed out to find some food. 
Our Little Muppet was exhausted by then so she napped in Pappa's arms as we walked.

We finally found a tiny store where a woman was making pralines
and got a snack there. 
Why we don't have people making pralines in shops in Arizona
I'll never understand. 
They are incredible!

Once we made it back to the hotel, 
We relaxed and took naps.

That afternoon, 
we went swimming in the hotel pool
and while we swam, 
warm rain drizzled down on us.
It was like our own little slice of heaven. 
I couldn't help but think of how blessed I was.

At the end of the day we packed up and enjoyed one last meal
at a restaurant where live Jazz music was playing
and the atmosphere was just as lovely as the food was yummy.

The next morning we spent the day traveling to Atlanta.
We were going there just to meet a woman named Iris Jordan.
She's the daughter of a Confederate soldier
and her husband is a veteran of World War II.
If you're curious about why I would randomly travel somewhere
to meet someone I don't know,
read this post that I wrote.

When we got into Atlanta, the day was almost over and
we drove straight over to Stone Mountain.
If you haven't been there,
it's like the Southern version of Mount Rushmore.
Unfortunately, since it wasn't summer,
they weren't playing the laser show on the mountain,
but it was still fun to show Lance and Svea
a place that held wonderful childhood memories for me.

That night we didn't have a portable crib in the hotel room
so Svea spent the whole night waking up,
 playing with our faces,
talking to us,
and rolling around the bed,
while we tried to get some rest.
She was happy as can be in the morning
even though she had barely slept.

We scarfed down a quick hotel breakfast that morning and then packed up the rental car, 
while Svea played in the grass.
Grass is this green plant that grows on the ground there.
It can be kind of confusing for Arizonans.

(A moment of silence for Svea's first pair of FP moccs that she has since outgrown.)

When we got to the address for Mrs. Jordan's home
we drove down a winding path surrounding by towering maple trees
with falling yellow and red leaves.
We pulled up to see her already walking out on the porch waving to us.
I took a picture of that moment in my mind -
her white curly hair,
the leaves falling,
her hand waving,
her face grinning.
That's why I had come.
To see that scene.

We met her on the porch and she welcomed us in.
We sat on the couch across the room from her,
but it only took Svea about 2.5 seconds to wriggle free of my arms onto the ground
and crawl straight over to Iris.
Iris kept saying,
"Oh Honey, you're so purty!"
and Svea smiled,
studied her face,
and reached up to touch her gently,
like they were sharing a secret that I didn't know.

Iris told us that her husband, Jim, wasn't feeling well 
and was in bed on oxygen, 
but that he might come out in a while to say hello. 
We'd been hoping to take them out to lunch, 
but we were just happy to get to meet them and talk with them, 
so we just hoped he'd feel better.

She sat and held Svea as we talked about her memories of her father
and how loving he was and how she was his baby.
She had just been interviewed by National Geographic about her father
and she told us about what it was like to have a classic old tintype taken of her 
on the couch where we were sitting.

She told us her favorite experiences from her own life, 
in raising her children and meeting her Jim.
I could tell that this woman had spent her whole life just loving people.
What better way is there to spend a life?

Later Jim finally appeared, walking out of the hallway, 
his oxygen tube trailing behind him.
Suddenly he stopped, 
out of tubing and still attached to the canister in his room.
"Dagnabit, "
he said with a slight smile of frustration as he tugged on the tube.
"Honey can you help me? I'm stuck to the bed."
Iris handed Svea back to us
and swiftly moved to his rescue, 
wheeling the oxygen tank farther down the hall
so that he could reach his chair. 
As soon as he sat down in his chair, 
Svea again broke free from my grasp 
and shot across the room to go meet him. 

He asked me for help to pick her up as she pawed at his feet
and I sat her on his lap and sat beside them to make sure she didn't tug on his oxygen tube too hard.
She smiled and jabbered away and he just laughed and talked back 
like he understood exactly what she was telling him.

All she wanted the whole time that we sat and talked with Iris and Jim
was to sit on their laps and love them.
She smiled up at them
as Jim told us about where he'd traveled to in his life
and how he worked for the airlines just like Lance.

After hours of talking,
Svea's night of not sleeping was finally catching up with her
and she griped a little about how tired she was.
Jim reached over and pulled a blanket off of his chair,
handing it to me.
I spread it on the floor and put Svea on it.
Iris handed her a little koala bear that she said she had gotten on a trip to Australia years ago.
Svea played with the koala for a few minutes before drifting off to sleep
and Jim's eyes got wide as he said,
"I've never seen a baby go to sleep like that before!
She's such a good doll baby!"
We smiled knowing how right he was.

We talked on as she napped and then finally began to head out to get some food 
before we had to head to the airport. 

As we took last photos and said goodbye, 
Jim asked where we were going. 
We mentioned again that we needed to grab food 
before heading to the airport and Jim immediately said that he wanted to treat us to lunch!
He took off his oxygen and slowly went inside to change his pants and get his wallet.

Before we knew it, 
we were following him to Popeye's 
and I managed to slip our card to the cashier for lunch 
as Iris said, 
"No way you are payin! This is our treat."
I told her we hadn't flown across the country to not get to buy them lunch, 
so she smiled and ordered her meal. 
It was actually the first time I'd ever eaten at Popeye's 
so the food tasted a little better with the special memory we were making there.

As we sat at the table finishing up our meal, 
now having been with Iris and Jim for around six hours, 
I finally asked Iris, 
"What would you have me tell Svea from you when she's older?"

Iris looked taken aback for a moment.
"Oh goodness. I'm not sure what I really have to share.
I suppose... to be persistent and go after what she wants. 
Don't ever give up and when she finally gets what she wants, 
be worthy of it."

She picked at some of the garbage on our table
as if what she had just said wasn't that profound,
but it resonated within me. 
I wanted to be worthy of my family 
and my dreams. 
I wanted to be as loving and generous and adventurous as Iris and Jim.

We hugged them goodbye and wiped the last bits of biscuit off of Svea's dress 
as we loaded her into the carseat.
We promised to send them Christmas cards, 
and come again anytime we were able.

On our way to the airport, 
Lance and I chatted, 
but not too much.
Both of our minds were still swirling with all that Jim and Iris had shared with us.
What incredible people we had been blessed to get to know. 

We got on the airplane home and settled in for our journey home. 
Svea reached up and pulled herself to see over the seats behind us. 
Her face lit up with joy as she saw all of the people
and she began laughing and talking to all of them. 
The plane behind us chorused with 
"Aww!" and "Look at her!" and "She's so cute!"
How lucky I am, 
I thought, 
to be able to take this precious, happy little girl on adventures
to see new places and meet wonderful people. 

We had such a lovely trip and it was just the rejuvenation we needed 
to motivate us to be better and happier in our lives. 
I love that I came home a better person that when I left
and with a better understanding of a history that I came from.

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